Ready for Writing Inspiration? Try Reviewing Your Own Novel!

There's no denying that some days, writing feels like an endless slog.

Plots that were humming along tangle as mercilessly as a pair of earbuds in your purse.

Characters set sail for parts unknown, determined not to reveal their secrets.

Every sentence starts to sound the same.

While there's no substitute for hard work or a nurturing rest, sometimes we just need some good ol' fashioned imagination to refresh our creative spirit!

And so today you're going to review your own story, with all the love and joy it would receive from the world's biggest fan of your books. This is a delightful exercise to hold onto and revisit whenever you're feeling creatively dispirited, to remind yourself of the potential and what's special in your work, whether you reread a review you've written before or write a new one each time.

The idea of this creative exercise

Above all, this review should showcase two things:

  1. What you'd like to be known for as a writer.
  2. What's memorable about this story.

In writing the review, highlight the elements that are recognizable as your own personal stamp – heroines in STEM careers, perhaps, or a twist on the historical fantasy genre – and something unique about this story in particular. Maybe the entire tale takes place at night or is told back to front.

You can also include quotes from the work itself to illustrate your points.

While you can't predict how readers will feel, if you know some of the stand-out elements, the things that stand apart from the basics of plot and character development, you can make sure to give those things their due in the review.

In one of my hibernating works-in-progress, for example, the healing power of cooking and baking is a major element – the heart of the story.

Rather than sticking to basics (like "comfort food equals mac and cheese") I’m exploring things like what makes us associate certain foods with comfort; what it’s like to cook a meal with love versus eating a meal that’s been made for you with love; and how to nourish with food when you’re ill at ease in the kitchen.

The more we nurture these elements and help them flourish, the more our story will thrive, the more we’ll feel we’ve done it justice, and the more it will mean to the readers whose lives it touches. Writing this review is a great way to reconnect with these elements!

How to review your own story

For the greatest ease in reviewing your story, create a bit of distance by imagining you've just finished reading a novel exactly like yours.

This novel wasn't just good, it was one of the best things you ever read. You want to pick it up again and start from the beginning, but first you're sitting down to add a review on Goodreads or to your blog so everyone else can discover how awesome this book is, too.

What does your review lead with? If people are scrolling down and skimming the first line of each review, what should you highlight in that line?

Now that you've got their attention, what else would you share? What made you run for Google to learn more? What sent you racing to Pinterest to start a board? What had you excitedly texting your friend (who's also read this marvellous book) at midnight?

Write this review in the kind of luscious detail you would afford to one of your favourite books (with spoiler tags, for full realism points).

Wrap up the review with a gem: perhaps a full-circle moment with the opening line, or a cheeky dream casting choice for the just-announced film, or a reference to the scene that most exemplifies the heart of this novel.

Once you're finished, fix up any spelling and grammatical errors, add fitting emojis and gifs, and bold or italicize words and phrases that demand attention.

Now find a safe place to keep this treasure of a review!

This creative exercise is such a delightful way to help stave off self-doubt and connect to what you love about your story, which is one of the best (yet easily forgotten) motivations to see a story through to the end.

Whenever you need to, tuck into a cosy nook and revisit the review for some homespun creative magic. The writing life may not always be easy, or simple, but little creative touches like this will always be there when you need them.

Take heart, creative soul. Something magic this way lies!

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