Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Accepting Critique

Critique is a beast that grows from a cute cub to a preditor that bites.  It's wonderful when you're in the beginning phases of a project, when reactions from readers can cause a cascade of ideas to burn through your imagination like rivers of lava from Mauna Loa.  Later it becomes harder and harder to take, as your project takes on shape and a life of its own, and the resistence to effort becomes greater and greater. 

So, critique last night was a mix.  Very difficult.  I wanted to quit--both critique group and writing.

For those familiar with my ouvre (Steve, among some others) I wrote an epic fantasy that I finished in 1987, and workshopped through 1990 or thereabouts.  It's in pretty good shape.  I read the very first scene of the novel for my group last night because I'm attending the Surrey International Writers Conference in October, and there are going to be so many publishing industry professionals there looking for fantasy.  And since the novel exists, why not pitch it?

One of the plot elements in my novel has to do with magic artifacts.  The "evil" magic artifacts are called Sorcerules.  They are medallions with obsidian centers.  The "good" artifacts are Staves and Rings which are used in conjunction to form a focus to draw power from the elemental planes.  In the first scene, my character Drue, sees one of the good artifacts, the Ring of the Air, embedded inside a Runestone of obsidian (evil stone).  The other fantasy author in the group said that the "ring" concept was too derivative in feeling and tone.  I took that very personally right off the bat.  My inner critic lambasted me with "See, I told you so, it's trite, derivative and worthless."  But I have been learning from Pam to filter feedback and find the kernel of value in it, and that's usually hidden by emotional baggage.  That is certainly true in my case. 

So, ultimately, the pain gave way to a new solution.  Rather than magic artifacts be rings and staves, the "good" wizards will also have sorcerules--only their stones will be different.  For the Earth: Chalcedony, for the Air: Crystal (which has caught the light of the Aurora), and for the Water: Nacre. 

So, by filtering the feedback and abstaining from self-flagellation, I managed to find a solution which may not be unique and completely original, but certainly seems more in keeping with my theme, and the title of my novel.  This method of accepting critique is a supreme victory for me, and demonstrative of a wholesale raising of my consciousness.

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