Saturday, May 26, 2018

How I Write a Book Review

We should all read books and review the books we read. Those are the givens for this post (dispute in the comments if you're so inclined). Review the books we read may be more open-ended than it sounds as there is no one way to do it.

Yes, that's right. There is no one formula for a book review. Sorry, but that means you're going to have to get creative and just go for it. Which means there is no pressure. Don't let leaving a review scare you! A few sentences is fine. Long, in-depth, and spoiler-filled is also fine. Whatever you have the time and energy for.

However, there are a few things that, while they aren't necessary per se, will make your review much more helpful to other people. That's the real reason you leave a review: to help other people decide whether or not to read the book. Be a helpful reviewer. ;)

So, here are the few things I do in my reviews:

Begin with a star rating. If you're leaving a review on a site like Goodreads or Amazon, this a separate step. For something like a blog review, it's still nice to give a star review. On a scale of 5 or 10 is your choice. (But, really, does anyone not do a scale of 10 when given a choice?) This is helpful because it sums up your review with a cold hard fact, as difficult as it may be to do.

Likes and dislikes are next. This can be very basic. Or there can be bullet point lists, long explanations and raving details. Whatever suits you. Often it depends on the book for me. I don't always have strong feelings one way or the other. 

As a reader, dislikes, in particular, are helpful because everyone dislikes different things. There could be a bunch of 2-star reviews, but if it's because there was magic in the book, I'm not turned off by that and might still read it, as opposed to a 5-star review because it was an LGBTQetc book. You know what I'm saying: to each his own. It's kind of like a parents' guide. The good, the bad, and the ugly. :)

As an author, this is my favorite part to read in reviews people leave me. Yes, even the dislikes. I've gotten some pretty low ratings but the reviews that have accompanied them actually succeeded in reassuring me that I was not a terrible writer (even if that wasn't the reviewer's goal). So always leave a review explaining a rating.

I always end with a content warning/age recommendation. Again, this is for the benefit of others. I only added this to my reviews when I realized that it's something I always want to see. (Behold the mindset of a successful person.) Think of it as a movie rating except so much more helpful. 12+ for violence or 18+ for relationship scenes.

Remember to always warn about spoilers. I know I don't have to tell you guys this, but really. We all have that one friends who spoils things for us. You know, the one that it's really a wonder you're still friends with? Most people don't want books spoiled before they read them! In content warnings especially, though, it's sometimes best to disclose some things. Again, as a reader I find the more detail the better for making my own judgment calls. Just give a warning!

And another thing that I'm sure you all know: be nice. Give your dislikes, but don't bash people. Someone put a lot of love into the book you just finished even if it was awful. I find it helpful to remember my opinion is just my opinion.

That about sums it up! For more on why reviews are important to authors, you can read Why Authors Love Reviews More Than Chocolate.
So tell me. How often do you review a book? Do you leave your review on Goodreads, Amazon ...? What do you like to see in book reviews?

If you're on Goodreads, I want to be your friend! You can find me here. It was one of my goals for this year to review every book I read, so there's plenty to follow along with in that department!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Writers Are Like Plants

To be completely honest, I don't even remember how this blog post idea came to me ... If you think about it, writers often have little plants--succulents, strawflower cacti--in their writing space. They're cute and aesthetic and give us something to keep alive and rooted to the real world. (See what I did there?)
Then I got to thinking that writers are really like plants themselves. All we need is sunshine, water, and air to grow. (Let's just acknowledge from the beginning that no synthetic plants ever got a book published.)


Sunshine is encouragement of course. Just like all plants need varying levels of exposure to the sun's rays every day, so do writers need encouragement. Maybe you're a houseplant and can survive with helpful Pinterest memes filtering through the window every once in a while. Or maybe you're an all-out tree like me and do best when getting one-on-one encouragement from writer friends you have a relationship with. Either way, don't underestimate the power of encouragement! And by encouragement, I don't just mean 5-star reviews (although I love those too). Encouragement can be someone listening to a problem, brainstorming with you, or giving you ideas on what to do next. Or sometimes it's a kick in the pants (flowerpot?) so we get back to growing. I'm short, but it's not from lack of encouragement. We may have to intentionally get ourselves out into the sunshine to soak it up.


Water is inspiration. Like all good plants, we need water. (Again, no synthetics here. We all know they just collect dust like unread books.) If you've noticed, water doesn't come all the time. It spreads out and it's unpredictable. There are a few patterns to be noted here:

  • Flood // inspiration that does more harm than good with distraction and lack of follow through
  • Thunderstorms // deluges of inspiration that give epic boosts to our writing skills
  • Rain showers // equally unpredictable and more short-lived inspiration
  • Garden hose // sought ought inspiration to give us a little extra boost
  • Hand-watered // oops, you need inspiration? how about you write without some ...
In all honesty, we don't have to be inspired to write, just like plants don't have to be watered nonstop. But a little sure does help when put to use.


Air is progress. The actual act of writing or anything and everything that goes into the preparations to write. (Yes, even Pinterest.) I mean, let's face it. I've never seen a plant without air and I've never seen a writer without words. Put all that sunshine and water to good use or you're not going to grow worth anything!


Nutrients are sustenance plain and simple. There's not always a reason to get too creative here. Just think about what nourishment you need as a writer because it varies from plant to plant. Reading the Bible, eating healthy snacks, exercising, relevant entertainment ... whatever helps keep you in good health so that you can spend time on your writing. Without nutrients, no plant can remain healthy and strong. So remember that as a writer, what you put in (whether its food or entertainment) can contribute greatly to the creativity that flows out. Don't be afraid to stretch, try new things, and find what works for you specifically. That's part of the growth process.


Bonus! Pruning is critique. Most plants who are serious about growing get to a point where it's healthiest is part of what they've grown gets pruned. This seems counterproductive, but it improves the health of the plant and allows it to continue to grow. So too will most writers reach a point where they've done their best. They need pruning. That requires sharing your work and being open to feedback. Not all critique is criticism and not all criticism is bad. When done well by the pruner, it's a very healthy thing!

From this point, it's a cycle and a continuous balance. The results are the introverted plants (primroses, cacti, succulents), extroverted plants (ivy, sunflowers, honeysuckle), and the mentor plants, sages who train us all (trees of all varieties).
I hope you enjoyed that! What sphere of plant life do you most relate to? Do you own a plant? You can find Ophelia the strawflower cactus over on my Instagram. ;)

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Camp NaNo Recap (with video)

I survived the epic, renowned Camp NaNo gauntlet (I mean writing challenge). I haven't always met my goal, but this year I did. Here's how.

Camp NaNo you're in a "cabin" group chat with friends and set a goal. (If you're really awesome, you have a cabin name (Mitchtam) and a separate chat room for wars.) My goal was 30,000 words on my Martin Crossroads draft. I reached it!

How did I do it?! I list a couple things in this video!

As I said in the video, that wouldn't have happened without my cabinmates: Alea, Ashley, Athelas, Faith, Hannah, Kara, Katie, Nadine, Rosalie, Savannah, Sword Girl. They were amazing!! (And yes, famous o.o) I really hope I didn't forget anyone. #writerslife

The thing is, as thrilled as I was to hit my goal in a hectic month, that's not what it's all about. At least not for me. It's really about making progress and finding what works to hit my goals. I'm always relieved to find I can hit goals and can write decent words. I'm not a consistent or very disciplined writer, so working on those two things amongst friends makes for a pretty fun (if insane) experiment!
Did you do Camp NaNo? How did it go? How do you reach your goals (in any area of life)?

Just as a reality side note here, I did this entire blog post on my phone. That's basically what my post-NaNo writing life has looked like ;P

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Beautiful Cover Formula + Giveaway

In light of Livy Jarmusch's release of her gorgeous book The Rebellion, I want to discuss my favorite things to see in covers!

Anyone who knows me well will tell you I'm picky. People will also say not to judge a book by it's cover, but people do. It can't be helped! There are some basics such as having a cover that fits the book, has readable fonts, and is pretty to look at. Beautiful covers are often a matter of opinion, but here are some elements that are guaranteed to please:

  • unique art medium (watercolor in particular!!!). Let's face it ... stock photos can get old, and it's much easier to mess up photoshop than paint
  • simplicity. In my mind, the simpler the cover, the ore it packs a punch. However, this doesn't mean it can't have ...
  • subtle details. Oh yes. My favorite. Don't you have those covers where you read the book and they mean even more?! Those are the best. Especially if they can look simple and then blow your mind up close.
  • conveys the genre. This really shouldn't be as much of a bonus as it is. Isn't it nice when you know what you're getting just by looking at the cover? I personally like that. This does not mean it has to be cliche.
Why yes, I'd love to give you examples. Thanks for asking. (All of these are 5-star reads just so you know and the first one is currently on sale!)



I've got to admit that Livy's new cover also fits into the stunning cover category! :)

The images above link to their Amazon pages. And you can enter the giveaway for an autographed copy of the first book, The Coronation, right HERE!
What equals the beautiful cover formula for you? Are you excited for Livy's new book?