20 points to consider when when writing a book review.

pwr.taylor.edu/2018/02/06/20-questions-to-ask-when-writing-a-book-review/

Authors appreciate book reviews. In fact, reviews are a key factor a purchaser looks to when deciding whether or not to buy a book from an unknown writer.

Reviews are hard to obtain, as only the minority of readers think to place a review.

Perhaps knowing what to say other than ”I enjoyed this book”or the negative, ’This book was hard going” is the problem. There are clearer methods and tips for explaining your thoughts other than the above that will be helpful to both potential readers and also the author.

I am sure you will find the twenty tips helpful.

if you are less formal and prefer to write simply from the heart below is a simple comment that could be placed as a review that I received yesterday morning, on my facebook feed –

I met you at the Noosa Marina markets a couple of months ago and purchased your book. I’ve just finished reading it and loved it !!! Looking forward to the next one.

Sonia

This is a gracious comment from a customer. My confidence in achieving my goal is restored.

Back to the keyboard, I return to my keyboard to complete the second of the series, for Sonia and other waiting readers to read. And, thanks for every review you write in the future.

But what becomes of my book when its taken from its bag?

Book displays and personal signings are part of the life of an author. A lovely part, for sure.

Last weekend I attended a Sunday Market event and spent the day chatting with holidaymakers who had arrived on the local ferry. Also, locals were enjoying the holiday town we live in, happily browsing the stalls, stopping as they wander to chat with stallholders before choosing which eatery to dine in.

A vocalist accompanied by her backup tracks adds to the festive atmosphere, filling the marina with mood.

But, yesterday, potential customers held their wallets close to their hip pockets, as, for the stall holders, this weekend had not brought the usual sales. The buying mood was off for most.

There were happy customers as well.

The greatest pleasure I receive is chatting about a person’s historical interests, and upon obtaining a sale, personalising each book, then slipping a bookmark between the covers, and sometimes even the Fortune Seekers pen that I used to sign with.

This is how memories are made for my book buyers.

But what becomes of the book when it is taken from its bag?

Is it read?

Does the reader like it enough to finish it?

Or is it left behind in the apartment unwanted, or to gather dust on a bookshelf?

Have I succeeded in providing something of value to my customers?

I sometimes think about this, as the majority of books go someplace and nothing is heard from the book reader again.

Not so this morning, as in my facebook feed I received the following comment-

”I met you at the Noosa Marina markets a couple of months ago and purchased your book. I’ve just finished reading it and loved it !!! Looking forward to the next one.”

Sonia

Such a gracious comment from a satisfied book reading customer. My confidence in achieving my goal is restored.

It’s back to the keyboard, with the next one well underway, each page dedicated to Sonia.

The US Review of Books (w/ Eric Hoffer) for The Fortune Seekers – Dan and Charlotte

Book US Review of Books March 2018

The US Review of Books (w/ Eric Hoffer) for my book, The Fortune Seekers – Dan and Charlotte, revised second edition, has been completed. It’s interesting reading. I hadn’t seen Eric Hoffer’s interpretation between the lines.

The Fortune Seekers: Dan and Charlotte

by Glennis Browne

Xlibris

reviewed by Eric Hoffer Staff at The US Review of Books

“I know my adversary. This is a spiritual battle between good and evil.”

Dan and Charlotte, both questioners of established Christian doctrine circa the 1800s, seek to leave behind their renegade reputations in Wales and England by escaping into what they hope is their promised land of Australia. But the stability allowing for their navel-watching philosophy is overwhelmed by the need to simply survive in the Social Darwinist world of the Australian gold rush. Through this adventure, they discover answers to theological and cosmic questions. For readers, tales of heroic ancestors might be a familiar yarn, but this book takes the reader into the 18th-century world of Australia, where survival was the first order of the day. Having put the reader into the mindset of an 18th-century rebel/adventurer, the author gives the story of taking care of one’s family a universal appeal. Faced with these daily travails, the characters are provided answers to theological questions that forced them out of Wales and England.

Themes of a “brave new land” abound, Browne delivers the promise and struggle of courageous people who settle a new frontier. The author is skilled in making the reader feel the sweaty and unstable atmosphere, where cabin-fevered treasure hunters and lurking threats in the dead of night prey upon the emigrants who flocked to Australia. Yet in spite of this dangerous climate, the author imparts to readers why so many regarded the country as signifying a second chance for those who could not compete in England. It’s memorable prose and story, grounded in history.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

The US Review of Books (w/ Eric Hoffer) for my book, The Fortune Seekers – Dan and Charlotte

©2018 All Rights Reserved • The US Review of Books

This review was written by a professional book reviewer with no guarantee that it would receive a positive rating. Some authors pay a small fee to have a book reviewed, while others do not. All reviews are approximately half summary and half criticism. The US Review of Books is dedicated to providing fair and honest coverage to all books.

Can First Chapters Ever Be TOO Dramatic?

Hi, again writer friends,

Yesterday I blogged about the writing advice Mary Carroll Moore passes on in her weekly blogs.

Her topics open my eyes with wow moments, and the most recent blog contained another pearl I want to share with you.

Writing teachers and writing classes– if you’ve worked with either, if you’ve shared your writing for feedback, you’ve probably heard the golden rule of first chapters.

They need to have something happen. Preferably something outwardly dramatic. It’s called a triggering event, and it literally triggers your story. Here are some classic examples: All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr): war begins The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls): homeless mother is spotted rooting through dumpster The Passenger (Lisa Lutz): husband dies falling down stairs Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng): daughter is missing Cruel Beautiful World (Caroline Leavitt): high school girl runs off with teacher Each of these has an event that readers can logically, outwardly follow. Usually one event.

And the event must have meaning in the character’s life. It must be life-changing in a way. It must cause readers to know the character in a new way, as we see their reaction to the event. If you don’t have a triggering event in that first (or second) chapter, how will you show us the character in a way that we can grab hold of? Engage with? Want to follow? I think of Americanah, by the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The first chapter, or triggering event, has the narrator going to get her hair braided at a salon. It’s an event that tells us about her, her culture, her background, and her tenuous hold on life in the U.S. It’s not war, death, murder, loss. But it says so much about this narrator, we understand why Adichie chose it to launch the story.

One of my long-time students is finishing her novel and asked the question: Can the opening chapter be too dramatic? Can the triggering event just keep your pulses racing but not really engage you in the story? I think, yes. If the triggering (dramatic, outer) event reveals the character’s dilemma, shows where the character gets their false agreement or misunderstanding about this dilemma, and presents a possibility of overcoming it, then it’s character-engaged drama and we want to read more.

If it doesn’t relate to the character, it’s just drama for its own sake. We can listen to the news for that. Your weekly writing exercise: Ask yourself if your triggering event reveals the character who’s involved in it. Ask if it reveals the dilemma that character is going to face during the book, and if it presents some basic misunderstanding or false agreement the character has that fosters this dilemma–a misunderstanding that will need to be faced and dealt with during the book. If yes, your opening event is golden. If not quite, what can you change?

What do you think?

Inciteful?

Certainly was for me.

I am Glennis Browne, the author of The Fortune Seekers series. Book one is The Fortune Seekers -Dan and Charlotte. It is available on Amazon and Xlibris in a revised second edition now.

Amazon book sales

Xlibris book sales

View Youtube video. Here: YouTube: https://youtu.be/tGmaalu4RHc

Book two is almost at the editing stage and book three is being planned and under the first draft.

Creating Pause in Your Action–When and How to Let the Reader Linger without Losing Momentum

Dear fellow writers,

Have you discovered the writing tips available by Mary Carroll Moore?

When I began writing my first book Mary’s newsletter got me started. Her ideas answered many questions I had as a novice author. Now, each week I tweak my novel, implementing what I glean.

Below is an example of her writing tips I receive in an email every week.

Enjoy learning with me.

Glennis

Creating Pause in Your Action–When and How to Let the Reader Linger without Losing Momentum

A blog reader sent in this fascinating question:

How can “event writers” develop stationary moments in their narrative and sections in their books where the main characters reflect on the meaning of what happens? What’s the purpose of this, and what’s is the benefit to the story?

This is a question about pacing, but it also hints at our natural preferences as writers, to write certain kinds of scenes.

Some writers enter their writing via reflection–the meaning of a situation or memory. Reflective writers write meaning first, then translate it into action. Some writers enter via image or setting. If you’re one, you think first about where the story is happening and you love the details of the place. The third group, event writers, prefer to have things moving forward. They think action first, and they may get impatient with too much (to them) description.

None of these is stronger or better or worse; all are needed. It’s just where we naturally like to start.

Back to my reader’s question.

Stationary moments are the domain of reflection or image writers, and they would almost scoff at the question: what is the benefit to the story. The benefit is that the reader gets to absorb the meaning. What is a story without meaning? It’s all momentum. It leaves you breathless, charged up, but possibly without a clue as to the purpose of what you just read.

It also creates a dense feel to the writing, which I addressed in an earlier blog this year (scroll down). Counter-intuitive to say that too many events create dense writing, I know–but that’s how readers perceive it. So meaning, or pauses, are the places we catch our breath and think about the purpose or meaning of what we just read.

How does an event writer, who prefers not to pause, put in pauses?

First, it requires an awareness of the benefit of pauses, so the best first step is to find a book you love, preferably in a genre similar to the one you’re writing, and comb through a chapter for pauses. If it’s a skilled writer, it’ll take some work to see the pauses. Look for something called “beats” in screenwriting, or breaks in the action or dialogue–gestures, movements, a glance out the window, a brief flashback, a bit of setting. They don’t have to be long but they allow just that moment to regroup and absorb that a reader needed. Notice how often these appear, how long they are, where they are placed.

Then go to a chapter of your own and model the writer you just read–their structure of pauses. You would use your own words, your own story, but mimic the placement of each beat and what is included. For instance, if the writer uses two lines of backstory just there, you do the same. If they use a gesture or movement in another place, do it too. Use your words, their structure.

This modelling exercise is a great way to get muscle memory of pacing, as well as the benefit of pauses or stationary moments. Try it this week, as your weekly writing exercise.

Glennis Browne is the author of the Historical novel series – The Fortune Seekers.

Book one of The Fortune Seekers – Dan and Charlotte is available in both ebook and paper formats. Book two is almost at the editing stage; and, book three is in its the first draft.

Websites

 Xlibris   Website –       http://www.authorglennisbrowne.com/

WordPress website – https://glenniswritingabc.com/

WordPress Blog-  http://GlennisBrowne.wordpress.com

Twitter –       https://twitter.com/browne_glennis

Links to my social media Author Pages

fb.me/GlennisBrowneWriter

My author facebook page

Http://www.facebook.com/GlennisBrowneWriter

Or message me-

m.me/GlennisBrowneWriter

Websites

Xlibris   Website –       http://www.authorglennisbrowne.com/

WordPress website – https://glenniswritingabc.com/

WordPress Blog-  http://GlennisBrowne.wordpress.com

Twitter –       https://twitter.com/browne_glennis

Links to my social media Author Pages

fb.me/GlennisBrowneWriter

My author facebook page

Http://www.facebook.com/GlennisBrowneWriter

Or message me-

m.me/GlennisBrowneWriter

A pup named Annie

I didn’t understand the pleasure a pup gives until Annie came into my life.

Bent upon sharing undeserved love, soft, silky cuddles and mock kisses. She’s never finished, I can’t get enough.

Companion and guard dog – yes, she thinks her gruff growl will protect me from birds sheltering from the rain.

I never would have believed hubby and I would decide it best for Annie if he went on his own on the annual month holiday to NZ (he’s gone fishing), and I change my flights and visit my family upon his return.

Crazy?

No, Annie joined our family just one month ago and as our six month old pup is to be our companion for the next sixteen plus years and how we settle her in now will make all the difference later.

Also, she has touched a needy part of my heart. I am smitten, and obsessed by her cuteness.

She is clever, quick to learn and loves the treats when learning new skills.

A stubborn girl if she hasn’t finished sniffing the trees, or I prevent her saying hello to every person or dog we pass.

The long walks we share, her by my side or running circles in the park. The return home when she is in my arms or resting in a large bag, as her little legs are exhausted. All this to this new dog owner is special.

My shadow plonks down upon my keyboard when I am writing, telling me ’you have done enough, it’s my time now!’ How can I resist.

My ever present companion has added a special dimension to my life.

Dear Doggie followers, expect to hear more about Annie.

Dodging the Deus Machina

Hi.

Every week or two a newsletter arrives in my mailbox which teaches something in a way I haven’t heard before. This blog from AutoCrit is one.

For three years I have used AutoCrit when I am at the first editing stage. I have a life time membership as I am convinced the editing website is worth using.

Also, of late, the monthly newsletters and weekly videos for elite members continue adding new insights and skills to my writing knowledge base.

It’s exciting seeing book two of The Fortune Seekers Series reaching the editing stage. I am currently considering the principles of Deus Ex Machina throughout.

Dodging the Deus Ex Machina is a worthwhile challenge.

Enjoy the AutoCit blog.

Glennis

Dodging the Deus Ex Machina

The phrase deus ex machina is one that you’ve likely encountered throughout your literary travels. Latin for god from the machine, it describes an unexpected and sudden event which saves a hopeless situation.

Allegedly, the phrase’s roots go all the way back to ancient Greece, where many a play would see an actor lowered from above the stage, performing the role of an intervening deity who has arrived to bring an end to the drama, tie off story threads, and close any plot holes in one majestic swoop.

No genre is safe from the machinery of the gods, as you can see in these quick examples from modern stories in literature and cinema:

• The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit: The giant eagles swooping in to save the day when protagonists are trapped by lava/stuck on a tall tower/need a quick exit.

• The Princess Bride: Wesley suddenly reveals his immunity to a certain poison. (Though this could be argued.)

• The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Tom Sawyer reenters the story, traveling hundreds of miles to visit relatives, enabling him to be on hand to rescue Jim.

• Dodgeball: The good guys are saved due to a treasure chest filled with money turning up. In a satirical turn, it even says Deus Ex Machina on the outside of the chest.

It might seem a simple matter to identify when this particular plot device appears, yet there are many stories that are cited as falling prey to deus ex machina when they arguably do not. One of the most famous examples may be H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

Some writers, readers, and critics would assert that the defeat of the aliens by natural bacteria is unexpected and therefore a ‘god from a machine’ ending (apologies for the spoilers)…

But it might not be, in actuality.

And why not?

That’s because Wells used foreshadowing at the beginning of the book to plant the seed of a bacterial savior. Look at the first paragraph of his novel:

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

It is subtle – extremely so – yet this foreshadowing offers a clue to the ultimate ending.

Why is Deus Ex Machina Frowned Upon?

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at why, generally, the deus ex machina is a device that should be avoided.

Primarily, it’s because it is not seen as divine intervention, but instead as lazy writing.

The need for a deus ex machina usually arises when an author has written themselves into a corner – having thrown the protagonist into a situation that is so escalated and perilous that escape is, within the logical confines of the surrounding story, impossible.

The only solution, save going back and rewriting the events that led to this trap, is to break the internal logic of the fictional world and offer up a solution that – often as a side effect of this logical break – appears to come out of nowhere.

These unexpected and sudden solutions to a dramatic moment (especially the climax!) can leave readers feeling disappointed and unsatisfied – which is why the deus ex machina is so loathed.

How to Avoid Deus Ex Machina

Most of the ‘god from a machine’ moments you’ll come across are unsatisfying because they rely on dumb luck saving the day. The crisis resolution comes down to little more than a happy coincidence.

To change a deus ex machina into a believable plot twist, you need to lay some groundwork for your reader.

First, plan your story arc. If you want your character to be saved by a magical sword, for example, you need to know this in advance. Make sure you tie that item or external force strongly to the events your protagonist goes through. You don’t have to give anything away until the end, but this ‘savior’ should be a regular feature that becomes part of your hero’s story – because readers appreciate stories where the character solves their own problems through something they did (or didn’t) do. In many cases, this is the unlocking of the previously hidden properties that allow otherwise benign story elements to become the savior.

Next, and tied to the previous tip, you need to foreshadow. Leave little clues to allow the reader to feel the solution is believable, and not entirely unexpected. These clues don’t need to be overt – some might go unnoticed until the book is read for a second time. Seed those clues correctly, and readers will be wowed!

These simple steps to avoid disappointing your reader will work for most stories, but there’s something else you need: the determination to get it right. We all know it happens, and it can be easier than expected to find yourself boxed in a corner come the finale – especially if you’re a relaxed writer who likes to stay in the flow rather than planning everything from the start.

When you spot yourself conjuring a deus ex machina, it’s a sign that things aren’t falling into line. Yes, getting to this point has been more than enough hard-fought work, and ideally, you just want to wrap things up – but resist the urge to undermine all that work by letting it be.

Write to the end, then go back and see where things veered off course. Most of the time, just a simple correction or the addition of some extra foreshadowing can deliver a much more satisfying climax for your second draft, without having to scrap whole sequences.

An Alternate Solution to Inescapable Corners

If you write your characters into an inescapable corner, the general opinion when you’re trying to figure out a solution is that the hero must still save the day. Therefore, you might feel stuck due to needing to change your story while maintaining the happy ever after.

But is that actually true?

Some of the most life-changing books are those with a ‘sad’ ending. If your hero is trapped, could you instead allow them to get caught up in the tragedy you’re trying to avoid?

Think of George Orwell’s 1984. As a reader, you want the characters to get their happy ending – but in a world of Big Brother and the Thought Police, there is no logical escape. So, Orwell doesn’t give them a happy ending. They’re just too small to stand any chance of overcoming this enemy, no matter how much we might wish it.

Given the dystopian genre of the novel, this solution is more logical than the protagonists skipping off into the sunset. The bleak ending has a huge emotional impact on the reader and is one of the reasons 1984 is so successful.

Keep the God in the Machine?

Okay, so for all the negatives about the deus ex machina, there actually are reasons you might want to keep such an ending… and they’re not because you’re a lazy writer!

Plenty of stories written for children have unbelievable endings – because children can suspend their disbelief more easily than adults can. Also, they don’t tend to over-analyze plots. They’re happy to listen and accept.

If your story is in the fantasy genre, there’s a lot that ‘magic’ can explain. It could be argued that many of the plots in the successful Harry Potter series are deus ex machina, but they’re still beloved books because finding magical swords in hats is generally acceptable in fantasy books at that level.

Finally, like The Princess Bride and Dodgeball show, deus ex machina is always usable for comedic effect – especially if presented with a smile, and a cheeky nod to the literary intelligence of your readers.

If you’re going to keep it, make sure it’s appropriate for both your chosen genre and your intended audience.

Final Thoughts

Writing an exciting and dramatic climax is vital for a gripping story, and a memorable experience. However, if it’s impossible for your character to escape without an unbelievable or contrived ending, chances are you’re going to disappoint your readers.

So make sure your machine is finely tuned and well oiled, and not in need of divine intervention – but don’t be afraid to take a very different path than you initially believed you would, if that’s what it takes to forge a believable resolution.

What are your thoughts on the deus ex machina plot device? Would you argue ‘til you’re blue in the face that The War of the Worlds is indeed an example? Share a few of your favorite (or least favorite, as the case may be) endings of this kind in the comments below!

Glennis Browne Book Website