Critiques and Reviews: two ways to help Writers

Review quote from J C Oates

As a writer, I’m all too aware of my humanness. I know I’m not perfect. When I try to critique or proofread my own writing, it doesn’t work very well. I miss things that are obvious.I’m thankful that I have people in my life who are willing to give me honest feedback on my writing.

If you want to help your writer friends, offer to help them by providing a critique or a review. Others may differ in their definitions, but I see the two as different. When I’m asking for ways to improve my writing BEFORE something is published, I’ll ask for a critique. When I’m asking for a review, I’d like people to tell others why they should or shouldn’t read what I wrote AFTER it is published.

Critiques defines a critique as:

“An article or essay criticizing a literary or other work; detailed evaluation; review.”

“1. to censure or find fault with.
2. to judge or discuss the merits and faults of:

to criticize three novels in one review.”

I expect people to be critical, but also tell me what they like about my writing. I want to know:

  • Does my title accurately describe what I’m talking about?
  • Do I grab the reader and keep his attention?
  • Am I communicating clearly?
  • Are there points that need to be reworked?
  • Does the storyline make sense?
  • Are my facts accurate?
  • Do I have any passive sentences?
  • Am I using any cliches that need to be reworked?
  • Have I chosen words that convey the right mood?
  • Is my grammar correct?
  • Is my reasoning clear?
  • Do I have typos or typesetting that need to be corrected?
  • What descriptions did you like?
  • Can you picture what I’m writing about?
  • Did my writing evoke emotion? How?

Some helpful comments from recent critiques:

  1. I want to “see” Jack’s immediate reaction – to be inside his skin. Maybe add. . .
  2. It has good vocabulary, though controlled for the age, familiar objects and activities, and action that children can relate to.
  3. I would like to see the Dad more involved if possible. You talk mostly about Your experiences with the children. Maybe now you should write one for the Dads and let your husband share some of his thoughts.
  4. I was trying to figure out is the theme to show independence and responsibility in something a child of this age can do? Or did I miss the boat?

Remember: When you offer a critique, make sure you’re kind as well as honest. Help the author improve what they’ve written, but make sure you tell the author what you like and what he or she has done well.


Many readers read reviews to help decide whether or not to purchase a paperback or e-book. I appreciate people who are willing to exchange a free copy of a book for an honest review. (Note: If you would like to join my list of reviewers, send me an e-mail!) When a book or article has all 5-star reviews, I get suspicious. Most books and authors are not perfect! However, you should be careful about being “nitpicky” when doing reviews as well. Be gracious, but honest.

Intelligent review has this to say about writing reviews:

“Tips on writing a great review

  1. Include the “why”: The best reviews include not only whether you liked or disliked a product, but also why. Feel free to talk about related products and how this item compares to them.
  2. Be specific: Your review should focus on specific features of the product and your experience with it.
  3. Not too short, not too long: Written reviews are limited to 5,000 words. The ideal length is 75 to 500 words.
  4. Be sincere: We welcome your honest opinion about the product–positive or negative. We do not remove reviews because they are critical. We believe all helpful information can inform our customers’ buying decisions.”

If you read a book and appreciate what the author has to say, make sure you write a review. This not only informs potential readers, but also encourages the author to keep writing and/or to try harder next time.

Here are some reviews I’ve appreciated. Notice how specific the reviewers are about what they like:

  • She writes with a light touch and a lot of humour about the chaos that reigns in her household.
  • The author’s personal experience living in Africa lends a powerful authenticity to the story.
  • The details of the foreign setting help us feel the scorching heat, smell the stench of sickness and decaying flesh, and experience Cecile’s nervousness as she faces government officials who are determined to shut her clinic down.
  • There were lots of lose ends and they come together naturally and with the right amount of believability. It was romantic without being over the top.
  • Ruth L. Snyder takes us on a fast-paced ride with dizzying plot twists. Read it.

Do you offer critiques or reviews? What advice would you add?


Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday: Long

Five Minute Friday

This is my first attempt at 5 Minute Friday:

Long means something different to each person. When we are young:

long is waiting until our parents are done talking

long is driving a few miles (Will we ever get there?)

long is waiting for supper when you’re hungry, especially when Mom tells you no snacks are allowed!

long is waiting until you’re old enough to go to school

long is waiting for Christmas to arrive

As we grow older, the definition changes:

long is waiting several years for something

long is having to run any distance more than across the yard

long is a feeling you have when you think of wanting to spend time with people who are no longer alive.

(I have to admit that I broke a couple of the rules – I found myself overthinking, and I did backspace a couple times. I’m looking forward to continuing with this challenge. Maybe next time I’ll follow the rules better!)

5 Minute Friday is a weekly challenge for bloggers to write for (you guessed it) 5 minutes on a given word. No editing. No deleting (it’s HARD!). If you would like to join me and other amazing 5 minute freewriting friends, please visit Kate’s blog and linkup!

Intentional Blogging:

Want to learn more about blogging? Check out the Intentional Blogging Challenge!


The importance of asking questions!

Tips on Becoming a Better Writer shared by Glynis Belec

The importance of asking questions!

In my last post, I shared that I was getting ready for our InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship Fall Conference. It was great to reconnect with writer friends and meet some new writers as well. Last week I shared a summary of the conference on the InScribe Writers Online blog. Today I’d like to share some tidbits I picked up in a workshop offered by Glynis Belec. (The quote above is one of the gems she shared.) Here is some advice from Glynis, along with some additional comments from me (in parentheses):

  1. Make sure you read and write daily (This one is still a struggle for me, but I’m writing this post at 6:00 a.m.)
  2. Join writing groups (I belong to InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship, The Word Guild, and The Christian PEN)
  3. Use writing prompts (Google “writing prompts” and you’ll find all kinds of interesting inspiration.)
  4. Read your story out loud, record it and listen to it; Get feedback from others
  5. Expand your vocabulary; Use a dictionary and a thesaurus (I’ve switched to using online resources like and
  6. Re-read books and articles and examine writing structure/words/etc.
  7. Use proper grammar – check out the grammar course from
  8. Watch out for cliches – get a copy of the Dictionary of Cliches
  9. Don’t underestimate the power of the word “said”
  10. Know your audience and focus on them
  11. Edit with a professional
  12. Know who your literary heroes are; Read both historical and contemporary authors
  13. Make good use of your local library
  14. Meet other writers (Attending writers’ conferences and workshops is a great way to do this!)
  15. Write what you know or what you’d like to read – make sure you do your research (I enjoyed sharing some of my early childhood by using the Kalahari Desert for the setting in Cecile’s Christmas Miracle.)
  16. Try different things to find your niche
  17. Focus on how God wants you to tell your story
  18. Focus on the success of your individual story, not on trying to become the next best-seller
  19. Keep an idea book or file
  20. Journal when you are going through something (Glynis shared how her book, Mrs. B Has Cancer, was written using her journal she kept when she was going through cancer.)
  21. Writing needs to be fun too
  22. Make sure you make time to move your body while you’re writing – take breaks often and stretch
  23. Enter every contest you can and ask for feedback every time you can (One of the perks of membership with InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship is monthly contests. These are a lot of fun and you get feedback from other writers.)
  24. When you submit and receive a rejection, don’t take it personally. Your work just doesn’t fit at this time. Did you know Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 123 times?!

Thanks, Glynis for your helpful suggestions on becoming a better writer!

Wedding Planner 2 Paperback

New paperback, book signing, & writers’ conference – all in one week!

Wedding Planner 2 Paperback

Yes, you read the title correctly! The paperback copies of The San Francisco Wedding Planner Complete Series II arrived yesterday. I’m excited to share them with you, my readers. As usual, they are available from (U.S.) or can be ordered directly from me. (I’ll have them up in my store next week.)

Fig Tree Book Signing

On Thursday afternoon I will join 5 other members of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship for a book signing at The Fig Tree bookstore in West Edmonton Mall. The address is Suite 1919, Phase I, West Edmonton Mall, 8882 170 St NW, Edmonton, AB T5T 3J7. We will be there from 1:00-4:00 p.m. and will be giving away a book every half hour. Come join the fun!


Although the first two events are very exciting, I’m most looking forward to our InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship Fall Conference 2014 taking place on Friday and Saturday, September 26 and 27th. There’s nothing like the fellowship, networking, and inspiration I enjoy when I spend time with fellow writers who love Jesus Christ. I will be teaching a workshop on blogging this year. Perhaps in one of my future posts I will be able to share what I taught and learned (I usually end up learning more than I teach during workshops).

What are you up to this week? Anything you’d like to share?


On my writing “To do” list


Ford Quote

As my children head back to school, I’m taking stock of my own “To do” lists. Here’s what I have on my list so far:

  1. Get my children successfully started in school.
  2. Start my Music for Young Children classes. I’m still putting my schedule together for the fall, so if you want to register your child, contact me as soon as possible. I’ll be offering some classes through the Bonnyville and St. Paul Parent Link Centres as well as teaching at home.
  3. Writing

On my writing “To do” list:

  1. Write consistently for my blog. I’m still aiming for 3 times a week: Monday – writing related posts, Wednesday – what I’m learning in my walk with God, Friday – healthy eating/fitness posts.
  2. Submit monthly to 3 sites: Helping Hands Press (published on the 11th), A Beautiful Life (my first post will be published on Wednesday, August 27th), InScribe Writers Online (published on the 29th)
  3. Organize my thoughts and notes for a workshop on blogging I’m presenting at the InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship Fall Conference on Friday, September 26th.
  4. Finish Olga’s story – I’m over 40,000 words into my novel, but need to get it finished, edited, and off to the publisher.
  5. Put together 10 devotionals for a new Uplifting Devotionals series. I’m excited to be working with four other Canadians on this project. Once the contracts are signed I’ll give you some details. This is scheduled to be released by the end of October.
  6. Write my story for the San Francisco Wedding Planner Series (Number 3). You can purchase any of the stories in series 1 or 2 from Amazon. Series 3 stories will be released bi-weekly, starting on September 4th. My story will be released on November 20th, and the complete series 3 bundle will be released on November 27th.
  7. Write a Christmas story for a Christmas bundle. Again, I’ll be collaborating with four other Canadians.
  8. Twitter manual for writers – This project is in the middle of being revised and edited. I’m planning to have it published early in the new year.

What’s on your “To do” list? Let’s cheer each other on!

Having fun with words

Robin Williams quote

Words are essential to writers, who need to find the exact nuance to help readers picture what we’re describing with our words. According to the Global Language Monitor, there are about 1 million English words.  Most dictionaries only have 200-600,000 words in them. The average high school graduate has a vocabulary of  approximately 45-60,000 words.

Although I’ve been able to get some writing done this summer, I have spent most of my time relaxing with my kids, enjoying time with relatives, and trying out some fun quizzes.

Today I thought I share some of my fun with you. Try this quiz and see how many “words of the day” from you know. These kinds of quizzes are a great way to expand our vocabulary. If grammar is more your thing, try out this quiz on subject-verb agreement or the syntaxis quiz.

There are even quizzes to help you figure out what type of writer you should be.

Yehuda Berg quote

I hope you’ve enjoyed this departure from my usual blogs. If you try out a quiz, let me know how you did and what surprised you. Feel free to share links to other quizzes you’ve tried and enjoyed 🙂



You must be rich: Common misconceptions about authors

Shadows and Sunshine Newsclip

Last week at a family reunion, someone asked, “Are you rich now that you’re a famous author?” I laughed and answered his questions. Since then I’ve been thinking more about the question and how I would answer if asked again.

Yes, I’m rich:

Am I making hundreds or thousands of dollars from book sales? NO

Here are some facts about authors that may surprise you:

  • Many authors lose money or barely recover what it costs them to get a book published and distributed
  • Most authors have a “day job” because they don’t make enough from their writing to live on
  • Writing a book is the “easy” part. It’s a challenge to get books published, marketed, and sold

Authors wouldn’t bother to write if money was their only objective. There are many other ways to make money that are easier, faster, and more predictable. Authors write because:

  • It’s something they have to do, almost a compulsion
  • They enjoy the process of writing – it’s therapeutic for them
  • Writing enriches the author and those who read
  • Writing is art
  • Many writers see what they do as a ministry

I’m thankful I have the opportunity to be an author, but not for the reasons many people may think. Are you suprised?

Vision Statement

5 Steps to Crafting a Personal Vision Statement

Vision Statement

Last week in our study of Limitless Life by Derwin L. Gray, we discussed work and were challenged to write our own vision statement. If you’ve never written a personal vision statement, try the process outlined below. If nothing else, you’ll learn more about yourself and what motivates you. Hopefully you’ll also come up with a statement that inspires and motivates you to be the very best you can be.

Step 1: Answer these questions

  1. How do you want to be seen in ten years?
  2. What do you want to be known for in ten years?
  3. What do you want your family to be like?
  4. What makes your heart sing?
  5. Who in your life will tell you the truth about yourself?

Step 2: Select key words

Go through what you’ve written and select words you’ve repeated or that are important to you.

Step 3: Read Other vision statements

Here are some sites you may want to visit:

Step 4: Write your vision statement

Jot ideas down and combine them in different ways. Play with different words. Try to capture the key themes you selected in step two. You may find one statement that you know fits, or perhaps you’ll end up with a few to choose from. Can you condense the ideas? Once you’ve written your vision statement, let it sit for a few days and then go back to it and see if it still resonates with you.

Step 5: Share your vision statement

Do you have people in your life who will give you honest feedback? People who know you really well and care about you? Those are the people you should share your vision statement with. Ask them if you’ve captured who you they see you as. If not, ask them for suggestions on how to tweak your statement so that it really fits you.

Check out this post: Mission and Vision Statements for more helpful information.


Need some inspiration? Here’s one of my favourite songs:

Here’s my vision statement:

“Wholeheartedly seeking God, then serving others with excellence through music, writing, and speaking.”

My life verse is:

“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (Philippians 3:10 NASB)

I’d love to hear if this process helped you, and what your vision statement is.

Question 1: How do you want to be seen in ten years? Question 2: What do you want to be known for in ten years? Question 3: What do you want your family to be like? Question 4: What makes your heart sing? Question 5: Who in your life will tell you the truth about yourself? – See more at:
Question 1: How do you want to be seen in ten years? Question 2: What do you want to be known for in ten years? Question 3: What do you want your family to be like? Question 4: What makes your heart sing? Question 5: Who in your life will tell you the truth about yourself? – See more at: