Thursday, July 30, 2020

Dear O'Abby: I don't like fantasy. Can I critique it?

Dear O'Abby,

I recently reached out on Twitter to try and find some new writers to critique my latest book.  I got a few replies and a couple of people wanted to trade manuscripts, which I was happy with.  The thing is, one of the books I've been sent to critique is fantasy.  And I don't write fantasy.  I don't even read it. I actually kind of hate it.

I don't want to let this other writer down when he's offered to read for me, but I also don't know that I can critique fantasy in a helpful way.

What would you do?

Best wishes,


Dear Anti-fan(tasy),

I hear you!

I'm not the biggest fantasy fan on the globe either, and would never pick it as a genre to read on my own.

But I do critique it when asked.  One of my longest-term critique partners is a fantasy writer and I've been critiquing for her over ten years now.  She has been critting my YA contemporary writing for just as long.  In fact, none of my regular critique partners writes in my genre.  They write horror, sci-fi, fantasy and romance, but they all help make my work better.

At the end of the day, a story is a story, and writing is writing.  The genre doesn't matter when you're looking at a book in terms of its story, character and style.  In fact, you may actually be more helpful to this other writer than the fantasy readers she may already have had looking over her MS in that you don't know the tropes of the genre and can point things out that may not make sense.

The most important thing is to read this MS as a story and point out places where it drags or where you don't understand something, or where a character says or does something inconsistent with the way they've behaved previously.  Y'know...  all the stuff you do when you are critiquing a story that is within your usual genre.

You will probably learn something new by doing it.  I certainly learn a lot about pacing and world building each time I read for my fantasy-writing crit-partner because she manages to create amazingly complex societies with their own set of rules and moral codes, yet I never feel like I'm being told about them.  I just find I get to the end of the book with an understanding of how these imagined world work.  That's clever world-building!

I hope you find this trade valuable.  You may have found your next long-term crit-partner.

X O'Abby

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