‘”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’s ‘7 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 online 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.
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 be 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.