The Writing Disorder






by Emily-Jane Hills Orford

      Writing book reviews, or any review for that matter, is a tricky business. It is, however, a great way to start a writing career and to promote your publications. It also pays: sometimes just in a copy of the book being reviewed; but, more often than not, it pays in real money, not much, just enough to boost the writing ego. Not to mention the fact, that reviewing books allows the reviewer the opportunity of reading (and owning) a large book collection, opening up a world of writing styles and genres that you might not otherwise consider. Reading more always improves your own writing; but writing the review itself hones certain writing skills.

      The book reviewer is the messenger, the one who is telling the world what is good or bad about a specific book. To succeed and to be recognized for your book reviewing skills, you must, first and foremost, be fair. Every book has its merits. The reviewer may think that it’s the worst book ever written. However, the book has been written and it has been published. A lot of work went into to both writing and producing the book. Good or bad, that should be enough to merit a fair review. I love J.R.R. Tolkien’s commentary on book reviewers. He wrote: “Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it [The Lord of the Rings], have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.” Tolkien has a good point. The person you review today may in fact review you tomorrow, so be fair.

      I believe that there are two sides to every book review, just as there are two sides to every story. First, there is the author of the book who has his/her own viewpoint. Secondly, there is the book reviewer who must read and appreciate the book. Both sides, obviously, have his/her own prejudices!

      It should be obvious that the skills of a good book reviewer are much the same as the skills of any good writer. The reviewer must have a good command of the English language. There must be some clarity of thought, honesty and objectivity on the part of the reviewer and, most important of all, a sense of fairness, tact and patience. Take the time to read the book; take the time to understand and appreciate it for its merits as well as its flaws.

      Once you’ve finished reading the book, and do, in all fairness, read it from cover to cover, even if it’s really badly written, ask yourself the following questions:

                   • Can you summarize the main theme/idea in one sentence?
                   • Is the story well written? Does it drag? Is it coherent?
                   • What is your recommendation? Is it a good read?

      Don’t forget, though, that this is your review; it is your opinion, but make it a fair opinion. It is important to remind yourself that someone spent a lot of time writing this book. Good or bad, it deserves a fair review. Be fair to yourself as well. Remember that your review reflects yourself as a writer. You may be quoted! So be sure to make your review a well written work of literature. Your review may, in turn, promote your writing, your books. Also, make sure that you know the audience for whom you are writing the review!

       Like any good story, a book review needs to start with a hook line. “A closet is a curious space.” (the author’s review of Diana M. Raab’s Regina’s Closet) “We have to laugh at ourselves. We do laugh at others, so why not ourselves as well? Situations demand a sense of humor. It’s a matter of survival.” (the author’s review of Gary Miller’s Miller’s Tales, The hook line draws the reader in, makes the reader want to study the review and, then, allows him/her to decide whether or not to read the book itself.

      Your concluding comments are also important. These are the words, your words, that may be quoted on the back of a book cover (instant publicity for you, your writing and your books). “A compassionate story of self-discover, personal reflection, and self worth, Regina’s Closet is highly recommended by Emily-Jane Hills Orford, Allbooks Reviews.

      As you’re writing your review, there are some don’ts to consider. These don’ts are the sign of an amateur reviewer.

— don’t give away the ending / don’t give away too much of the plot
— don’t forget to include your evaluation
— don’t fake it / don’t sugar-coat — i.e. “This is the best book in the world”
— don’t be mean, rude, tactless, harsh
— don’t be too academic — sign of being pompous, great way to lose readers
— don’t forget book info: title, publisher, copyright year, ISBN, etc.
— don’t forget to check spelling, grammar, punctuation
— don’t misspell the author’s name or book title

      There are many markets for book reviews. Local newspapers and community papers often publish reviews and sometimes pay to publish them. Local artists and writers newsletters also publish reviews. Specialty journals will publish reviews of books written that relate to their specialty. For example a needlework magazine would be interested in a review on a recently published book on embroidery. There are lots of e-journals, online book review sites and online booksellers that publish reviews: some pay, some don’t. Amazon, Barnes and Noble are two examples of online booksellers that publish reviews. Sometimes they have a contest to encourage people to submit reviews. A good online site to write reviews and receive compensation is:

Many of Emily-Jane’s stories and novels reflect her national pride. She loves writing about Canada and the extra-ordinary Canadians who have made Canada a great nation. Emily-Jane’s stories have appeared in History Magazine, Canadian Stories Magazine, and Western People. She has written fiction and non-fiction books: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Ukulele Yukon, Letters From Inside, The Creative Spirit, It Happened in Canada, It Happened in Canada Book 2, Personal Notes, and The Whistling Bishop. An award-winning author, she was named a Finalist for the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards with her book, The Whistling Bishop.

Emily-Jane has a Masters degree in Canadian Studies from Carleton University, and a strong academic background in Canadian music and art history. She has taught piano (Royal Conservatory of Music) to hundreds of students over the course of thirty years. The Creative Spirit, It Happened in Canada and It Happened in Canada Book 2, all have valuable teacher’s guides, and are tools which are used to teach history at the elementary and high school levels. Emily-Jane is passionate about communicating our vibrant Canadian history and the achievements of exceptional Canadians to both students and adults. She is a sought after speaker who often draws upon her stories about extraordinary Canadians. She has been a speaker at many schools and seniors’ residences and local writer’s groups such as the Professional Writers Association of Canada, the Canadian Authors Association, the Rideau Valley Writer’s Guild, the Ottawa Independent Writers, and the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society.

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