Book Review: The Man Who Forgot His Wife by John O’Farrell

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It took me until I was nearly finished reading this book to realise which category of novel it fell into and that is “romance for men” – dick lit instead of chick lit, if you will. The story is a romance between Vaughan and Maddy but instead of the high emotions and drama that appear in romance for women, this book has comedy, farcical confusion and a sidekick/wingman/best friend/loud mouth. I expect it would still be read mostly by women but almost certainly it would also have more male readers than a romance written for women (which generally have none).

Vaughan is on a train when he is “reborn” – it’s nothing to do with religion, it’s just that he can’t remember anything. Not a single thing about himself, who he is, where he’s going or where he’s been so he feels like a fully grown baby. He finds a hospital and spends a week wearing a wristband listing him as “Unknown White Male” until his best friend, Gary, figures out where he is and comes to take him home.

Except home isn’t where home used to be. Vaughan is in the middle of a messy divorce from Maddy, his wife of fifteen years. He’s homeless as a result and has been couch surfing at Gary’s. Which is why Maddy didn’t miss him, didn’t even realise he’d been struck down with a medical condition, wouldn’t have cared had she known. But from the moment Vaughan sees Maddy from a distance, he knows he loves her despite being unable to remember her. And he wants to win her back. Continue reading

Book Review: allmenarebastards.com by Allison Rushby

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There are some books that are destined not to be remembered and allmenarebastards.com falls into that category. Not because it’s bad. It’s okay. But because it isn’t timeless. It’s about a very specific period in time. It’s a little like the Sue Grafton books with Kinsey Milhone dropping off reels of film for photographs to be developed. It was published in 2000 and its foray into the online world is dated now – the sounds of the dial up modem, having to disconnect from the internet to make a phone call, people having “homepages”. The world has come a long way since then.

Gemma, our main character, and Sarah are typical late twenty-somethings, unlucky in love, drowning their sorrows in Friday night margaritas and keeping a list of every bastard who has ever done them wrong. It’s twenty pages long, stained and falling apart, so to ensure its continued existence, Gemma decides to put it on her homepage. Overnight, it becomes an internet sensation. Before long, it’s a website of its own (with the same name as the book) and Gemma gives up her freelance graphic design job to become its full-time administrator as the advertising revenue begins rolling in. Continue reading

How Long Should a Novel Be?

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I’ve previously written about how long a chapter should be because I saw someone asking the question in a writing forum last year. When I saw someone asking how long a novel should be in the same writing forum recently, I thought it was an excellent follow-up. My answer to the question of chapter length was the same as my answer to the question of novel length is now: how long is a piece of string?

As a general rule, a novel should be only as long as is required to tell the story. That may be much shorter or much longer than any publishing house rule length, which can sometimes seem arbitrary. But it’s important to stay true to the story. Padding a novel to make it longer will not make it better. Cutting key scenes to make a novel shorter will not make it better. In fact, both padding and cutting for that reason will almost always make them worse. Continue reading

Stevie and Alex: Chapter One

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This is one of the old practice novels I started writing when I still thought I was going to be the next queen of romance fiction and I’d considered posting it before and dismissed it as just too awful.

But then as I was researching names for my 200 Thank You’s on the Occasion of my 200th Blog Post post (because I’m terrible with names if you’re someone I’ve met personally – you’ll have to become famous if you want me to remember your name for all time), I pulled out a bunch of amateur publications from when I was at Holmesglen TAFE. And there, amongst them, was a collection of first chapters from my Novel 2 class. And this was in it.

I shuddered. But I figured if it was already out there, it might as well be out here, too.

It’s way too long for a first chapter of a category romance novel and it’s unnecessarily complex because both the main characters have men’s names even though one is a woman. But aren’t these exactly the kinds of things in relation to which we insist on sticking to our guns when we’re young and learning to write and don’t know any better? Continue reading

Does The Age Of Your Characters Get Older As You Do?

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There’s a theory (and it might just be my theory but I’m sure there are others who espouse it, too) that most main characters are simply disguised versions of the author writing them. Sometimes the disguises make that fact virtually unrecognisable. Sometimes the disguises are so thin the authors might as well not have bothered.

A quick glance over the marital, gender, racial and family statuses of my main characters shows that I only write people who are single, female, white and childless. Single because it allows for a bit of romantic tension with a supporting male lead. Female because I always feel like I am doing a disservice when I attempt to write in a male voice, both to men and to my writing abilities. White because I’m white and while I know writers can and should explore racial identity in their writing, it’s not something I focus on. And childless because having to care for and chauffeur children to their mundane everyday activities really gets in the way of the things I like to make my characters do (such as getting kidnapped, travelling at a moment’s notice, evading authorities, living reclusive lives, that sort of thing).

The one thing that has varied over the years is the age of my main characters. And as I get older (closer to my forties now than I am really all that comfortable with – I read a main character in a novel bemoaning the fact that they were forty and middle-aged and realised I need to start thinking of myself that way as well shortly!), it seems a lot of my main characters are getting older, too. Continue reading