So, you want to write book reviews?
It seems easy enough – pick up a book, read it, and write a review. But how do you write a review that will help someone to decide if they want to read the book? Or a review that will warn people to stay away from the book, without making you sound like an ignorant hater? Or one that will spike pages and pages of conversations and comments from your fellow reader friends?
There are no defined steps, no rubric to follow. Well, there is, but if you follow the rubric your review will drown in the sea of other rubric followed reviews. And we don’t want your review to drown, not even to float, we want it to swim against the current! So here are a few tips you might want to remember before setting on to write your most epic review yet.
1. Calm down. There are usually two scenarios (well, three, but we will only briefly mention the third one) that come to play after you have finished the book.
You either loved it so much that you can’t stop gushing about it:
“ohhhhmy goooodnesssss this is the best book ever, I love it sooooo much, it’s soooooo good, if you say anything bad about it I will come at you with a pick axe, I ship everybody in this book, they are my babiesssss!!!” Ever read one of those? Is this something you want to look at years later and feel proud of your review writing skills? Didn’t think so.
Or you really disliked it and can barely contain your rage:
“This book was a total garbage I cannot believe I wasted my time reading it, all of you leaving 5 star reviews for it are ignorant and dumb for liking a book like this” This piece of work is even worse than the previous one. At least the other one was funny.
In the third scenario you don’t really care about the book, so you don’t really care about leaving an epic review either.
Now back to my little tip, take time to calm down before you write your review, no matter what emotions you have felt. Sure, a hyped review might be fun to read once in a while, but you also run a risk of saying things that you don’t really mean. Do you want that on your permanent record? On the vast realms of the internet? Sure, you can edit it later, but you can’t edit minds of people who already read your unstable review. Point is – we all get book drunk sometimes, so take some time to get sober.
2. Decide on spoilers/ or no spoilers. That is the question. Now that you have calmed down, decide what type of review you would like to leave. No spoilers review means that you must not mention anything that happens in the book, besides the things that have been already revealed in the blurb. Your review should consist of evaluations of the style of writing, the story progression speed, character’s build and some philosophical questions you had while reading. Those are reviews that people will use to determine if they want to read a certain book. If you spoil if for them, they will be coming with pick axes for you. A review that contains spoilers is meant for people who have already read the book and want to dig deeper into the lovely theories and speculations about it. And don’t let anybody tell you that you should not write a review with spoilers! They are good, they are needed and they always, ALWAYS come with a “Spoilers ahead” warning sign! This type of review can contain anything your little heart wishes, but mostly people talk about the plot and how they see it building (if the series are not finished yet),specific traits of characters, romantic speculations, tragic deaths and “ships” (romantic relations between characters that readers really, really like).
3. Check your facts. This is more applicable when leaving a negative review (also don’t let anybody tell you not to leave those! They are your thoughts and feelings and they need to be said). Just make sure you don’t offend anyone. Here is a list of people you should try not to offend:
Offending readers who adored the book is even easier, as books can turn people into raging fanatics. Anything barely negative can set off a World Wide Web Verbal War (say it out loud, it’s fun). Obviously, people who are obsessively unstable is not your problem, they will see their wrong ways in time. But there are people who genuinely connected with a book, so try not to call them poop –bags for liking it, just because you didn’t.
Everybody else, and their mothers, too? Well, let’s say I have seen people go to great deals of trying to offend anybody and anything that had the ill fortune of stumbling in their zone of the book hating rage. Don’t be that person.
4. Sleep on it. I know that this little tip is not for everybody, as a lot of people like to write the review and then post it immediately. But I always let my reviews sit for at least a night before I post it. I feel like reading it with fresh eyes the next day gives me an excellent opportunity to catch any mistakes, or silliness that might have crept in into my precious review (am I going to sleep on this blog post? You bet!). You also might discover that the next morning you have something more to add to your review, a thought that you had while in the shower (the place where all best thoughts live. Maybe they like to be clean?).
5. Make it yours. “So, how do I write an amazing review that will blow other people’s minds away?” you are still asking. Make it yours! Your feelings and your thoughts already make for a great review! You just have to sit down and write it. Not go and read bunch of other reviews then copy them and call it yours, not go and read bunch of reviews and then rephrase them and call it yours, and not read bunch of reviews then change your feelings on the book and call them yours. None of this! For these things are called: plagiarism, rephrasing (aka cheating) and sheep (having no opinion, blehhhh). You may read other reviews and have other feelings, and thoughts added to your review, obviously, but you probably should mention in your review where you acquired them. Make the review yours and only yours. Your personal style will shine through as you read more books and write more reviews. So, I guess my main tip would be – don’t compare yourself to anybody else. And don’t spoil books for people who haven’t read them yet!
Freelance BETA reader.