Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Guest Blogger Camryn Rhys - How To Get A Five-Star Review: One Reviewer’s Opinion

I’ve written several blogs about writing as a reviewer, or reviewing as a writer. I want to take just a moment to talk about reviewing as a reviewer.

A lot of people (Donald Maas included) have said lately that what you need to do is “write a good book.” I want to stress that I don’t disagree with that, but there’s more to it than that. Plus, those pieces of advice are so nebulous. I’m always left thinking, “that’s very motivational, but how do I do it?”

I’m here to tell you how to do it.

First, help me to help you. I’m reading your book. I want it to be good. Don’t throw crap at the beginning like the heroine waking up or driving home for the first time in ten years. Start where the story starts, and help me out.

Then, write characters I’ll care about. There’s nothing worse than reading a book where the author is obviously in love with her hero, but I can find nothing redemptive or engaging about him. You know a lot about your characters, but you can’t keep it all to yourself. Show me why I should care about them.

Then, tell me a story that I haven’t heard before that is so cool you just can’t not tell it. Coming up with mediocre crap? Just stop. Find a story inside yourself that is so amazing, it pours out of you.

And then FINISH THE EFFING BOOK. I can’t tell you how many great contest entries I’ve read in my lifetime and had the authors say, “well, I haven’t finished it” and then years later, “I haven’t finished it.” Finish the book. Stuck in the middle? Keep writing. Edit later. You’ll survive. Just finish. You can’t sell what’s not done.

When I think back on the best books I’ve read, they haven’t always been about who was the best flat-out writer. In fact, I’ve read one particular erotic romance writer that’s been rightly touted as one of the best “writers” people have ever read. But I couldn’t stand her stories. So I don’t read her books. (Oh, and don’t go digging around in my reviews, because I’ve never reviewed one of her books publicly. Mostly because I didn’t enjoy her books.) She’s a great writer, but she can’t tell a story to save her life.

Tell me a great story, write great characters, and then get out of the way. Stop trying so hard and just write a good book. Okay, so I totally went Donald Maas on you right there, didn’t I? I admit. When it comes down to it, write a good book and someone will buy it. And then send it to me so I can review it, because there is nothing I like better than writing a five-star review.

What about you? What do you think goes in to writing a “great book”? Think about great books you’ve read. What do they have in common? What did you love about them?

Thanks so much for having me. You can find my blog at http://camrynrhys.blogspot.com and at http://dirtybirdauthors.blogspot.com. I review at The Pen and Muse (http://thepenmuse.org) and The Season (http://theseasonforromance.com). I’m on Twitter @camrynrhys and Facebook @CamrynRhys. I’m on Google+, and you can buy my book on Amazon, All Romance eBooks, and the Breathless Press website.

THE BARN DANCE: When Mindy needs a baker’s expertise, Leo offers a trade: one day in the kitchen for one night at the Barn Dance. Either way, the heat is rising. http://www.breathlesspress.org/Book/327


Jen B. said...

The characters. Everything is the story should be driven my the characters. Then the settings and situations. My favorite example is Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey. I had a really hard time with the first 50 to 75 pages because the character was in a bad place. Once I got through that setup, I loved Phedre and I wanted her to be happy. The book would have been a waste of time and paper if I hadn't loved Phedre.

Meg Benjamin said...

Welcome to the Naughty Nine Camryn! And oh, I'm with you here. It's hard for me to say which matters more, characters or story. Great characters can be undermined by a story that seems to be nothing but cliches, but flat characters will kill an interesting story for me in nothing flat.

Kelly Jamieson said...

Welcome to the Naughty Nine Camryn! This got me thinking! I think before I was a published author, it was mainly about the characters. If I loved them, I wanted to read their story. That's still important, but now I'm also in awe of an author who can tell a great story - it's hard to describe what that is, but it just works. What really does NOT help make a great story for me now is the writing craft. I know you mentioned an author who's a great writer but can't tell a story and I totall get that. But even if I'm reading a great story and there are grammatical mistakes and headhopping and other egregious writing sins, it snaps me out of it. Before I knew what I know now, I never noticed things like that. Which (although it's too late to make a long story short LOL!) means I am picky.

Rebecca Lynn said...

Jen, I'm definitely a character girl myself. And I love the name Phedre. I think I'm gonna have to check out that book. :)

Rebecca Lynn said...

Meg, that last sentence is perfect. Good characters can make a ho-hum story good. But bad characters can suck the life out of an otherwise good story. Thanks for having me on NNN! :)

Rebecca Lynn said...

Kelly, I agree. My reviewing was different before I got published. And now I read and craft can get in my way. Interesting to think about as a writer! :)