Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

How A Story’s Integrity Can Save It From Certain Criticisms

Haley Whitehall, in a twitter conversation, suggested the topic of this post :-)

Writers receive, if they let themselves, many kinds of criticism; during the writing, if they’re brave, and, almost always, during the final revision process.

Let me give you the etymologies of the two key words of this post:

criticism c.1600, “action of criticizing,” from critic + -ism. Meaning “art of estimating literary worth” is from 1670s.
integrity mid-15c., “wholeness, perfect condition,” from O.Fr. integrité, from L. integritatem (nom. integritas) “soundness, wholeness,” from integer “whole” (see integer). Sense of “uncorrupted virtue” is from 1540s.

So, I’m proposing that, somehow, the “wholeness” and “virtue” of a story can save it from certain negative “estimations” of its “literary worth”.

As always, I’m not writing this post as an “expert” on the topic. I’m a writer and a published author but I make no claim to being a literary expert.

What I can do, though, is to ask questions and share my own experience.

What is the “wholeness” of a story (insert the word “book” if it makes more sense for you…)?

What is its “virtue”?

Did you notice that the etymology of “criticism” said, “art of estimating literary worth”?

It appears that valid criticism involves artists evaluating other artists.

Any two artists will have two unique sets of values when they approach the art of criticizing another artist’s work.

Is the artistic critic evaluating the Whole of the work? Are they sensing the Virtue of the work?

My book was getting criticism well before I began writing it–its theme was shared with many people and their opinions were sought…

As I wrote it, I received feedback from authors and interested readers.

My editor went beyond mere technical appraisal and shared her artistic views of the book.

A special office of review gave me highly-qualified and specific advice.

At each stage of this process I was of two minds: the merely human writer seeking perspective and the Artist, bearing the Book and feeling its Life and Truth…

Sure there were dumb mistakes that the merely human side of me made and they were gratefully attended to.

But my Artist-Self was the Mother of the Book and She, thankfully, was strong enough and clear enough about what the Book needed and deserved.

Does your story or book Speak to you?

Can you hear its demands in spite of well-intentioned criticism from others?

Does your “human”-self interfere with your “artist”-self?
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9 responses to “How A Story’s Integrity Can Save It From Certain Criticisms

  1. Selena April 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    An excellent and thought provoking article. My human self interferes less and less as I realize who I am writing for. I love critique and helpful words on structure, but insist that the vision and virtue remain true.
    Thank you, Alexander!


  2. HaleyWhitehall April 12, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    I love this post! One sentence really speaks to me: “At each stage of this process I was of two minds: the merely human writer seeking perspective and the Artist, bearing the Book and feeling its Life and Truth…” I think it is important to separate the human and the artist and to understand the thought processes of each regarding your writing. Through this understanding we are more likely to know what our story needs.


  3. Pingback: How Writers Handle Criticism | Notes from An Alien

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