From Writing

On writing about bloody good books

Let’s talk about the life blood of authors.

That’s reviews, right?

I mean, after wine, cheesy pasta, and a good set of pyjamas.

It’s reviews.

Still, that makes them damn important.

…Mmm, cheesy pasta…

Because there’s so many books you could pick up and read, it all starts to boil down to how you pick your next word-candy. There’s only so many precious reading hours in the day, so you want to choose wisely.

Personally, I’ll go with:

  • authors I’ve read before
  • authors I know personally and already respect their work
  • authors I’ve heard about (generally from other authors I already know and love)
  • occasionally authors who just have one damn nice cover.

And in this sea of books, I’ll also read the reviews. Sometimes I’ll read them because, let’s face it, one-star reviews are invariably some of the most entertaining reads ever; “The book was great, a real page-turner, but the packaging was damaged in the post and the label was handwritten – one star, sir!”. But also, good reviews help prompt me to actually open that new book, to shove it up the TBR pile.

And when you’re self publishing, when you’re a no-body in an ocean of some-bodies and your little book is drowning in a shoal of other books, then it’s these reviews that people read and trust and make them rescue your book from that damn big fishing net of fiction.

(In case you were worried, I think I’m running out of watery fishing analogies).

Plus, there is NOTHING LIKE the feeling you get when you have a good review. It’s a buzz that warms the sole of your heart and the cockles of your feet. Thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to share their thoughts on Double Vision and Grind Spark, it really is appreciated.

So, it got me to thinking, I really should write a bit more about the books I love. I mean, I star-rate books as I read them on Goodreads, but I don’t review them. And the star ratings are mostly just so I can look back over the year and remind myself of the books I’ve really enjoyed.

But that’s not good enough.

I should be shouting from the rooftops about the books I like, and so should you.

Because it’s all about sharing the good stuff.

So, bearing that in mind, I’m going to be including a few more reviews here at the Dust Lounge. I won’t be reviewing books I hate (because, really, unless there’s something about the book that seems profoundly offensive or misleading, I don’t think that’s that constructive – I’m largely from the school of thought where if you don’t have something nice to say then think twice about saying it at all). I also won’t review books I haven’t finished, because, let’s face it, if you ain’t finished a book you ain’t seen the whole picture. It’s like reviewing a film based on its title sequence (which, in the case of the last Godzilla film, would have been an improvement). But I will be harping on about the books I love. Or the books that get me thinking. Or the books that I just can’t work out but I can’t get out of my head.

The ones that keep me up at night, and the ones that wake me up in the morning.

And I’ll be trying (in a befuddled and somewhat confused manner) to explain why.

And with that being my aim, I want to know what you want to hear from a review. How spoiler-y can we go? What questions do you ask yourself before you pick up a book? Do you want to know the topics, themes, triggers? Do you like star ratings? Do you want to know what beverage best compliments the text?

What crosses the theatre of your mind before you pick up your next read?

So tell me, fiends, what makes you pick up your next read, and what do you want to hear about a book that would make you pick up something completely new?

Are you NaNoWriMo-ing?

Are you?

Well, are you?

Of course, if you’ve not heard of NaNoWriMo, then there’s a fairly high possibility that you think I might be talking about some new trendy form of high-rise city slicker drug parties, or perhaps a new type of technical hackery that’s gradually taking over the interwebs when we’re not watching.

But no, this would be the yearly foray into writing a shedload of words in not a lot of time and generally doing ALL OF THE WRITING YOU POSSIBLY CAN. I did it last year, and it was great fun, and I was massively knackered at the end of it.

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It’s the month, November to be specific, where you pledge to write 50,000 words. That’s 1667 words a day.

That’s the sort of wordage that feels like it needs some sort of Rocky-esque montage.

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I was toying with the idea of doing it again.

I wanted to.

I mean, you’re probably not going to write a finished masterpiece (hey, maybe you will, you evil genius, you) but you’re sure as hell gonna get into a great writing roll and somewhere in all of that there’s bound to be something you’re gonna want to keep.

But I know, for me, this year, I’m just not going to find the time to commit to it. So instead, I’m going to attempt to join in ‘in spirit’. I’m not going to try to keep up with the word count, but I am going to be writing something every day. Whether that’s a blog post, a short story, some more on the current work in progress, or maybe just a really clever tweet (there is, after all, a first for everything) – it’ll be writing. And it’ll be writing every day.

And to those of you officially riding on that crazy NaNoWriMo train, I salute you.

I’m jealous of you.

I’m cheering for you.

I’m wishing you all of the words and plenty of biscuits and probably a few glasses of wine to keep you going into the winter evenings.

Go NaNoWriMers, go write, go write everything.

GO BE MORE KERMIT.

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A week of #vss365

This week I was given the keys to the FlashDogs Head Quarters, FDHQ, and was allowed to set the prompt words for #vss365 (“Very Short Stories”). Every day I had the responsibility for picking a word or phrase that would then be used for a whole day to inspire tweet length fictions.

And damn, it was fun.

Also, jeez, there’s a tonne of words out there.

*Oh, the decisions, the decisions.*

For company, and to keep me in check, I made sure to bring the Beast and Robot Tam with me to FDHQ. They weren’t on their best behaviour.

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To give you a taste of what went down, here’s some of what happened last week. This is most definitely NOT exhaustive, but just a very few of the many, many excellent stories.

DAY 1: #bars

DAY 2: #cargo

DAY 3: #digital

A personal favourite topic of mine – how the digital world meshes with the ‘real’ world, and what might happen next.

https://twitter.com/TheShakes72/status/779985963619651584?lang=en-gb

Even Robot Tam got involved…

DAY 4: #Beast

Dedicated to the grumpy cat that lurks in my house.

DAY 5: #spot

DAY 6: #circus

DAY 7: #Spark

A mini heads-up to my upcoming novel Grind Spark. I opted against going for the word ‘grind’… you never know where that could end up.

And all of these are just a tiny sampling of the joys of #vss365. I’ve handed the keys back to FDHQ for now, but head over to twitter and get your fine-selves joining in.