Monday, May 23, 2016

Giving Book Club Book Reviews

Book Reviews
Questions to Answer
Many writers know a writing group or a book club can help them improve.  Some join existing clubs, others create their own.  But what do they a great deal of really good ones have in common?

The writers involved look over each other's manuscripts, analyze and comment, and review what has been mentioned on their own.

This is one of the lists I always give to my own book club members.  For beginning writers, this is invaluable.  With it, you can begin to learn to look at a manuscript the way an editor does.  When you are ready to edit your own (or another's) work, crack open a notebook and answer these questions.
  1. Description or Blurb - Clarity, conciseness, consistent voice, level of tone / diction / syntax, grammar, intrigue, clear genre and age level.
  2. Opening - Lines & paragraphs have a spark or a hook?  Something that draws you?
  3. First chapter - Is it confusing or vague through the first chapter? Does it draw the attention?  What can be done to improve it?  Are things defined well enough for lay man readers?
  4. Draw - Does the first chapter(s) end where I am drawn to turn the page?
  5. Dramatic questions - Are the dramatic questions obvious?
  6. Inciting incident - Is the inciting incident obvious?
  7. Original world / actions - Are the original world and original default actions clear?
  8. Realistic - Are the details consistent and realistic, or a little bit...strange?  Unfathomable?
  9. Repetition - Are there any words or ideas that are repeated several times, or which are weird in the descriptions?  Which should be removed?
  10. Flow - Does it flow flawlessly and smoothly instead of bumbling with run-on sentences or awkward things that make reading difficult?
  11. Grammar / punctuation - How well did they do with grammar and punctuation?
  12. Tense and pov consistency - Does the tense or pov change, or is it flowing and consistent?
  13. First Person -  Is the word “I” repeated over and over in this pov?
  14. Voice (etc) - How well did they do with voice? Tone? Diction? Syntax?
  15. Descriptions - How well did they do with sensory / thought / emotion / picturesque descriptions?  Do the descriptions ever slow the progress of the plot in favor of pretty phrases?  Do the chapters use long passages of exposition to fill the reader in on histories and back information rather than let the story itself hint throughout the entire work what has happened before?  Are there moments where you begin to skim through rather than read diligently?  Beware that.  Are there symbols or metaphors relating to a bigger picture or theme wrought throughout the descriptions?  Is there too much dialogue?  Too few dramatic questions hidden in the descriptions?  Are the interactions between the characters riddled with enough tension or micro tension that the environment itself, as perceived by a character, has become a character in and of itself?
  16. Plot clarity - How clear is the plot?  Does it lag?
  17. Recommendation - How highly would you recommend it to others?  Would you buy this book, even from first glance?
  18. Overall judgment and flavor - Personal opinions.  Ideas on how to improve, or where.
  19. Minor opinions per chapter - Comment on what you liked or didn’t like per chapter.  Or other information.

Make sure you pay very special attention to your opening line / paragraphs / first chapter.  It can make or break your book for your readers.  Think of ways to shorten what you are saying in order to make it more concise, quicker in pace, and faster to reveal what is going on.  DO NOT DALLY.  That's my rule on Chapter One.  Hook, line, and sink.

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