Showing posts with label Jenni James. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jenni James. Show all posts

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Frog Prince by Jenni James

Rating: WARTY!

Jenni James (not to be confused with English actor Jennifer James despite Jenni's use of words like "bum" and other 'British-isms'!) has made a career out of retelling fairy tales (think of Disney titles and you'll pretty much have half her oeuvre). She's moving on to pillaging Jane Austen next, but what the heck - if it works, then best of luck with it. She also has a series of videos on her blog (here on Blogspot) and on You Tube, purportedly telling people how to write novels.

I watched parts of some of them and they didn't seem very helpful to me. The fact is that any time you spend not writing is not helpful to your writing career, because you can attend all the lectures you want - in person or online, it doesn't matter - and you can read all the writing-advice books you want, but unless you are actually writing, you're not a writer and you're going nowhere. Have you noticed that those books on 'how to write a best-seller' are almost always written by "writers" you've never heard of, who've never had a successful novel, let alone a best seller? That ought to tell you exactly how useless those books truly are. They're like those books telling you how to get rich quick, written by people whose only wealth has come from selling those very books!

The videos are each about twelve minutes long, and one of them for example, was about sticking it out with writing and making it to the end of your novel. This is an important topic, but the video missed the mark for me. Instead of offering writing tips for making it through the long haul, the author talked about how long her hair was and what it took to grow it out so long and to take care of it.

I could see where she was trying to go with that, but it offered really nothing (unless it was crammed into the last third of the video, which I didn't watch) to help a writer get to the end, and overcome writing blocks. Full disclosure (or given that this is October, maybe it's Fall disclosure?!): the only way to do that is to write. It's really that simple. In the short term it doesn't matter if you are writing crap. It doesn't matter if it's the worst writing you (or anyone) ever did. Write on. Write to the end. Get the thing finished and then you can go back and edit it.

For me, editing is a lot easier than getting to the end in the first place, so the temptation is to keep going back over what you wrote, whether it be one chapter, or fifteen, or one paragraph, primping and teasing, and perking and polishing, but this will never, ever get your novel finished! Quite the contrary. It will prevent you from ever finishing. There is nothing in this world that can compare with putting that final period to the final sentence in your completed novel even if it's only the first draft! At least, at last, you have it done (after a fashion)!

It feels good, even if the novel isn't perfect. Once it's done, then is the time to go back over it and perk and primp and polish. But don't get lost in that. At some point you need to have a go/no-go decision which will determine if that novel is going to be submitted (or better yet published by yourself), or if it goes on the shelf and you start on your second novel instead, because the first just isn't getting it done. There's no shame in this and it does not mean you're a lousy writer. It actually means you're very smart to know the difference, and to make a wise decision about whether it works!

So if my two cents is worth anything (and it's probably worth about two cents!), then all you need to know is that if you want to be a writer, you have to write lots - and lots. And then some more. Lots more. And you have to read all kinds of books and not necessarily only novels. You have the read the genre(s) in which you're interested to see how others do it and learn from their mistakes.

No one in their right mind likes to be stuck in traffic unless they have a really good audio book to listen to, so if you get stuck at a roadblock (I'm talking about writing here!), you need to jump over it and continue on. You can come back and fix that issue later. Even if your hero is in an impossible fix and all you can offer is "and magic happens and he/she gets away," it's far better to do that and move on, and finish that novel than it is to sit for weeks stuck there not going anywhere because of this one issue.

If you don't like what you're writing, then write something different. If you're not looking forward to hacking the next chapter, write a different chapter or make something different happen. Listen to your characters! Let them tell you how to get out of a fix and where to go next. I promise you it's what your characters will do for you if you have done them the favor of writing them well.

But I digress. Majorly! You're the writer. Take what advice you think helps, ignore the rest, including this if it doesn't help. But write! Write! Write!

This novel didn't get it done for me either because it felt inauthentic and I had to DNF it. It's like the author wanted to get a traditional fairy tale told, but didn't want to write it traditionally, and rather than go determinedly one way or the other, she got stuck somewhere in between, and it didn't work. What it delivered instead was some truly jarring writing, so in the space of three lines, for example, I read three different forms of "maybe":

Mayhap her thoughts and ideals and dreams and all those things she longed for and loved—all of it—perhaps they were too simple for handsome princes to care about. Maybe....
It just did not read easily. I have to confess a personal hatred of 'mayhap' here. I think authors use it as a lazy way to try and put some authentic antiquity into their tales and it almost never works. There were some other writing errors, such as the author using "crumbled" when she ought to have used "crumpled", but those aside, the writing was not awful. It just didn't feel right to me.

On top of this the attempts humor fell flat, and the writing level seemed aimed at middle-grade even though the main characters were young adult. The amusing thing about this to me, is that in and around the era when this story supposedly took place, young children were routinely married off at a very young age, and I'm forced to wonder why so few authors have the courage to write it like it was? that would offer some historical authenticity and do a lot better than tossing in a 'mayhap' here and there, or mixing modern English idiom with antique ones and making the reading a jarring roller-coaster experience, instead of a pleasant read.

For me, the worst thing was the two main characters, because I didn't like either of them. The way they were written made then both look like idiots, in which case they probably deserved each other, but I quickly came to feel like my time would be better spent reading something else, or better yet, writing something! The problem with fairy tales is that they're pretty much all tapped out now. If you want to do this, don't, unless your take on it is going to break seriously new ground and put a truly new spin on the tale. Instead of chasing the vogue, you should try to plough your own furrow: find something new to tap and start your own trend! I wish the author all the best but I cannot recommend this one.