How Book Reviewing Influences My Writing

December 8, 2016 | By | 6 Replies More

Before I published my books, and before I understood the importance of book reviews for an author, I always tried to leave a few sentences on Amazon and Goodreads about my reading experience. I’m a great believer in leaving (and reading) reviews for restaurants, holiday resorts, hotels, and other products, so why should books be any different?

Back then, I was an avid fantasy fiction fan who simply looked for a compelling story with likable characters. My reading rate increased the more invested I became in my writing. Over the years, I began to include book reviews on my blog, and eventually I joined Rosie Amber’s book review team. I now review books published by traditional mainstream publishers, and those published via an independent press, as well as a large selection of indie titles.

I know that the books I chose to read when I was a new writer had a huge influence on the work I produced, for example, I’m a big fan of young adult fantasy novels, which is one of the genres I chose to write in. Knowing how popular a book series is with a teenager audience helped me to plot my trilogy. Reading reviews by book bloggers and fans of authors such as Sarah J Maas, and Cassandra Clare, helped me to shape the characters in my series and gave me my ultimate goal – to write something as descriptive, fast-paced, and gripping as my favourite authors.

However, there is a downside to reviewing. Since publishing my debut fiction series, I can no longer read for pleasure without referring to the critical eye of an author who edits (or an author who gets told off by her editor for using far too many adverbs in one paragraph!).

Over analysis has crept into my reading habits, and I must confess, it’s taken the shine off some of the fiction I’ve read. On the plus side, I no longer tolerate a bad book. There was a time when I would stick it out to the final page and throw the book into a charity bag the second I got to ‘The End.’ With my reviewer hat on, I no longer have any regrets about abandoning a book within a few chapters – after all, life’s too short to waste time on writers’ who don’t take pride in their work.

It was always important for me to treat my writing, and subsequent novels, as a thriving business. To be able to achieve this I had to take myself, and my work, seriously. Hiring an editor/proofreader/designer is money well spent. Only with my ‘team’ can I produce something I am proud to share. Once I became a book reviewer, it became relatively easy to pick out those books/authors that had chosen to either edit the novel themselves or ask Auntie Jean to glance over it before hamming together a cover and hitting publish.

2Seeing the dross produced daily has made me all the more determined to polish my writing, and ensure that I publish the best content I can. I’m fortunate to work with a wonderful independent publisher (BHC Press) who also create beautiful covers for my titles. I’m a multi-genre author, writing self-help for adults, and YA fantasy fiction. I treat both genres in the same way; with the utmost care and attention. Reading books that contain spelling and grammar mistakes within the first chapter, or titles that aren’t correctly formatted, leaves me, and any other reader, with a negative experience. I didn’t want that to happen with my work.

Aside from the quality control analysis, which has instilled a professional determination in me as a writer, I found that reviewing a vast range of books has opened up new genres to me. I would never have read any historical romance before I became a reviewer, and yet now this is one of my favourite topics. With this new found joy of reading other genres, comes the inevitable rush of story ideas. Some of my more recent ideas have touched on themes that I would never have originally considered.

I do shy away from romance and chick-lit – the adverse side-effect of surviving an abusive marriage – however, throw in a vampire, Tudor princess, or a psychological twist, and I’m hooked. Thanks to the variety of books I now read, I can find new influences to evolve my writing skills. Not necessarily to publish a historical fiction novel or a crime thriller, but I use these inspirations to add another slant to my work.

I’m a great believer in developing one’s skill set, and reviewing is the ideal way to achieve this goal. I hope to continue posting my book reviews for many years to come and using my love of reading to improve as an author.

Shelley Wilson divides her writing time between motivational non-fiction for adults and the fantasy worlds of her YA fiction.

Her non-fiction books combine lifestyle, motivation, and self-help with a healthy dose of humour, and her YA novels combine myth, legend and fairy tales with a side order of demonic chaos.  You can check out all Shelley’s books here:


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Category: Contemporary Women Writers, How To and Tips

Comments (6)

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  1. Terry Tyler. says:

    I so agree with much of this, Shelley! I can’t be bothered with badly written books, either; I don’t think it’s just because of lack of professionalism, though. Some people just can’t write, but, alas, no one has dared tell them so!

    Have to point this out, though, re your point about writers who edit their own books and do their own covers: I edit my books myself. You have to be strict with yourself and have a painstaking eye for detail, and READ a lot too, of course! I tell you this with confidence because I know you read most of mine by choice (!!), and I’ve rarely had a review that faults the editing; it is possible to do it better than some books edited by independent presses. A friend of mine who also edits her own thinks that if you need an editor to make your book publishable, then you shouldn’t be writing. A little stronger than I feel about it, but I take her point; understanding what makes a good novel is part of the writing process.

    As for not wanting to read about romance, I don’t either… I think it’s just part of getting older, though. We’re not so obsessed with it, and maybe don’t believe in the fairy tale love of romance books!!

    • Shelley says:

      Ah yes, I totally agree with you Terry! I love your books and have so much admiration for your work ethic and your skills in editing. When I wrote this article it was very much written from a personal point of view. I know what my strengths are and I know where I need additional work. For me, therefore, an editor is essential to catch everything I miss. (My lack of painstaking eye for detail is probably the reason I need glasses!)
      Thanks for commenting.

  2. Carol Hedges says:

    I agree with this: Reviewing other people’s books does make you survey your own writing in a new light. And reading other people’s reviews of your work makes you realise that in the end, nobody really knows what the hell you are writing about. Not even you!

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