IWSG—October odds and sods


The Insecure Writer’s Support Group convenes the first Wednesday of the month. Participants share their worries, insecurities, triumphs, hopes, and fears.

This month, the IWSG question is:

When do you know your story is ready?

When I’m no longer finding clutter, junk, or anything that needs fixed. All the major fixes have been made. For my earliest drafts, it’s when they read like actual stories instead of rambling clutter and unconnected vignettes.

There’s also a lot to be said for not shopping your work around to too many critiquers. Before I decided to go indie, I got my query for Jakob’s story to a point where everyone loved it. Then I won a query critique contest, and the critiquer wanted me to change all these things everyone else had praised. I knew then I needed to stop seeking all these opinions and just trust myself.


I’m really excited the Halloween season is finally back, coinciding this year with all the back-to-back holidays in the Hebrew month of Tishrei. Much of my writing this month will be for my blog posts about vintage horror films with special anniversaries this year. Creative non-fiction is just as valuable as pure fiction.

Is anyone looking ahead to NaNoWriMo? I may be a NaNo rebel this year, by working on finishing my WIP instead of starting something new. It just seems easier to keep working on the current book. By this point, it’s organically evolved to saga-length, and I’m totally fine with that. Our characters always know better than we do what their stories are!

I’m really glad I didn’t strictly stick to my original plans to kill off almost everyone in the flashback Part II. I grew to really like some of these people, and as a result, they became more developed than the ones I knew weren’t going to make it. It was also much more emotional when two of the girls are lost, since I’d gotten to know them so well. They weren’t just names on a page.

A stillborn character also received a name, Neshamaleh, “little soul.”


Awhile ago, one of the people in the small critique group within my local writers’ group made a comment about how my artistic capitalization of They, Their, and Them in reference to the Nazis didn’t sit right with her. I began doing this at fifteen, back in ’95, as a way of designating them as some separate, evil entity.

I thought really long and hard about this comment, and I gradually discontinued this habit of over 20 years. I came to find it distracting and pretentious, a habit I held onto longer than I should’ve out of irrational attachment. It was similar to my former habit of using accent marks in Russian words and names.


I also created several unplanned characters during Part II, two Dutch political prisoners and a Bible Student (a Jehovah’s Witnesses spin-off), who add a lot to the overall story. One of the political prisoners saves five characters by getting them transferred to a Peek and Cloppenburg garment factory with her. This move particularly saves the pregnant Friderika and her baby.

Are you gearing up for NaNo? Do you know what you’ll be working on yet? Do you listen when your characters talk to you? Do you love Halloween just as much as I do?


10 thoughts on “IWSG—October odds and sods

  1. Hi,
    That is one of the things I have learned. You have to know your story. If you are sure about it, then every critique made will change it. So happy you mentioned this.
    All the best and I’ll be doing NaNo also.
    Shalom aleichem,


  2. One year I’ll do NaNo, but this month will be crazy so I’ll need next month to rest.

    That is a sweet name for a baby character that was a stillborn.

    I couldn’t kill off all of my characters, but I have killed of a couple I liked a lot.


    • As much as I wish stillbirth and newborns’ deaths would never happen, I think it’s really fitting to give these little ones names the parents would probably never give to children with normal lifespans, names symbolic of their brief lives. For example, Juvenal, Bébé, Blessing, Miracle, Love, Heaven.


  3. I agree with you about listening to critiques. If you try to please everyone, your writing loses its own flavor, becomes bland. You know your story best. It’s up to you to choose what advise to listen to and what to disregard.


    • I really dislike this current trend I’m seeing of writing by committee, in schools as well as among adult writers. If you’re making every single change ever single person suggests, instead of taking time to think over the comments and understanding what’s absolutely integral to your particular story, that’s not your own writing anymore. I once rewrote an opening 250 words in a style that sounded so fake and goofy, based on someone else’s suggestions. It was a lot more true to my style, and that particular character, when I rewrote it again.


  4. Listen to your gut with critiquers and contest judges. Too many can kill a story. I don’t do NaNo. I know it works for many people. Just not me. Best wishes.


  5. You can bend yourself all out of shape and distort your work until it’s barely recognizable if you try to comply with everyone’s suggestions and criticisms about your work. Nobody knows the story you want to tell as well as you do, and your gut will let you know whether someone’s suggestion can truly improve your story… or simply change it.

    Good luck with the NaNo. Me, I say no-no. Maybe one of these years…


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