A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A BOOK CRITIC

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I found this article very interesting and decided to share it with you. Have a blessed day.  Shirley

Sean Farrell

lots of booksSean Farrell,professional book critic and resident reviewer with Ireland’s best-selling daily, tells us how it’s done

Critics come in many varieties. Everyone has an opinion, and, with blogging, more and more people are getting that opinion out there. Even for those who DON’T blog, there are many opportunities to say what you think. My local Murder and Mystery Book Club meets monthly to dissect a crime novel. And boy do they criticise! Every author ( and wannabe) should join their local book circle. It’s free, and usually, the critique and analysis insights to be gained are invaluable. And, remember, this audience is potentially –  and actually – your market.

I’ve been reviewing books seriously (i.e. reading, writing and getting paid by national media) for several years. And I’ve evolved my own personal  approach. It’s my firm belief that  a good critic should have written something, preferably, though not necessarily, in the discipline of the book to be reviewed.  In my own case I’ve written a novel and even though it hasn’t been published – yet –, the writing experience has proved invaluable in terms of understanding just where a book’s author is coming from . It’s no mean achievement to write a novel  and the very least the author should receive is an honest appraisal doing justice to the work and the effort put into it. When you have put in that effort yourself, you can empathise better with the author.

It goes like this. The book arrives. My first step is to establish the basics: readingthe deadline for filing the review, the word count required, the length and subject matter. Then I do some basic research on the author and any previous works. Obviously with a Jo Nesbo or any other established author, what you see is pretty much what you get,  but with a new author it’s different. Websites and online interviews are important for getting inside the author’s head, and finding out what s/he has in mind for the book, as well as its context.

After that I read the book – fully, and at a pace sufficient to absorb it and give it appropriate attention. Note: very few novels – and fewer nonfiction works – can be read in one session. Even the greatest critics have a limited attention span. A 200-page novel might/can be read in a day, over several sessions; longer books take … longer. I take notes – sparingly, and only on specifics I wish to recall. Too many notes diminishes appreciation of the book as a whole.

What do I look for?  On the macro front,  the basic requirements are a good story, with well-developed characters and plot and, ideally, some original element or twist. On the micro front, I look for style, pace and the absence of bad writing practices ( it’s amazing how they slip through). Then, taking the book holistically, I examine whether the author has successfully delivered what I perceive to be the book’s aim. This determines whether the review will be favourable or not.irish-hands

Then, I draft the review – in rough at first, and about one third longer than the final version. After that it’s a case of editing, paring down and polishing up what I want to say. Quite a bit like the story writing process, in fact. Finally, an absolute ‘No-no!’: I make a point of never reading what anyone else has written about a book until I’ve filed my review.

About shirleymclain930

I am a retired RN, I am currently promoting my book, Dobyns Chronicles. My first book published in November 2010 called "The Tower", has been revised. My newest book is a Young Adult Fantasy called Princess Adele's Dragon. It was a fun book to write. I'm enjoying my retirement to the fullest. I like adventure and travel and making friends. I have 5 dogs and 1 cats. They are like having a house full of three years olds. They are a large part of my life and I can't imagine not having them. I spend most of my time sitting in front of my computer working on my latest book. The final edit is time-consuming. I prefer to write or monitor my social sites. On the personal side, I'm married to a wonderful man who spoils me and I love it. I am very much a country girl. I love living on our 5 acres on Pole Cat Creek watching the deer and other animals occasionally stick their​ heads out of the trees. It's a fun life.

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