READING, ‘RITING, and REVIEWING
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” –Stephen King
Read widely and often. Don’t limit your reading to your favorite genre. Step out of your comfort zone now and then to read something you wouldn’t ordinarily pick up. I once was asked to evaluate a vampire book. When I finally agreed, I found the book fascinating—the father-daughter relationship was unusual and skillfully crafted, the plot was gripping, and the author kept me reading to find out how it would end. Does that mean I now read vampire novels? No, but reading that one did broaden my horizons.
Reading for entertainment is…well, entertaining. However, even if all you intend to write is fiction, don’t limit yourself to novels. Reading widely means you also look for reading material about things that interest you, like writing. Stephen King’s book On Writing, quoted above, is a great one for your “Want to Read” list. You can learn a lot about the craft of writing by reading what other people have to say. Don’t limit yourself to books either. Include magazines, articles, and blogs. Oops, I don’t have to tell you that, you’re reading my blog. (Thank you.)
Yes, we can take liberties with language in our writing. We do it all the time, expecially in dialogue or in narration with close point of view. (If you don’t know what that means, you need to learn more about the craft of writing.)
My grandson, who had the pleasure of singing in Carnegie Hall with a select group of young people from across the United States, has a sweatshirt that says “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” on the front and “Practice, practice, practice” on the back. The same goes for writing. The more you write, the more you learn about writing. This is expecially true if you share your work with other writers. If possible, get feedback on your work as you write.
Once you finish you masterpiece, and all your friends and relatives tell you how wonderful it is, send it to a good editor. I’ve learned things about writing from editors pointing out the problems with my own work that I could never have learned by reading guidelines or how-to books.
Why is this on the list? Because reviewing a book makes you take a closer look at it. That means looking at the writing. A good review goes beyond “I’d definitely recommend this book.” A good review talks about character development, plot twists, flow of the action, the sound of the words, or whatever it is that drew you deeper into the book once you started reading. You learn about writing by writing reviews. They don’t have to be long; they don’t have to summarize the plot. Just back up your stars with reasons.
Another reason to review what you read is that authors, particularly the unknown or relatively obscure authors live or die by reviews. If you like a book, don’t keep it a secret. Let the author know. A good review can lift an author’s spirit and sustain him or her for days or weeks of sweating over a cold keyboard.
These are a couple of book review blogs that I think give excellent examples of reviews. I often visit review blogs when I’m looking for something interesting and sometimes off-beat to read in my very precious spare time: http://lenoragood.blogspot.com and http://www.richardbunningbooksandreviews.com
Want another reason to write reviews? It’s a great way to connect with authors, people who know the value of reviews—something you will really treasure when your own book hits the internet.
Question: Have you ever read a book and wanted to thank the author? Share your favorites with us.
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