In deciding how best to describe this blog before it actually starts, I considered first its potential audience. There are, after all, hundreds, perhaps thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of book review blogs. Some are written by writers, but most are written by readers, and almost all of them are for readers (to get them to buy the writers' books).
This book review blog is for writers, and for readers who are either thinking about becoming writers or who are trying to figure out why they aren't enjoying the books they read as much as they would like to.
The truth of the matter is that most readers don't care, and this is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. The casual reader reads for entertainment, to be transported to another time and another place and another set of experiences . . . and nothing more. At the end of the story, she is satisfied that the tale has ended and she is ready to go on to the next.
Many readers don't even remember the stories they read. Publishers used to count on this easy forgetfulness when they slapped a new title on an old book and put it out there for sale again.
This blog is for the readers who do care about good writing, about tight stories, about immaculate continuity, about unsullied motivation. This blog is for the writers who want to know how it's done.
The following recommendations come with the disclosure that I have no connection with any of the authors, nor do I benefit in any way from the endorsements. These are books that I own and/or have read in the past and consider essential to the development of habits of good writing and solid story-telling. There will be more to come in future posts, but these are the absolute basics.
No links provided; you'll have to find them on your own.
Writing the Novel from plot to print by Lawrence Block.
The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler
Writing with Intent by Margaret Atwood
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Memo from the Story Department: Secrets of Structure and Character by Christopher Vogler and David McKenna.
If any of these is more important than the rest and should be purchased from your very limited funds, then it is The Writer's Journey. Absolutely.
You'll notice, I suppose, that there is no text on grammar, spelling, punctuation. If you don't have those down by now, I can't help you. You're on your own.
And for free, there is Josh Olson's immortal "I will not read your fucking script." If you read much of this blog, you will see it referenced frequently.
As I go forward with this work in progress, you can expect to see favorable reviews amongst the slashers, since it is counter productive to only post the bad stuff and never let anyone know what's good out there. But even this comes with a warning: Do not -- DO NOT-- point out to me that a book I have lambasted has umpteen five-star reviews on Goodreads or Amazon or anywhere else.
1. Most readers are not analysts.
2. Many reviewers receive free copies -- they're supposed to disclose this but many don't -- and are eager to keep receiving more free copies, so they praise everything.
3. Many writers pay for good reviews, though this is in violation of Federal Trade Commission guidelines as well as the Terms of Service of many sites, including Amazon and Goodreads.
4. Writers are not allowed to write negative reviews (except outside their genre) on Amazon, but they are allowed to write positive reviews. Many do so to boost their friends' books, whether they've read them or not.
5. Many reviewers, myself included, have been harassed for writing negative reviews and so have simply stopped doing it. I haven't.
It takes a certain amount of courage -- or foolhardiness, I guess -- to write a negative review, especially of a book that already has a substantial following. Only if you are truly fearless should you consider continuing with me.