Sunday, March 1, 2015

On Writing A Book Review

I am writing my first book review for the world to see.

My normal reviews are oral and intended for a one on one audience. My dialogue, mannerisms and excitement level (or lack there of if I didn't care for the title) is all tailor fit to the person that I am speaking to.

Now I'm lost. Where do I begin?

Do I pick a book that the masses will love because then the more people that like the book will look favorably on my review and by extension me as a writer?  And once I do finally pick a book how to make sure that it its not a stale book report that we have all written in 9th grade English? For this, I looked to The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

As I am writing this first book review in tandem to this post I feel that I'm losing myself, and the review, to the facts more than the feelings about the book or why I wanted to tell the blog community about this particular book. I have decided to step back. What makes a great book review?

I know that it has to  have all the usual suspects: title, author, genre and a synopsis of the book. When I tell people about the book I'm reading I do cover all those things but I guess that I'm struggling with that the only visual is the static picture of the book and my words. Is that going to be enough to make you want to read the book? Will you care enough to come back and tell me if you liked it? I'm going to paint you a picture. A picture of me sitting at my cluttered desk. Paper, a half eaten truffle bar that I now feel sad that I didn't finish, bills that are ready to be filed away and my cell phone that chirps at me every few seconds driving me nuts.

In that sentence you have a review on my life of writing. My organizing system is chaos, which is one step up from sheer madness, I regrettably let my cell phone run my down time that I do have and I contemplate eating chocolate that has been sitting on my desk. 

To write a great review is just to paint a picture. Weave the story of the book in with how it made me feel and the journey that the story took me on. Did the book remind me of another? Did it make me cry? Am I too scared to read the book at night?  Most of all the review has to have me in it. As the reviewer I am the story teller now. I need to immerse myself in the words and the story because that is what a great review does. There is no template to fill in. No dot-to-dot to follow. This is a new story that the reviewer has created. A connection to the book and the next person that reads your words.

If writing a review still poses some struggle there are books that give more detail and depth to writing book reviews. In my search for a title that would impart as much information The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing by Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards is an award winning book (Reference Non-Fiction 2011 Global eBook Awards and Winner in the category of Writing in the ForeWord Magazine 2008 Book of the Year Award) that covers all areas of a great book review.

From purpose of the review to effectiveness this book has made me look at reviewing as something that I am able to achieve.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Defining the "Professional" Writer

"Is writing about money or being more professional?"

This is an excellent question and one that several people have asked over the course of me writing for this blog. As such, I want to give it the air time it deserves. Over the next couple posts we will examine this issue in more detail and (hopefully) come to some sort of conclusion. The reason this is such a tough concept to deal with as a writer is that common practice is to consider the concept of makingmoney as being synonymous to being a professional writer. On one hand, this isn’t incorrect. There are still these kind of definitions rolling around:


“participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs

“engaged in by persons receiving financial return”

            There is a caveat here though! These types of definitions, I believe, are borne of a rise in our lives relying more and more heavily on making money. As such they detract from what I believe to be the essence of the word “professional.” Consider this: definitions are primarily subjective in the sense that they apply to a specific context. In the case of the definitions above they both were relating to professional sport-players.

                             I actually prefer a definition I found in a medical dictionary:

the whole body of persons engaged in a calling

            To me this speaks to the soul of what we are doing here. Many of us write because we can’t imagine ourselves doing anything else. Others of us just write because the words flow through us and we feel inspired to write them down. For others it is the community that we immerse ourselves in that inspires us and keeps us writing. That’s not to say that for some of us we don’t just write because we happen to be getting paid to do it, but I’m confident when we are discussing what it means to be a professional writer… there is just more to it.

            If we trace the somewhat complicated origin of the word and its etymology through history, professional actually comes from roots meaning “to profess” or “acknowledge” and usually pertained to some sort of vow to live up to the highest standard of the skill or trade you practiced. Isn’t this what we aspire to do as writers?

            So what does being a professional mean to you? Does it mean making money with your writing? Does it reflect the standard you expect from yourself in your writing? Or does it mean something totally different? I want to hear from you! Then in my next post I want to discuss how to consolidate being a professional with making money into a balanced and healthy lifestyle for you as a writer. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Make an Impact While Blogging for a Living

Wouldn't we all like to have a blog that impacts peoples' lives.  We'd love to write 'THE' book that changes the game around, and makes us into something more.  Except we have to contend with the rat-race, and nobody really cares about us.

To others, we are just another blogger, or just another writer who is out to make a buck.

It's true, blogging for a living is about making an impact.  However, blogging, or writing a blog, or whatever you do can become a little bit more tedious when you know you aren't changing the world.  You've got your own little corner, and your own little office, but the world? Not really.

There's the heart of the matter- making an impact doesn't sound all that glamorous now does it?

I've sat in front of this computer for far too many hours to count, and wondered what sort of post makes an impact on our readers.  I write about things I am passionate about, and what matters to me, because these impact my life.  Living is just that, except I am not the one who matters in the equation of blogging.  If no one read our blog, I wouldn't earn income.  If no one read my book, the result would be the same.

People matter.  People make the difference.

I'm under no illusion about how much work this blog takes, and how much of my heart and soul goes into many of my blog posts.  These posts mean a lot to many of my readers, and some have become regular commenters, but I still ask myself this question:

Do I make a big impact? Probably not.  

Do you know how to make an impact while blogging?  It's simple, you have to be passionate for this life and this challenge.  I can change one person on our blog, and make it better for him, because I stood up for something I believe in, which is writing- or like the blog title says- Living a Life of Writing.  I can only fight so many battles, and our blog is the one place I can write, and make an impression on more than one person.  I can talk at length about social networking. But it boils down to making an impact and caring more about everyone else than yourself.

The way to make an impact is to actually care, even a little about writing, or in this case blogging.  If you don't care, you won't make an impact.

I have another job, and as much as I enjoy it, I don't make an impression on anyone. I am quick to be forgotten, and I would assume- rightly so if I left today- my impression, or impact on the store would last for a couple of days.  There, I don't matter.  I don't have the overall passion for this particular job as I do for this blog.  This blog has become the life I love.

Do I make an impact writing on our blog?  No, not as much as I want to.  Do I matter in the long run the way the blog is run? Not At All.

What I want is for this blog to challenge the people who come to it, and challenge me in very positive ways.  I am slowly going back to older posts and finding I didn't make an impact, because I was full of excuses.  I didn't take ownership of this blog.

By now you're probably wondering why I refer to this blog as "our" blog.  It is certainly not mine.  In a sense, from the moment I chose to publish Living a Life of Writing it never was.  This is a blog where readers matter, and it is our blog.  This is a blog in which the other writers matter too. In fact, I've told the rest of the writers it is their blog- they have some ownership of this blog too.  Because it's about writing, and about developing people on this blog.

Blogging for a living is a lot like this.  It becomes your heart and soul, and you only want to make it better.  When someone tells me they want to blog for a living, I almost want to tell them don't do it.  It will consume you, it will cost you blood, sweat and tears, and it's not the life anyone would want to have except for one thing.

Do you want to make an impact?

If you want to take about seven years of writing, and more than a million words, along with thinking about your readers, and finding a way to touch one life who needs it.  I'm sure almost anyone can blog about money and make a few dollars, but when it comes down to it, will that help anyone else?

Is this making an impact while blogging for a living?

If you can be stronger as a person and a writer, and then find a reason to keep going every day, there is a way you will make an impact.  Focus on everyone but yourself first and you will make an impact on your readers, and will be blogging for a living.

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