I just finished reviewing all of the letters I received from folks when I workshopped Unplanted. Many of the comments were unhelpful. Themes that I did find useful included:
- Need for more dialogue/scene.
- Strengthen Joe’s character (‘oafish’ or ‘idealist’?).
- Keep track of kids. (where are they while Mattie’s picking, etc?)
- Further develop Mattie’s sense of self/reasons for her depression. (this is the thing I need to work on the most)
- Identify reasons for their choice of this lifestyle, and history of where they came from, how they got to this point in their lives).
- More from Joe’s pov.
- Going into Amy’s mind is a good idea.
- Add more scene that releases reader from drudgery.
These are all very helpful comments, and I will certainly take them into account as I continue to write/revise. I am glad I kept all of these letters and marked-up manuscripts. It’s also interesting to see how differently some viewed the piece. One person wanted to see a physically intimate scene with Mattie and Joe. One disliked the title very strongly and preferred the chapter title, ‘Echoes of Days Before.’ Another thought the chapter title sounded like the title of a bodice ripper. Some enjoyed more narration than exposition; others felt very strongly that there should be more exposition, less narration.
Everyone, though, thought the piece I workshopped had the makings of a novel. That, I think, is some of the most reassuring feedback I received in my two years at OSU.
Another thing I noticed, something that really struck me, is that I presented this to my workshop during the last week of October, 2003. Three weeks before Scott died.
I understand fully why it has taken me so long to reengage. And I understand why I remain somewhat hesitant to return to actually writing the story, rather than continually clearing my throat.