Words of Wisdom

I reached my October goal of writing 10,000 words. About 500 of it was for a flash fiction piece that came to mind during a bout of writer’s block. The rest went to the beginnings of a novel that started to go flat towards those last 10,000 words. Either way the 10K was completed before the end of the month. Yay, me!

So I used the extra time to finish reading my signed copy of Detroit Breakdown, a novel by one of my favorite authors, D.E. Johnson. I did my usual once I finished it, sent an email to say how much I liked it with a brief mention that I’d meet him at a writers conference. This was how he responded:

“Thanks, Michelle. You, especially, should never give up, because you are a skilled writer and should be published. As I said before, your subject matter and location might not grab an agent by the throat, but keep going after them, and if that doesn’t pan out, start a new book.”

At this point, I had already started a new book for my 10K words, set in ancient Egypt, with characters I no longer care about. Maybe I haven’t fully developed them. Or maybe it was just a really bad idea in the first place. Who knows.

Then I read the rest of the email:

“Just a thought- If you’re going to continue writing historicals, what about gritty Gary, Indiana in the early days of the steel biz? Or a Chicago topic? Either of those might get you more attention.”

I was shocked that he even remembered who I was. He’d critiqued five pages of my manuscript this past summer at Midwest Writers and had mentioned that the setting of my novel, Tolleston, Indiana (pre-Gary, really, but who would know that?) might not be a draw to agents and editors. His four novels, The Detroit Electric Scheme, Detroit Shakedown, Detroit Breakdown and Detroit Shuffle all center around Detroit during the early days of the automotive industry. And he got an agent a few months after completing the first book in the series. His advice (and you ALWAYS take advice from a critically-acclaimed published author!) really got my creative juices going.

So now I’ve set another monthly goal, this time 15K because I actually wrote a little over 14K in October (yay me, again!). In the last few days of October, I managed 1803 words on a novel set during the creation of Gary, Indiana. These characters I like so far. We’ll see what happens at the end of November.

And to D.E. Johnson: thanks for the words of wisdom and the inspiration.


About Michelle McGill-Vargas

Michelle hails from Gary, Indiana where she enjoys writing historical fiction, flash fiction, and short stories. Her writings have appeared in "Lutheran Witness", "Splickety Magazine", "The Copperfield Review", and "Typehouse Literary Magazine." She served as vice-president of the Indiana Writers' Consortium. Until the day her historical fiction manuscripts get published, she pays the bills as a special education administrator with a background in deaf education. In October 2018, she will be a contributor to Concordia Publishing House's quarterly devotional series "Portals of Prayer." Visit her blog at www.michellemcgillvargas.wordpress.com
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