21 November, 2013

Getting the Words Out (1)

I use Grammarly's plagiarism check because I love theater, but I hate blogger drama.
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Over the years,  I've felt like I consistently get worse and worse at writing reviews. Part of it is fear, much of it irrational. What if no one agrees with my opinions; worse yet, what if no one bothers to read it? These can be paralyzing thoughts for writers of any kind. Another contributor to this paralysis is disorganization. I mean, I'd like to write a review, but have you seen the pile of books I have yet to read, let alone the pile of dirty dishes sitting in the sink, just begging to be washed?

Yet another factor is the sinking feeling that it's all been said before, that all you're really doing is stringing clichés together until they form something that appears to fill up a screen. Let's face it, a five-sentence paragraph looks gratifyingly long on a smartphone; if you manage to make it to five paragraphs, you're pretty much golden! Then you look back and realize that while you managed to fill a page, you managed to do it without much sense, without saying what you truly meant to say. Yet another cycle of self-doubt triggers and you end up back at first draft stage.

In an effort to help myself out of this no-review rut, I've come up with this short set of rules to help me combat fear, disorganization, forgetfulness, and general negativity. I'm sharing them with you in case you, too, need a little help to get the words out of your head and into public view.

1. Write with a goal in mind. This isn't just the word count or paragraph quota; I'm going to write out my goals for each review, like so:

  • tell everyone I really enjoyed the book, or not 
  • respond to story elements
  • share some images, like the cover and author photo 
  • address any problems others might have with believability, super-powers, insta-love, and other reader pet peeves

2. Take notes as I read. I keep meaning to do this, but I'm really going to this time--I even put a little notebook in my purse, with a pen tied to it, so I have no excuse. It will be interesting to see if I can form this habit. I will be noting major story elements: 

  • plot
  • setting
  • characters
  • tone
  • theme
  • conflict

as well as noting my reactions to the story.

3. Freewrite first, edit later. Part of my problem is that I'm more comfortable editing than writing. I'm just going to write until the end, then stop--before going back and correcting errors or rewriting.

4. Let go of my expectations. Why worry who's going to read it and what they will think? No one will read it or think anything of it unless I write it in the first place. It's one thing if I'm writing for The LA Times (I'm not) and another if I'm writing more for my friends and others who look to me for book recommendations. I need to stop judging myself, too. I recently went to a press junket with some mommy bloggers (who are fabulous, by the way!), and I remember thinking, Wow--that's how grown-ups do it. I've been doing it wrong this whole time; might as well give up!

I think I've been holding myself to a really high, really unrealistic standard, and that's pressure I don't need to put on myself. I just need to be fair, expressive, and honest when I write, and that will be good enough. I don't need to spend 3 hours fine-tuning something that's only 1,000 words long; instead, I could use that time to make a dent in the old to-be-read pile.

I hope this new review regimen will help me out of the no-review blues. Let me know if it helps you, too! I plan to blog once a month about writing and communication, so if you have any burning topics you would like me to write about, please leave a comment.

1 comment:

  1. These are great ideas. I definitely have had the same thoughts before. I really like your reviews. I always feel lame in comparison. I will definitely try some of these tips and hope they help you too.