Messages from the grove


You never know what the postman will deliver.

(No, it's not a letter from an agent desiring further access to my words.)

Instead, it was my entry to the "Murder in the Grove" contest.

I didn't win, but I didn't expect to win. I only entered because it was suggested on Miss Snark's blog, and because they accepted something called "suspense romance" which, I felt, might actually fit the story I've written. Mostly, I know what the story is not: It's not horror, sci-fi or fantasy. It's not thriller, and it's not mystery. But there are elements of mystery and suspense. And truly, I would not have thought it "literary," a phrase that sticks in my neck somewhere and implies it's all style and no substance, at least to me.

Inside the Priority Mail envelope I'd sent with the entry and entry fee were my four copies of the synopsis and first 20 pages. Three of the copies/synopsis packets had critique sheets. This was what I hadn't dared to hope for: That someone professional would read, and analyze, the synopsis and the pages. This is what I got, three times over. (Not complaining, but I wonder why not all four.)

And though I'll be looking more deeply at the comments and feedback in the next few days (it's like looking into a bright light right now, you can't stare at it too long), what's quite cheering and fascinating to me is that they liked my writing. The synopsis, not so much. But the actual writing — and even the mechanics — got overwhelmingly positive feedback. One critic was very enthused, one medium-enthused, one didn't even write comments and gave more low marks than the others. (Freakishly, that's the one person I'd most like to have had comments from.) But one of them even said I wrote beautifully, and had some lovely turns of phrase.

What I also learned is that I may not actually have a suspense novel on my hand. I may have a literary novel. Can you have one of those with actual plot?

I also learned that:

– I might want to start it with the lead character's POV; currently it's a secondary character who opens the story
– I might want to save some of the backstory for later in the novel; it's crowded up at the front which is suicide in a genre book but because this may just be literary is ok, still, move some of it along the pipeline
– the opening paragraph is well written but too author-intrusive
– the synopsis really needs some work

Still thinking. Cautiously optimistic, though. I'm ceasing the query letters, though, until I've thought this through a bit more and decided how much of it I want to use to revise, and how I'd like to reconsider my own book.

Jeez, this is hard.