First Aid for Novels + ‘First Aid Novels’

"Ooh, Matron!"

“Ooh, Matron!”

Hmm, where are the weeks disappearing to?

One minute it’s Monday, the next it’s Friday and, somehow, I haven’t done half the writing I wanted to do.

I am quietly panicking.

Rapid Response’ Medical Romance Stories

There’s not much time for this (sorry!) but if you’ve written a ‘medical romance’ or could create one in the next two weeks (think sexy doctors in white coats and fluttery-eyed nurses), then you might be interested to know that Mills & Boon are offering a ‘rapid response’, fast-track, TWO WEEK turnaround, if you send them the first chapter and a synopsis of your (50,000 word) novel by 30th June.

More details here

You can read more about what Mills & Boon look for in a ‘medical romance’ here (and, needless to say, you need to think ‘E.R’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ rather than ‘Carry On Doctor’. Shame).

Checklist For Critiquing A Novel

If you’ve written or are writing a novel, or even if you’re just ‘thinking about it’ (there’s lots of us in that boat, aren’t there?!) then you might find this checklist useful, kindly put together by American editor and author C.S.Lakin.

She offers a critiquing service for novels (can’t endorse that, by the way, as I have no experience of her work – in novel writing or critiquing!).

I assume this is the checklist she uses when she reads a manuscript.

It’s interesting stuff and some of it could be applied to a short story. For example, “Does your story begin with some sort of conflict—either internal or external?” and “Is the protagonist sympathetic from the start?”

That was a ‘lightbulb moment’ for me, by the way, when, after I’d been writing for a number of years, someone pointed out that your main character (‘protagonist’, if you prefer) has to be sympathetic in some way.

If your reader doesn’t like the main character or is not interested in and engaged by him, (s)he’ll put the book down.

I’m reading a novel at the moment for my book club which I am HATING! And it’s the first book I’m reading on my e-reader, which is spoiling the ‘novel’ (hah) experience.

Anyway, the main reason I’m hating it – apart from the fact that it’s a poor imitation of Sarah Water’s ‘Fingersmith’ and I’d much rather be reading that again, than struggling through this – is because I have no sympathy for the main character. She’s flat, she’s not engaging or believable. I can barely remember her name, that’s how dull she is…

In fact, that’s it. Life’s too short to read a bad book. I am officially GIVING UP on it. My OH has finished it (he’s in the book club too). He thought the same as me but he ploughed on. So, now he can give me a resume of the rest of the plot!

I’m sure I’ve asked you this before but does anyone else give up on bad books?!

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13 Responses to First Aid for Novels + ‘First Aid Novels’

  1. I’ve given up on even good books when I’m not in the mood! I dropped out of my book club in the end because my reading time is too limited and precious to be spent reading awful books! Shame, because I miss the wine…

    • Yes, I know what you mean. I am becoming a little disillusioned with my book club. We only discuss the book for about 10 minutes and then, the last couple of choices have been so bad I haven’t finished them. Life’s too short, isn’t it? I do enjoy the gossip and the wine though.. so, on reflection, I’ll keep going!


  2. There are too many good books to bother reading a bad one.

  3. Angela says:

    I used to persevere and keep going and then realised there are so many good books out there, that it was a waste of time, energy and commitment to continue with a poor one so now I stop. It’s often like you say, where you have no interest in the main character. I used to run a book group and remained a member for 7 years but finally gave it up in January last year. It seemed that all the books towards the end if my time with the group were quite depressing and heavy going and while I am ok with those books from time to time, I also wanted to read some lighter and happy stories that made me feel good.

  4. Linda says:

    I haven’t abandoned many books. If I’m not enjoying a book after the first 2 or 3 chapters I usually carry on in the hope that it might improve (I’m an optimist!) but to speed up the process I’ll skip long, descriptive passages – and sometimes whole pages!

  5. KH says:

    Thanks for the info, Helen. Yes, I do give up on books. Some have been cast aside by page two. Others I’ve forced myself to keep reading to almost the last few chapters then tossed the book because I couldn’t care less what happened to any of the characters. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder how these books found a publisher at all. Good wishes KH

  6. jackiered says:

    Oh yes, I usually hate giving up on any book. Last week I read about 30% of Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson. I hated the protagonist, the writing style, and way I felt so very, very depressed while reading it. So off to the charity shop it went.

    • Feeling depressed by a book is not good, is it? I remember feeling really depressed when I read John Grisham’s ‘The Chamber’ (on holiday!!). It was all about a horrible man waiting to go to the gas chamber. Unremittingly awful. I finished it but swore I’d never read another John Grisham. And I never have…

  7. charliebritten says:

    Yes, I do give up on books. Trying to find time to write and to do the day job, life is too short for BAD BOOKS!

  8. Downith says:

    I don’t give up on books often enough. I keep thinking I should give them a little more time. I need to be more ruthless. Make me love you in 50 pages or you are history.

  9. Tracy Fells says:

    I think we may need a confession blog where we can all admit to ‘giving up’ on supposedly good books. I couldn’t get into and gave up quickly on ‘The Book Thief’, gave up on ‘Cranford’ (read nothing like the TV series) and I’m close to giving up on “The girl that kicked the hornet’s nest’ – Stieg Larsson’s quirky habit of listing everything his characters eat or buy was quaint in the first book, but now it’s really getting on my nerves!
    “Oooh Matron” Sorry, but had to get that out of my system

    • Tracy, this is sooo therapeutic! I absolutely agree with you on ‘The Book Thief’ – couldn’t get into that at all (but others rave about it, don’t they?!), have never tried Cranford so can’t comment on that one but as for Stieg Larsson… hmm, when I was reading exactly that book (‘Hornets’ Nest), I wrote this post about all his mentions of COFFEE here – it drove me mad, so yes, I agree on that one too. Great minds think alike indeed…!


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