The Value of Reading Reviews

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Last week, I wrote about the value in writing reviews. This week, I’d like to focus on the value of reading reviews.

The obvious benefit is that we get the opinions of others who have bought a specific product, read a certain book, and so on.

But for writers, there is an added benefit. 

Reviews can help us do a better job of writing in the future. 

As we contemplate the reactions/opinions of those who have read those books/articles/blogs, we can use that information to ask ourselves how we can improve our craft, especially if multiple sources mention the same things.

Instead of being defensive, we need to take a deep breath and see what value we can take away from the entire “review” experience. 

More than just a “LIKE,” certain number of “STARS” or “HAPPY FACES,” honest  reviews just may be the key to writing that next great novel.

 

Writing Reviews

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I am part of a writing group that is currently compiling an anthology of short stories. 

Never having written one before, I thought it would be a difficult task since the word count is so low. 

How would I ever tell a complete story in such a few words?

However, it turned out to be fairly easy and this is why I believe it was the case:

I read A LOT and, as an author, I know the importance of book reviews. So, I faithfully write a one for each book I read. 

Writing book and/or product reviews can be an effective way to help authors, sellers and fellow consumers. It’s also an excellent way to hone our own writing skills.

Even though our first objective in writing reviews is to help others, I recently realized how much practice it is giving me as an author.

When there is a word limit, I must write concisely and offer examples—all within the confines of a text box.

I am challenged to use humor, creative skills, and colorful vocabulary.

Every word must have a purpose. And, collectively, they must draw interest. 

Do you write book and/or product reviews? Do you feel it has helped you sharpen your writing skills?

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

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I worked hard all day. So, why, at 5 p.m. did I feel like such a failure?

It actually didn’t take me very long to come up with the answer.

My father’s words echoed through my brain: “…never bite off more than you can chew.”

Whereas I usually can write and polish four to five scenes, today I pushed myself to write an entire chapter. I had gone for length, pushed past a comfortable pace, and ended my day frustrated because the quality I expected from myself just wasn’t there.

Each of us come to know what we are capable of (many of you can easily write a chapter or more) and when we push ourselves past it, we end up feeling defeated.

I guess I just wanted to see if I could do it.

I learned a lesson.

Everyone has their limits.

Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t as prolific as others you know. If you’re like me, remind yourself that, like the turtle, “slow and steady wins the race.”

If you’re capable of writing more, go for it. You’ll write two or three books to my one.

But if we keep at it, we’ll both cross the finish line. 

D.I.Y. for Writers

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For the past five years, the subject matter for my blogs has come from my own “need-to-know” at the time.

When I required information on “show, don’t tell” I shared what I discovered.

The same with point-of-view, internal thoughts, conversation, verb choice, book cover creation, and so on.

They say you learn best by teaching someone else. So, don’t forget to share what you learn with your fellow writers.

You can find my previously-written blogs on all kinds of subjects by going to www.brendapoulosauthor.org and selecting ARCHIVES. 

Some blog posts are more technical. Others are meant for encouragement. I hope you find something helpful by scrolling through the listings.

Just a little tidbit of information today for those of you self-publishing. 

I have always had my covers designed and have also paid for formatting on the Kindle and paperback. However, as I loaded my latest book, Tug of War, onto the Amazon site last week, I noticed that there is both a formatting tool and a Cover Creator that are absolutely FREE. 

If you are comfortable on the computer and have the time to devote to doing these two aspects of publishing yourself, it is a great way to save money. I have writer friends that have turned out some really great looking books.

Happy Writing!

Brenda

 

Linking

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NETWORKING. LINKING. MAKING CONNECTIONS.

That’s the name of the game.

Five years ago, I was told I needed to blog. 

Give content. Encourage.

I got in the habit of writing once a week on each of my websites, www.brendapoulosauthor.org and www.spiritualsnippets.com

That is a lot of writing. I learned to get as much “mileage” as I could from everything I wrote.

One simple way was linking my websites with Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Every time I write on one of my blogs, the content automatically goes to these three other social media avenues.

All I had to do was set and forget.

Authors have more and more to think about nowadays. As many things as we can set up like this, the easier we make it on ourselves.

That means more time for doing what we love—

Writing!

Tug of War

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My fifth novel, Tug of War, just hit Amazon yesterday. It’s the third book in a series of four.

But, before it got to that point, I visualized it in my hands. I saw the cover, I turned its pages—even before I wrote the first word—and then I got to work.

Months of writing. Working with a critique group and beta readers. Editing. Rewriting. Cover design. Formatting.

Yes, a lot of work. And when the writing was difficult and things took a lot longer than expected, I always thought back to that moment when my book was nothing more than a concept. An idea. A dream.

I remembered what it felt like to hold the fruits of my labor in my hands…

The smoothness of its cover, the smell of new print, the weight of its pages, my name in bold type—all of these reminded me that it would be worth it.

And, it is.

Writers and the Pandemic

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Recently, many people who have been laid off or are out of work, have learned to work from home. 

Most often, I hear stories about the challenges of scheduling uninterrupted time so the day’s work can be accomplished.  

For years, we writers have dealt with that problem—and many others: Back/neck pain, snacking/overeating, lack of exercise, trouble focusing, reduced income, sleep deprivation, family issues, lowered self-esteem due to unproductiveness and social isolation. 

So, fellow authors, our professional lives really haven’t changed too drastically. 

Low self-esteem can be the worst result. Especially if we tie our self-worth to our success as authors.

We need to write because that gives us pleasure or because we have a message we want to share. And that has to be enough.

If money and fame are the reason for doing anything, we are just setting ourselves up for hurt and disappointment.

But, here are things we can do, right now, that have lasting effects–new ways of helping others in the midst of our world crisis:

Write stories about disasters, memoirs, the triumphant human spirit. Craft devotionals, idea books for parents, songs and games for children. The list is endless.

We can use the creativity we possess as writers to encourage and inspire our readers.

What has the pandemic taught you about yourself? About others? How has it changed your life? Has it altered your thinking…your priorities…your faith…your writing?

 

Are You a Logophile?

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In the novel I am currently reading, a teenager tells his grandmother she is phat. She is offended.

Like myself, she didn’t know that phat is slang for cool (also slang).

My grandson uses epic in his speech. Another word that is fairly new in our vocabulary.

Just recently, flatten the curve and social distancing have come onto the scene. Only weeks ago, they had no meaning.

As writers, we need to keep current on new additions to vocabulary and use them in our writing when appropriate. 

The vocabulary we use is a subtle reminder to our readers just what time period we are writing about. It must be consistent with the setting and characters.

It would be ridiculous for an old western cowpoke to exclaim that a cattle drive was epic; or for a young girl living in this current decade to say that a boy she thinks is handsome is the bee’s knees.

Did you know there are an average of one thousand new words added to the dictionary each year?

Are you a logophile (word lover)?

How do you keep up on the current trends in vocabulary? 

Writing’s “New Normal”

 

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In this unprecedented time, there have been a lot of suggestions on newscasts as to how we can keep our emotional health in tact by sticking to a schedule of work/play at home.

Our writing time is no different.

Keeping to our normal routine as much as possible will do wonders for our outlook, as well as keeping our skills honed.

On the other side of things, we can improve our skills by spending some of our “free” time reading, doing research for our stories, and taking online writing classes.

So, I guess the name of the game is to improve what we can, while at the same time making sure to keep essential skills in place.

Finally, connect with author friends and others on the internet who are writing as well. It’s a great time for sharing ideas! Using Google Docs, Zoom, and other popular programs will still allow your groups to function until things get back to “normal.”

Our Writing Should Reflect What Is In Our Hearts

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Your writing may look different lately.

You may not be working on that article or novel.

Instead, you may be sending cards of cheer. Notes of encouragement to friends and loved ones.

That’s good. Because our writing should reflect what is in our hearts. I’m guessing most are turned toward love, empathy, and compassion at times like these. 

Completing that book or writing those reviews may not be what is priority right now.

Let your heart and soul direct you to look beyond yourself and your circumstances. Let your writing speak to the needs of others. 

As authors, our words have the power to move, exhilarate, spread compassion.

Our words travel via the internet, telephone lines, and Hallmark cards. 

Whatever the vehicle, communication of how much we care is the key.

I wish you health, safety, and the knowledge that God is in control.

He loves and cares about us infinitely more than is possible for us to comprehend.