High Praise from the Other Side

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“I don’t usually like stories like this, but I really enjoyed reading yours.”

What’s the best thing someone has ever said about your writing? That’s this month’s question from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a collection of bloggers whose topic is, at least sometimes, the writing life. Support and commiseration from other writers has been so helpful during these first years of my writing “career”—nothing published yet, but I am working on it.

My face-to-face critique group meets twice a month, an ever-revolving batch of local writers with a few core members, of which I’m one. We’ve had submissions of historical fiction, memoir, vampire romance, literary short stories, mortal romance, blog entries, folk tales, military fiction, speculative fiction, fiction for children, and poetry, but the greatest number of writers in the group are working on science fiction and/or fantasy. And then there’s me, with my contemporary women’s fiction and cozy mysteries. No explosions, no aliens, no vampires, and only a little sex.

It’s a valuable exercise for us all to look carefully at evolving stories in genres we’d never pick up off the book shelf. In general, romance novels send me into a diabetic coma. Anything that smacks of post-apocalyptic leaves me cold—I mean, we all face enough tragedy and hardship in real life; why wallow in it? I don’t find vampires at all sexy. Descriptions of military weaponry make me snooze. Fantasy can be so predictable: flying dragons, magic crystals, some chica finds out she’s the hereditary princess and must lead her people in an epic battle against Snog the Despicable… And don’t get me started on YA. After more than a quarter century of teaching teenagers, I don’t want to read about some kid coming of age in predictable ways, whether it’s on Planet Zoltron or in fourteenth-century France. And, other than the occasional female writer around my age, no group member would reach for a lighthearted tale of a middle-aged woman reinventing herself after her kids finally leave the nest.

And yet, good storytelling is good storytelling. My writing is definitely richer from having plunged into all these other genres. I’ve really enjoyed watching these tales of talking animals, mysterious space ships, time travel, epic battles, psychotic breaks, and teenage family drama coalesce into entertaining, moving stories. And when one of the group members tells me that he enjoys my writing despite a lack of interest in the subject matter, I know that I’ve hit the mark. So here’s to stretching ourselves as writers by sharing and critiquing across genres. We have so much to teach each other.

12 thoughts on “High Praise from the Other Side

  1. Olga Godim

    Wonderful post. I didn’t think it possible to have a writing critic group where everyone writes in different genres, but you seem to make it work for you. I need to take lessons, even though I write fantasy. No dragons yet, but I’m thinking about one. 🙂

  2. patgarcia

    You know that is one of the reasons I read from almost all genres except horror. I enjoy good storytelling and it is fascinating for me to look at the techniques they used. The only reason I don’t read horror is because those type of books would them haunt me during my sleep.
    All the best with your writing.
    Shalom aleichem,

  3. patgarcia

    Forgot to add, I am now living in Germany and hope to be moving soon to Italy. I am an ExPat American out of good old Georgia.
    Shalom aleichem,

    1. admin Post author

      Where are you in Germany? I was in Wuerzburg and Bitburg. Nach zwei Jahren ist das Heimweh noch scharf.

      1. patgarcia

        I am in Grosskrotzenburg, which is a part of the Main-Kinzig-Kreis. I’m about a twenty-five-minute drive from Frankfurt and ten-minute drive from Hanau. I have been living in Europe now over thirty years, and I love it. I visit the States to see my family and friends every two years or more, but Europe is my home. I am an American ExPat that would find it difficult to settle down in the States again, although I am very proud to be an American.
        I have been to Wuerzburg so many times. I am about seventy-five kilometers away. I also speak fluent German and I have been learning Italian the past two years to prepare for down south in Italy. I understand your Heimweh. It will take you some time to get used to where you are now after living here for thirty years.
        All the best.
        Shalom aleichem,

  4. Samantha Bryant (@mirymom1)

    My critique group has a similar diversity. Sometimes that makes it hard for us to offer good critique, because it’s a sandbox we don’t play in, but there are certain things that hold true across all storytelling and, like you, I think exposure to all these genres strengthens my work. Good post!

    @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

  5. Juneta

    Great post, Thanks for stopping by my blog. Good storytelling is what it is all about isn’t it? As a reader I know that is important to me. Like Anna I read a lot of writing craft books and read articles too. I guess learning about it is a passion,. What a wonderful compliment that was about your writing too.

    Happy Writing,
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  6. Liza

    My current writing group covers several genres also. While I enjoy the read, I do have a hard time offering valuable criticism to writers who say, write graphic novels. But I’m trying, and learning while I write my women’s lit.

  7. dolorah

    I like to read a variety of different genre’s too. Sometimes I’ll like the book, sometimes not. But it is good to broaden our perspectives. And as you say, I love a good story, despite genre.

  8. jmh

    Hi Rhonda! It’s so good to “meet” you. I really love this post, and I can so relate to it.

    I’m in a writing group with a romance author and a guy who writes YA action-adventure (think modern-day Hardy Boys). Neither are genres I’d ordinarily pick up, but through this group I’ve learned–like you say–that a good story is a good story.

    I think all writers could benefit from broadening their horizons.

    Hope to see you again!


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