Bag of Tricks (Tools of the Trade)

4 Unexpected Ways Goodreads Helps Writers

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Regardless of WHAT you write, you need to read. (That’s logic) Freelancers conduct research all. The. Time. Fiction writers pick up books to stay on top of the trends piquing readers’ interests. (Not to mention our insatiable need to cram words into our brains) And non-fiction authors want to learn everything they can about the worlds they live in. Those reading materials help your writing career. And one way you can combine that critical tool with your writing is through Goodreads.

Goodreads doesn’t show up in the top ranks of social sites to hang out. Which is crazy, because it’s designed for the word nerds out there. The site compiles everything published, allowing you to search for every book you can imagine. You can follow your favorite authors, link up with fellow writers on the site, and assemble virtual bookshelves. (A veritable library – guaranteed to never collapse, regardless of how many tomes you shove on there) As you label your book hordes, you’ll find others with your tastes in literature.

Boom! Instant New Best Book Friend!

But Goodreads doesn’t stop there. After all, you’re looking to improve your writing skills. And that’s something people might overlook. (Good thing you stumbled on this list!

1. Goodreads Reading Challenge

Obviously, the best aspect of Goodreads is that book tracking ability. Every year, you can set up a Reading Challenge for yourself. (And, in case you’re worried, the number isn’t set in stone. As Real Life happens, you can adjust the number at any point) The only person you’re competing with is YOU, so there’s no need to fret if your goal doesn’t match someone else’s. (Not everyone reads at the same rate or has the same amount of free time)

It’s January. That’s the best time to create your Challenge. And you’ve probably seen people on social media sharing the image of their reading goals. This offers you a chance to connect with other writers (or – more to the point, readers). As people stock their accounts with “Want to Read” options, you get an idea of what they’re looking for. It can spark your brain with a direction for your writing.

Are you seeing your peers shifting away from epic fantasy? (I know that isn’t likely; I’m just crafting a hypothetical) Maybe examine your sweeping LOTR tribute and decide if it needs shelving, for now. Have people flooded that “Want to Read” shelf with sci-fi? Perhaps you want to tweak your fantasy work with futuristic themes.

The Challenge helps you with your reading goals, of course. But connecting with others and watching what they’re reading helps give you and idea of what people WANT to read. And that can guide your writing ideas.

2. Reviews

Once you complete a book on Goodreads, you get a new writing option. They offer a prompt on whether you want to submit a review for whatever you just finished. You don’t have to (you can always give a starred rating and send the book to a shelf), but all writers should consider doing so. Because that’s where your creative brain gets a jolt.

Writers and readers approach books differently. What works for you as you’re crafting a paragraph doesn’t sit well when you’re curled up with a mug of hot cocoa. (It’s why you should always have a beta reader on-hand) And that’s what writing reviews helps with. You’ll start figuring out how to examine a book from a READER’S perspective. Then you’ll go back to YOUR writing and see problems jump out at you.

Trust me, it works. As you find yourself noting complaints over pacing or character flaws, your mind will reflect on the tempo in YOUR chapters. And are your secondary characters imitating cardboard? The exercise of dissecting someone else’s work puts you in a better position to examine YOUR work (if you’re willing to be honest, anyway).

You’ll also engage in a new writing exercise. If you’ve never written a book review before, those little blurbs are excellent practice. You learn to view things objectively (hopefully, anyway). It takes some time to get used to dissecting something (hiding spoilers with Goodreads’ coding). You need to find your voice and manner (no two writers review the same way), and you need to decide how you want to approach things. Takes practice, but it’s a way to sharpen your writing skills.

And, of course, it’s a nice way to boost your word count.

3. Goodreads Quotes

Have you ever needed a quote for a project? Something that hasn’t been used to death? You can hit up Pinterest or Google, of course. But sometimes you want a literary source. And that’s where Goodreads comes in handy. Pop your search criteria into their quote database, and you’ll get all the answers your heart desires.

  • Subject
  • Book
  • Phrase
  • Author

You name it, you can find it.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve plundered the database for inspiration. And I’ve come up with amazing quotes overlooked by the “popular” resources. Fantastic phrases that worked beautifully for articles I was working on. Other times, I’ve noted quotes I wanted to use for story prompts. And I’ve even stumbled on sentences so captivating, I’ve rushed out to purchase the book. (Never a bad thing, as far as I’m concerned)

Goodreads works both ways, though. Once you create an account, you can ADD quotes. So if you read something and find the words irresistible, you can create an entry. It ensures the database continues to grow. And you never know who you’ll influence down the road.

4. Promotion

Okay, maybe this isn’t EXACTLY unexpected. But Goodreads offers writers a chance to promote themselves AND their work. As soon as you have ANYTHING published or even in the publishing pipeline, the site will provide you with an Author Badge and help you promote those books. We’re talking marketing tools – the Holy Grail of writers everywhere.

Writers NEED promotion. It’s how they generate buzz and excitement around their books. And it’s how they get sales into their pockets. Social media can help, but why not approach a site populated by READERS? (You know, the demographic you WANT)

Goodreads is the only place out there you’ll find that offers that kind of marketing. And they don’t even make you jump through elaborate hoops to get that badge. (Unlike Instagram or Facebook where you need insane numbers of followers to prove your “identity”)

When you’re starting as a writer or established as a writer, Goodreads exists to help you. You WANT this tool in your kit. Seriously.

The Reader’s (and Writer’s) Best Friend

The more you play around on Goodreads, the more you’ll find. I get notices of book giveaways from authors I follow (who doesn’t love that?). They let you vote on the top books each year. You’ll see recommendations based on your shelves – leading you to NEW ideas. It’s this endless reading (and writing) playground.


So come join me. You won’t regret it. And neither will your writing.

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