If you’ve done writing courses or are a part of a writing group, then you’ll be no stranger to giving and receiving critiques. A topic that commonly comes up in critiquing situations is people’s resistance to critiquing outside their preferred genres.
A lot of writers believe it’s a cop-out to say you can’t critique something that is in a genre you don’t read. Every story, no matter the genre, can be assessed for characterisation, pacing, setting, plotting and technical aspects of writing.
Other writers – usually those who have no sympathy for a genre they’re being asked to read – will say that it’s very hard to critique if you can’t engage with the story. For them it’s a question of how can you accurately judge plotting, characterisation and pacing if you can’t connect with world of the story?
If you have ever had to critique a story you disliked, then you’ll probably have found you were more critical than you’d be on a story you’d loved. From that point of view it makes sense that you might be harsh, but you’ll still give a useful critique.
What about trying to critique stories that are full of characters you can’t relate to like angels, elves or robots? Or worlds you can’t picture like tree-cities or rabbit holes?
Every genre has its own ‘formulaic’ elements around characters and world-building mechanics (e.g. how magic typically works). While not every book adhears to genre rules, if you don’t read the genre you don’t recognise the rules.
Obviously people do these things all the time as they assess manuscripts or provide editing services. Nor should these things be much of an issue for writers who read broadly.
Personally, I think the idea that you can’t critique in a genre you don’t read is more powerful than the reality that some people really can’t, and it’s a definite fault of non-genre specific writing courses that they don’t teach people universal approaches to critiquing.