Suggestions from a CWA Assessment…

I paid the Crime Writers Association for an assessment of my manuscript. They kept it for almost a month and had one of their judges read it and write a nine page review for me. The suggested several things that I could do to improve the book and I went to work to fix, add, delete or improve the book. I was grateful for the professional opinion. These people get books published.

The review gave me the confidence to continue to work on what they saw as a basically good book. Their assessment started out with this:

“The book is rich in action, but its driving force is Elijah’s emotional struggle with violence and his ultimate redemption through his love for another man. It is the story of one man’s search to reconnect with his own humanity, wrestling with the difficulties of readjustment in a ‘normal’ world after witnessing – and playing an active part in – the violence of war. The author is not afraid to confront the serious issues and dilemmas that arise from Elijah’s situation: the analogy of exile between the returned soldiers and the gay community is thoughtfully – and thought-provokingly – explored, and the blending of satanic and earthly evils is interestingly handled.

The tone of the narrative is satisfyingly dark.”

They said that I overexploited at times, which is fixed now. They said I came on too strong sometimes, fixed. While I overexploited some things I didn’t give enough description to create a sense of place or to create an atmosphere of what was happening. I worked on this.

They liked Elijah McCoy the main character.

“I liked Elijah tremendously, and despite some highly unconvincing dialogue (see section 6), I believed in him and in his situation. His struggle to find a path from the violence of his heart is movingly explored, and his awakening to love and sexuality makes him attractively vulnerable. He is an intriguing blend of complexity and naivety, violence and compassion, and unusual because of that.”

This was interesting to me in that the stilted dialogue really did describe one of the big problems that veterans have when they (we) come home. The fact that the dialogue was uncomfortable and “off” emotionally proved the authenticity of the book. However that had to change so the reader could understand what was being done, thought, and felt. I hope i have fixed that but some of the time I am pretending that I know how to talk to people. This was true of Elijah’s emotional reactions along the way. Something terrible would happen and he did not react like a normal person. Well that is one of the ways a veteran protects from horrible experiences. I tried to mitigate this without changing the way a veteran reacts. At least they are somewhat aware of it now. If you ever watched the TV series Dexter, with his discomfort at being around normal people you get the problem.

“The progression of the plot is logical and the transitions in Elijah’s character are well-paced, leading to a satisfying personal and collective outcome.” I felt as if the story was told to me by Elijah (some part of me?) and that I just wrote down what happened. I wrote it in big blocks and was surprised sometimes at what happened. I was anxious to share the pages with my partner because of the surprise.

“Ironically, it’s not the dark, supernatural aspects of the book that stretch credibility (these worked well for me, whether you choose to read them on a literal or metaphorical level); it’s the moments of everyday living, and this is down to a fundamental problem with dialogue.” This gave me strength to keep working on this book. I continue to work on the dialogue.

I was grateful for this service and think that the story is told in a much better way as a result of it. I am completing the eighth edit of the entire book. I think I am getting close to being ready to publish.

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