Thanks so much to Laurel for letting me take over her blog today! If you’re a reader, you probably have your favorite book reviewer blogs, and if you’re a writer, I’m sure you frequent all the great writing blogs for craft tips and techniques, as well as publishing insight. Since most writers are readers, you probably have a combination of the two types, or maybe even blog about them both like I do.
But today I want to single out the book reviewer blogs, and how you can improve your own craft by reading their every post. I know there are a lot out there, and I try to visit as many as I can, but one blog in particular holds the top rank for my visits. If you’re a writer who doesn’t visit it frequently, you should.
Steph Su Reads is one of those voracious readers who has such a keen reader’s eye, and is so knowledgeable, that she’s hard to impress (one of the pitfalls of being exposed to so much great work).What I like best is the fact she’s not a writer—she simply reads books for what they are without that writer critique eye, but with a seasoned reader’s appreciation for good literature. She reads mostly YA, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t write YA, you cans still gain a benefit from reading her reviews.
My favorite posts of hers are the negative reviews. She’s never crass or distasteful, but she breaks down exactly what’s not working. The other day she reviewed a book she didn’t love, and as usual, I devoured it for everything it was worth.
As I do with all her negative reviews, I copied down what it was about the story that DIDN’T work, into my handy dandy word doc for writerly things to remember, entitled, "The Usual Suspects." These are words of wisdom I’ve copied down from various writers, agents, editors, etc. Things I need to check for whenever I think my manuscript is ready. By reading all Steph’s negative reviews and having what didn’t work in the back of my mind, it helps me breathe real life into my story and characters while tweaking my story.
Here’s what Steph Su said recently that stood out for me:
“The fact is that the author did not succeed in making her characters come alive with personality quirks and turns of phrase and all those things that make a person unique.”
Now most writers have heard or read something to this effect before, but paired with the complete review of why that particular story didn’t reach out and pull her in, those specific words sunk into my skin. I thought, “Am I doing this with my story? Have I made my characters come alive?”
Steph’s review of this book was not all negative. She goes into detail on what works and what doesn’t, which is why her reviews are so valuable, but the fact was, it was this sole neglect from the author that did not win Steph over. Therefore the story failed.
Ever since I started reading Steph’s blog, I decided that if I can one day earn a positive review from her, then I know I’ve become a good writer. That day remains to be seen, but it’s a goal worthy of obtaining. When I think my story is ready to submit, I ask myself, “If Steph read this right now, what would her review be like?”
If you’re a writer who doesn’t already have a strong book reviewer you read regularly, find one, and make it a point to apply what they say to your own work. I highly recommend visiting Steph Su Reads and scrolling through her review posts—especially the negative ones. She’s never rude, but always honest. You know when she says something is good, it’s really good.
About PK Hrezo: My last name is Czech in origin and pronounced with the H silent. I'm a wife of a firefighter, mom of two and international airline agent. In between all that, I write stuff. Fiction mostly. I'm repped by Jordy Albert of The Booker Albert Agency. I've always wanted to go on a cruise where everyone has to wear roller skates and listen to James Brown. You can stalk me at my blog (pk-hrezo.blogspot.com) or on Twitter (@pkhrezo).
How about you? Is there a book review blog you fancy? Share it in the comments and tell me why. Are you familiar with Steph Su Reads? What do you like or dislike? How have you learned from any book blogger’s negative or positive reviews?