Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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Book Reviews: 4 Steps to Validate Your Work

by Hannah Jacobson

Book Reviews - 4 Steps to Validate your Work

Validate your work through the power of book reviews

It's every author's dream: not only to publish your book, but also to see it read, recognized, and appreciated by adoring fans.

Book reviews play a crucial role in achieving this literary dream.

Why book reviews? They're a source of validation for many authors, an important litmus test of readers' reactions to your work. Reviews also represent a source of credibility from book buyers or literary professionals reviewing your work. Perhaps best of all, reviews are also a powerful way to establish a trusted connection with your readers.

Let's explore why reviews matter to authors and learn the art of validating your book through reviews.

Why book reviews matter

Why are book reviews so important for authors, book publishing professionals, and happy book buyers? There are a few reasons:

Credibility: Positive reviews from readers and critics lend credibility to your work. They signal to potential readers that your book is worth their time and investment.

Social proof: People often make decisions based on the actions (and reactions) of others. Positive book reviews serve as social proof, encouraging more readers to pick up your book.

Visibility: Books with a significant number of reviews tend to rank higher in online marketplaces like Amazon. More reviews mean more visibility, which can lead to increased sales.

Constructive feedback: Reviews provide valuable insight into what readers liked and disliked about your book. This feedback can help you improve as a writer and refine your future work.

Overall, book reviews provide you an opportunity to build momentum for your marketing efforts.

Validate your book through reviews

You wrote the book...congratulations! Now it's time to use book reviews to get validation for your story. Here are the first steps to take:

1. Optimize your timing (if it's an option).

When it comes to requesting reviews, timing is crucial. The sooner you can get started, the more runway you allow for your book marketing efforts to take off.

Provide advance review copies (ARCs) of your book to a select group of readers before its official release. This allows them to read and review your book in advance.

After your book is released (during your "post-launch" phase), periodically remind readers to leave reviews. Some readers may need time to finish the book, so gentle reminders can be highly effective.

If you are pursuing professional reviews, be sure to read all the rules and restrictions to ensure your book meets all of their initial qualifications and preferences.

2. Make your life easier with online platforms.

Online platforms are a goldmine for book reviews. Here's how to make the most of them:

Amazon and Goodreads: These platforms are two of the most popular places for readers to leave reviews, so it's important your profiles are easy to find. Ensure your book is listed and optimized on Amazon and Goodreads.

Professional book bloggers and reviewers: Connect with book bloggers and reviewers who specialize in your genre. Approach them professionally and offer a copy of your book for review, adhering to their unique review policies. Pro tip: Book Award Pro makes it a breeze to decipher which reviews are a good fit for your book, even on the Free plan.

Social media: Utilize your social media presence to request reviews and engage with readers. Share snippets of positive reviews to encourage your audience to share their thoughts, too.

3. Encourage honest and organic reviews from your readers.

As an author, you have garnered a special kind of respect from your readers. Engage with your audience, and they'll often be delighted to engage back with you (i.e. leave reviews!).

Build a connection with new readers through social media, your author website, and newsletters. Don't be afraid to leverage your network, too. Reach out to friends, family, and acquaintances who have read your book and ask them to leave reviews. Personal connections can often provide initial validation.

In the author's note at the end of your book, you can also politely request a review from your readers if they enjoyed your work. Be sure to express your gratitude for their time and support.

Remember, when you regularly engage your audience in an authentic way, they are more likely to provide feedback.

4. Make the most of positive reviews.

When you receive positive reviews, don't let them go to waste. Use them strategically to get more eyes on your book, and infuse your own personal style to engage effectively with your reads.

Pull standout quotes from positive reviews and share them on your book's cover, in marketing materials, and on social media.

You can also publicly thank readers who leave glowing reviews. This graceful acknowledgement fosters a sense of community and encourages more readers to share their thoughts.

Final thoughts

Book reviews are a powerful tool for authors, offering validation, credibility, and social proof. When you actively seek and value reviews as an important part of your author journey, you'll unlock new levels of reader engagement and book sales.

Remember to find the best review options for your book, nurture a delighted audience, and provide your readers a thoughtful and engaged experience. Your hard work will serve your writing career for many years to come.

How have reviews impacted your writing career?

About Hannah Jacobson

Hannah Jacobson

Hannah Jacobson is the founder of Book Award Pro: the technology company that leads the industry in helping authors find the perfect reviews and awards for their books.

Sought by industry experts to craft their award-winning strategies, Hannah helped develop the AI technology that has become Book Award Pro. Every year, authors spanning 6 continents win thousands of new awards, receive valuable reviews, and effectively market their books in one easy-to-use platform.

Hannah is the Awards & Story Marketing Advisor for the Alliance of Independent Authors. She brings the experience and expertise of Book Award Pro to inform the ALLi awards resource, as well as to make industry changes on behalf of independent authors.

Her expertise has been recognized as the leading voice in book awards and author advocacy.

Begin your award-winning journey for free or connect with Hannah and Book Award Pro on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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How to Write Comedy Part 1, Physical Comedy/Slapstick

by Ellen Buikema

Three main categories of comedy, often used in combination, are:

  1. Physical comedy
  2. Verbal comedy
  3. Situational comedy

Situational comedy involves characters, environment, and events. One, two, or all of these will need to be comedic in order to make the humor work.

Verbal and physical humor build up comical circumstances. Verbal comedy sometimes implies physical comedy without acting out the physical events. Each category offers something different.

Physical Comedy

Physical comedy is an ancient form of expression. The audience secretly delights in the misfortune or pain of a performer.

Physical comedy often depends on this sense of play which remains popular for all ages, eras, and cultures. Our bodies are vulnerable, and we make strange movements and sounds: pass gas, vomit, gurgle, gesture grandly, laugh in odd ways, and twitch.

It also deals with our interactions with physical objects such as:

  • Avoiding being hit by an object:  Pie fights.
  • Trying to get an object to perform the right way:  Animals misbehaving.
  • Keeping an object from getting away:  A hat that keeps moving with the wind.
  • Trying to keep some object from falling:  A vase on a narrow table.

We see the humanity of these acts and find them funny. Our interactions with animals and people take on the humor of both bodies and objects.

Physical comedy can be over-used. Bathroom humor is a staple of physical comedy, but too many fart jokes can spoil the story. Physical comedy can also be abused. If a humorous act has an element of bullying, the act is humor no more.

Empathy, one of Comedy’s Building Blocks

We wince when someone trips over an ottoman. We laugh in relief when the character pops right back up, unharmed. Having one character push another character over that sofa in an act of nastiness, changes the mood entirely. We feel fear and anger for the character who has been abused.

Physical Comedians

Some of the most well-loved comedians are physical comedy masters.

Some physical comedians worth studying are Jackie Chan, Rowan Atkinson/Mr. Bean, Martin Short, Adam Sandler, Lucille Ball, and Carol Burnett. Actress Mabel Normand, who I learned about while researching historical fiction, was the first woman to throw a pie at Charlie Chaplin, another great physical comedian.


Slapstick is a form of comedy using overdramatized physical activity, far and above the boundaries of typical physical comedy. It may involve both intentional and unintentional violence, often resulting from inept use of items like ladders and kitchen implements.

The word comes from a device developed for use in the physical comedy style known as commedia dell'arte in 16th-century Italy. The slapstick was made of two thin slats of wood, which make a "slap" when hitting another actor, with little impact needed to make a loud sound. The physical slap stick is used in Punch and Judy puppet shows, which are far less popular than they once were due to the violent themes.

A more contemporary example of slapstick humor is an actual slap stick, included in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy as the planet Vogsphere’s method of punishment for any being on the planet who tries to think. The Vogons’ noses are higher up on their heads as all the slaps forced their noses higher.


Jim Carrey, a master of physical comedy, uses slapstick in the movie Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Here is the script for your perusal. Per screenwriting norms, the actions are not woven into the narrative as they would be in novel form but instead are included as stage directions in the manuscript.

Not all slapstick humor involves large, exaggerated movements. The following scene from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker series shows a different type of slapstick.

Slapstick humor from Life the Universe and Everything

Arthur Dent, at a party, describes the horrific events he has recently endured to a man who looks interested in listening to him.

“The little man nodded enthusiastically.
"Ah," effervesced the little man, "and did you have a wonderful time?"
Arthur started to choke violently on his drink.

"What a wonderfully exciting cough," said the little man, quite startled by it, "do you mind if I join you?"
And with that he launched into the most extraordinary and spectacular fit of coughing that caused Arthur so much by surprise that he started to choke violently, discovered he was already doing it and got thoroughly confused. Together they performed a lung-busting duet that went on for fully two minutes before Arthur managed to cough and splutter to a halt.

"So invigorating," said the little man, panting and wiping tears from his eyes, "what an exciting life you must lead. Thank you very much."
He shook Arthur warmly by the hand and walked off into the crowd.”

Life the Universe and Everything by Douglass Adams

Two other authors who come to mind are Kurt Vonnegut and Terry Prachett. Both write wonderful comedy. Kurt Vonnegut’s work runs dark, and never disappoints. Breakfast of Champions has great physical comedy. Pratchette’s Color of Magic, first in the Discworld series, has wonderful examples of slapstick humor.

For more information on this topic, Davis Rider Robinson’s The Physical Comedy Handbook breaks down physical comedy in detail, which will be useful for writers, actors, and directors.

Do you enjoy slapstick humor? Who is your favorite physical comedian? What literary physical comedy do you think everyone should read at least once? When is slapstick funny, and when is it not? Why?

* * * * * *

About Ellen

Author, speaker, and former teacher, Ellen L. Buikema has written non-fiction for parents, and The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon chapter book series with stories encouraging the development of empathy—sprinkling humor wherever possible. Her Works in Progress are The Hobo Code, YA historical fiction and The Crystal Key, MG Magical Realism/ Sci-Fi, a glaze of time travel.

Find her at https://ellenbuikema.com or on Amazon.

Top Image by Perlinator from Pixabay

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A Big Picture Solution to "The Writing Bottleneck"

by Jenny Hansen

Break thru your writing bottleneck! Shows bullet breaking bottle

Every writer gets stalled, frustrated, and just plain stuck sometimes. Sometimes it's life, sometimes it's illness, and sometimes it's the story. I’ve been dealing with cancer since last November. Talk about a writing bottleneck! Nothing kills the writing mojo like chemo, amiright?

But last January, before chemo, I watched a talk by Collin Jewett, CEO of Superhuman Academy, called "How to identify and fix your bottleneck (in your business and your mindset)." He gave us a formula that absolutely blew my mind, and I’ve been wanting to blog about it ever since.

What was the formula, you ask?

Results = You + (Clarity x Attention/Energy x Action x Time)

The formula made no sense to me when I first saw it. In fact, I was scratching my head until I saw the word “Time” at the end. Time has been my nemesis since forever. My relationship with time only became worse as my responsibilities increased with motherhood and entrepreneurship.

When someone asks what is preventing me from reaching any goal, my #1 answer is always Time.

A-ha, I thought. It’s got to be a right-to-left equation, since time is always the culprit, right?

Um, no.

Mr. Superhuman Academy blew my mind with his explanation of this formula, stressing that you always start fixing from the left. But as I listened to him, and thought about both my writing business and my day job business, I realized that “time” actually isn’t the biggest culprit to my productivity.

The biggest culprit is lack of attention over there on the left side.

By not digging deep enough into the left side of the equation, I sabotage my time and prevent myself from streamlining the work.

Let's break this equation down...

You = Self-care

Prioritizing self-care is the first step in escaping your bottlenecks. If you're not hydrated, caught up on sleep, exercised, or starting in a good mental place, EVERYTHING will take longer. Starting from the left, you and your well-being bring the power of your creativity into the equation.

Clarity is often shortchanged.

Clarity is sometimes assumed to be easy. The simple truth is that clarity is rarely easy. Clarity is the most important part of results, but it is the part of the equation that people skip the most often. They want to get doing, so they skip on ahead to "action."

Action is Seductive

Action, even when it is scattered rather than focused, makes people feel accomplished. In writing terms: if I write a scene I am moving forward. But what if your scene doesn't move the plot forward, or develop your character? What if the scene accomplishes nothing, except making you feel that you did something by writing that day?

It's easy to get stuck in Action. To try to do too many things at once, and fail to do anything all that well. When action isn’t focused, you waste a ton of time. By focusing your energy on completing only one thing (that moves the story forward), you're more likely to move smoothly on to the Attention/Energy category.

You shortchange yourself by focusing only on time

When I solve right to left by thinking everything is a time problem, I end up wasting my most precious commodity — time. Considering time is the most finite resource in the whole equation, digging into this formula made me feel a bit dumb.

Then I ran a search and realized that most people with even the slightest bit of attention deficit have extraordinary trouble with time management, procrastination, perfectionism, and organization. I felt a teensy bit better when I realized that even though my attention deficit is low on the overall scale, I am constantly moving a boulder uphill when it comes to those "executive functions."

The best articles I found on time and ADD:

looking through the bottleneck

Other Roadblocks in the Equation

Sometimes the enormity of novel writing leads to "analysis paralysis." Writing is hard on the best of days. But when I look at the formula above, I think perhaps analysis paralysis can come from a different source. Mine often does.


  • You don’t have clarity about your character’s motivation.
  • You haven’t nailed down the big turning points in your story.
  • You haven’t made the protagonist’s goal tangible enough.
  • You don’t have a strong antagonist.

Note: For all the pantsers, the above is probably a second draft bottleneck, but it is still a writing bottleneck.

To recap the formula for writing:

  • Clarity is the stage where you define your values, characters, themes, etc and narrow your focus to a single problem that you can solve.
  • If this is done well, you know where to put your Attention and Energy.
  • Those clear goals make your passion bubble up so you are driven to take Action (and write in a more focused manner).
  • Actions taken with clear focus take less Time.

This formula unlocked the secret to Flow...

After digging into this formula, I began to understand that nirvana-like state called “flow.” Previously, I thought "flow" was some sprightly unicorn who only visited other people.

Steven Kotler is an expert on Creative Flow, describing it as “..an optimal state of mind where you are at peak performance, you feel your best, and your creativity and problem-solving abilities can be up to four times as powerful. Everything around you seems to disappear. Time flies and the creativity pours in when you’re in the Flow.”

While I listened to Mr. Superhuman Academy speak, I finally understood why “flow” has so often eluded me.

I was solving the formula from the wrong direction.

Solving the formula above from left-to-right feels utterly foreign to my slightly disorganized, slightly ADD brain. Probably you don’t have my kind of brain, but I feel pretty secure betting that you’ve got my love/hate relationship with time. Almost every writer does.

We all have lives overflowing with responsibilities and “must do’s.” Often, we spend our energy and attention on action rather than clarity because there is just so much to get done.

Cancer both filled and cleared my plate.

Cancer sucks up most of your time with medical stuff, and doesn't leave time for much else. But all my diagnostic and chemo time taught me a few things about “clarity” that I might never have stumbled upon otherwise.

First of all, when you have cancer "getting well" is your most important job. Everything comes second to that, including how you use all that hurry-up-and-wait downtime.

Using downtime for "writing good"

I learned to use that downtime for the non-writing part of writing. While I was motionless in MRIs and scans, or horizontal from chemo side effects, thinking was about the extent of my writing capabilities. I had to spend my time over on the left side of that equation because I had no energy for action. Cancer treatment crowds your schedule with crappy choices and endless delays, but it sure does give you lots of clarity.

Spending all that time pondering story questions (like those bullet points above) meant that when I sat down to write, I experienced much less frustration and got a lot more done. It was an interesting lesson for me and my busy brain.

Contemplation time had far more importance than I was giving it!

When does Teamwork help?

Sometimes a story challenge or roadblock is more than you can solve on your own. This is where critique groups, writing groups, writing forums, and writing friends come in.

If you don’t have clarity in characters, storylines, or motivation, you will feel very very stuck (and possibly very frustrated). This is when a lot of writers stop believing in the viability of their stories, especially if they’re newer to the writing game.

Note: These murky story moments are when those new story ideas start looking like shiny attractive alternatives.

Your story matters, and I hope you don’t give up on it!

Final Thoughts

If you can't do this on your own, find a writing friend or hire a story coach you trust and talk it over until you have clarity. You’ll work better if you know where to put your attention and energy. Remember, if you’re stressed out about focus, then you can’t take action. Or you take ALL the actions, just to do something to move your story, published novel, career, [insert other roadblock here] forward.

Unless you are retired (with lots of help) or independently wealthy, your writing time is limited. Use it wisely!

So, what is your bottleneck? It isn’t the same for all writers. Do you get stuck in terms of clarity, energy/attention, action, or time? Which section of the equation frustrates you more than the others? Please share your story with us down in the comments!

About Jenny

By day, Jenny Hansen provides storytelling skills, LinkedIn coaching and copywriting for accountants and financial services firms. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction, and short stories. After 20 years as a corporate trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

Article images from Depositphotos.

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