What Do You Do When You Hit An Impasse?

I’ve just got word from someone I think probably has several good points in her review of my first 50 pages. Alas, one of her comments touches on both how my original source material occured, but also how people historically acted in the culture I’ve chosen. While I certainly hope to have a following in China, I must also write for Western readers who may or may not understand why I’ve done these things. I’m stuck. I can’t go forward without slamming into reverse.

What do you do in these situations?




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9 Responses to β€œWhat Do You Do When You Hit An Impasse?”

  1. Dara says:

    I honestly don't know. I've had the same issue with my stuff–making my Japanese characters too act Western. Only when I change them to act the "accurate" way, I find out it may change my entire storyline (it was one of the reasons I got so darn frustrated with my last book).

    Have you read anything by Lisa See? Peony in Love is a good book that has a supernatural element to it, yet remains true (I think?) to the culture while not being completely hard to understand for the Western reader. Perhaps study what she's done.

    That's the only thing I can say…unfortunately I have the same problem πŸ™

  2. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks for the suggestion, Dara! I love her "Snowflower and the Secret Fan," but haven't read "Peony" yet. I'll check it out.

    I just read my critiquer's actual comments, which was hard in and of itself because she used all caps instead of track changes. I feel like I've been yelled at for the last hour. Her emailed letter was enough to make me despair last night. I see now I need to rewrite the whole damn book and I just don't know if I have it in me.

    People always say their first and second novels weren't there yet. I'd burn my first if it weren't already corrupted, but I've had such strong reactions to this, I thought it was almost ready.

  3. Jeannie Lin says:

    I have the same issues as well. My characters' speech sounds very modern because 1) I believe historical fiction is always colored by the time it's written in — Shakespeare did it too! 2) I want my writing to be accessible to Western readers and Chinese people did not sound stilted when they were talking to themselves!

    I also had a similar issue with what I call the "footbinding dilemma". Readers kept on thinking my women should have their feet bound and not be so independent when footbinding didn't become a practice for another hundred years or so.

    Take the comments with a grain of salt, but just move forward if the character behavior is authentic for the story. Let the writing convince the reader that this is real. Humankind is universal across all cultures and readers will be interested in how similar they are to a different culture. Good luck!

  4. Jessica says:

    Eek! That's why I write contemporary. LOL

    But, I do love to read historical romance and I could care less how the speech sounds. Okay, I do like a historical feel to it, but not so much that I'm overwhelmed. I think it's safe to go with your gut. You could also check out some Asian-based novels in the same genre as you and see how they handle their dialogue.
    Good luck! πŸ™‚

  5. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thank you all! I continue to struggle with this. Mostly because I know I need to re-write AT LEAST the first 50 pages and I don't want to touch one of them.

    I think it's time to take a break, quite honestly. Try to write the next novel and let this puppy sit for several months.

    That said, I so appreciate your support!

  6. Sarah Skilton says:

    I'm a big believer in taking time off when the answer isn't clear, because sometimes you're too close to the material and need to give yourself a chance to see it with fresh eyes. Good luck!

  7. Gina Logue says:

    Hi Victoria,
    Glad I found your blog.

    My story is set in modern day Seoul, and someone once commented that my opening wasn't consistent with their experience of Korea.

    While I don't doubt her, I've decided to keep it because I have heard different experiences from others.

    I figure my story will not reflect everyone's experience or perspective.

    Good luck with your story!

  8. Dara says:

    Taking a break from this novel, too, may be a good idea. That way you can come back and look at it later with a fresh perspective.

    That's what I had to do to my last WiP–I'd been working on it for two to three years and I was frustrated with it because it wasn't working out how I wanted.

    And now that it's been six months since I touched it, I keep thinking back on it with new things to add–once I'm done with my NaNo one first.

  9. Victoria Dixon says:

    You all are the best! You know, I hate to admit how long it's taken me to come this far, (coughs – fourteen years)and all that time, I took a half a year off. I left it after I completed the first draft because I hated the book and never wanted to see it again. I'm not there again by a long stretch. In fact, I'm already contemplating my cuts and rewrites. That said, I've got material to read for the next novel and I've put that off for long enough, it's time to try and multi-task for a bit. ;D My brain can ruminate on more than one thing, even if I don't take any action.
    Thanks for letting me be a weeble wobble for awhile! ;D

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