Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Sweetness of Bitter, by Beth Cato

A story may die but from the ashes a far better tale may emerge.
In its first incarnation, "The Sweetness of Bitter" told much the same story. It featured the same characters, with the same names. I sent it out to a few magazines and it garnered higher tier rejections. I knew there was something special about the story, but it obviously wasn't quite there yet.

Therefore, I submitted it for group critique at the Cascade Writers the-sweetness-of-bitterWorkshop--where it was eviscerated. I have received hundreds of critiques and given as many, but this was my first time enduring it all in person. Mind you, my fellow writers had plenty of nice things to say about it, too, but I left feeling dizzy and overwhelmed at the depth of the experience.

I returned home and stared at the stack of marked-up manuscripts. I was at an absolute loss at how to start revising. So, I didn't.
I started from scratch. Blank document. As I went, I copied in bits of the old story. The process endowed me with an epic migraine. At a few points, I was so frustrated that I cried. I debated trunking the story entirely. "Maybe I'm not good enough to do this idea justice," I thought. I could bury it on my hard drive for a few years, maybe return to it someday.

Maybe. That was the key word. Deep down, I knew that if I set this story aside, I'd never pick it up again.

I sent the story for more critiques. I tweaked it more. I judged it as ready to submit.

My old story, like the phoenix, had been incinerated by critiques and born anew. I retitled it in a way that not only described the story, but the frustrating process of its evolution--and the end result, as you see here on Intergalactic Medicine Show.

It's worth enduring the bitter to get that sweetness.

--Beth Cato

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