is a series of posts focused on better understanding books, trends in writing, and the labels associated with these.
Over the last year, I’ve had the honor of getting to know a number of local writers. All of these writers have been connected to me personally in some way– budding new writers! No one famous, and no one with a fully published novel (I’m looking at you and your magic, Krysti!), but people I am hoping will become famous. Good writers. In fact, this led me to develop a relationship with a local writing club: Empty Pages Writing Club. They asked me to act as an impartial judge for a writing competition they wanted to host amongst themselves. I said yes, and it was an honor I took very seriously!
For this competition, members of the Empty Pages writing club submitted a short story which was 30 pages or less in length. Any genre. I read and reviewed these based on 6 criteria: Plot/Conflict, Setting, Character, Symbolism/Theme, Point of View, and Writing Style. Check out my reviews for all 4 submitted short stories below:
I am so glad I was able to participate! This whole process was fun and challenging. In fact, they even gave me the best compliment I think I have ever received.
Everyone really appreciated how thorough you were, and that you were critical without being soul crushing.
The feedback led me to be asked back. That’s right, today is submission day for the Empty Pages Writing Club Summer Writing Challenge!
In preparation for this new challenge, I’ve spent some time reflecting on the experiences I had last time. Just as much as I’m sure it was a learning experience for the members of the Empty Pages Writing Club, it was also a huge learning experience for me!
I don’t have an English degree. Yes, I know that sound weird. But I went into this hoping that I could provide some serious literary critique. But, well, I just don’t have that in me. I don’t really understand the technical aspects of literature enough to be as impartial and detailed as I’d like.
Being a mood reader affects my ability to critique literature. This should be no shock to anyone who thinks about this for a hot second. But, somehow, it never occurred to me. I found that this trait made it harder for me to be impartial. Shocker. Also, relatedly…
Take your time. I don’t need to zoom through these. If I am not in the mood to read it right now, I shouldn’t force myself. I can set it aside and come back later. That’s what should be done. It’s not just for me, but also for the author.
It’s okay to just be me. I started out last time trying to be very intellectual and distant. But, honestly, that just isn’t me. What I ended up with (in the reviews linked above) sounded a bit stilted. I need to find my own voice, even when I’m trying harder than usual to be specific, intelligent, and impartial.
Book blurbs are SUPER important! Jumping into these short stories with no summary sometimes left me confused as I tried to figure things out. I ended up writing my own summary blurbs for my reviews, however. But some stories might have been better received with a blurb giving me some context.
Formatting and font are also SUPER important. I definitely had some feedback for the club based on my experiences with their variation in font, size, and paragraph spacing.
Thanks to these reflections, I hope to improve my process and feedback for the Empty Pages Writing Club this go around. Since I participated in this last time, I also have been paying closer attention to how my blogger friends construct their reviews and discuss some topics.
Finally, it’s obvious that the Empty Pages Writing Club took some of my feedback into consideration as well! This time they are all writing the first act in a novel: 30 pages, double-spaced, size 12 Times New Roman or Courier New. Plus, they are including a single-spaced 1-page novel overview cover page.
I am super excited to be able to participate in this again! Plus, a few other friends have now reached out to me and asked for feedback on their writing samples. It’s an honor that you think so highly of my writing and reviews.
So, that’s it! Time to roll up my sleeves and get back into this. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for me!
What do you think?
- What do you consider when writing book reviews?
- Do you have aspiring writer friends? Is this something you’d consider doing for them? Why or why not?
- Do you ever work with authors through their writing process? Share your experiences below!