I started reviewing books long before I started my blog and they started as an exercise in analyzing books to improve my writing. Boy did that help! The difference over just a year in my writing is amazing! This is all thanks to my hubby, Marc. He suggested it.
For awhile my reviews were just of things I checked out from the library, which were all traditionally published books. The first few, I did as a long English-class type book report. That got old fast. After that I started an easy and kind of fun review on my phone. I texted my email with a concise and meaningful few sentences that comprised my review. Some of these are on Goodreads, expanded a little to remove my personal code for some common things.
For you, I do a longer review and a deeper analysis of what I’m reading. I focus on:
- What I really liked about the book
- What I thought didn’t work, described with kindness
- What your themes are and whether they came through or not
- Some of the character highlights
The things I learn:
I learn a whole lot about you! What you write, though it may be fiction, is coming out of your heart and imagination. (This was one of my fears when first publishing, because it is a huge leap of faith to give the general public a piece of my brain!)
I learn about what I like to read and what doesn’t work for me. My “Never Do” list and my Quotes came from reading library books and taking notes on things that I liked and things I did. Most of them were there and I see them everywhere.
I learn about the universal themes that grip you as a writer. They are everywhere. Betrayal, forgiveness, loss, loneliness, these are just a few. I can then transfer my favorites to my own writing. Your writing also shows what is best and worst to you. Sometimes I agree and sometimes I don’t, but it all affects how I shape my own beliefs. If I don’t agree with you, it forces me to figure out why. If I agree, I see your perspective on the issue.
I learn how your mistakes look in my writing. I make many many many of the same mistakes and seeing them in another’s work is like seeing in a mirror. This is one of the best ways your writing improves mine.
I learn the way someone else writes the same thing I am writing about. Talking to some writer friends, we agree that, given the exact same story idea, we will all write a completely different tale. My story of a Vampire Chick will be similar but also radically different from yours. Even formula books will be completely different. Nobody writes like you, or me! Doesn’t that make you feel special?
That isn’t all either, but how long are you really going to spend reading my post?
If you are writing, you should be reading. If you are reading, you should be analyzing the reading in some way, whether through conversation or reviews. If you aren’t you are missing out on a treasure trove of learning about your own writing craft.
Agreed. Reading others help you to become a better writer for sure.
I hope you don’t mind if I steal your way of critiquing. I’m reading drafts for people and I’m awful at figuring out what to say as I offer feedback.