The Nine Types of Book Review

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Once a book is published, there are two things an author hopes for: sales and reviews. Sales are good because they allow a writer to be financially supported as they write their next book. Reviews are good because they lead to more sales. And the more stars each review has, the more validated the author feels and the more confidence potential readers have.

But regardless of whether a book is good, bad or somewhere in between, and assuming it has had enough exposure, it will have each of the following types of review.

The Never-Read-It Review
Obviously someone who reviews a book they’ve never read has a nefarious purpose, either to promote or prevent the reading of it. Platforms like Amazon usually don’t allow a review of a product that hasn’t been bought directly from them so that helps a little. Platforms like Goodreads rely on the honesty of the reading community they have assembled. It doesn’t always work. Continue reading

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This Was Supposed to Be the Announcement of My New Book… But It Isn’t

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Draft Image for Black Spot Cover

This is a strange blog post to be writing. It was supposed to be the announcement of the release of my new book, Black Spot. I’ve been talking about it here for years now, from conception to writing to shortlisting in the 2016 Text Prize to its planned publication. I’d originally planned to release it in February 2018 but life and a hectic new job kept delaying it. It was eventually ready by the end of May 2018 (apart from the cover, which would be ready a few weeks later). And then came something that threw a spanner in the works. Continue reading

Writing Is What Happens While You’re Busy Missing Deadlines

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About eighteen months ago, I published my most recent book, Project January: A Sequel About Writing. But I’d actually planned to publish it about four months earlier. Yet as the deadline I’d set for myself arrived, the book still wasn’t finished. I still have the publishing plans for it and my next four books written on one of my whiteboards:

*Project January: A Sequel About Writing – November 2016
*Black Spot – November 2017
*Trine – November 2018
*Project February: A Trilogy About Writing – November 2019
*Matriarchy – November 2020

I eventually finished and published Project January in March 2017 and you can read about how I did that in my post on how to psych yourself into writing a book. But because it was four months late (or at least four months later than I’d planned to publish), suddenly my subsequent publishing plans were also thrown out. (Obviously I like the idea of publishing roughly one book a year.) Continue reading

A Story About Choosing an Author Photo

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Sometimes (okay, more than sometimes) I like to live in a world where the only thing I’m judged on as a writer is my writing. The rest of the time I know I have to play the game. You know the game. The one where what you look like, how cool you are and how good you are on social media seem to be just as important. I resent the hell out it (mostly because I’m not beautiful, I’m a nerd – not one of those cool new-age nerds, just an old-fashioned awkward nerd – and my social media skills could charitably be described as needing work).

So imagine the personal torment I went through as I recently chose a new author photo to go on the back cover of my latest book, Black Spot. If you know my history with author photos, it’s not that hard to imagine. Continue reading

Should You Write a Christmas-themed Book?

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Clearly, it’s much easier to make the decision to write a Christmas-themed blog post (a thousand or so words, a fairly small investment of writing time) but should you write an entire Christmas-themed book? Depending on the type of books you write, it could be another small (or at least smaller) investment of writing time (such as with children’s books) or it could be months or years of your life (such as with full-length novels).

As with all writing choices, there are pros and cons. The final decision (and the reasons behind it) for one person will be completely different to the final decision (and the reasons behind it) for another. So this decision needs to be the right decision for you. Continue reading

Practice Novels: Not Just for the Start of a Writer’s Career

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In my late teens and early twenties, I wrote three novels that I like to refer to as my practice novels. At the time that I was writing them, I didn’t realise that I was just practising. It was only after they were complete that I knew they weren’t good enough, they weren’t the genre I wanted to pursue and they were unlikely to ever see the light of day.

I published the sex scene from the last of them, Liberty’s Secret, in 2015 in conjunction with a blog post on writing sex scenes, mostly to demonstrate that I’m not very good at writing sex scenes. It was full of euphemisms, the highs and lows of waves and crashing, and an overblown sense of emotion. Certainly, it was completely devoid of accurate names for genitalia. (That’s one of the big no-no’s of the romance genre I was attempting to write in.) And I published the entire book chapter by chapter on this blog earlier in 2017, just because… well, why not? I hate wasting writing.

I thought that was the end of my practice novels. But when I sat down to watch the movie of Fifty Shades of Grey, despite its flaws, I realised these genres and sex scenes more generally aren’t going anywhere. They are popular. And if done well, they can be important components of plot and character development. So I could continue avoiding them in my writing or I could try to get better.

Yes, more than twenty-five years after beginning my writing career and after publishing three books, I decided to write another practice novel. I had no intention of attempting to publish it for profit, just to improve on this writing area. Continue reading

How to Psych Yourself into Writing a Book

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After I wrote close to one hundred blog posts in 2015 about developing ideas, characters and plots, writing, editing, publishing, marketing and reading, I realised I had written enough to fill a book. And when I collated them all together, I realised it flowed nicely enough to seem like I’d done it on purpose. I’d written a book without even trying to write a book. That’s how Project December: A Book About Writing was born.

After I published Project December, I continued writing blog posts in the same vein but, of course, this time I knew I was heading towards writing a sequel. Why wouldn’t I? It had been so easy last time. I even wrote a blog post called, “How to write a book without even trying.”

The problem was that because I knew I was heading towards another book, it wasn’t going to be the same process. I wasn’t going to be able to write a book without even trying. Because I was trying to write a book.

I set a deadline for myself but as it approached, I knew for various reasons that I was never going to make it. Life, work and other pieces of writing were getting in the way.

Instead of giving up, I told myself that the deadline wasn’t important. I was the only person who knew it and I was the only person who would know it was going to pass by unmet. The important thing was that I eventually finished writing the book, regardless of whenever that time came.

So I just kept writing. I wrote when I had something to say. I wrote when I felt like it. I wrote when I had nothing else scheduled. And before I knew it, in less than two months, the first draft was finished. It only took one month more for the text to be finalised. How, I asked myself, did that happen? How, when I was so sure it would never happen in that time frame? Continue reading