I’m in three different writing groups. They have been very beneficial, either motivating me to write so I have something to share, or by catching my mistakes and lapses. “Why did he do X?” “Oh, didn’t I mention he was an android? Oops.” But not every writing group comment has been useful. Sometimes, people miss the point. I’ll give two examples.
One time a group was going over a short scifi story of mine. For one, older woman, it was apparently the first scifi story she had ever read. (Sad proof that not everyone is perfect. :P) Anyway, she had a lot of problems with it. At one point, a character talks about his blaster. “What’s a blaster?” “A kind of gun.” “Couldn’t you just say ‘gun?'” She didn’t just admit she was unaccustomed to scifi lingo and move on. Instead, she acted as if I was purposely filling the story with weird stuff just to confuse people. Over the years I’ve read a lot of stuff that – either in tone, genre, or style – I didn’t get. And I understand, I’m not the audience. I give basic comments, but I don’t blame the author for not reeling me into a, say, a gay romance aboard a French naval vessel of the 1700’s. That’s not my kind of story.
Another time, a group was going over a different story of mine. This story had two distinct parts. The first part mostly set the stage, giving some background information on the setting and the main character. The second part had the main point of the story, but you needed that background to understand it. Also, there was a sub-point to the story in how the two parts interacted. This one guy didn’t get that. His comments for just about every paragraph in the first part was, “This does not advance the story.” He seemed to feel I should just have the second part as the story, overlooking that nobody would know what the hell I was talking about. Him making the first comment didn’t bother me, what bugged me was he wouldn’t let it go. He made his comment – I didn’t think it would work but I think about it later – and instead of moving on to something else, he kept repeating it, seeming as though he was trying to bash me into agreeing with him. Towards the end I just sat there with clenched teeth, dismissing his comments out of hand, and wanting to yell, “You’re missing the point!”
I guess it just goes to show you can’t please everyone. One person thought I explained too much, another too little.