A Progress Report on My First Oregon Trail Novel

Frustrated Woman at Computer With Stack of Paper

This isn’t me, but it depicts how I’ve been feeling.

January has been Creativity Month, but I haven’t been very creative. With all the family issues I’ve had to deal with surrounding my father’s death, revising my current work in progress—the first novel in my Oregon Trail series—has taken a back seat.

The family work I’ve been doing has been necessary and important. But I hate getting pulled away from my novel. Any day is a good day when I can edit a chapter or two. Unfortunately, good days have been few so far this year. But this week I took a few hours for myself and plugged away at my revisions.

I think of my father as I write. He was my biggest supporter and salesperson. In 2010, he read an early version of the book I’m editing now. My mother read that draft also, before she lost her ability to retain what she read.

And I’m so glad I gave my father a rough draft of the second book in the series to read last summer. I’m not proud of that second book yet, but at least he knew it was in the works. I know he was eager for me to publish both books, which is one reason for my urgency in working on them.

All the goal-setting gurus say that if one writes down a goal and communicates it to others, the goal is much more likely to get accomplished. So I now declare myself to you, my readers:

I will get this first Oregon Trail novel in publishable form by the end of 2015

. . . preferably by Labor Day.

How am I going to make this happen?

First, I’m working hard with two critique groups, submitting two chapters weekly to one group and two chapters bi-weekly to the other. That gets six chapters (they’re short) reviewed every two weeks, when I’m in town and able to meet with my critique partners. Before I submit each chapter, I revise it again myself, trying to cut words and add sensory description and emotions. This is about my fifth edit of the book, so I feel like I’m getting close to a strong product. Feedback on this book says I’m getting close also.

Input from my critique groups is invaluable. And the diversity and breadth of their knowledge is impressive. I have horse experts, gun experts, and several writers of historical fiction to call upon. (I even have an aerospace engineer, though I haven’t had to ask for that expertise on this book.)

But when it comes down to the final product, it is up to me. Whether I complete my goal or not is entirely up to me.

So the second thing I’m doing is tracking my progress weekly. There are eighty-eight chapters in the book. As of today, I have edited thirty-two of them and submitted eighteen to my critique partners. My plan is to be done with my own edits by the end of June, leaving the summer to finish reviewing the book with my critique groups and add their input, and the fall to put the finishing touches on it.

And the third thing I’ll do is report my progress periodically on this blog. As I get closer to finishing, I’ll share some tidbits from the book with you.

What goals do you have for 2015? How are you doing as of the end of January?

Posted in Family, Writing and tagged , , , , , .


  1. My goal for 2015: acquire representation for my first novel. I’m currently researching agencies and will query those with whom I feel there would be the best working relationship.

  2. Wow! I am really excited about the progress of having a second book in the series in ‘rough draft form,’ and expecially happy you shared both with your father. There was time to do this, which makes it even sweeter. I was blessed with a 4 month notice about my Dad’s death in Jan. 2001. It was enough time to have some extra special moments. I am glad he did not have to see 9/11 later that year, also he died knowing I was in a good house with a fantastic job. My goal this year is to not worry, be carefree. So many people reading my blog will think I already have these qualities. I have been a lifelong worrier, which shortens one’s life, I keep reading this. So, will hope to keep on doing the fun things, but while at home in my little apt. not dwell on the concerns. “Be like the lilies in the field…” smiles!

  3. I’m so happy to hear your father was able to read your first draft of your second book, Theresa. I bet you’ll be dedicating your books to both of your parents.
    My goal for 2015 was to stay focused and to submit one short story each month. I mailed a story on Tuesday. I hope you’re doing well.

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