Friday, March 7, 2008

The breath of the divine...

I joke that my muse carries an Uzi.

It used to be, that I would get a tight feeling at the top of my spine (which has since turned into chronic back pain--why is everything about pain with me lately?) when I was really inspired. I imagined that it was a lovely mid-life lady with flowing, soft, blond hair that fell in ringlets, wearing a classic Grecian robe--you know the kind, with the crissy-crossy gold straps. She was lovely, beneficent, a being of light. But over that peaceful interior, she wore a bandoleer of ammunition and carried an Uzi. Suffice it to say, she is both a lady who knows what she wants and knows how to induce me to do it.

Then, one day after a six month writing jag, she stopped coming to work, abandoned her husband and sons, ran off to Tahiti and married one of my main characters. She still blames me over-working her for the failure of her marriage. ME over-working HER? Schah! Now in her 40's my muse has a new family. Go figure.

She sometimes comes to visit, usually in the winter between November and February. Why she'd trade a Tahiti winter for a Virginia winter is beyond me, but that's her preferred time for a jaunt. But most of the time, she just sends me postcards. Then, I can write. That's the kind of writing I love... when I get a postcard--or even better, a visit from my muse--and everything flows out of my fingers like God himself had breathed on them.

This week, I got a postcard from my muse. I turned out what I felt was an absolutely fabulous synopsis for my new novel The Barunian Incident for this synopsis seminar I'm taking. My three pre-readers loved it. One whose experience and opinion I trust said it was very, very good.

Both critiquers from the synopsis seminar hated it.

One attacked every single plot point, though we weren't supposed to comment on the other person's story. It seems he was looking for hard SF and thought mine was a "romance in space." You could tell that he looked down on romance... which should not have been a problem since my novel isn't a romance in the sense that the goal of the protagonist is not to find love. She has another goal, she happens to find love along the way. And you know what, IT'S NOT HARD SF!!! It's not MEANT to be hard SF! No wonder he didn't like it. It's soft SF, character driven, not plot driven. So because I didn't give this idiot the STORY he wanted, he was unable to give me any feedback on whether the synopsis mechanics actually worked for MY story--not the one he wanted it to be in his head. Perhaps this means that the mechanics are perfect, but I doubt it. It's the worst kind of "critique" one that ignores what he's supposed to be doing to harp on how the piece isn't the kind of story he wants it to be.

The other didn't understand the simplest thing. Like my query (sent with the critique) said that one main character will get beheaded if he doesn't become king because of "brotherly-lust for power." Now, if you're NOT a moron, you know that "brothers" = "someone else might become king." HOW CAN YOU NOT GET THAT? She didn't get anything. Nothing. Not one single plot point. Nada. I mean, NO ONE IS THAT STUPID. She wanted explanation, reasoning, description. And anyone who knows jack shit about writing a synopsis knows that a synopsis is not the place for those things. It's for getting the main parts of the plot down in the most attractive way possible.

The sad thing is that I was also assigned to crit her synopsis. I had read it yesterday afternoon--before I read her crit of mine, mind you--and was not all that impressed. And that made me sad, because I am a big fan of her writing. She's a great writer with a brilliant future. The synop was the kind of serviceable-but-not-great synopsis that just sucks the life out of a novel. I know. I've written poor synops before and I've read good ones.

She didn't much like my crit either, because her note of thanks basically refuted everything I said, said that she'd accomplished exactly what she set out to do. IN short, I was completely wrong. Well! You're WELCOME!

Her reasoning: "Every published author's synopsis I've ever read was kind of dry." Made me just want to scream. I knew it was useless to argue with her. She got one idea in her head, "synopses HAVE to be dry and suck the life out of your novel" because she'd read bad synopses by authors who happened to get published. She's never read a great synopsis, so she thinks that was how they SHOULD be and excused herself from writing having to write something that was more than pedestrian and run-of-the-mill. Gosh, that is SO much easier! Just write a yawner full of extraneous detail and wishy-washy characterization. Wish I'd thought of that. And she hated my synop because it was short on (extraneous, IMO) detail and long on style ("a synopsis is not the place to show off your writing.")

Anyway, I still get one more crit from this seminar. And I have to decide what to do with the synopsis. Clearly, there are some plot points that don't scan from the text. I have to figure out what those are and clarify them in as few words as possible. I need to figure out how to downplay the romantic aspect and up-play the fact that this happens on a planet other than Earth and is actually SF, which it is. And I need to figure out what is good from two really not helpful critiques and using them to make my synopsis better... all while tromping down on my raging ego, which is, to say the least, bruised.

And that last is the hard part. As difficult as writing the synop itself is, figuring out what's worth keeping from a crit where the writer doesn't understand what a good synopsis is and another where the critter has an ax to grind about the story (which is not supposed to be the focus of his crit) and doesn't say anything about what makes him NOT "believe it" is really hard. You have to not only read between the lines, you have to read minds! And I have to do it without the substantial ego--the confidence I've built from ten years of success (and failure)--to protect me. I hope my ego doesn't to to Tahiti too.

This is the part of writing I hate.


Serenity Now! said...

Oh Dej, I'm so sorry, I hate bruised egos! They hurt!

Anne said...

I think every writer comes up against those types of egos in any type of writing semminar/convention/meeting/group. Too bad that you had to run up against that many at one time. Don't let it get to you, OK?
Anne from MW