Is My Novel Funny Enough To Be Lad-Lit?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself for a while. Now that the first draft of my novel Not Famous is complete, I’m choosing to revisit it. One common description of lad-lit is that is contain a lot of humor. Lots of lad-lit I’ve read is definitely meant to make you laugh-out-loud.

If we go back to High Fidelity, Nick Hornby’s debut novel… It’s often described as comedy… but, I’m not so sure that it is. I mean, it has light, humorous moments, but it’s hardly a comedic novel like, for example, Nick Spalding’s Love… series.

The one thing I may not have developed enough in the story to make it proper lad-lit is the humor. Of course, humor can mean humorous situations or funny dialogue, and I’ve tried to sprinkle both throughout the novel, but sparingly. Off the top of my head, I can think of two scenes written with the purpose of injecting some humor. An awkward moment caused by a dog running wild, and a scene involving the return of Nick’s one-night-stand. There are jokes and probably some funny lines of dialogue here and there, but humor was not something I wove into the story as a dominant theme. The humor that does occur is for comic relief purposes… to lighten up the story while also driving the plot.

My beta-reader is now nearly half-way through my novel, and so far I’m hearing that yes, the scenes I’ve written to be funny are in fact funny. Which is really the best that I can ask for, as I’m not specifically trying to write a comedy, but a good story that isn’t overloaded with crazy antics and situations meant to tickle your funny bone. Perhaps that’s enough.

I hope so.


Considering My Cover Design

Lately, I’ve been having second thoughts about my book’s cover design.

I love it. Completely. One-hundred percent. But, as I’ve been considering how to market my book, I’ve been wondering if the approach I chose might hurt the book.

The cover as it is now, is a photographic cover featuring the main character’s love interest in the story. It took me a long time to find the right photo that fit the character and the story. The moment I found the photo I knew it was perfect.

But as my novel gets closer to reality, I wonder if I steered the cover’s design in the wrong direction.

Let me explain, look at the following covers by authors in the same genre:


What do they have in common? They’re all illustrated, with a dominant color background, often using silhouetted characters. When I look for books that I might like, book covers like these typically stand out as ones for me to look further into.

Does my cover need to be similar or not? I still love the current, photographic cover… but something today is telling me an illustrated cover should be explored.

So here’s what I’m going to do. In addition to the cover I have now, I will have a second one created, similar in style as the ones above. I will ask my beta-readers first which cover best reflects the book, and if I’m still not sure, I may put it to a vote of readers of this blog.

Beta-Reader Update #2

My trusted beta-reader has some new updates for me regarding her read-through of Not Famous. She is now a third of the way through. The overall response was very positive, but the primary issue was the following:

You never gave any physical descriptions of anyone. I don’t know what the characters look like!

I was surprised. She was right! While I have mental images in my head about what the characters look like, I never really establish those images for the reader.

I will definitely fix that in my next draft.

The other issue, one I knew before even handing it off, was some issues of redundancy… some are probably a result of the seven years of writing and rewriting and not fleshing them out… others are meant to establish character quirks that I hope will be considered important enough to keep.

Of course, I was really happy when she said, “I am enjoying the story. I do want to know what will become of the relationship [between the main characters].

If I’ve managed that so far, I’m happy!

On Writing (Strong) Female Characters

Men know jack about women. Women don’t really get me either. But, men and women authors have to write characters of the opposite sex. They do it all the time. Some even write novels/stories with women narrators. Hey, if they can pull it off all the power to them. Nick Hornby did so quite effectively in How To Be Good, a novel I haven’t read in some time, but, I remember thinking he was successful at it. His novels A Long Way Down and Juliet Naked also feature women narrators or POVs in them and I think he did those well.

But, then again, I know jack about women, so what do I know? Still, writing women characters was something I felt would be one of the more significant challenges for me. Especially characters that are explored in depth over the course of the story.

Recently, I linked to an old article titled King of Lad Lit Nick Hornby On Writing Strong Women — the article was, perhaps, not as insightful about being a “guy’s writer” writing about women as I hoped for… but, I’m gonna explore that idea on my own anyway.

There are a number of primary and secondary characters in my novel that are women. I would not call them strong or weak women by design. I did not set out to say “this character is going to be strong.” No, I had basic idea of who the characters were when I started, and rather than set out a huge laundry list of qualities they would possess, I had a rough idea about each of and the let the character develop organically however they might… and usually that meant something more complex than strong vs. weak.

The truth is, women (and men) are a mix of strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has personal flaws that they struggle with or refuse to recognize. Writing “strong women” characters simply because political correctness doesn’t do your writing any favors… at least, if your goal is to write realistic characters. I tried to write realistic characters, which meant women characters who were just as flawed as my main character… even if for different reasons.

That said, the weakest character in my novel is probably the main character, Nick. When the novel begins he is only months removed from a marriage proposal that ended with his girlfriend revealing that she cheated on him, resulting in the relationship ending. He’s humiliated and depressed, but realizes after a one-night-stand that he needs to get back out there and find a new relationship, which he does, but the incident with his ex-girlfriend haunts him throughout the story, and ultimately influences some bad decisions.

The two most prominent female characters in the novel are Nick’s roommate Devon and his new girlfriend Alli. Neither were written to be specifically “strong” characters as much as they were written to be important characters needed to play specific roles in the story. They both have what would be considered “strong” qualities, though. Devon is assertive and confident, and Alli is motivated and hard working. But, they are also polar opposites, since Devon is extroverted and promiscuous, and Alli is introverted and virtuous. Devon is perceptive, and Alli is naïve. Despite their clashing values and personalities they are both important influences on Nick’s growth over the course of the novel. And I like that. I like that both have vulnerabilities that make them who they are. They are each unique blends of strengths and weaknesses that, I hope, make them believable and not reading like agenda-driven characters.

Whether I’ve succeeded in writing realistic/believable characters has yet to be determined. My first beta reader is still hard at work. I have another beta reader lined up, then someone who will edit it. I’m looking forward to reviewing the first round of comments/suggestions!

Early Beta-Reader Comments

I’ve mentioned before that the first draft of my novel is currently being beta-read by my first beta-reader. It’s nerve-racking, having someone reading it for the first time in seven years, but, this is an important part of the process, and I’ve asked my beta-reader to be completely honest in assessing the story to help me locate weaknesses that I can improve upon.

I’ve gotten some good feedback already. In addition to being made aware of some minor issues with redundancies and areas where the writing can be tightened up, I’ve gotten the following positive comments at various stages in the reading:

“So far, I think you’ve done a good job about making me care about the main character…”

“I am enjoying it because it is reminding me what it’s like to be in that stage of life…”

“Cohesive story, enjoyable so far. It’s a setting that appeals to me, so I find the story interesting.”

My beta-reader is still very much in the early parts of the novel, so I hope they continue to find the story interesting and characters realistic and relatable. So far, the early comments are very encouraging!

First Drafts, Beta Readers, and Novel Number Two

Well, it’s been over a week since I finished the first draft of my first novel. Let’s give you an update on what has happened since then.

First, I celebrated. I didn’t go overboard: I just had a double of my favorite scotch and relished in the fact that after seven years I’d finally completed the thing. The truth is, as great as it feels to finish the first draft, there’s still a long way to go to get this thing ready for publication.

The next thing I did was do a quick read through, fix any glaring errors, and fix up some chapter breaks, taking some of the larger chapters and splitting in half to help maintain a more consistent chapter length throughout. A few redundancies in the text were also resolved. Again, this was done relatively quickly over a couple days, and I definitely expect similar issues are still present in the book. Which brings me to the next thing thing I did…

…I gave the book to a beta reader. This was, of course, the scariest part of the whole process. Why? In seven years the only person has seen a single word of what I’ve written has been me. This novel could be a piece of crap for all I know. I’ve grown very attached to it and the characters after all this time, but there’s no guarantee that anyone else will “get” the story. I’ve asked my beta reader to not hold back and give me honest criticism that I can use to make the story better. It’s scary to know my novel is being by someone who is, by instruction, looking for weaknesses, but it’s necessary in order to have a strong final product worthy of being put out there.

With the novel being beta read now, I’ve had to force myself to step back from it. I haven’t read it since I handed it off. I’ve thought about it, even thought of things I want to add or revise… but I’m not touching it. Instead, I’ve tried to focus on other things… like the next novel. Yes, one of the things I’ve struggled with as I’ve been working on this novel for so long is that I have other ideas in my head that are asking to be written. So, I’ve been taking some preliminary steps to organize my ideas for the next novel. I’ve even taken a stab at writing some scenes. Mostly, though, I’ve been exploring the main characters, and who I want them to be. The basic plot of the story I’ve had in my head for a few years now, even subplots and arcs have been thought through for some time now… but I never felt right delving too far into them before my first novel was even finished.  I have no idea how far this planning will go, and eventually I’ll have to step back from Novel Number Two to revisit Novel Number One and make it better, and eventually publish it and do my best to market it.

So, that’s where I’m at now.

Seven Years Later… My First Draft is Finished.

Earlier this year I resolved to finish my oft-neglected novel, Not Famous. Today, after seven long years,I finally finished the first draft. In mid-March I estimated that I’d finish by the end of April… and I was right on target, finishing the first draft on the very last day of the month.

For those who are wondering, the final word count at the end of the first draft is 107,706.

It’s been so long since I started working on this novel, I’d actually forgotten when I had started working on it. After digging back through old archives on a backup drive, I found an early draft from July 2011. Back then it had a different title (Coffee Shop Girl) and much of the story structure was different. Back then, I mostly had a rough idea of the story, and had started writing specific scenes in no particular order. There have been countless rewrites, reorganization of scenes, and many, many, periods of not working on it at all. Despite all that time and all those changes, there’s still a lot of dialogue that has survived from those early days.

I admit, the idea of finishing the first draft was frightening. This story has been percolating in my head for so long, I’ve spent many nights working out scenes in my head, pondering character backstories, or even coming up with the perfect name for a character while trying to go sleep at night. Spending so much time on these characters and this story has resulted in my getting pretty darn attached to them, and effectively putting an end to that story is, in many ways, kinda sad. I know there will be revisions to come, but the story itself is now all there. I have conquered fear of completion, lack of time, and writer’s block.

Completing the first draft is scary for another reason too. This entire time… these past seven years… this story has belonged to me alone. No one else has read a word, or heard anything substantive regarding the plot. Soon, I will take a step back, and allow some trusted beta readers to read it over to give me their thoughts, catch plot holes and other mistakes that are certain to be there considering all the years of rewrites, and give any other kind of input they are willing to provide.

My only published work at this point, is a short story I wrote a few years ago called The Last Stop, a paranormal thriller which was based off a dream I had. This novel is not a paranormal thriller, or science fiction. It’s hard to describe describe the genre except as contemporary fiction. I’d like to think of it as lad-lit, since the authors that mostly influenced my writing (Nick Hornby, Jonathan Tropper, and Matthew Norman) are lad-lit authors and the story features a young-ish male narrator and the plot is centered on his relationship with a girl he meets early in the story.

Anyway, with this late lifted, I will step back and enjoy this feeling of accomplishment.