Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sunday Update: Great vs. Good progress

Finally, finally, this week, I finally received critiques from the Pacific Northwest Writers Assn literary contest for Years of Stone. Both judges gave extensive comments. One wrote, "I've made significant comments to help the author as much as possible to fix the mechanics and turn this into a great novel." I don't think this judge was talking about verb agreement! The other judge spotted no mechanical errors at all. But I didn't get a "5" in any category -- except "Would you read more?"

Both judges echoed Allen's critique ' earlier this week re need for greater sensory detail, logical sequencing of 'camera' as the reader moves closer to the main character and is pulled back by setting, authorial intrusion, or breaks in POV . An additional plus:  Very helpful feedback on the synopsis, which is always so difficult to write. Here, the judges commented with editing suggestions to make the synopsis more appealing to potential agents/publishers.

One judge wrote, "Has the makings of an excellent story with both a strong story line and characters. The setting is the wild card here, and if done right would really put this book in an excellent place for editors/publishers." 

This last comment means I should go to Tasmania somehow -- if I believe in myself and the story. Even if Lawrence Thornton wrote Imagining Argentina without ever having been there. Overall, the comments suggest this is still a working draft, not a final.

First reaction:  My gosh, how am I going to revise to these high standards.

Second reaction: Thank you for reading my synopsis and first 30 pages so thoughtfully.

Third reaction:  I've got a lot of work to do! 

Fourth reaction: I can't afford to spend $6,000 on a trip to Tasmania. Nor can I afford an editor.

As I am now two years into Years of Stone, I'm questioning my stamina. Do I want to write 'the best novel I can' or strive to greatness? Doubts leap out. 'I am old, Father William.' I do work every day, minimum of two hours. But do I -- or does any writer -- have the vision and tenacity to revise to greatness? I'm distracted by that goal of creating a 'great' novel. I just want to write a good story that some readers will find satisfying. Maybe a secondary goal is to make some money to cover a research trip or two. I truly enjoy finding nuggets of history and weaving them into story.

Bottom line: Persevere. Finish my personal goal of 'plug the plot holes' in June and then attack the revision round once again. Make a decision about self-publishing (once again, postponed) or indie publishing by Allen's birthday (August 16).

ROW80 UPDATE: Some good progress. Feel a bit scattered. I'm now beginning each day with (following the recommendation, I believe, of Francene Stanley). Well, thanks should go to whoever recommended this great site. Morning pages (750 words) begin each day. I earned a penguin for writing 7 days in a row (I started June 2). I'm using these to worry through scenes that aren't working, stories people tell me, ideas for blog posts. Even yesterday -- a poem on "Frida as Mermaid". 

I'll keep it simple for next week: 

---Work on revision for Years of Stone
---Get The Mermaid Quilt up on Smashwords. 

As for the rest of the list:

---Contact indie bookstore re reading/presentation
---Write a REVIEW of a writing craft book 
---send interview questions for guest post to Judy Leslie
---Continue 750 words a day warm-ups
---Critique or sub to NOVELS-L at The Internet Writing Workshop
---Work on Marketing Plan
---Keep working on web skills
---Maybe write another poem
---When all else fails, quilt, take a walk, or cook!

May your week go well . . . and your writing even better!


  1. I always vote to strive for greatness...and it sounds like you're well on your way. As for Tasmania...while traveling there in person would be ideal...have you thought about upping your game on research? Books, travel books, blogs...maybe someone else's eyes will provide you the detail you're looking for? Just a thought! As it is, that sounds like a really awesome set of reviews you got. :-)

    1. Thank you, Anna, for your suggestion. Yes, I will renew my efforts. I'm digging. YouTube also has some interesting clips, as do travel journals from the time. And I do like Google image search. I still don't know about striving for 'greatness' but I will strive for not letting the reader or the story down.

  2. As you said, Beth: "Bottom line: persevere."

    Anyone who writes historical fiction writes about places impossible to visit. Yes, you can visit the sites, and that helps to give a sense of place, but you can't actually go there. The bright side is: you can create a setting with research and research and more research -- and imagination. :)

    Good luck!

    1. Thank you, Ruth. I do love research and need more. This will be another round of deep revision, but my goal still will be to finish within the next several months. At least I don't need to truly invent alternate worlds!

  3. Sounds like you got some awesome feedback, but I know how that can be overwhelming sometimes. Setting was my wild card, too, though I have the advantage with my WIP that I can just make it up and say "this is how it is" (to a point). I second Anna's suggestion of checking out travel books and blogs to get a feel for the place.

    My motto is to produce the best story I feel that I can; hopefully it will be great, but if not, hopefully at least some people will enjoy it. Either way, as you say, persevere. Good luck with it!

    1. You are a genius! Thank you for writing about your experience with Pinterest. This is perfect for although I've started a board on Pinterest, I hadn't used it to collect images of characters and settings to make the board directly related to YEARS OF STONE. Thank you also for your encouragement. Yep. It's going to take a while to absorb those comments. But I so appreciate the time and effort the judges took to make them. And thank YOU.

  4. I've never been to any of the places in my novels or novellas except maybe one. That's why most of my towns are made up, and I know enough about the surrounding areas to be okay with the settings.

    My thoughts about whether a novel is good or great...maybe it depends on the reader. Reading is SO subjective. Novels I've thought were great, others haven't, and vice versa. I say write the very best book you can and make sure YOU'RE satisfied with it. Have others read it and make sure there are no obvious errors in grammar, punctuation, story flow, etc. But, ultimately, you have to love it. There's a point where you have to stop tweaking it and get on with it.

    Good luck with everything!

    1. Thank you, Lauralynn, for encouraging comments. What was most reassuring was that not every writer has visited every site their work is based on. I will persevere. I do still love my story, even if this makes the umpteenth edit! Tweak on!


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