Writing a Book Review

Writing a book review is not just about how much you liked or disliked a book, but an opportunity to have a more in depth look into the writing itself. When you are asked to write a book review your first step, obviously, is to read the book. Every word of the book. No matter how poorly it is written, you still have to read the book in its entirety.

As you read, take notes to jot down some of the areas you found to be thought provoking, or if you notice your emotions being tickled in some way. If you come across a passage that is quote worthy, write it down to have in your final written review. Consider what the author is trying to accomplish in the story. Here are a few questions to consider as you are reading:

  • How does the story flow?
  • Does it carry you along on an unforgettable journey, or are you pitched about with no rhyme or reason?
  • How invested are you feeling?
  • Do you care about any of the characters, where they are, and the challenges they are facing?
  • Are there any gaps or unexplained holes in the story?
  • In the end, are all the loose ends tied up?

Once your reading is done, review your notes then set it all aside for a day or two. You may not feel comfortable doing this because you might loose the spark and excitement you felt while reading the book. Or, you might find that this is a good time to breath and allow the story to sink into all the nooks and crevasses. You may find yourself more objective in your review.

You have taken the time you need to absorb the book and now it is time to write a review. Most reviews contain the basics: Title, author, publisher, date of publication, genre, page or word count, ISBN. Once the basics are in, then tackle the body of the review. Be sure you are reviewing the book that was written, not what you wish had been written. To whine about what you wanted defeats the whole purpose of a review, which is to inform a potential reader if this is a worthwhile book to read.

Tell your audience what you thought of the book and why. Just saying “it’s a good/bad book” is not much help. Give examples of what made it good or bad (remember the notes you jotted down?). Were there so many grammatical errors your head was spinning, or did the story sweep you away to another planet where you could taste the grit and feel the oil in the air? These added details will give the reader a better idea of why you liked/disliked the book.

Many reviewers will include a brief synopsis of the story so the reader has an idea of what the book is about. If your review is going to be listed on Amazon, Goodreads, or Bookbub, you may not need the story intro because it is already there. But, if you are reviewing it on a blog or for a magazine it is a good idea to give a quick introduction to the story.

Including something about the author is another option. Is it a debut novel, or the final in a 10 part series? Maybe the author usually writes scifi and this is a break out historical fiction. These little tid-bits add interest for the reader and will keep them reading your review. In turn, they will read the book you have just reviewed and the author may ask for another from you.

Keep your comments as balanced as you can. No matter how horrible a book is, there has to be something good worth mentioning. Authors have pretty tough skin, but make an effort not to send them out to the slaughter. They have spent months – or years- on it. Give them some nuggets they can grow with as an author. Your review should teach as much as criticize.

Your review is not about you and your taste in genres. It is a way to help a possible reader know what a book is about and why they too might like to read, or pass to the next choice.

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What Do I Love Most About My Genre?

What’s not to love? I do write in multiple genres (historical fiction, non-fiction, and fantasy), but my favorite is fantasy. Ever since a young age I loved tails about witches, vampires (Bela Lugosi was the best), fairies, and all the rest. I read the tame versions of the Brothers Gimm along with marathons of the old black and white Frankenstein-esque films.

My writing is on the tamer side of witchcraft and fairy tales. My first book (yes, I’m working furiously to get it out!) is based on the fairy tales and legends on the Isle of Man. They are pretty quirky stories that I still scratch my head about. One story is about St. Trinian’s Church and the monster haunting it. The monster, called a Buggane, hates all the noise the church builders are making during the day, so he rips off the roof every night. This goes on and on. The roof is on, the roof is off, night after night. Then a boy named Timothy makes a wager with the church that he can make a pair of pants inside the church before the Buggane can rip off the roof. They take him up on the wager just so the roof might stay on a single night. Timothy not only gets his breeches made, but he also angers the Buggane so much that it rips it’s own head off and vanishes. The church still stands today.

This is what I love about what I write. A tale of legendary monsters, a brave boy, and a building that still stands. One day, I will visit St. Trinian’s and touch the walls of history. Until that day I will write my own tales of the Buggane of St. Trinian’s.

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Today’s post is inspired by the IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group). Our awesome co-hosts for the February 7 posting of the IWSG are Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

Click here to read some other great blogs

Writing on a Schedule

Schedules are funny things. We have them for so many aspects of our lives: work, deadlines, appointments, school, etc. We keep our lives orderly by keeping a schedule, but does keeping a schedule keep us happy? For some people a schedule is a heavy weight hanging on a thin thread ready to crash down. For others, it is a salvation that steers the ship through each day.

I was recently asked, “What steps have you taken, or plan to take, to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?” My reply every time is, “Nothing.”  I hate schedules so when someone asks if I have one for my writing I really cringe at the thought of making one.

It isn’t that I can’t meet deadlines. Give me one and I’m there. Need a story tomorrow about widgets in the 20th Century? I’ll have to you early. Want a blog post about modern kitchens by January 30th? You’ll have it by the 25th. Ask me to creatively write on a schedule? Well, that’s a different animal indeed.

Writing creatively, on a schedule, is like asking a painter to have their masterpiece done by Tuesday. And, by the way, they have to paint on Wednesday from 6:00 am to noon and Friday 5:00 pm to midnight. Final touch-ups have to happen on Sunday, leaving Monday to let it dry. Really?

Creativity doesn’t happen on a schedule. It is more like a flow of energy that comes in waves and currents like the rapids and eddies along a river. It trickles through pebbles during dry spells and when the rains come it turns into a raging force that can’t be stopped just because it’s not on the schedule.

No. I won’t be making a writing schedule for 2018, but I do have some deadlines I want to keep. The Manx is long overdue for completion, and I have too many other projects zinging around in my head that are dying to get onto paper. So, my plan is to get The Manx finished, submitted, and published, without a schedule (dare I say this?) by the close of 2018.

BAM!

 

Many thanks to the Insecure Writers Support Group for their continued inspiration and support. You all keep me writing!!

Another thank you to our wonderful co-hosts for the January 3 posting of the IWSG who are Tyrean Martinson, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Megan Morgan, Jennifer Lane, and Rachna Chhabria!

It’s Almost Over, Saying Goodbye to 2017

What many people may not realize about being a writer is that it can be nerve wracking. We writers pour our hearts and souls into what we do, and if there is a single misspelled word we feel failure. It is not an easy job, but one that we all feel crazily compelled to do. We can be an insecure bunch of people, but we are not in it alone.

I am a member of The Insecure Writers Support Group, and every month we are given a question that we can answer in our IWSG post. These questions may prompt us to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. This month, the last in a very long year, our question is:

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

The only thing I would do differently is to wrap my entire family in bubble wrap. Without going into detail, let me just say that seeing the inside of nine emergency rooms in twelve months is more than anyone should have to go through. (No one died this year, so there’s that). To say the least, this put a huge crimp on my writing progress. Getting a story out has been the last thing on my to-do list.

It wasn’t all bad though. I did manage to complete a couple of short stories, several blog posts, and I wrote everyday for NaNoWriMo. My debut novel, The Manx, is shaping up with characters that are living and breathing entities in a brilliant world. I also attended two writing conferences (PPWC and RMFW) where I reconnected with writers across the country and re-energized my creative battery. I also had the pleasure to meet one of my favorite authors, Diane Gabaldon.

At book signing during RMFW2017

My advice to anyone who is in the thick of life’s challenges? Get through it anyway you can. Writing does not have to be at the top of your to-do list, but sometimes it should surface to the top just so you can have a few moments of sanity. It is okay to let the words fall by the side of the road while you are trying to maintain a straight direction with four flat tires.

Say goodbye to 2017 because 2018 will be a better year. It has to be.

Thanks to our awesome co-hosts for the December 6 posting of the IWSG, Julie Flanders, Shannon Lawrence, Fundy Blue, and Heather Gardner!

NaNoWriMo – 2017

It is that time of the month again where I join with other writers to discuss the “dark side” of being a writer. Actually, that might be a bit of a strong term, but it will do for now. On the first Wednesday of every month Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) posts one or two subject questions so we can talk about our doubts and the fears that we have conquered as writers. We can discuss our struggles and triumphs then offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling with their own writing.

This month’s question:

  • Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

Let me explain NaNo for the readers who are not familiar. The full term is NaNoWriMo which is short for National Novel Writing Month. During November of every year, writers around the globe sit down to write a novel in thirty days. Sound easy? NOT! The goal is to crank out 50,000 words in a mere thirty days, and if you want one day a week off you have to manage 2,000 everyday of the month. It is, to say the least, an insane challenge.

On to the questions. Do I finish NaNo? I have only participated once before and it kicked my butt out the door by day 10. November is just plain HARD. It is a month when my job intensifies and life just pulls in too many directions. I am trying again this year so I’ll let you know the results. Needless to say, nothing has been published ——

YET.

Thanks to the awesome co-hosts for the November 1 posting of the IWSG, Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ Fifield, and Rebecca Douglass!

Pop’s Story

I recently completed editing my great grandfather’s autobiographical manuscript about his life as a railroad man in the early 1900’s.  It was inspirational to read his words and be a part of something he started to write so long ago. He wrote everything in longhand and, in turn, my great aunt would put the words to the typewriter. Correspondence was by snail mail so each leg of the writing was done over weeks and months rather than the minutes we enjoy in today’s electronic world. There was no spell check, just a dictionary. Errors were erased and retyped, or the page was just pulled out of the typewriter and thrown away.

Research, and his manuscript, have taught me a lot about the railroad business of the early 1900’s. It was a mix of brutality and joy with a little despair mixed in. Grand-“Pop” was a civil engineer who found the lay of the land and supervised the workers to lay the track, and with this unique perspective he wrote about events that happened nearly a hundred twenty years ago. He loved this work that it took him through hostile lands both here and abroad.  He fought swamps and deserts, along with rebels and farmers.  He went so far as to be a founding father of a small town just so a railroad station could be built there. He had moxie.

I am working on my own novel based on some of his stories. I find it challenging to try and put words into his mouth for fear of painting him with the wrong palette. Even after reading and transcribing his memoir, I still worry. To put words in his mouth brings him back down to the human plane when, to me, he is larger than life. I ask myself if he would say something like what I’m writing? How would he look at his men after they berated a Chinese laborer? What did he actually say to them? What would he be thinking as he lay nearly frozen to death in the north woods? How did he get across the muskeg, on foot, so many times?

My great grandfather passed away in the late 40’s. To know him and what he might say is lost to time. I hope that the character I have created for him lives up to him at least a little bit. Only when I join him in the afterlife will I know who he really was. So, until then my imaginings will have to do.