Developments since the last update on my novel-in-progress (August 2017):
- completed third major revision of manuscript and sent to four readers
- changed working title from To Be or Not to Beyond the Gate
- eliminated some characters
- cut out a few story lines
- renamed major characters:, John, Jessie’s boyfriend, is now Jakob; Doug McIntosh, Jessie’s wasband is now Doug Stewart
Completing revisions is deeply satisfying as the project improves and solidifies, if less emotional than finishing the first rough draft (I cried happy, amazed tears). The new title is far superior, and cutting characters—once I see they’re non-essential and bid them a fond farewell (“Maybe I’ll see you in another story…”)—provides relief. Likewise, tidying up the story by pulling half-a-dozen threads out of the whole piece of fabric simplifies matters, for author and reader.
Being with others who share the same passion is exhilarating, and I’ve always enjoyed writers’ conferences immensely. This is the first time I’ve gone to one with a project to pitch, however. I look forward to that aspect. I eagerly anticipate the speakers and presentations as well as a 4-hour intensive workshop, From Idea to Proposal, with a well-established agent. And, I will have the opportunity to peddle Sunday by Sunday too.
- ms requested by agent on basis of query letter (then declined)
- ms went three rounds with mid-sized publishing house (then declined)
These rejections encouraged me, two more industry professionals saying I have a story worth telling and the voice to tell it, so don’t give up. Okay, I won’t…, yet…
- received important feedback from reader highly qualified and well-versed in contemporary literature (as well as church/theology, for input on spirituality, religiosity, and faith struggles in the book)
This feedback resulted in major changes, and how grateful I am for it! As I have previously stipulated, criticism is a precious commodity to me, a means to improve.
I sign off with the first page of Beyond the Gate, seeking your input. Does it make you want to read more? Why or why not? Remember, I value frankness.
This was it. Twenty-six thirteen South Harvard Drive. Jessie panted up to the large two-story house, five minutes late. A black wrought iron fence surrounded it. She stood at the gate breathing, trying to make her hand reach for the latch. Her head turned to watch a car pull into the wide expanse of concrete driveway and a woman emerge who contrasted to her in every way: large-framed and tall, dark-skinned, professionally dressed and made-up. Comfortable-looking in stiletto boots, she hurried to Jessie, and offered her hand. Jessie’s aim was off returning the gesture—this was her second or third handshake ever—and she wanted to sink into the ground, but the woman easily adjusted and shook firmly.
“Hi, Ms Stewart. Jessica, right? I’m Lauren McCoy. Thanks for coming. This is my uncle’s house. He’s really let things go since his wife died a few years ago,” she said, opening the gate. “And now, like I told you on the phone, we’ve got problems.”
They walked a stone sidewalk through neglected flower beds on each side of the ornate wooden front doors. Lauren McCoy turned her key in the lock, and they entered a foyer at the foot of a wide staircase. Jessie could smell the roaches, like rotten brown sugar.
“Let me tell him we’re here,” the niece said, and turned right to the end of the hallway and right again down some steps. While she waited, Jessie took in a fancy side table under a fancy mirror. It held a nice lamp but was covered with disheveled mounds of mail. An expensive looking rug littered with yellow cat hair and assorted bits of debris led to light blue-gray carpet on the steps, a dark path up the middle. Thick cobwebs hung from the brass chandelier. Jessie’s nose twitched at the smell of cat pee, a smell she detested.