5 Year Writing Goal: June update

Apparently, I have “created a compelling narrative, with a well-drawn setting and a beguiling central character.” But still not publishable.

Five Year Writing Goal

do you have goalsI’m taking part in Misha and Beth’s Five Year Project and my five-year goal is to write a novel and get it published. This is my update on progress this month.

Feedback on The Reluctant Scribe


A children’s literary agent kindly read my manuscript, The Reluctant Scribe, and she gave me very encouraging feedback. She said I have “created a compelling narrative, with a well-drawn setting and a beguiling central character.” This is fantastic news and really boosted my confidence.

She goes on to say, however, “I don’t think it will work as a teen novel.” The reasons, as she had previously discussed with me, are:

  • The central character is too young to appeal to a teen audience. Little Zhang Ji is only 12, turning 13, during the course of the novel, and teenagers prefer to read about characters slightly older than themselves.
  • The genre, historical fiction, is a disadvantage.
  • The novel lacks an essential strong ‘hook’ to attract publishers.
The first two points above were exactly what I expected. The third one is more worrying. My next step is to pitch this as an adult novel. But a publisher of adult literature will also expect a strong hook, won’t they?

To turn it into an adult novel, the agent suggested I might add an adult viewpoint, running alongside the voice of Zhang Ji. And I could mix up the timeline. These ideas certainly have merit, but I am worried about deviating from the simple POV I’ve chosen. I fear my horrible, intrusive, know-it-all narrator voice might start hijacking the narrative.

Next steps: turning the manuscript into a novel suitable for adult publication

Undaunted -(OK somewhat daunted but still undefeated)- I have done the following:

  1. Changed the title of the novel to “The Tang Warrior“, in the hope this is a catchier hook for an agent or publisher.
  2. Sent it into Jonathan Cape during their open submissions month.
  3. Attended a writing conference and noted down the name of an agent who might be interested in the themes within the novel.
  4. Asked WriteStars for help and arranged for an author of historical fiction to look at my novel and advise on how to turn my Reluctant Scribe and Tang Warrior into a publishable adult novel.

The End of a novel, Ruth LivingstoneI should have the author’s advice on this by the end of July. All I need to do is wait…

In the meantime, I am working on a short non-fiction book about improving your memory, which I may self-publish as an e-book.
And, I am thinking about my next fiction novel, possibly the novel I always intended to write about the adult life of Zhang Ji, provisionally entitled The Reluctant Eunuch

But July is Camp NaNoWriMo and I am going to try to write a 50,000 light-hearted romance. A brief outline is already done. I’m going to use Scrivenor – a truly wonderful programme – and am going to start fleshing out the outline into a proper synopsis shortly. The important thing, I think, is to get the timeline sorted out and decide which of my two main characters is going to narrate each section. I’ve never tried to write a romance before. Should be fun!


Author: Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, Doctor, woman, etc.

11 thoughts on “5 Year Writing Goal: June update”

  1. Well done, Ruth. You sound like you really do have a proper plan laid out for your writing and publication. Good luck with Camp. I’m not doing it this time, I need a break and I’m waiting for a ms assessment too. Fingers crossed yours is what you hope for 🙂

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  2. I’m reworking my story, too, Ruth. It’s tough. In fact I’ve been running away from it for 2 weeks, so yeah…very hard.

    Oddly enough I don’t mind a protagonist’s age, but publishing is a business and I figure professionals in this field know what they’re talking about.

    Good luck with the rewrite! As for the historical fiction–I thought paranormal (YA and adult) were in glut. I imagined historical would be a fresh change. -shrugs-

    And talk to me about this light-hearted romance. Are we thinking Harlequin/Mills & Boon? :–)
    What’s your username on the Camp? I’d love to add you.

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    1. Hi Hana. Yes, hard to second guess the market and who knows, maybe historical fiction will become the NEXT BIG THING! The light-hearted romance will be an exercise in crafting a story within constraints. I’ve discovered, with historical fiction, that I like working inside of rules. In historical fiction, the rules are based on research. In romance, the rules are based on a formula.
      My NaNo name is RuthL. But I can’t work out how to add people in the Camp – it seems different from the November NaNoWriMo!

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  3. Ooofa, that’s a tough one, to need to change the age. A concept in literature that isn’t very old, and that the market now relies on like it’s oxygen!
    But a hook is a big deal. That’s the “why we care.” I’d suggest reading “Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence” by Lisa Cron. There’s a section in that book which REALLY opened up my eyes.

    http://www.amazon.com/Wired-Story-Writers-Science-Sentence-ebook/dp/B005X0JTGI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404104911&sr=8-1&keywords=lisa+cron

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    1. Thank you very much for that suggestion. Am currently reading ‘Write to be Published’, by Nicola Morgan – very readable and very informative. Will added the Wired one to my reading list.

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  4. I think the more points of view you get on your novel, from different people, the better off you’ll be! You seem to be doing all the right things.

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  5. Your manuscript sounds very much like the sort of thing I might read, especially if you change it so it is no longer ‘YA’. I’m not sure that having a 12 year old main character is such a big deal— I mean, in the novel Ender’s Game the main character starts out a lot younger than that and it didn’t stop that book from being a wild success.

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