“WHY SHOULD I READ BOOK REVIEWS?” A client asked me this recently. Let me count the reasons, for there are many, starting with the simplest and most direct of them – and let’s hope that written here it sounds slightly kinder than it probably sounded via telephone earlier this week.
- Writing well begins with reading well and good reviewers write well.
- Reviews point out mistakes writers make that you do not want to make.
- They mention wildly wonderful, intuitive, brave things writers do.
- Reviews indicate what publishers think is marketable right now.
- They remind you that books are about something – never about you, never about the plot – that is, if you want anyone to read them.
Let me be a little more specific, though: Read book reviews from reputable newspapers, online sites and public radio blogs. The ones on Amazon do not count, nor do most reviews on small, personal blogs, simply for the fact that there is no editor to impose accuracy or fairness control.
With those five rules in mind, read this recent review from The New York Times and see what you can add to this list of good solid writing advice I located by simply reading the review.
- Take notes on your own life (3rd graph, how the author gets the book title).
- Write about your mistakes ( 4th graph, the Peter Pan costume).
- Vivid scenes (5th graph, stilettos at graduation).
- Overexpositional dialogue is always a bad idea (6th graph).
- Humor is always welcome (7th graph, Payne Whitney. Oh my).
- The last line. Read it. Embroider it on something. Sleep on that thing. Always.