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Book Review: 11.22.63 by Stephen King

By Amazon, Books & Authors, ReviewsNo Comments
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In 11.22.63 by Stephen King Jake Epping an English Teacher is recruited by Al an Diner Owner to step back in time from 2011 to 1958.

Al has a rabbit hole – a bubble in time, in the pantry of his Diner that people can step through to go back in time to Tuesday 9th September 1958.

Al first sends Jake on a trip to explore because seeing is believing. Jake spends a few hours in 1958 and when he gets back to 2011, he finds that only two minutes have passed. Al says it’s always the same. No matter how long you stay in the past, even months or years, you have only ever been gone for 2 minutes.

Then Al, who is dying of lung cancer, tells Jake what he would like him to do. Al wants Jake to go back in time and stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy (JFK). Al has it all planned out. He would go back and do it himself, but he fears he doesn’t have the time.

Al gives Jake a pseudonym, George Amberson, along with ID, thousands of dollars (Al made by betting on sporting events) and extensive notes he made about the assassination. Jake tells Al the truth: he’s worried he’ll mess up.

Al reassures Jake can (mostly) reset the past by stepping back through the rabbit hole into 2011. It is then that Jake realises two things:
1) That if he is successful, he’ll have to stay and live out his life in the past.
2) That he may have to do some very bad things to achieve his mission (although he doesn’t actively acknowledge it at this point).

The plot idea of 11.22.63 was mildly interesting for a Brit and probably more intriguing for an American. The mammoth-sized book totals 740 pages. The pacing was reasonable at times and at other times excruciatingly slow.

Reading 11.22.63 felt like hard work, unlike any of the other Stephen King books I’ve read. Parts of the book were significantly over written and the last quarter of the book significantly underwritten. The ending was flat, lacking any depth or satisfactory conclusion.

However the description in 11.22.63 was exceptional. Whether this was from good research or Stephen King’s personal experience, I couldn’t tell.

Jake (George) is a good man that ends up doing terrible things including murder, with the intention of making a better future. He is a very redemptive character and the story is written from his perspective. By Stephen King writing the story from Jake’s first person perspective, it helped me develop some positive regard for the man.

Al was interesting but is removed far too early from the story. The other characters were all two dimensional. It would have been great to have more than one main character, as Jake’s voice did become tiresome about half way through the book.

I wanted to enjoy 11.22.63 as much as I’ve enjoyed all of the other Stephen King books that I’ve read. But it just didn’t happen.

11.22.63 is available to buy on Amazon and at all good bookshops.

Review soon,



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Creative Writing: Beginning

By Creativity, ThinkingNo Comments

In this three part blog post series, I’ll be sharing some of what I’ve learned about creative writing over the last few years.

I want to start this blog post with a short video, which is just over a minute long. In this video Stephen King describes a magic moment after reading a book where you think to yourself: This really sucks. I can do better than this. This magic moment is usually the trigger for someone starting to write creatively. But what drives a Writer is a need or deep desire to tell a story.

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(Image Copyright: Sye Watts/Antony Simpson.)

1. The Idea
The idea should be imaginative and well thought out. No idea is orignal, everything has been done. But what makes new literature unique, is the Writer’s showing and telling of the story. The unique voice of the Writer.

2. Scope & Size
Consider the scope and size of the story before you begin. According to Wikipedia here are approximate recommended word counts for different types of creative writing projects:

Short story – under 7,500 words
Novelette – 7,500 to 17,500 words
Novella – 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novel – over 40,000 words
(From: Wikipedia, Last Accessed: 11/02/2016)

I would add in word counts for the following:
Blog Posts – Up to 1,500 words
Flash Fiction – 200-300 words
Poems – Unknown, but generally quite short.
Music Lyrics – Unknown.

If journalism is your thing, online magazine The Gay UK has submission guidelines for word counts. They are as follows and likely to be inline with industry standards:
Reviews: 300 – 500 words
Interviews: 1000 – 2500 words
Columns: 400 – 1000 words
News item: 500 – 900 words
Top List: 300 – 500 words

These word counts are not set in stone, you are allowed to be a little under or be a little over. But if you are hundreds, or even thousands of words over, then the scope of your idea is either too big or you are likely to have overwritten and will need to cut in the editing. Editing will be discussed in detail in the next blog post of the series.

If you are planning to submit a piece of creative writing somewhere, ensure you know the word count limits before you start and adhere to the word count. It is unlikely that the person or people reading submissions will read a piece of work over their stated word count. No matter how good it is.

Next let’s discuss essential elements of any story.

3. Characters
Characters should be:

  • Believable.
  • Interesting.
  • Flawed.
  • Have room for growth and grow throughout the story, or the part of the story that they are in.
  • Be three dimensional and as complex as any person that you know.

Characters don’t have to be likeable or liked by the reader. In books that I’ve read, some of my favourite characters are bastards. If people read your work and care for your characters, you’re doing well. If readers are disinterested, don’t care, are irritated or frustrated by your characters, then you have some more character development work to do.

4. Storyline / Plot
Every story should have a Beginning, Middle and End. There needs to be conflict and resolution. Plot should be captivating. It should not have long periods where nothing happens. Be aware of genre conventions. It’s okay to make the reader work for the story, but don’t make them have to work too hard. Bare in mind The Seven Basic Plots:

  • Overcoming the Monster
  • Rags to Riches
  • The Quest
  • Voyage and Return
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Rebirth

A great article on plots, one that I would recommend every Creative Writer should read is The “Basic” Plots in Literature.

5. Research
If your story is set in the past, another country, or has a character with specialist knowledge you as the Writer need to do the research. You need to make yourself an expert in subject matters related to your story. Although you need to be an expert, you don’t need to show or tell the reader everything that you know.

6. Perspective
The choice of perspective is really important when writing any story. You can show and tell the story from character’s perspective, omniscient perspective or from several perspectives. A good article on perspectives is available here: The Writers Craft – Point of View in Literature.

7. Pacing
Pacing is bit of an art. Elongated sentences with detailed description helps to slow down a scene. Whereas, short. Sharp. Snappy sentences speed up scenes. Short sentences are ideal for action scenes.

8. Other Tips
You should write lots. Every day if possible. Writing, like anything, people get better at the more they practice it.

Get the show and tell balance right. Generally show more than you tell.

Your story should have hooks, things that grab the readers attention and encourage your reader to read on.

As a Writer you should read lots. Especially in the genre you wish to write in. If you’re unsure what genre you want to write in or type of story you want to write, read a variety. But don’t just passively read. Study the things you read. Look at the elements mentioned above, along with what you liked and disliked about the work. Try to understand:

  • What did the Writer do? Did they do it well or not?
  • Where in the piece of work did the Writer do what they did?
  • Why the Writer might have done what they did?
  • How did the Writer do what they did?

In the next blog post of the series, I’ll be writing about keeping going, the development of the Writer’s voice and the importance of backing-up your work.

Want to share your thoughts on writing? Leave a comment below.

Write soon,


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Book Review: According to Yes by Dawn French

By Books & Authors, Reviews3 Comments
dawn-french-according-to-yes-book-cover According to Yes felt like experimental writing gone wrong. The plot was completely implausible and lead to an ending that felt impossible and unbelievable.

In According to Yes, Rosie Kitto joins the uber strict Wilder-Bingham household as Nanny to grandchildren Three, Red and Teddy. Kemble, their father is going through a difficult divorce, made more difficult by the custody demands of Glenn, his controlling and overbearing mother. Grandfather Thomas keeps quiet to keep the peace.

Rosie’s character is the opposite of what the family are used to. She’s unconventional, loves bright colours and has decided to live life according to Yes. Rosie inspires Three and Red. Unfortunately Rosie doesn’t stop there.

Rosie’s character is a complex mix of conflicting thoughts and feelings. This gave Rosie a feeling of realness and depth. It’s clear from the first page that Rosie is running away from something that has caused her great pain. To the reader Rosie is admirably flawed, but her actions are completely over-the-top and unrealistic. These over-the-top moments felt forced and for the benefit of a unbelievable and poorly thought out storyline. Most unbelievable in the storyline were Rosie’s sexual indiscretions.

French switches perspectives throughout According to Yes and it works really well. There are some wonderfully well written scenes. French describes scenes fantastically and got the pacing spot on. French did miss the opportunity write from the perspectives of Three and Red.

French has a gay character in this novel. It was just such a shame that the character had to be struggling with his sexuality and in being honest about it with himself and others. This particular character felt two-dimensional and his growth was neglected by French. This opinion might be slightly coloured by the fact that recently I’ve read quite a few stories with characters that are gay. All these characters have been tormented by their sexuality, rather than celebrating who they are. And all of these characters have seemed to follow the same pattern of destroying their life and the lives of those around them. Not great role models for people who are gay. Gay people finally get into mainstream fictional literature and all are portrayed as this tormented soul, with little else to offer.

Overall According to Yes is a mixed bag. Good description and use of perspective, but with fundamental problems with plot.

Review soon,



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Book Review: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

By Amazon, Books & Authors, ReviewsNo Comments


From the back cover:

Mother of three and wife of John-Paul, Cecilia discovers an old envelope in the attic. Written in her husband’s hand, it says: to be opened only in the event of my death.

Curious, she opens it – and time stops.

John-Paul’s letter confesses to a terrible mistake which, if revealed, would wreck their family as well as the lives of others.

Cecilia wants to do the right thing, but right for who? If she protects her family by staying silent, the truth will worm through her heart. But if she reveals her husband’s secret, she will hurt those she loves most…

(From: The Husband’s Secret (2013) by Liane Moriarty.)

In The Husband’s Secret, you follow Cecilia, Tess and Rachel over one life-changing week. It starts with a secret, a revelation and a long standing injustice.

The Husband’s Secret is an utterly captivating, addictive and compelling read from page 1.

Moriarty initially only used surnames to give the characters a sense of reality, but as the story continues she share’s the characters thoughts. This sharing of thoughts helped the reader empathise and connect with the characters. This was a shrewd move on Moriarty’s part, as the clever and intricate plot is character driven.

The pacing is full of suspense and the reader will find themselves thinking just one more chapter before I stop.

The Husband’s Secret is chick-lit that is well worth a read. It is available to buy on Amazon.

Review soon,



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