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By John Reese, Jun 29 2017 11:58AM

Trying to distil the essence of a good book down to a few short words is a thankless task because the qualities that define good books are, more often than not, quite elusive. Experts with a special sense for the written word are numerous, from reviewers to authors opinions vary whilst popular opinion and word of mouth speaks volumes. What we can say for sure is that a good book is far more than a well-written novel. It’s literature that stands the test of time but if you thought such gems were rare you’d being gravely mistaken. Quite often those books that win the most acclaim are those that benefit from a sizeable marketing budget whilst there are an overwhelming number of good books out there that remain sadly overlooked.

A good book is one that connects with its reader on an emotional level and that’s true for all genres. Taking its reader on a compelling journey of escapism for every page that is turned but how powerful that connection is often depends on what its reader needs from it at that particular point in their life. Trawl the web and you will quickly come up with numerous top tips for writing a good book but when you really get to the crux of them there are only two which dominate. Keep these in mind when looking for your next book to read and even if it’s not on a bestseller list you may find yourself unearthing a hidden gem.

1: As a species us humans are visually stimulated, we create mental images when reflecting on things and a good book has to paint a picture for its reader. We are, after all, the sum of our experiences with related memories and a good book should stimulate them so that we can make that all important emotional connection to its characters and the challenges they face. It’s amazing how many authors miss this point, especially debut authors, but one author who has this down to a fine art is Dan Petermeier whose debut novel Summer Letters has received much deserved praise and a host of excellent reviews. You can read our review for Summer Letters HERE

2: Not only are humans visually stimulated we are relationship driven. Humans rarely thrive in isolation and a good book should first and foremost seek to forge a relationship between its characters and its readers Think of point one above as a quick hit. Emotions are quickly stimulated and just as quick to subside. Readers want characters they can connect with in terms of dreams, experiences and passion. It’s why romance novels remain forever popular. Readers want to feel invested in a books characters and the author who gives them this creates a captive audience.

You can cut and dice the points above in any way you want and there are many more you could add but at the end of the day these two are the absolute bedrock of a good book and the author who ignores these does so at their peril. One more note though, and it’s an important one. We said at the start that a good book is literature that stands the test of time and is far more than a well-written novel. Some readers and far too many authors get hung up on the quality of writing. The story should always come first and if the writing is good enough word of mouth will ultimately decide how good a book is.

As we always say, any view is subjective and what we always aim to do with our blog posts is to provide a point of reference upon which you can build. We hope we’ve given you something to reflect upon. Whatever your thoughts we are always open to comments and ideas and if you have a good book you’d like to submit for review you can do so HERE

By John Reese, Apr 9 2017 11:52AM

There are a number of essential techniques a mystery writer must master if they ever want to top a bestsellers list. They are entrenched in the genre and the expectations of its readers and none more so than the ability to deliver genuine suspense.

For new or fledgling mystery writers a lack of suspense is often the proverbial kiss of death that will see a novel plummet to the depths of obscurity but get it right and readers will come in their droves. It sounds simple enough to achieve. A few stock tricks of the trade. A cliff-hanger moment, a cleverly contrived twist in the story and of course the all-important reveal but in employing this approach on its own far too many writers end up delivering a formulaic plot that leaves much to be desired. Don’t get us wrong, every genre has an element of formula, it’s what distinguishes one genre from the other but look to the best ever mystery writers and the one thing they have in common is that they have all created great characters. Stock tricks of the trade are great and employed properly showcase a writer's understanding of their craft, but writing a novel is first and foremost about engaging a reader's imagination and central to achieving this is the development of great characters. To really stand out from the pack mystery writers need to create characters that their readers genuinely care about and for better or worse have the innate power to move them.

In our ever more liberal world where we have, to some degree, become increasingly desensitised to violence there is a propensity in mystery novels towards ever more gratuitous levels of it. It does, however, need to be proportionate to the character and their response in the face of it must be never preclude the reader from being able to place themselves in the same situation and imagine what they would do in the same set of circumstances In doing this an author creates characters that live and breathe on a page, that readers become invested in and more importantly fearful for. The suspense becomes real because the reader cares and this is where the magic of genuine suspense is to be found.

Of course, as with anything, it takes time to hone and perfect a craft but with our above thoughts in mind we have put together our top 3 tips to get you underway.

1: To make your protagonist feel real give them a personal demon to confront as their story evolves. It could be a phobia or a seismic event in their back story. The important thing is to foreshadow the moment your protagonist is forced to confront it. Do it right and you will have your readers braced on the edge of their seat,

2: With TIP 1 in mind never forget that in real life there are always many things beyond our control and it should be the same for your protagonist. Life is often unpredictable and we don’t always get the desired outcome. Threats can materialise where we least expect them and whenever we are faced with personal danger the stakes are invariably high with potentially life changing consequences. Above all though, you need to keep it real and within the realms of possibility. Stretch the limits of credibility too far and many readers will disengage. It is all about striking the right balance.

3: Life is rarely easy and it shouldn’t be for your protagonist. It is often the struggle that defines the reward and this is something you should always keep in mind. Just as bad news will always attract more interest it is the perils and obstacles your character faces that will ultimately hold a reader’s attention. Make things too easy and you not only pass on golden opportunities for character development you will lose that all important air of authenticity which readers crave.

Now forgive us for repeating ourselves but as with anything, crafting a potentially bestselling and truly suspenseful mystery takes a lot of practice and few authors get it right first time but one author who has made a great start to her career is P J Mann with her debut novel A tale Of A Rough Diamond. You can find our review HERE

As we always say, any view is subjective and what we always aim to do with our blog posts is to provide a point of reference upon which you can build. We hope we’ve given you something to reflect upon. Whatever your thoughts we are always open to comments and ideas and if you have a book you’d like to submit for review you can do so HERE

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