The Summer of Book Reviews (or: how Goodreads Helped My Writing)

At the beginning of last summer, I started a new job at a local university. With the professors and students on break, the first three months were quiet, and I’m not the type of person who can sit at a desk and twiddle my thumbs for forty hours a week. Writing occupied me until I sent my novel to an editor-friend; after that, I read until fellow author Bernice L. Rocque recommended Goodreads.

I spent the next month shelving and reviewing books to kill time. I like thinking critically about what I read; this made me a perfect candidate for English major-ship in college. Goodreads was a fun past time, but I didn’t expect anything more. I never thought reviewing books would help my own writing.

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What my Goodreads stacks would look like in real life! Photo Credit: Ginny

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Research the Hell Out of It

“Write what you know” is standard advice in creative writing programs. While earning my B.A. in English, I experimented by writing about ballroom dancing and piano (things I knew) as well as pregnancy and war (things I didn’t). My most successful stories featured what I knew: I described ballroom dance competitions with more plausibility than a helivac scene in Eastern Europe.

So what I’m about to say might sound counterintuitive: forget about writing what you know. Continue reading