Tag Archives: How To

Why Writers Should Review Books

Why Writers Should Review Books

If you are a reader, you should write book reviews.

  1. It will help you remember the books you’ve read, and whether they’re worth rereading.
  2. Your feedback helps other readers decide whether they should invest time and money to read a particular book. (I confess I read one-star reviews to find out what other readers found objectionable. Admittedly, some people are just hard to please; but often, when I read an unfavorable review, I recognize I wouldn’t like the book either.)
  3. Your comments help the authors know how you felt about their books, and what they might improve upon in the future.

If you are a writer, you have a responsibility to write reviews. Other authors are not your competitors; they are your colleagues, your community. You benefit from interacting with them. Your insights about their work help them. You know how exacting the writing life is; you’re in the trenches. Your response is even more revealing than what non-writing readers give.

Sitting on pile of books

Here are some things you can include in a book review:

  • Tell what the book is about, without revealing the entire plot (or in the case of nonfiction, all the conclusions) or spoiling pivotal twists.
  • Tell what the author did well. If you like the book, mention all aspects that made it a winner for you. Even if you didn’t like the book, share at least one thing that was good—an intriguing title, a diverse cast of characters, the brevity of the chapters.
  • If you were disappointed, explain why. What were you expecting that the author didn’t deliver? Was the ending unsatisfying? Were there typos or factual errors that distracted you? Were the characters undeveloped? Be specific.
  • Make whatever recommendation you can. Maybe the book wasn’t your cup of tea, but fans of chick-lit would love it—say so. Or maybe give an age range: “I feel the subject matter was too intense for 6-year-olds, but teenagers could handle it.”
  • Compare it to other books, either other ones the author has written, or others about the same topic, or books in other genres. “It’s like Gone Girl, but in a parallel universe.”
  • You may want to take notes as you read, or write the review immediately after reading the book. I can’t tell you how many times I need to do a quick reread while reviewing, because I’ve forgotten key events or names of characters in the book a week later.

When you’ve written your review, send it out into the world.

  • Submit it to publications that carry book reviews. This is a tricky market to break into, but if you do, you can get steady work.
  • If you have your own blog, publish it there (I post my book reviews on my Books Read page)—or offer it as a guest post on a review blog.
  • Publish it on your social media—you may have to pare it down to fit a specified number of characters.
  • Post it as a customer review on Amazon or BarnesandNoble.com, and/or on Goodreads.

Now it’s your turn. If you are an author, do you read your reviews? Do you appreciate a review written following the tips above? What other advice would you offer to reviewers? Please share in the comments below.


NaPoWriMo2019 #1


Eggs Cruciatingjiangxulei1990-1055736-unsplash

You told me to go suck an egg
And I’d really like to comply,
But, tell me, how do you suck an egg?

Do you have to boil it first?
And then do you suck it with the shell on
Or off?
Do you stick the whole thing in your mouth?
Or just suck on one end?

Or do you suck it raw?
Do you tap a little hole in the shell
And suck the insides out?

Tell me.
How do you do it?



Video of the Week #160: How to Write a Joke


How to Maintain Your Motivation

How to Maintain Your Motivation

When I resigned from my teaching job three and a half years ago, I resolved to do things around the house that I hadn’t had time for while I was working, like tackling our “garage of doom.” Our house, built in 1979, was showing its age, and our garage door looked shabby and decayed. I told my husband the garage had to be cleared out before we could order a new door.

Now, we’ve lived in our house 29 years. When we moved in, we had four kids, the oldest of whom was nine. My husband started his new job the next day, while I cared for the kids and started unpacking. We immediately became pregnant with child number five, which zapped my energy. The fact that we live in the Arizona desert—where six months of the year it’s too hot to work in the garage, and one month it’s too cold– didn’t help. Boxes moved from our old home in New Jersey waited in the garage for unpacking, to no avail. They were soon joined by other stuff we couldn’t find room for. Eventually, the entire garage flowed waist-high with stuff. The job of cleaning it out seemed insurmountable.


The first two years of removing hundreds of bags of garbage, recycling, and donatables didn’t even visibly reduce the mountains of debris in the garage. But we kept plugging away, and just before Christmas 2017, we pronounced the excavation done. You can read about our Garage of Delight here.

It’s hard to keep going when the job is so big you can’t see yourself making any progress. You have to visualize what you are working toward and then remind yourself that every focused effort you make is getting you closer to your goal, whether you can see it or not.

The same thing is true when you’re working on a large creative project, like a novel rewrite. It’s a daunting process. It helps to identify exactly what it is you’re working on—a story that will hold great meaning for your readers. Sometimes, if you can make your endeavors about others and not about yourself, it can take some of the pressure off you.

Typing on laptop glenn-carstens-peters-203007

Six Ways to Keep Your Momentum Going:

  1. See the big picture, the forest rather than the millions of trees. What are you working toward?
  2. Divide the work into achievable step-by-step tasks. Which items within your reach are absolute junk that you can throw in the trash now? How can you show your main character’s frustration without saying, he was frustrated?
  3. Work on the project every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. Surprisingly, you can accomplish a lot with snippets of time over an extended period.
  4. Instead of beating yourself up over the length of time your project is taking, concentrate on the people who will benefit from the fruit of your labor. I imagined our cars in the garage for the very first time, and my husband and I not having to raise a heavy wooden garage door. For the novel, think of your readers and the new worlds they’ll experience via your words.
  5. Strive for excellence, rather than perfection. We still have too much stuff in the garage, but it’s acceptable for our needs. Only God is perfect. Kick-*ss is good enough for humans.
  6. Reward yourself. For the garage project, our reward was a new garage door complete with automatic lifter. For the novel rewrite, maybe treat yourself to a professional headshot.

What helps you keep motivated? Share in the comments below.

How to Make a Meme on a Mac

How to Make a Meme on a Mac

Most Fridays on ARHtistic License, I post a little feature I call In the Meme Time, featuring a picture with a saying. At first, I shared memes I’d found on Facebook or Twitter, but then I began to feel guilty that I might be trampling on someone’s rights. Sometimes a meme bears the name or website of its creator; other times there’s no way to give credit to the designer due to the number of times it’s circulated through social media. I’ve stopped sharing anonymous memes on the blog.

I thought I should learn how to make my own. I tried using a free online meme generator, but it was a little clunky to use. Here’s the first meme I ever made:


When my HP Pavillion Notebook outlived its usefulness, I replaced it with a MacBook Air, and I discovered that the Preview application (for viewing downloaded images) has nice editing capabilities, including cropping and adding text—perfect for creating memes.

Around this time, I realized I really liked some of the comments I made on other people’s tweets—they were well-crafted little sayings in their own rights. So I created a Word document titled “Make a Meme out of This,” and I started saving my favorite comments in that file.

Here is my process for creating memes:

  1. Come up with a saying you want to illustrate. You can use your own words or a quote (if you use a quote, you must credit the author).
  2. Take or locate a digital photo which goes well with the words. (See Good Sources for Free Images.) Save it on your computer in a special folder (I call mine “Photos for Memes”)—give the photo a name that will help you identify it (like “Dock”).
  3. Click on the photo in the folder. It should pop up in Preview.screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-3-59-37-pm
  4. See the little toolbox icon next to the Search window? (Or it may look like a pen point.) Click on that. The toolbox menu will appear.screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-4-01-47-pm
  5. If you want to cut something out of the picture (for example, the out-of-focus people), click on the left-most icon that looks like a dotted-line square. It will give you some shape options. Choose the shape you’d like the finished image to be, and use the cursor to enclose the parts of the picture you want to keep. While you’re working, a button that says “Crop” will appear. Press it when you’re satisfied with the image you’ve got. (I didn’t, because the picture was fine as-is for my purpose.) WARNING: IF YOU SAVE YOUR MEME BEFORE YOU ARE FINISHED FINE-TUNING IT, YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO FURTHER EDIT IT.screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-4-35-25-pm
  6. Press the T icon, and a text box will appear in the center of the picture. Click within the text box, and type in your saying.screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-4-02-34-pmscreen-shot-2017-02-15-at-4-05-19-pm
  7. Click elsewhere on the picture (not within the text box), and then you can drag the words to wherever you want them to appear.screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-4-06-05-pm
  8. Click within the text box again, and then press command and the a key on your keyboard at the same time. This will highlight all your text. Now click the A icon. This will give you all your text options, like font, size, color, and justification. Experiment until you get it the way you want it.screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-4-06-32-pmscreen-shot-2017-02-15-at-4-07-32-pm
  9. Repeat steps 6-8 if you want to add your name or your website to the bottom of the image (highly recommended). It could help drive a new visitor to you blog—even if someone else shares your meme.
  10. Sometimes your words just won’t show up against the background of your photo. Changing the color of the words might help, but if it doesn’t, you can color the background of your text box. You see the square icon to the left of the A icon? After clicking within your text box, click the square icon and choose a background color, preferably one which blends in with the surrounding colors.screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-5-01-14-pmscreen-shot-2017-02-15-at-5-02-30-pm

Here are some of the other memes I’ve made.











Update on September 20, 2019: Since people continue to read this article, I want to add one more thing. I like to vary the font on my memes. These are the fonts I like best:

Fonts for Memes

Was this article helpful to you? Do you have suggestions for making memes on a PC? Please share in the comments below.

For Bloggers: How to Post Every Day

For Bloggers: How to Post Every Day

In 2016 I published at least one post on ARHtistic License every day.

I’m not bragging. I’m just saying it’s doable.

Is it necessary to post every day? No.

Then why do it?

  • Because I’d like to reward my loyal followers by giving them something new to see every time they show up.
  • Because meeting a daily deadline documents an established consistency.
  • Because posting everyday has made me a content-generating ninja.
  • Because I want my blog to stand out. (Most of the blogs I love and follow regularly—see “Blogs I recommend” in the right-hand sidebar—post new articles daily.)

Isn’t it time consuming? Yes, but you can learn to work efficiently.


Steps to daily posting:

  1. Determine the purpose of your blog. The innovators who invented the web log (blog is a contraction of those two words) in the early days of the internet conceived it as an online diary. However, bloggers soon realized that the medium has limitless potential. It can be used to transmit ideas, information, and opinions. It can also be used to sell stuff. In my case, I use ARHtistic License to connect with other creative people. Also, I’m hoping to establish a following of readers who enjoy my writing and might want to buy my future books.
  2. Kristin Gallant color-creative-ideas-design-illustration-brain-colorful-7c6fc3d21551e01f7804e2e675f2a63e-h

    design by Kristin Gallant

    Choose a theme. What is an area that interests you, that you wouldn’t mind working on to achieve a degree of expertise? Although you can post about anything you want, even if it doesn’t apply to the theme, having a focus will help “brand” your blog, and can attract the readers you’re hoping to reach. ARHtistic License’s theme is the arts and the creative process.

  3. Create an editorial calendar. Here is the first secret to daily posting: not every post needs to be a major undertaking. A post can be 10 words—or 2000. 500 words is a good length—quickly readable, and long enough to achieve some depth. Occasionally a topic might call for 1000 words, but online attention spans are short, so don’t make long posts a habit. That said, how many major posts a week do you want to write? For ARHtistic License, it’s two. That keeps me challenged, but leaves me a little bit of time to work on my book projects.

On other days, I post a photograph I’ve taken, or a quote, or a meme, or a video. Many other bloggers are happy to share their work as a guest post if you give them proper credit and include a link back to their site (check with them to make sure). If you can’t reach the author, most bloggers appreciate links to their work being included in your related posts, or in round-up articles.

Here is the editorial calendar for ARHtistic License:
Sunday—Weekly feature: From the Creator’s Heart (a scripture quote); also, a snippet of my work in progress for Weekend Writing Warriors.
Monday—Weekly feature: Monday Morning Wisdom (a quote, usually relating to the arts or the creative process)
Tuesday—my first major article of the week
Wordless Wednesday—a photograph
Thursday—Video of the Week; also, a guest post
Friday—Weekly feature: In the Meme Time (it used to be one I found on social media; now, I usually make my own); Weekly feature: Creative Juice, a round-up of interesting articles about the arts and creativity I found online
Saturday—my second major article of the week.

You know those calendars businesses or charities give you? Devote one to your blog. (If you don’t have one, buy one, or google printable calendars and print one.) Use it to keep track of what you’ve already written and scheduled for your blog. It will help you quickly see what you still need, and help you plan your writing time wisely.


  1. Work ahead. This is the second secret to successfully posting every day. It takes a lot of pressure off you if you don’t have to come up with something for the next day. I try to work a month ahead. For example, I started this article on December 28, 2016.

And those little quickie features, like photos and memes and quotes—I create those posts as soon as I come across them, and schedule them for a future date (you can do that on WordPress; I don’t know about the other platforms). I also save links to articles I read online that I like, and then I use those for guest posts and round-up articles.

I actually already have some posts scheduled for every month in 2017…

So, you see, using these strategies, you really can post on your blog every day without losing your sanity.

What do you think? How often do you currently post? Are you satisfied with that frequency, or do you want to ramp it up a little? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Creative Juice #12

Creative Juice #12

14 articles that will delight your senses: