Just as every chef cooks differently, every driver drives differently, and every author writes differently, reviewers all review differently. Some find it easier to take notes while they read to make the reviews easier, some have to review the book straight after finishing the book, some have to wait awhile to let the book sink in properly, some cannot, or will not, start another book until the review of the previous book is written. But these are all the whens of writing reviews, and today I am here to tell you about the hows and whats.
Most likely, if you’re participating in Ready, Set, Review-A-Thon you have written a review before, in fact, a lot of the people reading this have also probably written a review before – I know I was forced to write reviews in school. And I am not here to tell you that how I write a review is the way to do it, because it’s not. I am not the best reviewer out there, I don’t have all the answers, and I really don’t want to see copycats of my work out there. But I am here today to give some guidelines, hopefully they’ll help you at least a little. But if they’re not helpful at all, I do apologise!
The First Thing The first thing that I do after finishing a book is give it a rating. I know that not everyone that reviews books rates them, but I find that it’s necessary for me to do so. But before you can truly give your book a rating, you must work out your rating scheme. Are you a rater who uses .5’s, or do you want to rate out of 10 instead of five? Every reviewer will have their own rating scheme, you need to work out what fits for you and stick with it.
Personally, I rate using 5 stars, and I never award half rates. It’s either a three star rating or a four star rating, never a three point five rating. The reason I do this is because I feel that if you’re reviewing out of five, there should be five options, not ten. Otherwise you might as well mark it out of ten and give the book a 7. In my eyes, the system of five stars is to really separate the works out. Too many of my books would be .5 rates if I worked that way but by forcing myself to ignore that rating, I have to think more. Am I giving this a .5 rating because it’s a little bit better than a 3 but a little worse than a 4? So should I give it a 3 or 4? How far below a 4 is it? How far away from a 3 is it? These questions I must answer before I finally decided. I would then normally explain why I went one way or the other in my actual review.
Initial Thoughts With my rating next to the book title, I then write down in a draft document my initial thoughts on the book. What did I like? What did I dislike? How did I feel when I was reading it? How has it, since I read it, affected my life? Was it a new genre to me? A new take on an old genre? Anything and everything that I first thing of when it comes to the book I read gets placed into this draft document. This will become the basis of my review. Most likely, a lot of what is initial described will end up in the first opening paragraph of my review, the one where I explain quickly what was good, or not good, about the book.
Structure This is something that not every reviewer does. But I tend to structure my reviews. Not strictly, but just enough so that I know what I need to write about as the bulk of my reviews. My structure is more like an idea of talking points, as opposed to a tried and trialled method that I follow for each and every review. After all, every book is different and therefore every review you write is likely to be different too.
What I do is give myself some sub-headings. If you’ve seen any of my reviews, you’ll note that these headings actually stay when I post the reviews. They, however, are never as interesting as they are in the final draft! My subheadings usually consist of a number of these topics; plot, writing style, world-building, characters, creatures, ending, plot-twist, etc. It all depends on the book itself and what is needed to be mentioned. After all, there would be no point talking about the world-building in a contemporary book review, would there?
With these titles, I then aim to write one to two paragraphs per sub-heading. I generally ask myself relatable questions, what did I like about the sub-heading? What didn’t I like? What would others like? How did it affect the book as a whole? So on, and so forth. Just getting the words onto the page. Once it’s all complete, I then go over the paragraphs, work out what I want to keep, what I want to get rid of and just make sure that it looks like a good review.
The Final Step With all of the review heavily edited in word, I then open up Windows Live Writer and open up my review template. This is basically just all the other information I post with my review, the cover, the publisher, date, format, etc. I enter in all the relevant data for the review in hand and then I copy and paste the review into WLW below all of that.
Then I think up creative and relatable headings for my sub-headings and add them in. Then it’s just a case of doing a bit of formatting and coding and then scheduling. But that is not necessary to talk about here!
Recap So, and again, I reiterate that I am not saying you should do this, but simply giving you a guideline that you may wish to follow if you want. But of course, guidelines are meant to broken.
Give that book a rating!
Write down all those initial thoughts!
Answer specific questions for the sub-headings, one-two paragraphs each!
And that is how I write my reviews. It may not be the most original way of doing things, but it is something that I just do. It feels natural to me and it works and that is really the best thing. You need to find a routine, or structure, or just way of review writing that works for you and everything else should just happily fall into place. I hope that this post will help you in some way.
Here are some other reviewers’ views on structuring reviews, just as proof that each and every reviewer is completely different.
So go out there, experiment over and over, and eventually you’ll find something that will continuously work. It took a while before I got to this point, and even with this I still struggle to keep on top of my reviews, but next week I’ll have a post up with ideas on how to stay on top once we are there!