When a writer brings a piece to a critique group, I feel it's necessary not to defend the piece.
It does not matter what you intended. It either works or it doesn't.
My critique group did not "get" what I intended from the chapter last night. I could consider them all stupid and move on, but when the general consensus consistently missed the point on why the details were there... Then the problem is obviously not them.
It does not mean my idea is bad. It just means my implementation failed.
Speaking of implementation that failed, they spent some time telling me the story/ central conflict as they understood it. Another chapter that had failed miserably was chapter one. (There's a blog entry for another day: The agony of finding a chapter one that is both captivating and effective in regards to plot.) What I found interesting of this discussion was how "close" their interpretation was to what I desired, but that they were right-- I had bogged the story down in some areas with important details that were misplaced. And I also realized that the reason my original chapter one failed is because I let the mystery continue for too long. Upon further reflection, I never resolved it at all. Bad author.
So I lay in bed last night pondering this. I wanted desperately to get out of bed and write. But it was after midnight and as a mom, I can't indulge whims like that. (I don't do well on lack of sleep.) But I developed a new concept that might work and give me the plot structure to construct AND resolve the mystery.
This is a lot of rambling. And today I have important but mundane things to do: bathe child, work for the office, study for my economics quiz, but this new concept obsesses me. I can't indulge my writing frenzy, but perhaps I can reward myself throughout the day...
My concepts for chapter one of this "sequel" book have been many. I wrote one from the bad guy's point of view, and that revealed too much too fast and didn't quite make sense. I wrote one from the good guy's point of view that was too long and poorly paced to suck you in.
My chapter one submitted to the critique group was so fast-paced and action driven that it became difficult to process, and the melodramatic nature of it lead my readers to believe my protagonist was on drugs or a complete nutcase and later chapters did nothing to explain what happened. Which made the manuscript disjointed.
So, my new concept, of which I have about 500 words is slower. The point of the chapter is to set the emotional duress of the protagonist, a character who, in the first book, was vibrant and full of life, and has now experienced a myriad of physical problems, depression, and grief that has changed his joie de vivre. And since it's a paranormal book, when the weird stuff happens in chapter one, he thinks he has imagined it all because of those things and in the next chapter, everyone around him starts experiencing it, too...
In the new chapter one, in my current attempt, Étienne begins the book in the exact physical location where the bad guy begins the first book, in a similar physical posture, doing something similar. I did not plan it or engineer it this way on purpose. But the setting is identical... and that could end up being a strength if I do it right/well...