ISWG October: Slogging through the Jungle

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The first Wednesday of the month is Insecure Writers Support Group blog-hop day. According to their website, the purpose of ISWG is

To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Learn more about ISWG here:

This month’s question: When do you know your story is ready?

There's a story in here somewhere.

There’s a story in here somewhere.

I actually suffer from premature story ejaculation. It’s an embarrassing condition. The heady excitement of typing “the end,” the tickle of positive feedback, it all gets me so excited that shoot my story out into query-land, only to have it sent back with a polite “No, thanks.” Or maybe silence.

Like many novices, I’ve thought my work was ready before it was. After running my WIP through a few self-edits and then a trip through my face-to-face critique group (only 40 pages per month!), the “finished” story was a funny, episodic ramble through a pivotal month in Lola’s life. Whee! My group liked it, especially the ending. Out went the queries. Back they came: “No, thanks.”

Two of those queries stood out. Both said they found my story premise and writing appealing. One said the story needed to focus on the main conflict. The other said it suffered from too many subplots and characters.

They were right. It hurt a little to admin that, but hey—I never expected novel-writing to be an instant win. The more I meet other writers, the more that point is hammered home: the path to publication is a long slog. And hearing that from (finally) published writers helps a lot.

Three craft classes later, I’m whittling the story down to a central conflict—well, two: one inner and one outer, but they’re closely connected. Just yesterday I realized I could slice away yet another subplot. You know what helped? On my running synopsis, I color-coded each of the conflicts using the highlight feature of Microsoft Word, and I realized I was running out of colors.

My online critique group from the Women’s Fiction Writers Association has also helped me to see the weeds in my plot’s garden. This time it’s 50 pages per month, but it’s worth it to get the feedback I need. I suspect this story will be ready for another round of queries in six months or so—but if it takes longer, that’s OK.

How do I know when it’s done? I’ll let you know when I get there.





6 thoughts on “ISWG October: Slogging through the Jungle

  1. Reprobate Typewriter

    Your journey does sound a whole lot like mine! I think I’ve done all of those things. I’m approaching the point of heading back to agents with a new project, now, and I think it’s a whole lot better than the last one.

  2. Madeline Mora-Summonte

    The fact that you received personalized rejections on those queries is huge! You’ve taken them to heart and run with them so you’re serious about the craft, about publishing. You’re on your way – hang in there! Keep going! 🙂

  3. Kelsie Engen

    I agree–getting personalized feedback is always amazing! I always try to remind myself too, that this writing business is subjective. You know that whole “reject a classic” thing that Writer’s Digest does, yeah, even the best get rejections–probably ones like yours. So keep submitting, and revise if you think it needs it. 🙂 Great job putting your work out there!

  4. patgarcia

    i find it so good that you were able to see that your novel was not ready. That happen to me in 2012 and like you I started enrolling in craft classes and fortunately I met a hard nosed writing coach who cut me no slack and hammered on me until I could see what I was overlooking. It has made a world of difference in my writing.
    All the best.
    Shalom aleichem,


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