The Value of Stars


I read a great post recently on Peter Germany’s blog where he talked about the star system used to review books. I often do reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but I haven’t really analysed what the stars really mean to me, and I guess everyone’s interpretation is different. So here’s what I’m thinking when I give a book a star:

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5 stars ***** I loved it…unputdownable.

4 stars **** Really enjoyed it, but….(I’m probably just being picky but there was at least one thing that annoyed me, I found a bit unbelievable or didn’t like etc).

3 stars *** It was ok but I’m disappointed. I had a major problem with a particular aspect, but for some unknown reason decided to read to the end lol

2 stars ** Hmmmm, not for me. It really didn’t work or was just plain boring.

1 star * Well, that’s a part of my life I’ll never get back! Hated it!

So how many stars would I give a book that I hadn’t been able to finish? And why would I want to spend my time reading a book that I didn’t like? I don’t think I’ve ever given a 1 or 2 star review on Amazon or Goodreads, because if it was that bad I would have chucked the book across the room by page 100 lol

Go check out Anne R Allens excellent guide to leaving a review on Amazon and also a brillant post from Lisa Jewell reviewing her reviews.

So my question to you dear reader is….. do you ever give 1 or 2 star reviews? And if so, how do you decide what constitutes a 1 star and why would you continue reading a book if you thought it was that bad?

Faber Session 15 – The Publishing Experience


Because of the threat of snow I was determined to get up to London, so I went earlier. Got off the tube a couple of stops later and found myself in Fortnum & Mason
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As you do 😉 This is one serious posh shop people. I just thought I’d have a wander lol. But I kinda found myself in The Parlour, the ice cream parlour!

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After Welsh Rarebit crumpets it was cake time! This is apparently an Estherhazy cake which originates in Austria.

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Looks yummy yeah? Nope….it wasn’t! It was the most sickly thing I’ve ever had 😦 That white stuff isn’t cream, it’s buttercream! So there’s more buttercream than cake! I couldn’t eat it all lol. On the plus side, they give you a mini ice cream with your latte 😉

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Anyway, enough of the cake, onto class!

Our guest tutor tonight was Hannah Griffiths (Publishing Director at Faber & Faber) who came to talk to us about publishing. I really don’t know where to begin to be honest, she was brilliant. I learnt so much! So I guess I’ll just share with you some of my notes, some of the things that Hannah said that I found interesting or useful.

She will only read a MS subbed by an agent. For 2 reasons…1. She’s a busy lady, she trusts that an MS sent in by an agent will be worth reading and 2. because she only signs authors who have an agent. Why? because she doesn’t want to spend all her time talking to that author about the business side of things (because she’d rather talk to you about your novel!), explaining stuff to debut authors who don’t know all the stuff about contracts and rights.

TItle is really important! Books with a good, memorable title will often get read on that alone, so make it brilliant!

Polish your MS to perfection. You have a much better chance. Don’t submit before you’re ready to.

Most people over-write the first 2 pages, don’t! Read 10 opening paragraphs of novels considered to be good. Learn from them!

Great authors leave no trace of the turmoil it took to get there. I love that quote 🙂

Be original, assured and confident in your prose, but surprise.

People don’t know what to buy anymore, publishers need to get their shit together (regarding online sales).

A good agent will know the “tastes” of certain editors.

She talked about the publishing industry. Here in the UK our biggest Bookshop chain, Waterstones, are planning on closing a third of their shops in the next couple of years. This will have a major impact on book buying in the UK. Publishers aren’t really that worried about Ebooks. Their problem will be getting debut authors work “out there” and noticed in the years to come. The ordinary man in the street, who buys 4 books a year will be turning to the supermarkets, where there is no author loyalty. It’s just a case of buy what they have.

Hmmmm, it all seems a bit sad, the state of book buying in the UK, and doesn’t fill you with hope 😦 At the moment Amazon seems to have the UK online market sown up. If you walk into a Waterstones you have access to 1000+ books blurbs to make your selection from. You go on to Amazon and you have to scroll through pages of books to find something you might want to read (unless you’re on there for something specific). I know what I prefer, but it seems I’m beginning to be a part of a minority 😦

Sooooo, I learnt that 1. I really should have an agent before anything else and 2. The chances of me becoming a successful novelist within the next 3 years is very slim (tongue firmly in cheek there). But, it does beg the question Where exactly is the publishing industry headed? It’s quite a worry 😦

Editing A Novel – Tips From Della Galton


Continuing our theme of editing this month I have a very special guest today *grins*

Today’s blog guest is the wonderful Della Galton who is a working writer (just tap her name into Amazon!!!) and agony aunt for Writers Forum Magazine. She has had over 1,000 short stories published in national magazines in the UK, and throughout the world.

Editing A Novel
So you’ve written a novel at top speed – what now? Package it up and send it out to all the publishers and agents in the Writer’s Handbook? Hold on just two ticks. Here are my top five editing tips.

Tip One
Put it to one side for at least a fortnight, preferably longer, a month is good. Then you can go back to it with your cool editor’s head, not your passionate writer’s head.

Tip Two
Read it through in its entirety. Make some notes based on these points.
Does it begin in the right place?
Is it in the right viewpoint?
Does the plot work?
Is the main character really the main character?
Is the middle saggy?
How is the dialogue – good, bad or indifferent?
Can you tell the characters apart?
Does it end well?

Tip Three
Rewrite, based on your notes.

Tip Four
Repeat Tip One.

Tip Five
Edit again, as follows:

Cut Repetition
For me, the number one fault in first drafts is repetition. I often repeat myself when I write a first draft, both in meaning and with words. I don’t know whether it’s they way my brain works, but I’ll very often find that I’ve repeated a word either in the same paragraph or in the one below. It’s almost as if my writing brain is saying, that’s a good word, we’ll have another one of those, shall we?

I also have favourite words. You’ll have your own, but these are some of mine: just; quite; suddenly; that; and bit. I sometimes use the word search facility to go through and delete these words in my final edit.

Another way of repetition is to say the same thing in a different way.

And standing there in the sun, on that dusty afternoon Pam realised she’d never felt quite so happy in her life, which wasn’t all that surprising when she thought about it. Pottering around a car boot sale was one of her favourite ways to spend a Sunday morning.

These two sentences are both telling us that Pam is happy. Only one of them is needed, although in the end I discarded both in favour of showing Pam being happy rather than directly telling the reader.

Check for overused punctuation
I’m also rather fond of dashes – I litter them through my work – and it’s a difficult habit to break. You’ll find plenty besides the two in this paragraph that I’ve put in deliberately.

A good rule is that less is more. Be sparing with exclamation marks. They tend to be very visible.

Watch for telling when you’ve already shown

This is effectively another form of repetition. There is no need to show the reader something and then tell them as well.

i.e. Tears streamed down Laura’s face. She was very unhappy.

Cut adverbs
Fashions change, but I am of the opinion that adverbs should be used sparingly. They tend to weaken writing, rather than strengthen it. If possible use a strong verb instead. For example, instead of saying, he ran quickly, try he raced.

Cut clichés
Most clichés came into being because they were the perfect way to say something. So why change them? The answer to this, I think, is that anything we hear too often is less meaningful – after a while it loses its meaning, and hence its impact, altogether.

They will certainly not make your writing original.

These are two good reasons to try and avoid them.

And finally, is it possible to over edit?
At the risk of contradicting myself, then I’d say, yes it is. Our first work tends to be a splurge of words that pour out – well they pour out on a good day! On a bad day it might feel more like pulling teeth with no anaesthetic. First drafts have a rawness about them and hopefully a sparkle. And I think that it’s possible to take this sparkle out with too much editing.

I’ve seen writers who have actually managed to polish all the sparkle away from their original piece, leaving a final draft that is flat and rather emotionless. Please be careful – but in the final analysis you’ll have to trust your instincts about when enough is enough. This gets much easier with time and experience.

Thank you so much Della, some great tips there!

If you found that useful, (i know i did!) nip over to Amazon where you can download Della’s eBook The Short Story Writer’s Toolshed – Your Quick Read, Straight-To-The-Point Guide To Writing and Selling Short Fiction (Writer’s Toolshed Series)

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Originally written as a series for Writers’ Forum Magazine, this snappy, no-nonsense guide has been expanded, amended and updated. Using new examples from her own published short fiction, Della Galton takes you from ‘story idea’ to ‘final edit’, and demonstrates how to construct and polish the perfect short story, ready for publication.

Ahhhh, yes, repitition lol….I have a HUGE problem with that. Did any of those tips strike a chord (CLICHE ALERT lol) with you? 😉