This week's question:
Writing Reviews 101: What's your process for writing book reviews? Any tips or suggestions you would recommend to other bloggers?
My process for reviews usually consists of jotting down notes on a scrap piece of paper (or yeah, sometimes in the book if it's a paperback), procrastinating the crap out of getting my review written, and then rushing to get my thoughts down during the wee hours of the morning, later than I had hoped to get it finished. This procrastinated rush is usually accompanied by some sort of beverage and distractions such as YouTube, ESPN, or Angry Birds. I wish I was one of those people who schedules posts way ahead of time but, alas, I am not. My reviews are a mixture of a critical view of the book and a personal opinion.
Things that I talk about or include in my reviews:
- The characters: I like to discuss my opinions on at least the main characters - their strengths and weaknesses, whether I liked them, if they were sympathetic or whiny and annoying, etc. Do they experience growth? Do they feel honest and authentic? Are their relationships with the other characters believable? Does he/she, as a character, work to the purpose of the story?
- The plot: When I discuss the plot of a novel, I like to include information such as: Is it fast, slow? Action or character driven? Is it fluffy, fun, serious, contemplative? What sort of themes are included? How is the setting/world building? Is there an element that is particularly awesome (or horrible) that I want to mention? Is there closure? Is the ending ambiguous? I make sure not to include any spoilers.
- My thoughts about the merits of the novel or anything that I had a problem with: I don't like to just say that I did or did not like a book. I want to be certain that anyone who reads my reviews knows WHY I did or didn't like something. If something isn't working for me, I want to be sure to explain it. Likewise if something does work well. I discuss the writing. Is it good/bad? Is there something particular about the style that stands out?
- My rating: A lot of people seem to be moving away from rating books. I like to include a rating, though. I like to have my feelings simplified into something that is quantifiable. Sometimes I'll complain about something in a book, but the complaint won't actually do much to decrease my overall enjoyment of that book. Other times that complaint will do a lot to decrease my enjoyment. The rating helps to clarify that, for my readers and for myself when I look back.
Things that I do NOT like to see in reviews:
- Spoilers. I don't like to have a book spoiled. I only follow reviewers that I can trust not to ruin it for me. If you do include a spoiler, please give a warning. Though, I personally don't like for them to be there at all.
- Absence of explanations. Sometimes a reviewer will go on about liking or disliking something, but without ever really explaining why or why not. I need to hear reasons for these opinions. If a reviewer doesn't back his/her opinions up with some sort of explanations, then I won't be very convinced to care about that person's opinion. If someone tells me, "I like character Z. He's cool," then that isn't giving me very much information. I won't remember it or care about it either way. But if someone tells me, "Character Z is awesome because he is obsessed with being grammatically correct and has a sarcastic sense of humor," then I'm going to be all about caring what that person's opinion is, because that person clearly appreciates the important things.
- Summaries. It's a review, not a second grade book report. If a brief summary is something you like to include, that doesn't bother me. I'll probably skip over it, though, if I'm being honest. My problem with it happens when a review is nothing but a drawn out summary. Don't tell me what happens! Give me your opinions (and back them up, of course)! If I want only a summary then I'll look it up on Wikipedia.
What about you? Are you a scheduler or a procrastinator? What do you like to see included in reviews? What would you prefer be left out of them? Do you like star ratings or dislike them? Comment and let me know!