Saturday, August 21, 2010

Back to editing . . .

On July 24th, I stood in front of 450 people to receive the second place award in historical fiction for Standing Stones at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association literary contest.

I remember bouncing up out of my chair when my name was called with a sense of disbelief and joy. Some 1100 people entered back in February. Now just three names (Kendra Hall, for Joan of Arc, Gabriella's Story; Debra Carlson for Shakuhachi, and me) were announced in our category. At the "winners only" reception following the dinner, several agents invited me to send my work, but here I heard for the first time that 118,000 words is too long for a first novel by a new author.

Over the long weekend of August 6th, I attended the Willamette Writers annual conference in Portland. Robert Dugoni was an inspirational keynoter ("Begin your story with blood on the floor") and workshop leader. Charlotte Cook changed my perceptions of how to write back story with her comment:

"If you don't want to compromise the forward momentum of the story, integrate back story as you experience your past in your own life. Do we stop action in the present to retell ourselves a story from the past? In chronological order?"

But the real draw for me at Willamette Writers was to find out more about agents and the possibility of representation. Now I learned in earnest that Standing Stones was too long. But after a year of editing, I'm no longer intimidated by the challenge of chopping out 25,000 words or so. I'm not subbing to agents just yet. I'm not writing poetry or short stories. Each morning begins with editing. Each afternoon includes research, for the next two stories in this series are simmering and shimmering in my imagination. Summer now begins its turn to fall. May your own projects go well.