I have just started reading ‘There but for the’ by Ali Smith and I’m very drawn to it by the Guardian review on the back that describes it as ‘Whimsically devastating.’ By the time it moves on to ‘profoundly clever and profoundly affecting,’ I am thinking this is a great review and how lovely it would be if one day I could have my book published and enjoy some rave reviews on the back cover.
Which reminds me.
A while ago, I read ‘Outlining your novel: map your way to success,’ by Kim Welland. One of the things she suggests doing is to write your own perfect review. It struck me that this is a really good writing exercise to do at this time of year and that it doesn’t matter if you’ve never written but always wanted to, or if you have a novel in hand. In the first case, it can be a great way to focus vague ambitions into something more cohesive. If you have a novel or stories on the go, it can be an excellent way to clear your mind and remember what you set out to do. I have a first draft down and I’m thinking this will give me something to measure my draft against and identify what still needs to be done to make it the book I want it to be.
So here is what Welland suggests:
If you could have a professional reviewer read your idealized concept of your finished book and totally get it – completely understand everything you’re trying to say with your characters, dialogue, and themes – what would he write about your story? Close your eyes for a moment, emotionally distance yourself from your story, and pretend you’re that reviewer.
Keep the following suggestions in mind, in order to plumb the review for as much depth as possible:
Be specific. Don’t just let the reviewer say he loved the story. Make him tell you why he loved it. What parts are the best? What makes this piece really shine?
Be thorough. Cover every aspect of the story you can think of: plot (including arc, pacing, and originality), characters (including personalities, arc and development), dialogue, themes, and climax.
Be extravagant. Praise your story to the skies. Layer on the adjectives of adulation. After all, you’re writing from the perspective of a reader who understands and loves your story just as much as you do. So have fun!