Thursday, October 6, 2011

Another Way to Improve Your Writing – Book Reviews

Writer's read a lot, or at least we should, and we should read critically. But how many of us do this? Part of reading is escapism. When we want to relax we sit down with a book and lose ourselves in the other world. This is great, but does it improve our writing?

During the past year, I have been doing book reviews for several publishers, and it has changed the way I read. Now I'm looking for how the writer opens the novel. Does it grab me, or do I have to fight my way through the first fifty pages? Is there too much, or too little dialog? Does the author use description to enhance the story, or does she get lost in the beauty of her own words? When you really think about these things and critically evaluate them in someone else's work, it makes you more aware of what you're doing in your own writing.

Another advantage of doing book reviews is that you have to write down what you've observed. For me this is a critical step. If I write it down, I have to think about it. I have to make sure my views make sense and that they're fair to the other author. It adds another step to thinking critically about writing, and when I've written it down, I remember it.

You don't have to go into book reviewing as a career. I have to admit that sometimes it becomes a bit hectic keeping up with all the books, but you can review books in your personal library, review books for friends, or review books you buy. I think you'll be surprised at how much you gain from it.  


Martha said...

Great idea. I never thought about book reviewing that way. Thanks for the tip

Margaret Fieland said...


I just started doing book reviews, and I heartily second what you say. I now think about what I like and don't about the book: how integral was the conflict to the story, did it arise out of who the characters are, was the plot forced, how did the author handle setting, etc.
I wouldn't be reading this critically if I didn't have to produce the review -- I need that poke in the rear.

Nancy Famolari said...

Thanks for the second, Maggie. I do believe book reviews make us more thinking writers.

Martha, I hope you try it. I think you'll see what I mean!

Donna McDine said...

Book reviews are definitely a way of honing one's own writing skills. Great article!

Award-winning Children’s Author
Write What Inspires You Blog
The Golden Pathway Story book Blog
Donna M. McDine’s Website

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Nancy, I'm long advocated that authors use book reviews to network with other authors and with editors of review sites--at least since the first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter came out in 2004.

BTW, the 2nd edition does, too, with updated additions and great bonuses from the likes of Dan Poynter and Freyda from Bookbuzzr are available for those who order now:


Nancy Famolari said...

Donna, I agree book reviews are a great way of honing your skills. THey make you think!

Carolyn, I hope people buy the second edition. Mine is coming tomorrow. Definitely, reviews give you a network. I think it's a great way to get your name known!

Magdalena Ball said...

I totally agree with you Donna, and have often wondered why more writers don't do book reviews. Additional benefits include developing a platform as someone who knows about good writing, developing a following of readers (and what writer doesn't want that!), and of course free books (for the book addict like me, that's food).

Karen Cioffi said...

Great post, Nancy. I've been doing reviews for a while now, including Enslow and SylvanDell. They are an excellent way to hone your own writing and help authors out.

I have though slowed down a bit, it is time consuming!

Nancy Famolari said...

Good points, Maggie. The free books are great!

Karen, I know what you mean about being time consuming!

Thanks everyone for the good comments!

Indie Authors: 3 Tips to Make Model Books Work for You

The Dragonfly has been a symbol of happiness, new beginnings and change for many centuries.  The Dragonfly means hope, change, and love. You...