Saturday Series: On Reviews # 6 Writing that review.
We’ve discussed what a review is, why they are important, how to choose a reviewer for you, and even the elements of a thorough review. Today we are going to discuss writing a review, and I will share some of my tips and tricks for crafting reviews.
The first thing to understand is you must read the book. You are not being fair to the author or to your readers if you don’t read the book. Now, I read several books a week, but I only try to be in review posting mode about once a day. What I tend to do is write a ‘rough’ review immediately after I finish reading a book.
A rough review is just a series of short notes that list my impressions of the title: characters, world building, plot, story, grammar and editing. Additionally it may list little notes about unique or original elements, or if I found it reminded me of another book. There isn’t any polish on it; in fact my rough reviews are notes that make sense to no one but me.
When it comes time for me to put polish onto my review, I do two things. I read the blurb for the book, and I read my notes. Then I start writing. There is no particular order in which you want to mention the elements that you feel are important to the review, but I try to follow the good, needs improvement, best, who would like it method.
This means that I am going to talk about something good about the story first. Then I will discuss any issues, and then follow that with something that was particularly good about the book. Lastly, I try to think what readers would like the title. So my reviews in this method look like this:
A contemporary mystery, the author managed to craft a story in my hometown of Boston that was accurate and well set with familiar landmarks. The characters were familiar in feel, and the scene in the Commons was particularly clever.
I was not a fan of the overuse of tell, if they are walking through Harvard Square, you don’t need to discuss the square’s architecture as well as have the MC describe it as well.
Those familiar with Boston will appreciate the use of Faneuil Hall as the murder scene, and the chase through Downtown crossing was full of tension, especially with the multiple shoppers. If you like urban mysteries, or want a taste of Boston in your read, you should enjoy this book.
What I’ve done here is provided a note for the author on the lag in the story, told a bit about the setting, mentioned a scene that worked well, and given an option for readers who may appreciate that sort of story line.
So – my review is written and it looks like what I want to say. This can (and did when I started) take about 4 or 5 edits and changes. Now I have it down to only one edit, but I also write a lot of reviews.
The next thing I do – is add my FTC disclosure. This should become a regular habit, and mine always reads like this:
I received a (ARC, eBook, eGalley, AudioCD, MP3, Paper) copy of the book from (author, publisher) for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
The purpose of this disclosure is to explain any material connection that you have, and payment you may have received for reviewing a particular title. When I am using a book that I purchased for myself, I also state that at the end of my review. It is my view, that if you have received payment or a book with expectation for review, you must state that.
Lastly – I run my review through a spell-check AND a grammar check. How foolish would I look if I were to mention bad spelling or grammar with a review full of errors?
Next week: avoiding generalizations, what is appropriate to ‘spoil’.