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Strengthen Your Story by Writing the “Perfect” Review

As authors we’re never going to be completely objective about our stories. We’re too emotionally involved, too attached to our characters, too excited about our plot twists, too tickled by our snarky dialogue—so much so that we can lose sight of the big picture. Often, when we begin writing a story, our ideas are hazy, and the final shape of the story is only a dim outline in the mist. Add to that the fact that the story we put on the page will never be a perfect representation of the story in our imagination, and it’s little wonder we aren’t always aware of precisely where our stories aren’t achieving all we want them to.

But here’s a little trick to help narrow the gap between your idealization of your story and its printed reality: Write yourself the “perfect” review.

If you could have a professional reviewer read your book and totally get it—completely understand everything you were trying to say with your characters, plot, dialogue, and themes—what would he write about your story? Close your eyes for a moment, emotionally distance yourself from your story, and pretend you’re that reviewer.

In her fantastic book Nail Your Novel, novelist and professional critiquer Roz Morris suggests:

Write a few paragraphs that state

  • what you intend the audience to feel about the characters
  • the experience you want them to get from the story
  • which scenes should ideally be powerful and the effect you want them to have.

This may take some time. Summarising the goals of a big sprawling manuscript is not easy.

Keep the following suggestions in mind, in order to plumb the review for as much depth as possible:

  • Be specific. Don’t just let the reviewer say he loved the story. Make him tell you why he loved it. What parts are the best? What makes this piece really shine?
  • Be thorough. Cover every aspect of story you can think of: plot (including arc, pacing, and originality), characters (including personalities, arc, and development), dialogue, themes, and climax.
  • Be extravagant. Praise your story to the skies. Layer on the adjectives of adulation. After all, you’re writing from the perspective of a reader who understood and loved your story just as much as you did. So have fun!

When you’re finished, you’ll have an explicit goal toward which you can strive in molding your story, no matter where you’re at in the outlining, drafting, or revising process.

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website.


  1. This is great! I’m so going to do it!

  2. I wrote one for Dreamers Come last week. Lots of fun and very helpful.

  3. Great idea, and it sounds like fun.

  4. Interesting, especially since I’m crafting a review of a novel I finished last night and a lot of what the writer used in her novel to excess are problem areas for me.

    Good idea, I may have to try this for Homebody soon. :)

  5. Sounds like a great idea! I’ll have to try it sometime with my latest WIP :)

  6. @Lorna: It is fun!

    @Liberty: It really is surprising the problem areas you can spot through this method.

    @Mia: Giver her a go!

  7. Thanks for the mention! And great idea – I hadn’t thought of developing that exercise in that way (might well go and do it myself..)

  8. I read about another author who used the idea in the review fashion. Can’t remember now who she was.

  9. Oh gosh. That sounds like a lot of work. lol. But great idea! :)

  10. Actually, it’s not. Mine took me about forty minutes or so.

  11. Great idea! Will definitely be trying that ;o) Thanks for sharing!

  12. You’re welcome. Hope it proves useful for you!

  13. Hey Katie, I wrote myself a great review. I guess I might be a better writter than I thought! Thanks for the encouragement.

  14. I can see the amazing back cover blurbs already! 😀 You go!

  15. Now there is an exercise I can cope with, thanks.

  16. As you may know from other posts, I’m not generally big on writing exercises. But I found this one very beneficial.

  17. Thank you so much for your expertise, opinions and free resources. They are greatly appreciated.

  18. You’re very welcome. I’m so glad you’ve found them helpful!

  19. So if I get shot by a laser beam or one of my characters jumps out of my story and beats me up I am not at fault right?

    Loved the post and the Idea

  20. Oh, definitely not. Characters have minds of their own!

  21. Sounds fun! But to write a review, one first have to write THAT story :/

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Actually, you can put this technique to work before you’ve even started a draft. Write a review about you *hope* your story will be.

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