Find your writing niche – and be comfortable with it

‘”Write book reviews,” they said. “It’s great for your development as a writer and will improve your visibility in the public sphere.”

They are not wrong. I agree with them.

But it’s not for me: I hate it. I would rather spend my time reading, learning, researching or writing—not putting my analysis of someone else’s writing into written words. I don’t know why. I do it mentally all the time. But I just can’t come at actually writing a review.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Am I cutting off my nose to spite my face? Time for a little research to find out.

The first question typed into Google: does a writer need to write book reviews? Result: numerous sites on how to write a book review.

Next question to the all-knowing search engine: how to become a successful writer. Some likely looking results here.

The first site in line was Steve Aedy’s7 Surefire Ways to Become a Successful Writer‘. As suggested, he gives seven ways that he believes will make help make you a successful writer. The closest he comes to suggesting book reviews is saying that you need an onlineFacebook page presence. I totally agree—hence my blog, my Facebook page, my Instagram, and Twitter. And I’ve managed until now without conventional book reviews being part of the content.

Jerry Jenkins was next with ‘How to Become an Author: Your Complete Guide‘. He is clear that you need to write smaller works before attempting a novel—but does not mention book reviews as being one of the necessities.

Time and again the information was similar—with no mention of the compulsory book review. So where did I get this notion that I needed to write book reviews? Certainly, no-one insisted that I do it. 

It was then I realised it was because I know a lot of writers who wrote book reviews. And they are more experienced than me—so it must be the right thing to do. So I started researching the best way to do it and I could see all the advantages in analysing the writing of another as a learning tool: what’s good, what’s not so good, advising people whether or not to read it.

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Image by SamWilliamsPhoto from Pixabay

And that’s where I start to fall over—advising people whether or not to read it. I just can’t do it. I don’t see myself as objective enough. I like stuff that others don’t and visa versa and sometimes I don’t know why.

More importantly, I find that if I am too busy worrying about how I am going to review something—trying to work out what other people want to know about the book—I find I actually miss information that is important for me. Which is why I was reading the book in the first place.

Take for example the first book I tried to review: Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. I started reading it as a reviewer and, to beSelf editing honest, I didn’t like it much. Once I decided that I didn’t want to do the review, I started reading it again just for me. And I’ve gained a lot of insight into my own Work in Progress (WiP). So much so that rather than rewriting it in the first person, I’m going back to the third person narrative and heavily editing. From the beginning. I would not have had either this moment of clarity or regained excitement for my WiP.

My intention here is not to bore you with my self-analysis. What I wanted to do was affirm for you that you don’t need to follow someone else’s literary path. You have to find your writing niche—and be comfortable with it.

Cheers

Kerry

13 thoughts on “Find your writing niche – and be comfortable with it

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  1. Yeah, I just wrote on Raimey’s post this month about the notion that goes around saying you must be a great reader in order to write. That’s another one of those strange old cliche’s that everyone has just taken on. It’s not true. Being a great reader will make you a great reader, but there’s no guarantee it will make you a great writer. I think the same is true with the book review concept. You are so right. I’ve heard that too and I have no interest in critiquing other people’s work so people can decide to read it or not. Plus, I believe one minute we may not love a book and then, something happens and it makes sense. For me — in college I hated with a passion Shakespeare. I had to take three semesters of it and just hated it because i just didn’t grasp it. Now? I’m reading sonnets during quarantine and enjoying it. Now it makes sense to me… Fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know what I really love? The discussions that I can have with other writers about all types of things – and, on the whole, without judgement. I find for myself that the more I read, the more I write. I’ve also found that listening to books is just as rewarding for me as reading them. But I agree that being a good reader doesn’t make you a good writer. My Dad read more than any person I’ve known in my entire life but he had no interest in writing whatsoever. And that absence of passion for writing would have held him back for sure.

      Thanks for your thoughtful feedback.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The reason I’ve heard that authors should review books is more about supporting authors, because rating and reviewing books on Amazon and Goodreads and anywhere else I think edges those authors up in the respective algorithm rankings. I don’t ever want to write extensive book reviews, because I’m terrible at it, but I’m gaining confidence with writing quick 100-ish word reviews on Litsy and Goodreads. I love how you researched this so methodically and dug into the logic of what you were told.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Raimey. I totally agree about how good it is for the author to get a review for all the reasons you mentioned. I’m hoping that at some stage it is something I can do. At the moment, I’m probably worse than awful. I think I try to be too detailed rather than general. I might start with little ones on Amazon and Goodreads and work up to the longer ones.

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  3. Great post 🙂
    I’ve stalled on reviewing because I can’t decide if I should review as a reader or a writer/editor. Some books are technically excellent, but they weren’t for me as a reader. I’m horribly stuck deciding what a review should be, but I hadn’t considered reviewing may not be for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great point! I write reviews pretty regularly just because I enjoy doing it (I used to be an English major, so I have to like analyzing writing at least a bit!), and I’ve definitely heard the advice before that to become a better writer you should write reviews. But, like you, I don’t really agree with that! In my view, sure, yes, writing a lot can help you improve your works and be more comfortable/confident in writing, but ultimately if you’re trying to become a fiction writer and you’re writing non-fiction all the time, it may not end up giving you the boost all that advice leads you to think it will.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank goodness there are people like you to do reviews! They are valuable for writers of all genres. But you hit the nail on the head: I seem to write more non-fiction than the fiction I want to write as it is, without adding reviews at this stage. Maybe later …

      Liked by 2 people

  5. My reviews are all about what I got out of the book — the good and the bad. If people want to know more, they can read other reviews — or read the book themselves 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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