Sunday, June 06, 2010

Sunday Salon: Sometimes Getting Started is the Hardest Part

Whew. It has been a whirlwind of a week, between work, veterinarian appointments and entertaining company. My in-laws were in town to celebrate my husband's birthday (which is actually Monday, June 7th). We had a nice visit and took in a movie, The Prince of Persia, which we all enjoyed and found entertaining, although I can't say it was anything special.

It was an exceptional reading week. I'm lucky if I can manage one book a week and this past week I read two. Hopefully I will have the reviews written and ready to post later this week. That's the plan anyway. I find that the hardest part of jotting down my thoughts about the books I read is actually the sitting down and getting started. Once I have that first couple of sentences down, it comes much easier. I have all sorts of tricks I use to motivate myself, including outlining what I want to say, discussing my thoughts with my husband so I can be clear on what it is I want to say, taking a shower, or writing in a stream of conscience fashion and hope it eventually comes together, just to name a few.

Those of you who write reviews, do you ever struggle with getting started? What do you do to help get past that initial stump? Or is there another part of review writing you find particularly difficult?

On another note, thank you to everyone who took time to answer last week's question of the day. I wondered how many of you had a book budget for buying books and how you decided what books to buy. Most of you don't have book budgets. Neither do I. But like me, many of you said that you probably should--or that your significant others thought you ought to.

I am cutting this post short as it is late, and Anjin and I are about to settle in for dinner and the latest episode of Dr. Who.

But first, If you haven't already, do check out Nymeth's Sunday Salon post entitled On Writing About Books. She says so well how I feel on the subject of sharing my thoughts about the books I read.

Happy reading!

This Week In Reading Mews:

Reading Now:
Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show
by Frank Delaney

Recent Additions to the TBR Room (all books bought by me unless otherwise noted):
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
Down River
by John Hart

Reviews Posted:
The Turning; What Curiosity Kills by Helen Ellis (along with a guest post from the author)
The Last Child by John Hart
This Blessed House by Jhumpa Lahiri

Posts of Interest This Week:
Question of the Day: Book Buying
TGIF: Bookish Fun

This Week's Upcoming Reviews:
Little Green by Loretta Stinson
Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

© 2010, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Most of the time I start a post on a book as soon as I begin reading it, and every time I have a little thought to add, I type it in on that post. (I just keep clicking "save" instead of "publish.") Then, by the time I've finished reading the book, I have all the meat of my post prepared; I just have to kind of reassemble it in a coherent way to get it ready to "serve."

    Then there are the books about which I feel I don't have much to say . . . those are the ones I have trouble sitting down to write about.

  2. Sometimes I have a hard time starting a review. This usually happens with a book that I absolutely loved. When this happens, I just focus on how I felt while reading the book. I have no trouble with that and he rest usually falls into place.

  3. Most of the times, I'll try to write a post once I'm done with the book. I might not have it posted on the same day, but at least I've started writing some of my thoughts and will save it for another day so hopefully I'll have more to share, especially if it's a book I absolutely loved! :)

  4. Congrats on the successful reading week; i love when that happens.

    I struggle with reviews as well. I spend a lot of time, and I am never satisfied with what I wrote after all that, so I would not be one to give advice...LOL!

  5. I think that I am much better with reviews once I manage to nail down the summary. Even though I am just giving a brief synopsis of the book, it always manages to take me awhile, and I think it takes even longer because I procrastinate since I dread that part.

  6. Starting is definitely the hardest. That's why I always start with a summary; it's much easier to organize my thoughts after I've gotten started and reminded myself of everything that happened in the book.

  7. I used to spend hours writing my reviews, working on these much like I did way back when I was in school. No more.

    I focus on writing a few sentences that get to the truth of what I thought about the book. I also try to save a quote or two that I liked from the book.

    And that's it. I push Publish and let it go.

  8. I usually start writing a review as soon as I've finished the book - I don't know why but I find it easier. Also I always start the review with a quick plot summary, even though I may not use the summary in the finished review. And I start off the review by using the main character's name to describe whatever it is he/she is up to. Those are the little tricks I use to get my review written and done right away. Doesn't work 100% of the time, but almost.

    Hope you have another great reading week!

  9. I have to write my thoughts pretty quickly after finishing. It seems to work better for me. I will admit that I don't spend a huge amount of time on them and they probably show that. :-)

    I write my blog posts like I talk and I know that. That's why you get the bits of humor and sarcasm throughout, although I do try to limit that when reviewing a book. One thing I have started doing is to put a sticky note inside the front cover of the book for jotting down appropriate quote locations. Not every book needs a quote, but I think it adds to the flavor of the post if there are some.

    Tell your husband Happy Birthday! Nymeth's post was awesome, wasn't it? Have a good week, Wendy!

  10. I struggle to get started myself. It is especially hard for me when I really love a book because I know that nothing I write will do it justice. Wish I had a better answer for you.

  11. I also have a hard time with starting my reviews. Since I usually write a summary paragraph first, and then follow with my thoughts on a book, the summary is usually where I get stuck. Sometimes I will just go ahead and push through just to get to the opinion section, because those parts are much easier for me to write, but I often feel a huge negative pressure to try to compactly summarize a book that I will be reviewing. The best advice I can give you is to just sit down and push through. That might not be very helpful though!!

  12. Thank you for mentioning my post, Wendy!

    I definitely do struggle with getting my reviews started. Those first few sentences are the hardest to get down. This is one of the reasons why I tend to write several of them in a row - once I get going it's much, much easier.

  13. Getting started can be hard! I find I write my best reviews in my head when I'm out running errands - of course, I can't remember them when I get home.

  14. I usually set up a review template while I'm still reading the book, so by the time I finish it, I just have to write my own comments on it. I try to get that done as soon as possible, and ideally before I'm too far into my next book.

    I don't usually have too much trouble getting my reviews started - my opening paragraph is usually a general statement or two that may only indirectly be about the book itself. It's usually tougher for me to decide how to end my reviews - I'm not so good at the concise wrap-up! :-)

  15. Yep, getting started is hard. I typically take some notes while I read a book but given that I'm always behind on reviews well my notes sometimes don't make sense anymore. I guess notes isn't probably the right word. I just scribble down a few things and I guess I think I'll remember! haha...

    Hope you guys have fun today and happy bday to Anjin!

  16. Oooh, John Hart has a new novel? I loved The Last Child so will definitely have to download his newest! And now I'm going to read your review of it!

    I try to limit my downloading to about $40 per month because I read a book a week usually. Since I got my Kindle, I haven't bought any novels, just poetry and cook books. I hate to admit it but I'm addicted to it!

  17. Starting revies is the hardest, isn't it? That's definitely the leading reason why books seem to camp out on my desk for a long time waiting for me to get inspired. Like several others, I do like to write my own summaries, it gets my brain juices flowing and makes it easier to get to the "meat" of the review. Also, sometimes when I just can't seem to get past the blinking cursor on the empty screen, I'll write a chatty intro that may have little to nothing to do with the book, but once I get into the flow of writing with the silly intro, I sometimes find that the writing of the review will follow easily. Sometimes I delete the intro. Most times I keep it just for fun, and because people have told me in the past that they enjoy it. :-)

  18. It really depends on the book. Some reviews just write themselves!

    When I first stared I felt I had to do an in-depth, detailed review. Now I just try and find two or three really succinct things to say as well as one or two quotes I feel reflect the authors style. If something really strikes me while I'm reading I will jot down a quick note to myself.

  19. I hate, hate, hate writing plot synopses. Once I get that down, the rest usually flows.

    Glad you had a nice visit! I'm debating taking my boys to see Prince of Persia. What I really want to see is Robin Hood, but it won't be playing here anymore by the time I have the cash. Our little rural town's one-screen theater only keeps movies for one week - unless it's a family pleaser like Shrek.

  20. I agree with you in that once I start, the writing flows.

    I'm an odd sort of reviewer in that I write by feel...I just express what feelings the book evoked and a few sketches of the plot/characters--whatever captured me the most.
    I like to include quotes that are provocative, making the reader want more...
    I don't really delve into synopses and details, I leave those for the reader to explore elsewhere or read the book themselves.


  21. ACK! We forgot to watch Dr. Who on Saturday! Thank goodness for the Tuesday night re-run. Geez, I'm losing it if I can't even remember to watch Dr. Who.

    I struggle with getting started writing anything, but like you it seems to be the getting started bit that is the problem. Sometimes I don't feel confident in starting my book reviews because I didn't take any notes, opting instead to just read. I do find it helpful to talk about the book with my husband since I will often verbalize things that just won't come to me as I sit and stare at a blank screen. I'm not sure what's up with the brain freeze when I need to write.

  22. I struggle with my reviews all the time. LIke you, I find the starting part the hardest ... once I get going, it comes easier. And I find I often have to wait until I feel "ready" to write about a book.

    Another little trick is to find a review meme that suits you and helps you to write a review. I personally like the "Show Me 5 Saturday" format a lot ... I find them easy to write and I use them to "knock off" an extra review each week.

  23. I've never watched Dr. Who, but a friend recently watched the Weeping Angels episode and insisted I see it. Talk about creepy.

  24. I've had a terrible time getting started lately, which is why I've posted so few reviews. I've been reading, but just haven't felt like writing about them...I keep hoping I'll have more motivation soon!

  25. Kathy - I kind of do the same thing, only I start a new entry in my reading journal. I jot down notes as I read a book so the journal goes everywhere I go. While my notes often help me form my review, they don't help get me started unfortunately.

    I know what you mean about those books that really don't garner much thought. They can be difficult to write about.

    Ti - That kind of goes along with my steam of conscience writing--I just start typing, either in outline form or what I'm thinking about the book, whether it makes sense or not. It usually comes together after that.

    Melody - I prefer reviewing a book right after I finish it, but lately I'm finding I'm just not ready to sit down and do that. Waiting a day or two sometimes helps.

    Diane - I know what you mean. I'm never satisfied either.

    Nicole & Meghan - Sometimes that works for me too. If I just can't manage it though, I'll use the publisher's summary and that often helps--either in helping me summarize because I can't help myself or in moving on to my actual thoughts about the book.

  26. Deb - The perfectionist in my is a bit too strong to make it easy for me. LOL

    I'm so bad at remembering quotes, or even thinking to note them in my journal as I read. I'm usually too busy reading.

    Donna - I used to be better about starting reviews right after I finish a book, but lately it doesn't seem to work out that way. I'm finding I need more time to sort through my thoughts about the books I read.

    Kay - I seem to do better when I've actually jotted down notes as I read, I find. Sometimes though I get so involved in a book that I forget to do that. LOL

    Like you, I put a lot of myself into my reviews. I personalize much of what I read. I'm not very good at writing an objective review.

    My husband thanks you for the birthday wishes. He had a great day.

    Kathleen - That can be hard. I run into that too, where anything I write just doesn't do the book justice.

    Heather - Summarizing can be difficult. I'm always worried too about giving too much away. Just pushing through is good advice. Sometimes I'll sit down, write a quick review just to get it done and then go back to rewrite it when I'm feeling more in the mood. I'm always surprised at how little I end up actually rewriting.

    Ana - I so agree! Once I get those first couple of sentences down, things go much more smoothly.

  27. Kathy - Oh yes! On my commute to and from work, I seem to have my best ideas--when I can't write them down. LOL

    Florinda - I have a very general template I follow, which helps with the actual review writing. Endings can be hard too. I don't always know how to wrap things up well.

    Iliana - I've had that happen to me too. LOL

    Thank you for the birthday wishes!

    Linda - Down River is one of his older ones actually. I'm just slow at discovering the author. :-)

    Megan - I prefer to write my own summaries too, although sometimes, if I just can't make it happen, I'll cheat and use the publisher's. I always feel guilty about doing that.

    Like you, I sometimes will just start writing and it eventually turns into the review. Occasionally I'll delete it, but more often than not, I publish it anyway. I like it when you do it. :-)

    Gavin - That is true. With some books, I know what I want to say even before I finish a book.

  28. Carrie - I'd like to see Robinhood but my husband's not too keen on seeing that one in the theater. He's not a fan of Russell Crowe. Hopefully you'll enjoy Prince of Persia if you do decide to see it.

    Dana - Those often make the best kinds of reviews, I think, where the reviewer writes about how a book made her feel. I think, anyway. :-)

    Terri - How are you finding the new Doctor, Terri?

    I do seem to have an easier time getting started when I've remembered to take notes as I read. Like you, sometimes I get so into a book, I forget. And talking with my husband definitely helps solidify my thoughts.

    Jenners - Yes, me too. I often need time to process my thoughts before I actually begin writing the review.

    I'll have to look at the Show Me Five format. I do have my own template I use which helps.

    Nicole (Funnybookworm) - That's a good episode. My husband's always been a fan of Dr. Who, back from the beginning. I'm more of a newer fan.

    Melissa - I've been more interested in starting the next book than writing the review on the one I just finished too. Hopefully we'll both find that motivation we need!

  29. Not sure I'm qualified to answer this question as I've written approximately three reviews in the past 7.5 months. I did finish a book finally that I want to review but I'll probably procrastinate and then never get around to it. :(

    BUT, when I was reviewing, I found the quicker I could get to it the better. I'm more conversational than some, which also helps. I never outline but like you getting started is the hardest part!

    Happy birthday to your Anjin!

  30. Trish - Procrastination is a killer. I never did get around to writing reviews for a couple movies I saw at the beginning of the year. And now I don't have any desire to. Oh well.

    Anjin sends his thanks for the birthday wishes. He's spending a lot of time with the birthday gift I got him so I know I did right by him. :-)


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