Two long-time writing friends have read my novel during this retreat and last night I sat down with them to get feedback. It was exactly what I needed to hear at this stage. I'd gotten enthusiastic feedback from two other friends (not writers) and from my sister, who posed some interesting questions about directions that the book could go in. Now with information from Jan and Tamara, I feel clear about making it the best mystery I can at this point and letting the idea of literary fiction go for the moment, at least with this story.
They were very clear about the clues and scenes that needed clarifying and willing to talk over tiny details without being critical of style. Sometimes, when we are tempted to give feedback, we focus on things that the author uses that we would never use. That's all well and good, but each author has a right to her own style of expression and suggesting different word choices is an editor's job, not a reader's.
They had many margin notes of what was working and the places that didn't. I feel very empowered by all 5 readers now to move forward. I'm hoping this next draft will be the work of July and that when the Willamette Writers Conference rolls around and I pitch it to three agents, I'll get a nibble and be able to send it right off.