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7 Tips On Writing Great Book Reviews

I’m a book lover and I leave book reviews all of the time on lots of different platforms. I like to promote the books I love, so I share them on social media etc.

I read all kinds of books, not just books in the genres I write in, I also read a lot of books by independent authors. Some are fantastic and some not so fantastic.

The important thing here is that all the books I read deserve honest, non-biased, and creative reviews.

Lately I’ve been feeling like the book reviews I’ve left are too short and don’t express what they should.

I’m not just after leaving long detailed reviews, I think that’s boring. I want my reviews to be awesome!

One of my goals for this year is to write great book reviews and start sharing them on my blog. So I went in search of information on how to get it right.

This list might seem basic and obvious but there’s more to it than just bullet-points. There’s some good advice here if you’re interested. Here’s what I’ve learned…

The 7 Stages of Writing a Great Book Review

  1. Develop an assessment of the book before you start your review.
  2. Remember that creativity is important.
  3. Introduce the book.
  4. Outline its theme and plot.
  5. Highlight parts of the book.
  6. Give a detailed, but brief, evaluation.
  7. Give your closing statement.

Assess What You’ve Read

Obviously a review isn’t just summarizing the content of a book. If you want to get better at writing reviews, like I do, then it’s time to start taking some notes while you read.

You’ll want to note important aspects of the book and ideas or thoughts you have as you read. If you’re not taking notes, chances are you won’t remember most of those things and you’ll be missing out on some awesome aspects people might appreciate.

Creativity Is Important

Writing a book review is above all a creative act, so focus as much attention on style as on substance. In fact, if your writing style is witty and charming, people are more likely to accept your opinions.

Introduce the Book

Begin with a brief summary of the book. This is probably the best way to introduce any review because it gives context. But make sure to not go into too much detail. Keep it short and sweet. Be sure to add a picture of the book cover for a blog or social media post.

  • What is the genre of the book?
  • What is the intended audience?
  • How does the book compare to other works of literature?

Outline the Theme and Plot

Your review should include critical aspects and an analysis of how they’ve been developed. Be sure not to give too much away though, no spoilers.

Break this down with character, world-building, themes, and plot. This might vary between books, and genres.

  • How does the book relate to our culture, or to the past? Does it teach anything?
  • Try make an argument about why the narrative is interesting or compelling.
  • Does the author convey a message, a worldview, an agenda?

Dedicate a paragraph to each of these important aspects, discussing how well the author dealt with it, along with what you enjoyed and what you didn’t enjoy.

Highlight Specific Parts of the Book

Giving a sneak peek into the book by highlighting specific parts is a great way to illustrate your review. Again, no spoilers please.

You can also include brief quotes as examples. This is a great idea, because it gives examples for everything that you’re saying! If your review talks about a character being particularly witty, a witty line from the character lets your readers see exactly what kind of witty character you’re dealing with here. Keep it short, lengthy quotes can take up too much space and overpower your review.

Evaluate What You’ve Read

Don’t just focus on outlining your opinions about the book. Instead try to develop an understanding of why you think it’s good or bad.  Don’t get into too many details. Just give a quick summary of your impression.

  • Do you find the author’s point of view beautiful, racist, scary, persuasive, etc.?
  • Think “pros and cons.” There are always both.
  • Don’t waste people’s time nitpicking over tiny details

It’s okay to mention what you didn’t like about a book, there’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, just don’t lean towards biased criticism. Mention the pros second. By mentioning the pros and cons of a book your readers can trust you’re leaving an honest review and the author might benefit from it as well.

CONS

Now is the time for details. Discuss the things that you felt could have been done better. Here are some ways to start your discussion:

  • I felt that the story was weak in the area of…
  • The story would have been better for me if…
  • I would have enjoyed the story more if…
  • I was disappointed/concerned by…

Why put the cons before the pros? Well, because I like leaving on a positive note, and people remember best what they read last. It seems kindest to the author to point out flaws, then follow up with compliments.

PROS

What did you really like about the story? What would make you recommend the story to others? Here are some ways to start your discussion:

  • The story was especially strong in the area of…
  • I especially enjoyed/appreciated…
  • I was captivated/riveted/excited when…
  • The biggest appeal for me was…

Be honest but also be respectful. Many authors do read your reviews of their books.

Closing Statement

Like your introduction, keep your conclusion short and sweet! It should bring up the main points of your review, along with your overall opinion of the book.

Wait, there’s more…

Don’t forget, if you’re sharing your book review on your blog or on social media, you should include a point of purchase link and a link to the authors website.

I think the hardest part of reviewing books this way will be mentioning the “cons” of  what I’ve read. It just seems mean. So I’ll have to put on my brave pants!

If you learn better from examples, I found the following article super helpful!

https://reedsy.com/discovery/blog/book-review-examples#

Please share any tips you have for how to write a book review in the comments.

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Have You Shared Your 2021 Writing Goals?

For those of you who know me from my other blog, you’ll know that I write A LOT of non-fiction, but none of you were aware that I write fiction too. SUPRISE!

What I’ve learned in the first week from some writer’s and authors I follow is that I should map out some goals for the year – tell the world – and plan accordingly.

I suppose this is the best way to get real with my writing and hold myself accountable.

So here we go…

1. Make Time to Write ALMOST Every Day

I know this is the obvious goal right? We writers all want to be steadfast and productive with our writing.

It’s really not that simple though when you have that full-time day-job, kids, husband/wife/significant other, chores, etc. And if you’re serious about your writing, you know that we all have similar complaints, but we have to push through it.

Carve out that necessary time. So here you go! Number One – if you’re a writer then write! (hoping for five days a week) wink!

2. Re-Outline My Book(s)

If you’ve seen my previous blog post you know that I’m rehashing an old story plot – breaking it down into three books.

I had this great story idea about four or so years ago – wrote this beautiful story outline, wrote about a third of what the book should be and then quit for various reasons.

Well now that I’m jumping back into it I can see that the story outline is just too huge, way too much to accomplish in just one book.

Breaking up this outline and still hitting all the “peaks and valley’s” is no easy task, so wish me luck. There will be a lot I can expand on though, so that will actually make for more entertaining reading in the end.

3. Blog at Least Twice a Week

I don’t think this will be too difficult, and I’d like to blog even more than twice a week. I still have to blog for my business though, so I’ll need some creative time management.

I do have some great ideas to write about for this blog and I’m excited to get started!

4. Build My Network

I want to take some serious time connecting to the people in my network.

I want to read their blogs and not be so shy about commenting.

Networking includes social media. I know all the how’s and whys of networking, I just need to break through my personal barriers and go for it.

I’m looking forward to meeting people I can learn from, be inspired by, and promote.

5. Do Regular Book Reviews

It’s not that I don’t leave reviews, because I do, I’m just not very skilled at it.

I have some research to do and some practice to commit to.

Feel free to recommend a book to me, or your own book!

And any advice you have on reviewing, I’d love that!

6. Keep Learning

There is always more to learn as a writer, I will always be in a stage of development.

I want to keep my mind open to learning.

What are your writing goals for the new year?

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My Current Writing Nightmare!

In my last post I told you that I’m rehashing an old story, cutting it into three books and replotting it. Still working on that by the way…

I started writing this years ago and quit – but we’ve already gone over that. What is shocking to find is how much my writing sucked. Seriously, it’s embarrassing.

I know the old rule about “write first edit later” and “the first draft always sucks” but WOW! I blew my own mind.

I just HAD to go back and read over what I’d written, which was quite a bit, and it was like nails on a chalkboard. See for yourself…

It was cooling down a bit and Cynthia put the camera down, satisfied with her shots, she went for her Ramen and slurped at the salty broth.

    “Can I see them now?” Penelope knew she sounded whiney and didn’t care.

    Victoria was looking hard at each photo and looking perplexed. And then all at once that look changed to frightened. Her eyes grew wide and she threw the photos to the end of her lawn chair. “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!” her voce barely a whisper. She pushed herself into the backrest to get even further away from them.

    Penelope was confused and wanted to see them all the more. “What? What’s wrong” She figured Vitoria was just playing a game but jumped from her sleeping bags in a hurry to get to the discarded pictures. Her feet hit the deck with a slap and she got to her knees to inspect them.

    Cinthia returned her bowl to the deck and began to shuffle through her own set of photos, silently wondering if there had been something wrong with the polaroid.

    Penelope leafed quickly through the shots and saw nothing at first glance. She looked to Victoria with a frown but saw that she remained frozen against the back of her chair. She looked back to the photos, squinting to see better, and then she saw it.

So so so so much telling… tell tell tell tell tell! Ugh!

Line after line of pointless explaining… boring myself to death with all the “I know you lack an imagination so let me spell it out for you” crap.

Time to face the music, I wasn’t very good at my craft when I first started this series. But hey, I’ve learned a lot if I’m noticing the screw ups, right?

What’s weird is the first few chapters read fine (there were other issues but we’ll get to them another time), and then BAM! I forgot how to write. WTH

I had to think back to why my style changed and there it was, NANOWRIMO!

If you don’t know, NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) is a nonprofit event held annually in the month of November that encourages writers to write their book in thirty days. Fun right?

It can be grueling work, forcing words onto paper when you’re just not feeling it. That’s what happened. I was forcing my story forward, dispassionately, following my plot. Thinking all the while “write first edit later.”

I’m still not to edit mode, so I have to just cringe and move forward.

Has this happened to you or is it just me?

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Rehashing an Old Story Plot

As an aspiring author and former illustrator for ACE Books in New York, I have always had a deep love of books and a profound respect for writers.

I freelance as a graphics designer and illustrator now and work mainly with indie authors. But I’m always drawn back to my love of writing.

I’m sure it sounds silly, but ever since I won a Young Authors Award in grade school I’ve been hooked. You know, that contest they have to get kids interested in books and creative writing, I just loved it!

I entered every year but only once had a great idea that got me a ticket to the Young Authors Conference. Nerd that I am, that was the highlight of my childhood. The magic of books. Meeting real-life published authors, I was totally inspired, and it stuck.

Today, like many, I’m a writer who dreams of being published. So, I’m putting aside the time to finally focus on my writing career.

I’ve written three works of fiction in my adult life and they ended up in the trash. I had a lot to learn and those manuscripts just proved it.

I had clung to them for years like Gollum to that ring… My Precious! All that work to write them, you know?

But then I started working with writers and writing about writing for my business blog and ouch, harsh reality, I sucked as a writer.

It felt like some horrible weight had lifted. I lit a fire in the fire pit and tossed them in. Goodbye, good riddance, on to the next.

My writing focused solely on my blog for my business for the next eight years – I wrote a bit of fiction, did some serious story plotting. I’d get a few chapters in and realize I still didn’t have what it took.

I had great ideas, but I hadn’t found my voice yet, so business blogging it was!

Over the years I’ve learned a ton about writing and written a ton about what I’ve learned. Somewhere in that process I’ve found my voice! Miracle of miracles!

So here I go again! Happy New Year!

I decided to pick up where I left off writing a paranormal fantasy that I set aside years ago.

Have you ever done that?

Have you picked up an old story idea, decided it wasn’t half bad, and started hashing out the details?

Boy did I have a lot of details already! All that learning about plotting paid off, lol!

I’d stopped writing, not so much because my voice hadn’t yet developed, but because my plot structure felt like trying to force an apple to be just like an orange. Two major story lines that maybe shouldn’t be merged, or couldn’t be merged.

But now looking at the old plot I can see that my issue was really just trying to cram way too much story into too few pages. My story idea was a big one, but a good one.

It’s got legs! I hope, lol!

That’s where I’m at this morning. I’m tearing my plot apart, turning three acts into three books! Now I’ll have some room to make some magic happen if all goes according to plan.

Wish me luck my friends! Your encouragement and advice are welcome!

Who Do You Write For?

Legends of Windemere

Yahoo Image Search

This is a question that I ask a lot and see many people answering without hesitation.  At least it appears that way.  It’s hard to figure out for myself.  There’s always multiple factors that I think about.  The list can include:

  • Publish or Not
  • Career or Hobby
  • My sense of self-worth as an author
  • How other books are doing
  • Support of others when idea is presented
  • Can I maintain interest in the story
  • My main genre or experimental

All of this will help determine if I’m writing for myself or others.  Even then, I can never answer the question perfectly.  Maybe I’m in the middle?  As much as I write for myself, I truly want others to enjoy my stories.  I’ve said for a while that I wish I could get enough author success that it pays the bills and allows me to be a full-timer.  That…

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