Friday, October 12, 2012

Read Book Reviews to Improve Your Writing Skills

By reading reviews, I don't mean just your own, although those can certainly be helpful. I suggest you go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christian Books, or any other good review site, and pick several books. Don't pick books that have several hundred one line reviews saying they loved it. You won't learn anything.

Pick books where there is a substantial spread in the rating. Both the five star reviews and the two star reviews for such a book can be helpful. I recently reviewed Fallen Masters by John Edward. The reviews ranged across the board. Some people loved it, primarily because the plot interested them. On the negative side, some people said there were too many characters, another was disturbed by the consistent use of POTUS for President of the United States. The book was very long and some people thought it dragged in the middle.

So what can you learn from reviews like this?

  • A strong plot can carry a book for many readers. This is particularly true if the characters are well drawn and interesting.
  • Long books, 400 to 500 pages, can turn readers off unless the action is consistent. Slow moving sections designed to present information turn readers off.
  • Unless handled very well, following more than one or two characters can be confusing. With too many characters, readers often go back and forth to remember what the character was doing several pages ago.
  • Use of unusual acronyms, particularly in capital letters, can stop the forward motion of the story. Some readers are so annoyed they give up reading.

Almost any series of reviews can be mined for ideas of what makes a book work readers. It helps if you've read the book, but if not, there's still plenty of food for thought.

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