Tag: Advice

My Bookish Manifesto

Posted May 10, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 20 Comments

I love my blog, I’ve been very proud of it and I can’t think of anything better. I like to spend my time playing with it, slowly improving it and writing posts for it. I don’t make money off my blog but it is a real passion of mine and something I plan to continue for a very long time. Recently I read a fantastic article on advice to young critics, while this is focused on the TV and movie industry I think it is still relevant to what I want to achieve.

Feeling all inspired by this article, I started thinking about what I want to achieve in life. I want to be considered a critic and I would love to get paid to do what I love but if that never happens I will still enjoy doing it. I’m not satisfied to with my current skill level and I want to continuously be improving. I took the advice given in the article on board and decided to adapt it to reflect my intentions. Being as pretentious as I am, I’m calling this my book critic manifesto.

  • Read a lot of different books – make sure to explore a wide range of genres, going outside more comfort zones and reading from more nationalities, different translations and genres.
  • Read from the back list – avoid only reading from the novels that have only just come out. Read books from all periods of time. Go back further than the 18th century and try to understand how books from the past have paved a way for the present.
  • Learn about the book industry – the politics and what goes on behind the scenes, it is important to have a finger on the pulse of the bookish world and understand trends and strategies deployed by the publishers.
  • Write every day – Commit to writing at least one post a day, it doesn’t matter if they get published or not, develop a habit. Writing takes practice and the more you practise the better you will be come. This is an essential step for self-improvement.
  • Find time to read every day – I can’t improve as a book critic if I’m not spending time reading, make the time. Listen to audiobooks while working, driving or exercising. Carry a book (or ebook) at all times and use any free time to read a little more.
  • Write it down – any good ideas or notes I have need to be written down before I forget. I’ve started carrying a notepad with me and finding other methods to jot down notes and thoughts as they come to me.
  • Rewrite – Edit, edit and edit some more. First drafts are never going to be my best writing but I often don’t like to rewrite. I must disciple myself to put my best work forward and thing will mean rewriting.
  • Proof read – I’m lucky enough to have a great editor (my wife) who is supportive of my blogging. She generously takes the time to read over every post I write before it hits the blog. I have to train her to be tougher on me and tell me if I need to re-write something but with her help I will improve. However I need to make her life easier not harder, I need to make sure I’m not relying on her and I’m checking my work thoroughly before she sees it.
  • Read up on history and psychology – It is fascinating to see how helpful knowledge of history and psychology can help with critical thinking. I am to critique books, so I need to understand more about the historical context and the psychology behind it.
  • Study literary theory – I need to understand literary criticism better; I know I will never understand all the theories but a basic knowledge will be useful. I suspect that my primary focus will be Marxist and Psychoanalytical theory but I would also like to be able to read a book from a Feminist, Post-Colonial, etc. view point as well.
  • Learn about language – Read more books about language and grammar, they can be fun and I can learn a lot from them.
  • Interact with the bookish community – it is important to continually seek out people with different viewpoints, I don’t want to become an echo chamber. Interacting with people that read and review books differently to me will help me develop my style and avoid becoming stale. We don’t want to live in a world where everyone says the same thing and if I can spend time reading different opinions I hope to avoid being similar to the crowd.
  • Learn about creative writing – I sometimes wish I could write a story but I feel I’m better suited as a critic and a reader than an author. I do need to learn the tools of the trade so I can understand why an author does what they do and develop an appreciation for the craft.
  • Develop my voice – I feel like my style is very conversational and personal; this is how I relate to the novels and this is how I feel. With practice I can perfect my style but I must always remember what I’m trying to achieve and how I want to come across in my writing.
  • Avoid only writing reviews – I don’t want to fall in the habit of only writing book reviews, if I’m writing every day I’m never going to keep up. I will write non-review posts, about my bookish thoughts or what ever is going on in the bookish world. Memes are great but I don’t want to rely heavily on them.
  • Meet deadlines – If I’m going to request an ARC then I must make sure that I read and review the book before the deadline or release date. Non-solicited ARCs don’t need to be read before a deadline or at all. I have written a review policy that clearly states that not all ARCs will be read but I need to make sure if I’ve committed to one that I read it.
  • Don’t be afraid to be different – I’ve found that I often hate books that others may enjoy, I do enjoy writing a negative review and I must remember that there is nothing wrong with that. However I must also remember that the job of an author is hard and I must always use tack and constructive criticism. I can’t be afraid to try something different and have a voice that differs from the rest, stand firm in what I think and be uncompromising in my writing.
  • Be the best you can be – I need to learn that sometimes a piece of writing isn’t working and I should dump it and start again. I shouldn’t be afraid to start over, I want my editor to be hard on me and I should be hard on myself too. I can learn a lot from others and I must be willing to take criticism. It is a helpful to my growth as a critic and also essential. If I’m not happy with a piece how can I expect others to enjoy it. Try and try again until you get it right.
  • Just write – I know that there will be times where I will feel like I’m not writing well or am suffering from a writer’s block. I need to remember that I don’t have to publish everything I write to my blog. I can write a bad piece and then dump it and try again, I might get some decent lines out of my bad writing that can help form a better piece.
  • Have fun – This is a passion not a chore.

This is still a work in progress and I plan to add more to this manifesto when I think of it. I feel like I have a goal in sight and I want to work towards it. This is not about getting a job or anything like that; this is about developing my skills to be the best book blogger/critic I can be. I’m passionate about books and I love talking about them, I will improve and this is how I plan to do just that. If you have any good advice that I can add to this, let me know in the comments below.