Hi, I hope it's OK to follow up chapter 1 so quickly with chapter 2. Several of you said you'd like to read more and I'm learning so much from this process (together with the Jericho Writers Summer Festival). It's also school summer holidays which helps! I promise not to keep on posting a new chapter every day but if anyone has time to look at this next chapter, I'd be most grateful. I've tried to put into practice what I've learned, stripping out unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, removing filtering and trying to show not tell. There are one or two places where I've still got Joe 'seeing' or 'noticing' things which I felt were worth keeping in there, but I'm happy to be told otherwise!
I've attached both chapters 1 and 2, having tweaked chapter 1 a little more from the latest feedback that you wonderful people have given me. Feel free to skip chapter 1 though and go straight to the start of chapter 2 on page 5.
Thank you, and I promise I will read and give feedback on what others have posted.
Thanks Neal. Romance, yes sort of but it's the sort of romance that catches them surprise when it finally arrives because they've been more like brother and sister than girlfriend & boyfriend.
Get your point about the chickens, although I want to get across the impression that Joe is a bit freaked out by being surrounded by them. He's grown up in a city and isn't used to coming into close contact with farm animals.
Good point about the infinite sea. In an earlier version of chapter 1, I'd had more of a sense of Joe feeling small and lost once off the trawler and in the much smaller, lower rowing boat.
Firstly, I really enjoyed this. I like the characters and the concept. I still feel very at home with the style tone and I think this chapter still reads as a YA novel.
You have built good tension at the beginning of Chapter 2. I am already anxious that they are going to ask Joe to go back and I don’t even know what they would be asking him to go back to. I think you could build on this. Eg. I wouldn’t have Natasha necessarily deflate this later on when he mentions it to her. Also I think you could draw out more tension by including Joe’s feeling when he first hears it . Does he have any thoughts about going back? He can then be distracted by Natasha coming in but then you have his and the readers dread hanging over him as he is whisked off to explore. Also then as he starts settling into the island and seeing more of it then he could have that dread (or whatever he is feeling) that he may have to return weaved in and colouring it. And then particularly then at the end of the chapter what is it the village are going to announce? Is he going to be kicked off straight away how should he (and I) feel about that?
I would love a bit more detail about some of the setting. It can just be peppered in and you could tie it in with how Joe is feeling. Eg. The bedroom. What sort of room has he woken up in? What can he smell, see, etc. Does he feel safe, at home etc? Some little specific details could really bring it to life Also when Joe leaves the room and goes outside you could show a bit more. You write she pulled him through another door and out into a bright day. You could make it feel a bit more immediate. He could wince in the sunlight or get sand blown in his face or that sort of thing. In the same way - when he gets to the top of the hill. I reckon it would be more powerful to launch into the description of the view rather than telling the reader it was stunning if that makes sense.
I already really like Natasha. She jumps off the page with that first line of dialouge and her physical description.
I wasn’t sure if the two paragraphs after the chicken paragraph were a little too like a list of the parts of the island perhaps. Maybe they could be broken up by a small anecdote from Natasha. And again maybe the five senses could be brought in more at this point so the reader really feels like they are there and can smell it etc. Do we need to see it all now?
Sorry – I am being a bit detail orientated here – I love the mention of “quiet companionship” but you probably could cut out those words and just explore that bit of them watching fish together. Maybe Joe could look up to smile at Natasha and catch her smiling at him or something. It seems like an important set up to their future relationship but the author voice intrudes a bit.
I like the other tension that is brought in about the other boys/men on the island. I look forward to hearing about them and the part they will play in Joe's story. And I feel a bit unnerved by the one man who is fathering all those children and am looking forward to seeing how that develops. There are some really good set ups and threads to explore.
This is a long list of random thoughts from me. Please feel free to discount them all if you don’t agree. As I said I really like the chapters. I look forward to reading more at some point!
Thank you for all your comments. I think you're absolutely right that I need to work on developing more of what's going on in Joe's head and the emotions and also to bring in more of the five senses and build a stronger sense of the environment Joe finds himself in.
I'm glad you like Nats. I like Nats too!
Interested by your thoughts on the quiet companionship bit. I think, when writing that bit, I wanted to zoom out a bit. Hopefully the reader already has a sense of the fact that these aren't just ordinary kids in an ordinary situation. They have a lot to be worried about and some pressure to grow up too quickly. But on this moment on the shell beach, they're carefree kids, enjoying hunting for the best looking shells. Sort of together, but also each lost in their own little quest. I almost want this little bit to be like an aerial shot where you could say 'oh look, there are two kids hunting for shells on a beach, they look content', rather than doing anything to further develop the relationship between the two of them.
On the subject of the older boys/men - Tom and Anthony. Although I've not defined this very clearly anywhere in the book, They are both in their late teens, or at most very early twenties. Anthony (the one who is fathering all the babies) is actually the younger of the two, probably no older than eighteen. There is no-one on the island who is older than early twenties. One of my concerns is how readers might feel about talk of an eighteen(ish) year old fathering lots of babies with teenage girls but I think it is what could happen in this situation, particularly where these teenagers have effectively discovered sex for themselves, without any sex education or conversations with parents about the birds and the bees. Of course, they will have witnessed the reproduction process in their cows and sheep. Just to put your mind at rest, there is actually very little sexual content in the book and where it is there, it's incredibly non-specific and not at all explicit.
Thanks again, you're giving me lots of food for thought.
I've made a few changes, based on Rebecca's suggestions. Does anyone have a few minutes to have a quick look and give me a thumbs up/thumbs down on the added thoughts and descriptions of Joe's surroundings?
Those scenes are really starting to sparkle. I particularly like the one on the top of the hill.
In answer to the above, I think the idea of the group starting to have children is great. What I meant by discomfort was the good kind! :) I picked up (maybe this is not where the story is going) that there was some potential tension building around Antony and his current position as alpha. Maybe this is something you intend to lean into but for example, my thoughts are - why does he want to father all these kids? Is it for egotistical reasons? Is it to save the community or is it for personal gain? Is he going to want to be challenged or is he going to force others (Joe) to do the same? What if Joe doesn't want to father any children yet? You know that sort of thing springs to mind which is great. It isn't overt either which I think is important with building tension in those first scenes. I will be interested to see where you take it next!
Brill, thanks and some interesting questions to consider as I move on to revising later parts of my plot. I like the fact that you (and others) are thinking of all sorts of possible plot developments, many of which are not in my current story arc.
I enjoyed your second chapter, and I think it develops Joe's world very nicely (I read both the original and the revised version you linked to in your most recent post, by the way).
I think the added passages and details add greatly to the immersion of the reader into Joe's situation, and in fact I think you could go still further. I think you could move from a mostly 'cinematic' viewpoint to an almost completely 'character' viewpoint in the latter half of the chapter as Joe strives to make sense of this new place he's been thrown into, and the people and situations he's dealing with.
I like Nats very much; she has tremendous potential as a mentor and friend to Joe and a foil; there's already a lovely banter developing between them and there's much drama and humour to be got from the slightly naive Joe, a 'stranger in a strange land', interacting with the more knowledgeable Nats.
It will be interesting to see where you take the 'culture' of the island. It's handled sensitively here, and I hope that the agency and independence that Nats shows in this chapter is typical of the way the gender roles interact.
There were some occasional moments where I wondered about specific choices of words - only a few. One that springs to mind is the sentence: 'As she waved and shouted her greeting, her stomach bulged ominously under her T-shirt.' It's the 'ominously' that brought me out of the story. Joe doesn't know about pregnancy, so would have no preconception to make his reaction to the sight of a bulging tummy be that it was 'ominous' (and even if he did, the negative connotation of 'ominous' seemed odd here. If it is, indeed, ominous (within the setting of your world) I think it needs more context.
As someone who keeps chickens myself, I really enjoyed the feeding of the flock. 😁 It rang very true, especially Joe's reaction - which I've seen myself with friends who've fed mine... and I only have a few!
In my view, with even more of Joe's inner thoughts and feelings, especially in the latter part, and some re-visiting of the occasional word or sentence to focus in more on the exact meaning that's intended, and you've got a very strong continuation of Joe's story here.
Thanks Jon. Point taken about the ominously. Do you think 'strangely' would be ok? The people Joe's grown up with don't tend to have any 'bulges'. We have chickens too, though we've never had more than 3. That scene is also inspired by a holiday we had on the Scottish island of Muck (on which my island is based). There were some very free-range chickens who would come and greet us whenever we walked along the island's one road and would also start to follow us as we walked on.