I’ve had a small unused underdeveloped blog for seven months now, but in the last two months I decided to get serious about it. I started making regular posts once a week yet I still wasn’t satisfied. In an effort to build a following and help fellow authors I started reviewing books. When I first started I really thought I lost my mind. What did I know about reviewing books? I was no one special, I was only having mild success as an author myself. Then I received a few requests, read a few books, and posted a few reviews. It turns out I wasn’t so clueless after all.
Lately I have had to email several authors with harsh critique on their work and I always feel like the bad guy, even though I’m really just trying to help. Honestly I wish some of my review requests would come back with a reason why I was rejected instead of staring at an empty inbox. In that same spirit I want to share some of the same advice I’ve been piece-mealing out. I hope by sharing it here on Sue’s blog I could reach more authors than if I posted it on mine.
First please start by reading what the reviewer wants to read so you aren’t wasting everyone’s time. Usually if they give a specific list and state they are open to other things they probably won’t veer too far from that area. Next please send a proper request. It gets tiresome to open my inbox and read “Please read my book Titled,” without any description and sometimes without a genre. This isn’t the case for a tweet but definitely when emailing. Include links for your work as well. In this modern age make things easy for your reviewer. If you don’t someone else will. If you want your book read you do the work not the other way around.
When I first started reviewing books I never thought I would be as picky as I am. Somehow certain things just bug me. Still I read other reviewer’s sites and dread hitting the submit button for my own novel. The whole time I pray that my work will stand up to their rigorous standards. So what do I and most reviewers look for when we read a book?
Grammatical errors, spelling, typos, word usage, all the typical skills a writer should have. I am not particular when it comes to commas because we have a love hate relationship. Otherwise I have two of my own pet peeves. First and foremost are “To Be” verbs. In case you aren’t sure what I’m referring to here is a list: be, am, is, are, was, were, been, being. They are over used and are a crutch for writers with poor vocabulary. They also give a very passive voice to the story. There are cases where they are necessary and even useful, however they are highly over used. Read three paragraphs of your own work and count how many of these words you use. Then try cutting that number in half or even a fourth. The improvement in your writing will surprise you.
Next on the list of pet peeves: had. I’m not sure why so many writers have the urge to throw in that tiny extra word like it will make everything so much better. I read a novella then an excerpt for a book back to back and felt like the sight of another “had” would force me to poke out my eyes. At an alarming rate this seemingly harmless word is becoming another crutch for writers. There is no need to say “someone had told you…” when “someone told you…” will suffice. The past tense is already understood does not need repeating.
Otherwise as far as writing goes I look for typical problems like typos, word misusage, and misspellings. I do look deeper though into style and composition. Each author should have their own unique voice. It should come out in their writing and as a reader I should be able to hear it when I read. A novel should also have its own personal feel to it. I should be able to pick up any book in a series and know it’s part of it just by the writing style. The opposite is true as well I should not pick up two books and be unable to differentiate between them based on the overall tone of it.
I judge a book critically on plot. As I read of course I want to enjoy it, but I also ask myself several questions: Is it believable? Does it make sense? And Why? If I am asking why when reading a book that’s not a good sign for the star rating of the book. As an author do yourself a favor and ask those questions first. Be sure they have good answers when you are writing. Don’t be afraid to cut out the dead weight to make the good stuff shine.
Those same questions I just mentioned apply to dialogue as well. Think about your character and their background, education, age, sex, nationality etc. all of it affects their speech patterns. Does your dialogue reflect that? A male American doctor won’t have the same vocabulary or sentence structure as a female Australian mechanic. One would have proper sentence structure and grammar while the other would use more colloquialisms, less proper grammar and maybe even curse. Follow the characters’ conversation and ask does it make sense? If not fix it. And lastly why are they having that particular conversation. Is it that important that you need a word for word narrative or will a general synopsis do?
My final piece of advice is for all authors but especially those that self edit due to cost constraints. Read your work critically after you type it. Use my guidelines above if you want. Fix the errors you find then let it set for a week or so. Then read it again. You will be surprised by what you missed the first time. If you have to do it a third, fourth, or fifth time go for it. By the time I publish my novels they are read at least seven times. I still miss typos and other problems I wished I hadn’t. Once you are happy with your manuscript find a good beta reader. You do not want a family member to do this no matter how honest you think they will be. You want someone who did this before. You can find them on Goodreads and other indie author sites. Most of them do it for free because they love to read and want free books. Reading can be an expensive passion.
If all of us follow this advice we should have a plethora of four and five star novels.
Find and follow Rebecca
R. Tran is a first time author who started writing as therapy after losing her father at 16. Her first manuscript was finished 4 years later, but sat around for years gathering dust before she had the courage to let some one read it. Sixteen years and many revisions later what began as therapy is now a published novel.
Twenty years after her father’s death she has a husband, two children, and a dog he never met.
R. Tran has three published works that have each won an award. Her blog offers book reviews, short stories, writing advice and bonus content from her work and other authors’.
She is currently writing a short story that will be featured in Hallowerotica 2017 telling the life of Nisha Patel from For Their Sins. Her third book in the Chronicles of the Coranydas series has a tentative release date of February 2018.
Books by R. Tran
Click the links or images to go to Amazon
Alexandria Diego never wanted to be special. She was content to lay in bed with her lover forever. One decision will change everything. Suddenly, Alexandria is launched into a life of infamy, which carries a heavy burden that only she can bear. When a vicious war between her people, the Venandi, and their rivals, the Mordere, breaks out it forces Alexandria to change her tactics and be more cautious. But, when her love is captured by the enemy, Alexandria risks everything to get him back.
(Chronicles of the Coranydas Book 1)
After her father was murdered before her eyes, Mara Coranyda traded a life of privilege, for one devoted to vengeance. Shortly into her quest to find the mage that murdered him, Mara discovered it wouldn’t be an easy task to accomplish. Not only would she have to find the magical artifacts to destroy him, but she would also have to raise an army to stop his conquest of her homelands.
(Chronicles of the Coranydas Book 2)
All looks bleak when Mara is forced to return home after her love’s brush with death. She only has one magical artifact and the army seems out of reach. The consequences should she fail or even succeed finally set in and Mara has doubts about everything. There will be a war of blades and magic with Mara at the center, but Mara wonders if she has the strength to survive.