I’m happy to welcome Joe Fraser. Joe writes young adult paranormals (and has several times finaled in writing contests), he’s the Vice-President of WisRWA – and he’s also a very wise man. A group of us were at lunch last month, and he told me his theories about writing reviews. It was so simple and so profound, it gave me chills. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
As the years go by, the cords begin to fray. Memories fade. Friends move on. Loved ones pass. The world changes so much that nothing serves as a reference point for your earlier years. The lengths of cord stretch thin and threaten to break.
Don’t let them.
I’ve never been blessed with a good memory. The sum of me has always been a challenge to hold together, especially in an age where an explosion of information can addle the strongest minds. Maybe your memory is better, but how much so? Do you remember what you ate for breakfast yesterday, which pair of shoes you wore the Sunday before last, or how many times you did laundry in March?
Those things don’t matter, but how about this question? Name a book you read exactly ten years ago and what you liked or disliked about it. If you could remember a little something about that book, the memory might stir other more defining ones. Who were you back then? How were you different? What were you doing? Where did you live?
Books aren’t just books. They’re experiences. And because they can take days or even weeks to finish, they lodge in your memory as little time capsules, pulling in all the things going on in your life at that time. They can strengthen the cords holding you together, if you remember them.
Ten years from now, I want to remember that I finished Six Years by Harlan Coben last week. And that I read Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles a month ago. By revisiting these lifetime markers, I’ll not only think about two fine voices and engaging plots, I’ll also remember our trip to California to visit my sister one last time, or my recent trials and tribulations as a wannabe published novelist, or perhaps the dinner at Mitchell’s we enjoyed with my daughter Carolyn, the trip to Vegas with Natalie.
I want to remember these things twenty years from now. And thirty. In fact, if my obsessive goal of living to a hundred pans out, I want to revisit these moments even forty years from now. So I journalize my readings, and I store them on the Internet where they won’t get lost. I write reader reviews for Amazon and Goodreads every time I finish a book. Places where I can find these journal entries later. Maybe much later.
You should, too. Not only will you leave a trail of breadcrumbs for some future walk down memory lane, you’ll provide insight to other readers, and helpful feedback for the authors of the novels you’ve read.
The process is easy. You don’t need to write much. Just tell the world what you liked about each novel. What you disliked. Leave us some clues. Leave yourself some clues. Your later self.
Think of Amazon and Goodreads as your picture albums. Now that’s a simile you’ve probably never thought of before.
Do you write reviews? If not, have you changed your mind after reading this?