Write a Novel in Six Weeks - Member Feedback Group

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Write a Novel in Six Weeks - Member Feedback Group
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Welcome to the 'Write a Novel in Six Weeks' community feedback group!

This group is specifically for members of Jericho Writers who are taking the 'Write a Novel in Six Weeks' video course. Post your completed exercises here for peer feedback - remembering the Community rules: 

  • Be kind and considerate to others. 
  • Be constructive with any feedback you give. 
  • Be generous with your time.

Not a member of Jericho Writers yet? Join us here to take this course and join the conversation! 

Hello! I've just begun this course. I know some of you are ahead of me but I'm posting my When ... Must sentence and I'd love to hear what you think. It's one of the only ideas I've got so far that I think might have 'legs' but I struggle to turn any of my ideas into anything more substantial.


When Rosemary's overbearing mother finally dies leaving her the family home and business she must fight off the avaricious demands of her more worldly siblings and forge a place for herself in the world.

Hi everyone, here’s my first post.
Exercise one:

When Rowan’s daughter declares she is getting married  next month to another woman, Rowan must control her anger, and future outbursts if she is to avoid becoming an estranged mother once again.

Hi everyone, here is my exercise for the Week 1 class ‘Ideas’… 

When Death discovers that he cannot retire as planned because people have stopped dying he must travel through the realms of life, space and time to bring order back to the universe and finally hang up his scythe.

Alternatively… 

When the last man to die finds himself in Death’s realm, he must help Death work out why everyone left on earth has stopped dying.

For context my idea is a comic fantasy novel.

Let me know what you think! 

Thanks,

Ben

Took me a little while to sort things out, but finally, here's my set-up and inciting incident:

Without warning, the stars in the Milky Way winked in quick succession, illuminating the thick haze of swirling cosmic dust on the architect’s drawing-board. Hunched sideways at his desk, Peter St Hill saw, out of the corner of one eye, the pinpricks of light. A hasty swing brought him face-to-face with the large drawing on his easel. One quick blink, a vigorous shake of the head, then he squeezed his eyes shut.

It was a sometimeish day, with the threat of adverse weather in the air. This was September, the start of the hurricane season. All night long the media broadcast warnings of yellow, orange and finally red alerts. The sun skipped and hopped around, playing games with the clouds, dark-grey and threatening one minute, light grey blanket the next, then sudenly bursting out into full glare. Moody, like a woman who could not make up her mind to welcome or reject the advances of a new suitor.

Peter St Hill felt the tension, like a full-grown tumour, pressing in on him. In his office since early o’clock, he’d slaved away for the last six hours, anxious to advance the McDavid Milky Way project. He warned his secretary, Miss Melanie Grant, when she came in at eight o’clock, that it was a ‘Do Not Disturb’ Day, no phone calls, no visitors, nothing to break his concentration. 

The persistent, dull ache at the back of his neck roared into open rebellion. Grimacing, he tugged at his shirt front, forced open the top button and took a deep breath, kneading the knot of tightly-clenched neck muscles. He peeped at the drawing, then opened his eyes wide. 

In the distance the Cathedral clock proclaimed the lateness of the hour. Déjà vu. He smiled, recalling the day - how many moons ago? - when a similar flight of imagination occurred. The Norton Stargate it had been then, its perimeter lights seeming to twinkle. Identical cause: over-tired brain, sleep-deprived body. Now, he focused on the murky dust. Sure enough, the stars in the McDavid Milky Way settled back into unwinking stillness. 

This time he had neither heard her soft throat-clearing, nor seen her wry smile when his secretary came in, as was her wont, but there on a cleared corner of his desk, was spread a paper mat with a steaming mug of coffee and a covered bowl of Julie mango on it. He took a few hasty sips of the coffee and wolfed down the mango. He twisted his locked arms up and behind, stretching. He scrubbed his face, knuckling his cheeks to clear the cobwebs out of his brain and straightened up. Pivoting his chair, he negotiated around several easels with half-completed sketches to a clear spot close to the opposite glass wall. He looked up and outwards over the foreground buildings of Port-of-Spain. Ten floors up, in the penthouse office of Nicolette Tower, he had a spectacular view of the familiar, unique colours of the Gulf of Paria’s north-western shoreline, glowing under the sudden brightness of a fitful sun.

Peter felt the tension sliding, slipping, spilling off him with each count:

The blue-green curve of the Port-of-Spain Harbour interrupted by giant cranes and docked ships.

The clay-coloured Alcoa bauxite silos surrounded by a perpetual, faint shimmer of bauxite dust, glinting in the sunlight.

Behind them, the blackened slats of the Chaguaramas jetty jutting into the calm waters of the Gulf of Paria.

And way over there, the expanse of curved, brown-grey boardwalk at William's Bay, dotted with human silhouettes no matter the time of day or weather. 

He craned his neck to see beyond the Convention Centre of the Hotel School to catch a glimpse of the Teteron Bay flags …

This part of his world at least was still in order. Never mind the impending inclemency. Mind now at ease, he could concentrate again on finishing his sketches. Peter tilted his head. The angles and planes of the fledgling Centre for Creative and Performing Arts, the CCaPA building design, rose up before him. He double-checked the curve and symmetry of the arches, the precise equality of the cones and the thickness of the outer column. With a nod and a smile, he turned back to his work-desk. His eyes searched among the open sketchpads and loose pages, looking for his favourite drawing-pen. He had work to do, a design to complete, a business to run. Shoulders squared, he retrieved his drawing-pen from the clutter on his desk, faced the design on his easel, and lost track of time. 

Lightning crackled in the distance. The fax machine buzzed and and spat out a sheet of paper. Peter glanced across at it, his hand upraised in a protesting gesture, warding off the intrusion. “Let me just finish sketching out this bit, nah!” he hissed back at the machine, half-entreaty, half-defiance. His hands acting as blinkers, he tunnel-visioned his eyes and went back to his drawing. 

 

But the fax message had registered. After a while, he sighed and turned to stare at it. He had finished his sketching. He sprang up, moved to the fax machine, and retrieved the sheet of paper. He held the message loosely in his hand, and walking back to his desk, began to read. Thundering giants crashed furniture around in the sky. Peter fell into his chair, propelled by an over-sized boulder which settled on his head and bored into his skull. He froze. The sheet of paper from the fax machine fell, equally frozen, to his desk. Stanley? The evening shadows lengthened around him. His son, Stanley. This was the doctor’s diagnosis. 

Peter began to unravel. The stone got a little heavier. He put his hand to his chest. It was getting difficult to breathe. He gasped several times, like a fish gulping air, and covered his face with one hand. 

“How did my son get like this? How did this happen?”

His face had a grey pallor. His mind focused on one and only one thought: Run home to his wife, Roma. 

He drove home in a daze, his mind numb. He left the car in the road, and hastened up the driveway. With every step, dread weighed down his senses. He arrived at his front door. All the windows blinds were closed. He entered his house, stepping into a dark corridor. The room beyond was also swathed in darkness. He flipped the light on emptiness. Inching into the bedroom, he was almost afraid to turn on the light. Inside, he opened cupboard doors and drawers. Roma was gone, bag and baggage. 

Where was Stanley? His room bore witness to the same emptiness. For one brief moment Peter wondered, then dismissed the possibility of a kidnapping. He was neither rich nor famous enough to be a target, and besides their clothes and belongings were also gone.

His next door neighbours showed up. The two old spinster sisters had perched at their window, on the lookout. Right there on the doorstep he got a full report.

Their words tumbled over each other in their anxiety to tell him what happened. 

“We know it’s dark… 

“but we couldn’t wait til morning

“we saw a man, 

“strange to us, mind you

“no, no, we’ve seen him visiting your house before

“anyway, this man came out from the kitchen side-door, 

“straining, with three large, heavy suitcases 

“he thumped them in the trunk of the station wagon 

“Yes it had backed into your driveway several minutes earlier. 

“And the man and a woman went into the house

“Yes we saw him jump into the driver’s seat, and tumble the engine. 

“then the woman came out and jumped in the passenger side.

“We were peeping, we did not dare let them see us…

“Then we saw your wife hustle out of the house, 

“pulling your sweet little boy behind her. 

Peter started when he heard them describe the driver as “tall, dark and Spanishy-looking.” 

Astonishment chased incredulity across his face.

“Strong too, the way he man-handled those suitcases.” 

Their chorus ended with,

“Wife leave you for another man?”

Peter’s numbness turned to anger. He imagined Roma standing there in front of him, feeling the weight of his fury in a storm of raging words. He marched up and down in the vacant house, ranting and raving, stamping his foot, and shouting loud words into the empty air, until his voice gave out and his body stumbled. He flung himself down on the living-room couch. Why had this happened to him? He’d done nothing wrong. He was trying his best to be a good husband and father. He gazed all around him at the elegant drawing-room, the split level design, the state-of-the-art kitchen. What more could any woman want? He was all alone in his big, beautiful house because Roma had abandoned him, taking Stanley with her. 

 

He grimaced. The harsh reality was that his family had gone, lock, stock and barrel. He went back to brooding. It was the first night in three years there was no Stanley to peep in on. It was the first night in four years that he crawled into an empty bed. No Roma, fast asleep below the covers. He sank into a restless sleep. All night long he had nightmares of coming home, snapping on the light and seeing it shine directly onto two ornate, matching coffins, standing on wheeled, gold-plated biers in the centre of the room. One was full-sized, the other half-sized. He approached the coffins with head averted, afraid to look. The next thing he knew he was running crazily around his house in his underpants, opening cupboard doors and drawers and peeping behind doors, searching in cracks and crevices for his wife and son as if they could materialise like genies out of the woodwork. Where was his magic lamp to rub them back into his life? Each time he woke up, his body felt hot, feverish and sweat-drenched.

He felt like he was under attack. How could she?! Roma had callously delivered a fatal blow, the coup-de-grace, the knife in his back. For no apparent reason, his perfect life was turned upside-down. Had she, as the spinster ladies suggested, left him for another man? There had been no coldness or distance between them. She had shown no signs of unhappiness or discontent. She had a wonderful husband, a successful marriage and a beautiful life. So no, no cause for tabanca. What other possibilities were there? If this were a murder-mystery right about now he would be breaksing from the police, under suspicion of murdering his wife and child. But nah, it was nothing like that. 

Did her best friend turn Roma’s mind against him? Nah, her bff was a sucker for romance and marriage. Was someone jealous of his success? Hmmm, maybe. But who? Did Roma succumb to her mother’s bitterness and give up on the marriage? Hmmm, maybe…

He was indulging now in the very suppositions he did not want around him. He did not want his neighbours whispering behind his back, nor turning their faces away from him to hide the smirks. He was not an object for anyone’s pity. He was a twenty-seven year-old man, near the peak of his career, standing tall, and proud of all his accomplishments. Surely, he was a man to be envied. Yesterday. But Roma’s action had blown the lid on all he thought he had. Today, he was an abandoned, deserted, pitiful loner. How had he come to this pretty pass? 

Hello all, I'm Dani. I've drafted two novels, and received some really helpful critiques from beta readers. Now I'm seeking dopamine in writing yet another novel/ novella instead of the analytical drudgery of editing and rewriting.  

So here goes, the exercise from Module 1. (When.... must...), 

I have a general idea for this story, so construction criticism is desired, but a little encouragement wouldn't be amiss. Thank you in advance for your feedback and assistance. 

When Marinella, a mermaid, learns of her brother's entanglement in a tuna farm, she must free him within the next few weeks at any cost, before he is harvested with the rest of the fish. However, she didn’t plan on falling for the man that was key to her brother’s release. Even more surprising, she didn’t think everything would hinge on his precocious ten-year-old daughter.  

Good day everyone. My name is Nancy Pierre-Campo. I just started this course. Here is my When..must exercise.

When President Jeremy Ryan learns the woman he loved and left was elected the leader of what was up to that point a key ally, he must confront his past and the role he played in changing history and her heart.

For Christine Francis-Gilbert: 

Other alternative plot possibilities: 

a.When Terence is invited to speak at his daughter's 40th birthday celebration on the other side of the world, he must not only conquer his fear of flying, but also his fear of public speaking and ultimately reveal to his whole family that he has been hiding an autoimmune disease from them his whole life. 

This one gives three complications which makes the plot seem cluttered. Stick to one.

b.When Terence is called as next of kin for his grandson in an emergency coma, he must reveal to his family his secret chronic autoimmune medical condition so that his own memories and experiences can be used to help treat his grandson.

This is pretty much the same as the original version, just that the coma makes the situation more dramatic.

MY RESPONSE: Why did he choose to hide his condition from everyone? I like the ‘secrets and lies’ theme, and the pathos of the grandson’s age, but does Terence really have a choice? Unless he is a really cold-hearted man, I do not see how he can ignore his grandson. Perhaps you can focus on the inevitability of his revelations, on how escalating circumstances force him into these revelations?

I’m particularly interested in this character because, like mine, much of the narrative is concerned with ‘his mindset’, and how this will be concretised in the events of the novel. Good job.

- if you think Terence might be an intriguing enough character? It depends on how you answer the questions you’ve raised in the readers’ minds. Is Terence naturally secretive? Has he had bad childhood experiences or has discordant family relationships? You also have to make credible the ability to hide an auto-immune disease.

- if you think the story would work (or not work) if you knew from the beginning what the disease or condition actually was? I prefer to not know what the disease was from the beginning, but get gradual clues or revelations of bits and pieces, so I can play detective as the narrative progresses.  

- do you know what the character Terence wants?!  Is it clear enough... Not at the moment, because we do not know why he has kept this secret. 

Hello everyone. My name is Aya Taliba Ayodike and I just joined the Novel in 6 Weeks Course.

Here is my exercise for Module 1:

When workaholic architect Peter comes home, one day, to find his family gone, he must figure out the real reasons for his loss before he can regain his family.

Hello everyone,

I've been working through the first exercise on this course and I am playing around with an idea I've had for a while. I have a character, well a few characters and a setting. But I've been toying with some ideas for what might give her some motivation. So, here is my first effort at the When ... must exercise, which is super helpful. Any feedback is welcome. Thanks. 

Kate SF.

When Claudia gave birth to her third still-born daughter in four years she swore to the goddess, Coventina, that she would sacrifice her most precious possession if she granted her a living baby girl. When her wish was granted some nine months later, Claudia realised that she must pay the goddess the debt she is owed but, in order to do so, she must give the goddess her only child, her six-year-old son, little Aelius Brocchus.

Hi everyone, I've just worked through the first module and I'm really pleased to be in this group with you all. Here's my When... Must statement:

When a children's sleepover ends in tragedy in her own back garden, anxious mother-of-one Petra must deal with accusations of negligence from the dead girl's mother - who also happens to be her friend - as well as her own feelings of guilt about the accident. 

When...must... When a disgruntled footballer starts to question the futility of playing for the worst team in Ireland, he must decide whether he can survive without football and if football can survive without him. 

When Becky explained the when/must exercise, it made so much sense. I was relieved when I thought back to the two draft manuscripts that I have written so far, and that they had clear when/must approaches.

The first one: 

WHEN Will finds out that after the death of his father, in Denmark, he will only inherit his cottage if he meets certain conditions, he MUST travel there and carry on his undisclosed 'work' for three years.

The second one:

WHEN Liva discovers from a therapist, that she is suffering from serious mental scars caused by her father leaving when she was six years old, she MUST find him and find out why he left.


Any feedback would be greatly appreciated Thank you!

David