Melina Lobo is Goa’s top book reviewer. She runs the Instagram handle – MelisBookReviews, a Bookstagram account that reviews books written by top novelists, writers, and publications. A book review need serious commitment and an emphatical mindset to become the prospective reader.
The team of ItsGoa caught up with her and put her under the spotlight.
Humans of Goa is our original and official series that shares stories from the lives of Goans. Humans of Goa is made for and made up of Goans.
Let’s get started.
If anyone were to ask you, “Please introduce yourself”. How would you do so?
I tell people that I critique (mainly indie) authors on what they need to work on for their books from a reader’s point of view as well as help book lovers find the diamond that they’ve been looking for.
What was that one moment when you decided that, “That’s it! I want to review books.”
The first time I made the conscious decision to deviate from my original life plan was when I received around 10 emails from authors asking for my feedback on their work. That’s when I knew this had the potential of being a full time job if I worked on it a little bit more.
Why become a book reviewer? Why not something else?
Well, I’ve always wanted to an author (work in progress) but I have a bigger passion for reading compared to writing. When I started my bookstagram account it was just for fun, but within a few months it turned out to be something bigger than I would have ever imagined because other readers valued my opinion. I never had a plan to be a full time book reviewer/influencer but it did happen, and it’s been great ever since.
A bit about your role models. Any aspects or traits that makes them so… (can be from the literature world too)
My biggest role model when it comes to reading and achieving my reading goals is Matilda by Roald Dahl. The way she soared through books as a kid is what made me want to read a lot and to some extent I’ve achieved that level of expertise. Give me a really good 500 pages book and I’ll finish it in a day (and probably sneak in a few pages of another book if I’m in the mood).
What was the biggest challenge when pursuing this as a fulltime career? And how did you overcome it?
I’ve been doing this for a little over two years and I’m still overcoming challenges because not only did I have to convince my parents to let me do this full-time but it took me a while to realize that if I’m still doing this ten years down the line, it has to be worth it now and there has to be no regrets.
Did any book in particular change your perspective about life, career or anything in general?
I don’t think I would give that honor to just one book or character because over the last 25 years I have read hundreds of books and they’ve all helped me in one way or another. Taking inspiration from a few classics; Matilda taught me it’s ok to be different, The Chronicles of Narnia opened my eyes to the realities of new worlds, Sherlock taught me how to more perceptive, Feyre Archeon (from ACOTAR) has shown me that it’s ok to be rebellious and put yourself first. Every time you read a book or come across a great character, it changes you a little bit.
Who would be the top 5 books you read, and the top 5 authors you want people to read from?
My top 5 books (in no particular order) are The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab and The House In the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune!
Some of my other go-to authors are: Sarah J. Maas, Shelby Mahurin, Neal Shusterman, Adam Silvera and Soman Chainani.
What role did family and friends play? Any quick incident you recall that helped you overcome a hurdle or challenge in life?
My parents played a huge role in influencing my reading habits. My mother started reading to me from the time she knew she was pregnant and my father has no problem with the fact that I’ve turned his house into a library.
Books have played a big role in my life because I’ve always been an introvert, so making new friends was always hard for me so I found solace in the books I read. Bookstagram has helped me a lot over the last two years because I’ve found so many people who have the same interests as me and aren’t bothered when all I talk about is books.
What is the legacy you want to leave behind? And for whom?
I want more people to read! Whether it’s a physical book, an ebook or even an audiobook, I want them to experience the same feelings I as a reader have when I start a new book. Reading has always been viewed as nerdy or for educational purposes only but when people realize that there is so much more to it, it could change their perception about it.
Who exactly is a book reviewer?
A book reviewer is a publishing business expert who assesses the quality of books and writes about their reading experiences.
Book reviewers can work for publishing houses or media that cover literary issues, as they can provide publishers and potential readers with information about the books they review. Many book reviewers begin their careers as freelancers, which allows them to pick and choose which books they work on and to gain experience reviewing in other genres. Once established in the profession, a book reviewer may specialize in a particular subject or genre, such as romance books, young adult literature, or fiction. Book reviews are definitely in vogue.
What is the role of a book reviewer?
A book reviewer‘s primary task is to write reviews of the books they have read. A book critic may concentrate on one aspect of a book that they find particularly outstanding, such as great character development, compelling plot aspects, or good use of literary tropes. Book reviewers can also point out aspects of a book that they believe should be improved, such as plot flaws, factual inaccuracies, or a book that could benefit from better writing.
A book reviewer often reads a book cover to cover and takes detailed notes, which they then use to produce articles or reviews that summarise their reading experience.
What qualifications does a book reviewer need?
- Excellent comprehension and reading capabilities
- Ability to write well
- Skills in time management
- Ability to communicate
- Skills in critical thinking
How to become a book reviewer
Make time to read as much as possible. Reading regularly may demonstrate your passion of reading by establishing a collection of books you can discuss after finishing them, which is one of the most significant features of a book reviewer. This will allow you to practice reading different sorts of books and recognizing points of interest, which will help you improve reading and comprehension skills that will benefit your career as a book critic.
You can discover books on virtually any area of interest, so try reading a variety of genres to see which ones you love reading and evaluating the most.
- Consider earning a degree in literature
Consider getting a bachelor’s degree in English literature. While there are no formal educational qualifications for being a book reviewer, many book reviewers pursue a bachelor’s degree in literature or a closely related field in order to expand their understanding of books and literary elements that they may discuss in book reviews. This is due to the fact that a bachelor’s degree programme in literature may provide in-depth training in how to employ literary devices, efficiently develop all of the pieces of a book, and critically evaluate different aspects of a book.
Completing a bachelor’s degree may also help you stand out from other candidates who did not attend college, as having a degree can help you advance in your career.
- Start by reviewing books by yourself
Begin creating book reviews for the novels you’ve read. You may improve your skills as a book reviewer and figure out which reviewing and critiquing strategies work best for you by writing a few book reviews before seeking publication. You can get ready to write book reviews by reading some published book reviews from well-known publications and thinking about what makes each one successful and entertaining. Once you’ve figured out what a book review should contain and how it should be formatted, you can start writing book reviews for novels you enjoy reading. This method can also assist you in beginning your profession as a book reviewer by giving you with a few pieces of writing to submit.
- Build a readership with writers
Present your book reviews to the general public and try to keep a readership. This can be accomplished by independently releasing book evaluations on an online platform such as a social media outlet or a content creation website. By developing a community that connects with your work and wants to hear your critiques, you may establish yourself as a book reviewer, which can emphasize your skills to potential employers and publishers.
Many prospective book reviewers begin by filming video book reviews in which they express their criticisms verbally. This allows you to introduce yourself and your personality to the audience while also relating your personal characteristics and hobbies to the business of publishing. You might, however, create book reviews and put them on social media or other platforms to allow audiences and potential employers to get a sense of your writing style.
- Apply as a book reviewer on consultancy websites
Submit your book evaluations to magazines and hunt for book reviewer employment openings. Because many book reviewers start out as freelancers, some of your first paid opportunities may come from submitting book reviews you’ve already written to magazines that specialise in book reviews. You can also hunt for freelancing possibilities online by doing a search or visiting websites that advertise and publish book reviews to see if any publications are accepting book review submissions.
If you want to work for a specific company or newspaper, you can inquire about chances to work as a reviewer with specialists in their book reviewing department.
How to write a book?
Start with an idea. Of course, an idea is the one thing you’ll need to create a book. You’ll never get past the first page of your manuscript until you have that.
You may already have an idea for what you want to write about, or you may be completely stumped. In either case, a “big book idea” can be found by asking yourself a few simple questions:
What do I want to write about?
What do I feel is important to write about?
Who will want to read about this story/subject?
Will I be able to carry out this idea effectively?
Your answers to these questions will help you narrow it down to your best options. For example, if you have several different ideas for a book, but only one that you’re truly passionate about and feel you can pull off, then voilà — there’s your premise!
If you’re stuck for ideas, however, these questions should point you in the right path. Consider the types of books you enjoy reading as well as those that have had a lasting impression on you. You’ll almost certainly want to create a book in the same style.
After you’ve discovered your big idea, you’ll need to explore your genre. Again, if you’re writing the type of book you enjoy reading, you’re already ahead of the game. Reading literature in your genre is by far the most effective approach to learn how to write in it.
But if not, you’ll want to select a couple of representative titles and analyze them.
How long are they and how many chapters do they have?
What does the story structure look like?
What are the major themes?
Perhaps most importantly, do you think you can produce a book with similar elements?
You should also conduct market research on Amazon to determine the most popular books in your genre.
Then read those books’ blurbs to figure out what really sells. What do they all have in common, and why might readers find them appealing? Does your book hold up to these standards?
Finally, consider how your book can provide something novel. Will there be a particularly sly unreliable narrator in a psychological thriller, for example, or a sequence of twists that the reader never sees coming? Do you have a unique perspective on the subject or a particularly deep reservoir of information if you’re writing a nonfiction book? And so forth.
In today’s hyper-competitive industry, going above and beyond is the only way to give your book a shot. So don’t scrimp on the genre study; it’ll show you where the bar is set and how to raise it.
Create an outline for the book
An outline must be written before a book can be written. You don’t have to make it appear like a rollercoaster, but your outline should resemble this.
If you want to write a fantastic book, you must first outline it. This is especially vital if it’s your first book, as you’ll need a solid framework to fall back on if you get stuck.
Choose a format that suits your needs.
There are numerous forms of outlines, including the free-flowing mind map, the meticulous chapter-and-scene layout, and the character-based outline, among others. Try a different strategy if one doesn’t work. Any strategy is preferable to none at all.
There should be a beginning, middle, and end to your story.
Many authors begin writing a book with a clear idea of how the plot should begin, but the middle is hazy, and the finish is nonexistent. Take this opportunity to flesh them out and tie them together. Remember that the finest books have “earned” endings, so start building toward one from the beginning!
Consider your points of contention.
Any excellent work needs conflict to draw the reader in, create tension and emotion, and ultimately reflect the ideas and/or message you want to express. You don’t have to know precisely where your conflict will appear in your book, but you should have a clear idea of how it will operate.
Learn as much as you can about your characters. If you haven’t done any character development yet, your outline is a great place to start. How will your characters interact in the plot, and how will their interactions show who they are and what they care about?
Have you ever wondered who your favorite modern author is? This is your opportunity to find out.
Let’s get down to business and start writing your first draught. Starting a story is one of the most critical aspects of writing a book! It’s no exaggeration to suggest that the opening few pages of your book may make or break it; if they’re not excellent enough, many readers will lose interest and may never return to it.
To begin, you’ll need an introductory hook that captures the reader’s attention and makes them unable to look away. Take a look at the first lines of these hit bestsellers:
“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” — Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
“Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery.” — The Da Vinci Code
“If all the Saturdays of 1982 can be thought of as one day, I met Tracey at 10 a.m. on that Saturday, walking through the sandy gravel of a churchyard, each holding our mother’s hand.” — Swing Time
Despite the fact that these books are from various genres, their first lines all do the same thing: they grab the reader’s attention. Make an equally forceful, slightly oblique statement in your opener to copy them!
Then it’s up to you to keep the reader’s attention by raising the stakes and advancing the plot. By providing the major characters different personalities and goals, you can make the reader care about them.
Of course, there are a plethora of approaches to writing your first chapter. It may take a lot of experimenting with different opening lines, even opening scenes, to get the ideal balance, but it’s well worth the effort.
These features, like the layers of an iceberg, build atop each other, even though you can’t always see them.
Many authors believe that style is the key to crafting a great book: stunning vocabulary, complex phrases, and metaphorical language fit for Shakespeare.
We’re here to persuade you otherwise. While style is crucial (as long as your prose doesn’t turn purple), substance is considerably more vital when it comes to writing a novel, which is why you should concentrate on your storey, characters, conflict(s), and themes.
That is, of course, easier said than done, especially after you’ve begun writing. It’s tempting to keep writing and fill out the page with literary gymnastics when you reach a patchily outlined part. This content, on the other hand, is precisely that: filler. Readers will grow dissatisfied and think you’re snobbish if you have too much of it.
Another argument for the importance of outlining is that it allows you to focus on the crucial things. To keep on track with your tale, you need to know it.
Every sentence must either reveal character or move the action forward. If a sentence doesn’t meet one or both of those goals, remove it, according to Kurt Vonnegut’s instructions. Leave it out if the passage still makes sense.
Keep an eye on your pacing. Excessive description causes slow pacing. If the events in your novel seem to move at a snail’s pace, you’re probably overusing style and underusing substance.
Write for the reader
Do you want to write a book that people will enjoy (and purchase)? Well, this is pretty much the cardinal rule: you should always consider your audience when writing and attempt to write “reader-first.”
For example, you may be required to write sequences that aren’t particularly thrilling but are necessary for the overall storey arc. Don’t rush through these sequences in order to finish them! Even if you don’t find them engaging, they contribute to the reader’s experience by generating suspense and maintaining pacing — and the reader deserves to enjoy those things.
When thinking about your readership, you should also consider creating a proto-persona for marketing purposes. Marketers create these characters in order to better understand their target customers. The more you can tailor your book to this imaginary reader, the more likely it is to sell!
Perhaps you’re penning a true-crime storey for ardent true-crime fans. Because these readers have read countless criminal cases before, you must include unique details to set your case apart and craft an extra-compelling narrative to keep them engaged.
Set a word count
Make sure your word count objectives are reasonable and achievable.
Now let’s look at some practical techniques to improve your writing habits. Goals for word count are crucial for a productive writing process, especially if you’re trying to finish your work in a specific amount of time.
You should set word count objectives for each session as well as for the week — or month, if you like to think about your writing output that way. We recommend the following word count goals for somewhat inexperienced writers:
500-750 words per day
1,500-2,500 words per week
6,000-10,000 words per month
These goals are based on a pattern of 3-4 sessions per week, which is reasonable for a beginner, but still enough to make commendable progress. Even if you only follow our minimum recommendations — 500 words per session at 3 sessions per week — you can still easily finish your book in less than a year!
If you’re looking for how to write a book as fast as possible, your word count goals should look a little more like this:
1,500-2,000 words per session
9,000-15,000 words per week
35,000-50,000 words per month
Establish a writing routine
It’s only by sticking to a regular writing schedule that you’ll be able to meet your word count targets – not to mention that it will help you develop a stronger relationship with writing in general! To start establishing a healthy routine, ask yourself the following questions:
When do I have the most free time in the day/week?
What time of the day do I tend to be most productive?
How can I space out my writing sessions effectively?
Will I realistically be able to balance my writing goals with other responsibilities?
Taking advantage of your pre-existing schedule and natural rhythms is the greatest strategy to establish your habit. For example, if you already go to the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays might be the greatest days to write. Alternatively, if you are most creative late at night (as many of us are! ), you can schedule late-night sessions on the weekend/before your day off so that you can sleep in the next day.
Finally, you want a well-balanced writing regimen that allows you to be productive while also preventing burnout. If writing for multiple days in a row becomes too much for you, consider spacing out your sessions more or changing things up by relocating to a new location.
Yes, writing frequently is vital, but it pales in comparison to your mental wellness! Keep in mind that writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint, and that maintaining a consistent, healthy approach is essential. Here are a few pointers to help you make the most of your writing regimen.
Make sure you don’t miss more than one session in a row.
Life occurs, and you may be unable to attend a scheduled writing session. You should, however, try to get back in the saddle for your next session unless you have a serious emergency. Otherwise, you’ll squander too much time and become disheartened, which will likely result in you skipping even more writing sessions and eventually giving up.
Create a spreadsheet to track your writing progress, or simply keep a handwritten page with your writing time and word count for each session. As you continue to meet your daily word count objectives, you’ll notice that your routine is effective, and you’ll become more enthusiastic about your novel and motivated to stick to it! (Hint: some writing programmes allow you to set word count targets!)
Set up a writing space
Another important aspect of how to write a book is where you write it, which is why it has its own section. You must find a calm, focused location for your work if you want to finish an entire book.
This may be at home, a coffee shop, a library, or a co-working space – somewhere you can work efficiently and without interruptions. It should also be a location that you can quickly access and visit frequently. In this regard, working from home is the most convenient alternative, but it may be challenging if you have relatives nearby or if you don’t have a distinct “room of one’s own” (i.e. an actual office, or at least a desk).
Experiment with several locations to see what works best for you. Indeed, you may discover that rotating writing areas keeps you energized and your writing new! However, everywhere you go, make every effort to create space:
Quiet (noise-canceling headphones can be very helpful)
Clean (no clutter, especially if you do chores to procrastinate)
Non-distracting (nothing too fun around to tempt you away from writing; turn off your phone so other people won’t bother you)
Your own (cultivate a nice atmosphere in your home office with posters and plants, or simply take the same seat at your local café every time — truly carve out a “dedicated writing space”)