Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thurs note: Fan Mail and edit, edit, edit . . .

What a surprise in my inbox late last night. I got a totally unexpected e-mail from someone who likes my writing. Wow! That's enough to sweeten my doubt. 

Wednesday's writing crit group was also again useful. We're allowed up to 4 pages (double-spaced -- always a bit dicey since I work single-spaced). I read Chapter 7 where Mac begins his prison sentence by working in a road gang and then returning to Hobart Town Goal.

Crit group universally called the chapter "gripping" and "intense" and "Mac's sense of helplessness comes through."  Areas to work on:  consistency in using vernacular (several characters use flash mob slang), check for repeated words (always a stumbling block), and watch for sneaky POV shifts. Very helpful feedback. 

One issue I'm not sure yet how to deal with. Four of the seven readers commented they could not visualize treadmills. Here's my excerpt:

After ten days, Mac’s road gang returned to Hobart Town to find the trackers had brought Robert in from the bush. They had flogged him and chained him to one of two treadmills, giant wooden wheels that faced the rear courtyard wall. Some twenty convicts turned each great wheel, stepping into nothing twelve hours a day.

“That’s Robert. We was on the Brilliant together,” whispered Mac. “I told him not to run.”

“The cockchafer’s better than solitary,” said Rupert. “Your friend’s lucky.”

What I had read about these treadmills in Hobart Town led me to visualize them as two giant wheels placed in an open courtyard. 

The only image I can find on line comes from

After reading the excerpt and seeing this picture, can you make any suggestions?  

As always, may your writing go well.


  1. There were several different kinds of treadmills - it depended on what the mechanism was for. Some were attached to textile mills, others to grain mills, and others to operate mining machinery. The ones put into operation in Australia were generally first devised in England, so look there first - Victoria and Georgian treadmills. You can look the different ones up in good history books. There aren't many online. See here for a rare example:

    Apart from that, you must be very careful how you form your sentences. This one contains a considerable error of construction:
    "He had been flogged, blood crusted on his back, and chained to one of two treadmills, giant wooden wheels that faced the rear courtyard wall." When you make a contiguous list of elements, they must all be identical in subject. "Blood crusted to his back" is not something that was done to him, like the other two elements that sandwich it. It needs shifting, or changing, or punctuating differently. See it now?

    Of course this does not matter in a first draft - your editor will pick things like that and fix them. Find a good editor - not cheap, but well worth it - you would hate to see this jump out at you after you have gone to press.

    Yours looks like a very interesting and well-researched piece. I look forward to seeing more.

  2. Thank you, Rosanne, for your references. I will persevere. And thank you for catching that awkward sentence -- I was going to rewrite it, but I was in love with the phrase "blood crusted on his back," and so posted before doing the edits from my crit session. Sigh. Red face here, but I appreciate the reminder that I must be my harshest critic. The issue of whether or not to hire an editor before self-publishing is one many indie authors struggle with, for as you point out, that's a formidable expense. I'm still hoping for a trip to Australia to access their wonderful libraries.

    1. I think I have friended you on Facebook - if not, please look me up.


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