So I received a rather mixed review of my book from Writer’s Digest, an outfit that I have long-suspected of being profit-driven and much too rigid in their acceptance of submissions. While they praised my writing style, grammar and spelling, they criticized the book by saying that it has no plot and that the characters are not well-developed. Interesting, but not quite accurate. My characters are very well developed; in fact, I think that their “flesh and blood” presence is one of the book’s strong points. How much further does Writer’s Digest expect a writer to go? I spent a lot of time dwelling in my characters’ feelings and thoughts and no one has suggested that they are less than “real”. As for the “elusive” plot: not too sure what they are looking for. My novel follows a freestyle form of plot that many, many other writers have used. There is a beginning, a middle and an ending, however loose that may be. It is a flowing story, not a stagnant one. If I read books that only followed an archaic formula of writing style, I would miss out on most of my favorite authors! Writing has moved into new territories and with the availability of self-publishing, even more styles are arising. Writing is an art and as such should not be seen with a narrow-minded view, but as an ever expanding horizon of new and varied styles.
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I have been thinking about this subject quite a lot lately. My novel is definitely fiction, but it does take place in a real time and place. What is my responsibility for keeping to the facts of history, real places and events, etc.? In the beginning of my novel, I put in a sort of “disclaimer”, reminding the reader that this is a work of fiction and should be read as such. When a review of my novel was done by posted on a Vietnam Veterans of America website, the reviewer pointed out some of my mistakes dealing with the military (such as sergeants not being referred to as “Sir”) as well as my misunderstanding of President Carter’s pardon of the draft dodgers. This is what prompted me to write this blog because when I looked up that information on the internet, what I found out was what I used to proceed with my story. I needed to get a draft dodger character back to the United States from Canada, so when I found my answer, I proceeded. Since I was not looking into the actual deeper meaning and history of the event, I felt that I didn’t have to research it any further.
I have no resentment toward the reviewer. As a military and Vietnam veteran, his historical and accurate knowledge of the events is indisputable. And he gave my novel an otherwise glowing review, which is most important to me!
I still feel okay with what I wrote and researched. My novel is for the everyday reader, not the historian. Most readers would not even notice these inconsistencies, but should I? I don’t think so. What do you think?