Guys… I’ve got to say this was a pretty great month. I had two fabulous beta readers give feedback on draft 1 of 700 Main. My blog reached over FOUR THOUSAND views – thank you all! And while my New Orleans Novel Workshop was cancelled (cue sad face), I still received some insightful edits on State of Grace and spent my week off with some great family and friends.
Let’s dig into the specifics…
What I Read
GRAND TOTAL: 5
Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner ★★★☆☆
Full disclosure… I have never read one of Jennifer’s novels nor am I usually a big fan of nonfiction/memoirs. But this collection of essays was amusing and even educational at times. While Jennifer and I certainly have differing views on a lot of issues, I loved her witty and charming voice, her no-nonsense attitude and her refusal to cave to the pressure of society. Granted, a few chapters were a bit heavy on the “oh, poor me,” but others had me laughing out loud.
I connected to the chapters about her writing most of all. Hearing how motherhood changed her writing routine, how her book was eventually made into a movie that flopped, how “when women write novels about family, it’s considered chick lit, but when men write novels about family, they’re really writing about AMERICA.”
All too accurate for us ‘women’s fiction’ writers out there, and it was interesting to hear from one as prolific as Miss Weiner.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger ★☆☆☆☆
Being lauded as one of the foremost examples of successful women’s fiction – and a great premise of romance affected by constant time travel – I began reading this novel with high expectations. Was that what ruined it for me? If not, what did I miss? Because I found myself struggling between an intriguing concept and disappointing execution.
First off, it is veryyyyyy long. Like mind-numbingly long. Secondly, the character development, energy and pacing felt lopsided. In the first half, I loved the scenes between Claire and Henry when he visits her as a child/teenager in the meadow. But as adults? Meh. I kept waiting for that same sense of urgency found at the beginning, but it never came back.
I think the constant minutiae killed the story. Henry’s constant search for clothing kept other exciting things from happening! And I really don’t need to know the contents of a grocery bag or the tens of hundreds of punk bands they listen to. Instead, I wanted to see more emotional/internal reactions to several of the plot points: Claire’s multiple miscarriages, Henry knowing when he would die. The concept of free will vs destiny was a good one, but like other aspects, Niffenegger didn’t go deep enough.
Yes, I also watched the movie. I’d hoped it would be one of those rare occasions where the film is better than the novel. It wasn’t.
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas ★★★★☆
Another hugely anticipated novel that landed on my list this month… And I was afraid it would go the same way as the last. The first third of this Beauty-and-the-Beast retelling felt so familiar, and I was desperately waiting for something – ANYTHING – to happen.
But then… I was reading as if my life depended on it.
The main characters grew fantastically strong and interesting personalities. The depth of world building took flight. The romance was sizzling. The conflict had me desperately turning pages. And the second in the series is now sitting in my Nook library, waiting to be read.
Punching Babies: (a how-to guide) by Adron J. Smitley ★★★★☆
I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of writing reference books. Like I have literal piles scattered around my apartment, on bookshelves, bedside tables, kitchen counters and stacked in desk drawers. Smitley’s tiny and quick read is a great addition.
At first, it read like a simplified retelling of Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey. The three acts/eight sequences felt just like the hero’s journey. But as the outline got more and more granular, I started to get excited. The 40 events and 240 bits – structuring your scene with a goal, conflict, disaster, reaction, dilemma and decision – are hugely helpful to me at this moment while lengthening my current manuscript. Dealing largely with plot, I would still recommend Eric Edson’s The Story Solution for both plot and character development outlining. But for a book that cost six bucks and took me an hour to read, I am pretty thrilled.
Still not sure what the title has to do with anything…. But I do have a favorite quote to share:
“What separates the Writers from Anyone is that writers sacrifice things in their lives others are not willing to so they have and take the time to actually sit down and write.”
False River by H.G. Reed ★★★★☆
I few weeks ago I received a request from Miss Reed to provide an honest review on her debut novel, and – after reading the first chapter – I was thrilled to accept!
The classic tale of a man selling his soul to the devil gets a fresh new makeover when she (yes, the devil is a woman – is anyone really surprised by that?) tracks Joe down for one more favor. One that will give him back his soul… But at what cost?
Reed’s writing style is nothing fancy, but her prose is easy to read, easy to engage, and easy to love. The first few chapters were a bit slow with lots of backstory, explanation and scenes very similar to each other.
But once the angels arrive? The pacing picks up, Joe becomes a fully-developed and relatable character, and I read the last two hundred pages in a single sitting. I even found myself sympathizing with the devil and crushing on the angel, Gabriel. I did want a little more information on (SPOILER ALERT) the promise/prophecy regarding Carter and Maddy, but I soon forgot that small blip in the strength of the final scenes.
Congrats on H.G. Reed’s release, and I look forward to reading more from her in the future!
What I Wrote
So I’ve mentioned my dilemma before, but let me remind you…
My new and second novel is about 20,000 words too short. I asked two beta readers to read with that specifically in mind, and I also combed through the manuscript myself using this technique to identify plot holes.
See all those colored tabs?
Oh yeah, I’ve been busy…
It took me a while, but I’m pretty proud of my handiwork. I have a plan, and I haven’t been this excited about writing in a few months.
I also published my two-part series on novel length, and I am so overwhelmed with the results! Getting to help other writers has become a new passion of mine, and I am thrilled to keep sharing as I learn more and more about this process.
The next three months will be a rush to the finish line of September 1st – otherwise known as when I will begin querying 700 Main and resuming my search for an agent. June specifically will be a month of incorporating edits, writing new scenes, and getting Draft #2 ready for a second round of readers. Sound fun? Yeah, I am not sure yet either…
In the world of reading, I am super excited for the below list and would love for any of you to join me in my plan:
- Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
- Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare
- Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker
- A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
- Make Your Bed by William H. McRaven
Happy summer everyone!