Seek Out Book Clubs to Improve and Inspire Your Writing!

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Seek Out Book Clubs to Improve and Inspire Your Writing!

The pandemic not only accelerated the shift towards a more digital world, it also increased the amount of time we spend online. Our behaviors have shifted, with more of us spending time on our devices and in online communities for work, play and connection. And one community that’s connecting more online or ‘virtually’ instead of face to face, is book lovers.

Whether big or small, formed by celebrities (Reese Witherspoon or Oprah Winfrey’s Book Clubs), or led by book bloggers or authors themselves, virtual book clubs are connecting millions of avid readers based on genres and interests.

Not surprisingly, Amazon has jumped onboard the virtual book club bandwagon too by launching Amazon Book Clubs. Amazon has got it figured out. By allowing millions of readers to easily join a club or create their own with free access to all their modern features, Amazon is helping to create connections, bring discussions to life and, ultimately drive additional book sales.

So, what does this mean for a writer? A lot. Joining one or more book clubs is a great way to get feedback on writing skills and to get help with tackling writing challenges. These devoted readers could help with getting you out of a rut by stretching your thinking, encouraging creativity, and creating new and interesting connections to support fresh points of views, new insights to common themes and character development. It also allows for potentially increased sales both to book club members and by a group of happy readers acting as an unofficial ‘word of mouth’ street team.

What Makes a Good Book Club Choice?

Many readers want their picks to be the choice (no blood drawn) for discussion and debate in their book club. And these picks can go from quirky to serious. Anything goes, as long as there’s enough meat on the bone. The story has to have a defined tone, an appealing theme or topic (can even be outlandish or controversial) and enough stimulation that it will spark interest among literary minded women joining forces to read, then intellectually discuss, and most often, critique a book.

Even the most well-written and highly acclaimed novel might not make for a good book club pick if there’s not enough to the theme or plot to allow for lively discussion or debate. In some cases, groups may struggle to get beyond “I like it” or “I agree”. Some books might also just be too lengthy or overly wordy for certain book clubs. Often times, a page turner that hooks readers with surprising twists and turns is the best choice.

As for characters, the more flawed or quirky or even annoying your characters are, and the more unsettling or unusual situations they go through, the more there is to discuss. And the more relatable and familiar or recognizable they are, even if they’re unlikeable, the better.

Books with an exciting or unusual premise or ending are unpredictable and that can make it interesting and worthy of discussion. So, it’s okay to offer an unusual or strange perspective with a controversial plot. This is often what sparks rich and engaging discussions. An exotic theme, a story featuring a particular food or drink throughout, or a premise which requires an unusual setting could easily inspire a book club’s theme and make your book a preferred pick.

But do beware. We’re all human. And many of us have strong emotional or mental triggers. I know that in my book, And Then There’s Margaret, my main character, Margaret, has triggered a few readers. Little did I know that her controlling and manipulative behavior towards her daughter-in-law Allie would resonate so strongly and provoke such strong emotions with some readers. I actually had one reviewer post a negative review with excerpts from chapters on various social media channels in hopes of turning off all potential readers of the story. I do believe she once had a mother-in-law like Margaret. Whoa. Sorry!

So, when thinking about your next book idea or while working on one you’re currently writing, you might want to think about what might evoke a reaction or generate questions. Be mindful that edgy and exciting premises (here’s where those strong adjectives help) could make it book club worthy. Controversial and irritating characters could work too. Do your research on those current and popular book club picks and see what others are saying. Book clubs, whether virtual or in-person, are here to stay and they can not only help an author sharpen their thinking and improve their writing, they could also help propel the book up the charts. As an author, isn’t that what we all want? A seat at the table.

About the author:

Carolyn Clarke is the founder and curator of HenLit Central, a blog focused on ‘life and lit’ for women over 40. And Then There’s Margaret is her first novel. She has been an ESL teacher for over sixteen years and has co-authored several articles and resources with Cambridge University Press, MacMillan Education and her award-winning blog ESL Made Easy. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her partner, Tony, her two daughters and of course her bulldog, Sophie.

Seek Out Book Clubs to Improve and Inspire Your Writing!

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