Reading Reviews Helped

Today I finished Chapter 8 and am approaching the dreaded 30k word mark. I had been wallowing slightly and although I know my end, I have been finding it hard to get there in a convincing/exciting/thought provoking/readable way.

I read a brilliant goodreads review of a YA novel which made me laugh out loud in my cabin onboard ship (I hope no one was walking past). Unfortunately, it was a one star review; suffice to say the review itself was what helped. It was enlightening and made me think long and hard about my own characters, particularly on my protagonists motives. The reviewer also touched on world building, believability, dialogue, story, plot and just about every other facet of what makes a good read, utilising some excellent examples from the book.  It turned out to be a great moment to dwell and pause on my own handling of these topics.

The leap came when I studied my character’s motives, which helped me progress the action another few chapters in my head. My original structural plan has fallen to bits ten times over… yay, so I’m focused at present on the ending and what I need to achieve to get there (#hard.)

In a nutshell my leap was this: I thought Bess (my princess) must not be naive! If she only discovers what an awful world she is a princess in after her fall from grace, she risks coming across as closeted and unformed (which she’s not). She must know about the problems in her world already.  She must want to get power back- to become Queen- so that she can change things for the better. She wants power to make things right. I also decided that the epic, set piece battle before the climax was not going to be so believable and would cause bigger plot holes than sticking to a more character driven, intimate stealth attack, which leads to the same victory (spoiler alert).

Thanks goodread reviewer and I shall certainly read the book in question (oh go on then, it was The Selection by Kierra Cass). It does have over 35k reviews, many of them 5 stars- so a lot of people loved it (I’ll make up my own mind 😉  But your opinion helped me fix a character flaw in my hero that was not hers because it was a good story, but because I had not thought about her and the plot enough. 🙂




Men writing like they were women

Is it wise for a newbie to try and make his lead character a woman? What are people’s thoughts? Why do it in the first place? My lead character, who’m I’m stuck to rigidly throughout the narrative is called Bess and she’s just turned 16.

JK Rowling was praised for her ability to write her male leads so convincingly. So is there even a problem? However, I believe she was advised to use her initial instead of her name on her first book so that people would not make presumptions about her as an author. There must be many more examples of where it’s worked and where it hasn’t.

I guess the really big question is why even try to write a female protagonist as a male writer.

Good question! 😉


Happy Fourth of July

I have been lucky enough to visit the USA several times with the Royal Navy, each time exciting to the point where I wanted every minute to last a few seconds longer. A very memorable visit saw me navigating the ship, HMS Manchester, into New York Harbour for the 4th July weekend. Wow! one of the best experiences of my life- seeing those landmarks for the first time was exhilarating, (plus, it’s a relatively easy pilotage). The pilots- my first exposure to New Yorkers- were very professional;  of course, I’d been hoping for mafia types, threatening to make me sleep with the fishes for looking at them skew whiff, ah well, maybe if I wasn’t English and wearing a uniform.

Walking around in my white uniform with my friends, being tooted by people driving past was an affirming experience and even at the time I remember thinking Americans know their people- they were not mistaking us for US servicepeople, they knew we were Brits and tooted all the same.  There were visits to the UN, a fast track ascent of the ESB and street parties with jazz and cocktails couriered by cyclists. All awesome.

To my WiP. Yesterday I added just under 2k words. I try not to merit word count to highly, because it’s no indication of quality, but the story has to physically expand after all, and word count helps gauge that. I’m at the 20k mark, and past the set up stage, so I indulged in a short exchange between my characters  which I hope  revealed a cheeky side, drawing out a bit more personality. Tying it in with a secret glance of affection (which might or might not get explored) assuaged my guilt that it wasn’t driving the plot forward per se. I do constantly check: is this dialogue driving the plot forward? If not, what’s it for, and if the answer is not stunningly good, it’s on thin ice for remaining. I also find I could write too much dialogue, it’s important, but for me, I musn’t let it rule the page.

This leads on to my habit of revising work I’ve just written. Apparently that’s bad because everything I do at this stage should be focused on achieving my ending. I must admit, when I find myself revising paragraphs I’ve just written it is as a comfort blanket, it’s because I’m unwilling to launch into the next scene and want to hang around in words already done, safe and homely, but that’s not going to get the novel finished!

Lots of love Jx





First blog post


Everything looks cool, but it’s not that easy. Writing helps, at least the ideas and thoughts behind the words help, so here are some thoughts and ideas…

Hello. My name’s James. (I’m in the middle).

Why am I starting a blog?

1. I am writing my first novel, I need the practise and it’d be nice to share my thoughts as I go along.
2. I was inspired by Veronica Roth, naturally.
3. I still cannot breathe properly because of anxiety and writing seems to help.
4. I think I’ve had an interesting life so far. I’ve got a few bits and bobs swilling in me noggin worth mentioning (I did even make it into some papers this year 😦 )
5. I didn’t think I’d have anything to say, and already I’m 100 words in!
6. I’m not connecting with my job as I’d hoped I would- not sure how a blog will help, but you never know.
7. I’ve got A LOT of time on my hands (don’t tell my boss).
8. A blog was always in me- I swear. I remember starting writing a blog when I was about 10 (I don’t think they were called blogs back then) and it was very, very precocious. (I have warned you).
9. I drink way way too much coffee and the energies got to go somewhere.

Where’s this blog going? I have dreams of gaining thousands of followers … well… that was a dream that popped into my head about an hour ago, as I was walking round the upper deck in the sunshine checking the ship was still attached to the jetty. So not exactly life long.