One Letter Every Writer Should Write

writing a letterWhether you’ve just begun your novel or are in the midst of editing it, this exercise can help answer some important questions:

  • How will readers like my characters?
  • Have I done enough foreshadowing?
  • Is there enough humor in the story?
  • Does my conclusion do the novel justice?

Of course, each writer will have many different concerns.  But rather than drive yourself crazy searching for a secret formula, try this one simple trick:

Write yourself a love letter… in the form of a review.

So What is a Review?

  1. A review gives the reader a concise summary of the content.
  2. A review offers a critical assessment, including your reactions to the work and what you find noteworthy.
  3. A review suggests who might enjoy reading it.

How Does this Fake Review Help Me?

Pretend for a moment you’re not the author, but a reader. You’re reviewing this book you just found, and it’s the best thing you’ve ever read.

How would you describe it? What were the book’s merits? What really connected with you as a reader?

Now, write up the review. Yep, I’m serious. Take as much time as you need and just write every detail of your book’s awesomeness down. Don’t limit yourself, but get as detailed as you need to.

Here’s mine:

Written in Red transported me to a world steeped in history: a wealthy republic divided by a centuries old conflict. The central struggle pits church leaders against nobility as both vie for power in a city rife with corruption and intrigue. The main character, Daniela, is forced from the arms of her lover into a marriage to the black sheep of a patrician family. But rather than speaking words of love, her new husband speaks of secrets, and when his odd behavior turns suspicious, Daniela begins to wonder whether she’s made a terrible mistake. On the surface, this novel might appear to be a love story. But just below the surface, you’ll find spies and mysteries, and characters as colorful as the city in which they live. The author certainly has a grasp of gray scale characters and shows a deep understanding of the human condition. The mysterious nature of the parallel plot lines made this book a real page-turner, and kept me guessing until the end. While this novel could be classified in several genres, I would recommend it to readers who enjoy historical fiction or fantasy with a side of political intrigue and romance.

Writing an Affirmation is Powerful

When you return to working on your novel, use your review as a goal towards which to strive.

If it mentions how each chapter ended on a cliff-hanger… make sure you’ve done this in the manuscript. If you praised a conclusion that blew your socks off… ensure that it does indeed.

The simple act of writing an affirmation is powerful enough to initiate the sort of changes in the mind necessary to reach a goal. This exercise isn’t meant to be a false promise hanging over your head, but a tool to help pinpoint your ultimate goals and reach them.

What are some comments you’d like to see in a review of your novel?

A. Howitt is a fantasy author and a member of the Mythic Scribes article team. When she isn't writing, she enjoys history, fencing and designing period costumes. Follow A. Howitt’s journey as a fantasy writer on her Facebook page.

12 Responses to One Letter Every Writer Should Write

  1. Good way to kick things off. However, this is assuming the writer is an objective person rather than someone driven by subjective bias. And therein lies the problem: what should the writer do if he/she falls into the latter mold? 
    To me, it’s very important to ask yourself this-what is my vision? Vision for my characters, vision for the plot, vision for whatever background info needed.
    Intelligent people will always ask themselves important questions before doing the same for others and knowledge beyond the classroom is the only path to take.

    • KuokMinghui I believe therein lies the difference.  I think often, writers know what they’re aiming for, in that “I want a reader to like my main character…”  One would have to be a fool to think a boring character who does nothing during the story would be interesting, right?  But instead of leaving the question open, this exercise encourages a writer to nail down what specific elements make their story a page-turner or connect deeply with a reader.  Rather than just trying to write a good book, the writer can pinpoint elements and in turn, apply those “wishes” to their actual work.  
      I understand this method will cause some to balk and express how silly it sounds.  But for others, it will allow them to hone in on maybe part of their underlying story.  Or maybe bring to light a particular difficulty and result in a way to strengthen it.  For me, developing gray scale characters was a big focus, one I’m proud to have gone as far as I did with.

  2. Great idea. I never thought of writing myself a letter about my writing, to be honest, but it’s an idea I may try out. Of course, I may actually take it to the extreme end and turn hyper-critical … one would hope not 🙂
    Thanks for the great idea!

  3. I get where you’re coming from with this, but it feels a little self-aggrandizing. Not sure I could do it with a straight face 🙂

    • jdmaxonBeing a little self-aggrandizing can be a good thing, though, when it comes to affirmations.
      The pivotal line in the article is this:
      “The simple act of writing an affirmation is powerful enough to initiate
      the sort of changes in the mind necessary to reach a goal.”
      There’s a lot of truth to this.  The unconscious mind makes most of our decisions, and affirmations can “program” it to accomplish certain goals.  
      Affirming that your book is super fantastic sets your unconscious mind on a path to success.

      • Antonio del Drago jdmaxon Yeah, I get that. But my mind is skeptical when it comes to being tricked, especially when I’m the one doing it. Never was good at mind games or self help recipes. But I can see where it would help less cantankerous sorts 🙂

      • jdmaxon Antonio del Drago Just a counterpoint… often, I’m conditioned by habit. I am conditioned to eliminate “had” from my work when I edit, for instance.  Creating an affirmation works in reverse. So rather than conditioning yourself negatively, to eliminate something from your work, affirming something positive often influences you to write stronger from the get-go.  Just two separate sides to approach a problem from.

    • jdmaxon It’s only natural, pal. I believe in every person, there lies a certain pride. Therefore, it’s very important to understand that there will always be two sides to a coin. if you know what you’re good at, do you know what you’re not so good at?

      • korezobushin jdmaxon I can only assume you meant no offence by referring to me as “Pal,” but some (as I initially did) might take that as a sarcastic jab–coming from someone I never met nor spoken to before. I know there are always two sides to every coin. Whispering sweet nothings into my own ear in hope that those nothings will become sometimes. I get it, I never once said it is a bad idea, just that, for lack of a better word, feels a little silly to me.

      • korezobushin jdmaxon if you aren’t proud of your story and the things you accomplished in it.. who will be. 🙂  I think you hit the nail on the head here.

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