Review Writing: How to Stop Hating It

Posted August 14, 2015 / Discussions, Features / 43 Comments

writing reviews

There has been a lot of chatter in the blogosphere about review-writing and how much pretty much everyone hates having to do it. It’s a chore and a daunting task. We just want to READ and not have to stop to write down our thoughts. Do people even read reviews anymore? No one comments on them anymore and bloggers seem to have more fun writing other types of posts – discussions, memes, and original features. People feel pressured to read and review because really, that’s the core point to book blogging. Didn’t everyone start the blog with the purpose of sharing reviews and talking about books? I think the book blogosphere is growing and evolving, but there’s definitely a way to keep reviews in the mix without making it the worst part of blogging. I feel like almost everyone hates it and has been losing an interest in blogging as a result.not for meHonestly? I don’t mind writing reviews. And I like reading other people’s reviews! I’ll admit that overall I am less likely to read a book review compared to a discussion, but I probably read about 70% of the reviews that cross my Bloglovin’ feed. Full disclosure: I do a lot of skimming and checking for the rating, but overall… I still read reviews. And I still like writing them! I have a system worked out where writing reviews is not daunting or scary or time-consuming. I am able to read the book, write the review within the next 24 hours, and keep it concise enough so that it only takes me maybe 20 minutes to write – sometimes more, sometimes (most of the time) less.arrowSo how do I do it? Why do I not mind writing reviews still? What keeps me going when most people would rather do just about anything else instead of write reviews? First I’ll share a bit about my process and then give you some tips on how to make it less daunting of a task.how i write reviewssThe biggest thing for me is when I write them and the small amount of work I have to do at that time. If I know when a book review is going up, I’ll fill out EVERYTHING except for the review in a post, then schedule it for that day. (My reviews are usually scheduled a month or more in advance, because of my system!) Prepopulating all of the book information is usually my least favorite part of writing a review because its boring and tedious to get all of the links and boxes filled out. UBB makes it easier, but still. Having everything completed except for the review itself definitely makes it easier for me to just sit and write it when the time comes. For me, I go in and write the book review usually less than 24 hours after finishing the book. I keep my reviews relatively short and touch on a few major things, then I’m done. I start with how I feel overall in a quick paragraph, move into a brief plot summary, talk about what I liked about the story/plot itself, touch on the characters and setting, and then discuss how it all ended and made me feel overall. Pretty easy: just a few paragraphs. Getting the review done right away always makes me feel better. If I’m on a blog tour and rated the book less than four stars, I usually make a list-style review, where I give a few reasons why you should read the book. It’s a quick way to say what you liked without having to give a lot of details. The biggest thing I try to remember is that all I want to do is share what I liked/disliked about a book. Unless the book was sheer perfection or utterly terrible, I may not have a lot to say… and that’s alright! I don’t pressure myself to write a five paragraph review if I don’t have that much to say.

tips for writing→ Populate your review posts with everything but the review ahead of time. Honestly, this is such a time-saver for me. If I’m currently reading a book, I’ll draft the post with everything except the actual review. I hate adding in the book links and cover image and tags and UGH. Doing it ahead of time makes writing the review itself a lot easier because that’s the only thing left to do. I usually even schedule it for the day I want it to be posted. Like I said, I’m good about writing my reviews immediately so I usually don’t worry about it publishing without me filling it in.

→ Talk about the book in a different way. Try a new review style that makes more sense based on how you feel about the book. I’ve done a few different types on the blog in the past and sometimes alternate just to keep things more interesting. If you’re struggling to write reviews because you think it needs to be a more formal process, stop! Here are a few ideas with links to my examples:

  • “Reasons to read” review: Give the five main reasons someone should pick up this book. In the past, these five reasons have included things like the humor/writing style, the ship, the characters, the setting, the plot… It can really be that simple. It could even be one specific character that you loved. Just list the main reasons you’d tick off to convince someone to read it. This works nicely for blog tours when you need to say more positive things than negative things, even if you weren’t the biggest fan of the book overall. [Example]
  • 200 word review: I used to write a lot of these back in the day! I like to challenge myself and try to review the book as succinctly as possible, in 200 words or less. If there’s a book you don’t have much to say on, this works really well. It’s fun to just throw out some major points in what ends up being a simple, one paragraph review. These are also nice if you binge-read a series and don’t have much to say about each book individually. [Example]
  • GIF review: I’ve seen a number of bloggers do this, where they write the entire review in reaction gifs. It may not be something you can do on Amazon or Goodreads, but it could make things a bit more fun. Finding gifs, for me, is usually more stress than its worth, but still… some people have a bunch saved on their computer for this exact reason. [Example]
  • What worked & what didn’t review: Summarize exactly that: what worked, what didn’t work, and how you felt overall. I broke up a lot of reviews in this format, which was nice! Sometimes I wrote it in two big paragraphs and sometimes I bulleted under each heading. It’s easier to just say I liked these things and I disliked these things, then talk about how the book made me feel overall. It makes things a lot simpler. People are more likely to read a review like that, in my opinion, because they can literally glance at bullet points and call it a day. [Example]
  • Mini reviews in one post: I’ve seen an uptick of this lately and think it works really well for some people. If you want to focus on READING like nobody’s business, but don’t want to have your blog full of reviews each day of the week, combine them! Write a bit about each book you read in the previous week and throw it all in one post. Make Monday your book review day, then leave the other days of the week for features or discussions – whatever you want! This is something I’ve done in the past for novellas and series binge-reads, but really you could use it for whatever books you want, every week if you want! [Example]

→ Take notes somewhere. I’ll admit, this isn’t that fun. I actually kind of hate doing that because it distracts me from the actual book. But, I end up loving myself when I’m writing the review. I have the woooooorst bookish memory ever. I could finish a book and immediately write the review, but STILL not be able to remember anything about it. Notes help me a lot. Going back up to the first tip: if you draft your post ahead of time, you could pop into the post while reading and jot down notes in there too. Sometimes I do this when I don’t feel like writing full-blown notes.

→ Don’t stress about the length of the review. I know “don’t stress” is kind of shitty advice because usually you can’t help it, but I think it’s important to mention. No one says anywhere that reviews need to be a certain number of paragraphs or words! It’s your blog. Do whatever you want. I remember I loved Anna’s blog because her reviews were SO short and sweet and RIGHT to the point. I would read every single review she posted when she was blogging because they were so quick. I just copied and pasted one of her reviews into Word and saw that there were 126 words. That’s it. AND the review did it’s job by making me want to read the book. Ta-da! There’s nothing wrong with keeping it short like that. Nooooothing.

→ Write the review right after finishing the book, regardless of release date. I know this is obvious in some ways, but I’m telling you – it’s the best. I don’t EVER feel bad about reading a book with a January release date when its July, because I’m able to write my review ASAP and just schedule it for January. If you looked at my scheduled posts on here, you’d see reviews planned for months and months. Instead of saying “ugh this book doesn’t get released until next year, I can’t read it yet,” JUST DO IT. Read it, write your review immediately, and schedule dat shit. It’ll feel great when you get to that month and already have some things done and planned and READY TO GO.

arrow

Other bloggers have talked about this as well! I highly recommend checking out some of these links:

Cristina talked about why she still likes to read and write reviews. I remember reading this post and nodding my head at everything, because she definitely captures how I feel as well. Book reviewing is why she started and something she plans to continue with. She says:

“Writing reviews is the catalyst that started my blog in the first place. I wanted a space where I could talk through me feelings about the books I read, and have a space where I could record my thoughts about them for future reference.”

Amanda talked about some alternatives to review-writing as well. I read her post a while back and thought lots of the suggestions were awesome! If you’re looking for even more review alternatives than the ones I talked about here, check her post out. She says:

“Believe it or not, you don’t HAVE to write reviews, not even for publishers. At least, not reviews in the way the blogosphere usually sees them… what I’m saying is that you can actually do exactly what a review does, or in some cases, do better than a review, and still get your feelings about a book out there, without putting yourself in a downer about it.”

Jamie discussed how she “hung up her hat” as a book reviewer and planned to talk more about books in a more general or emotional way. The pressure of calling something a book review can definitely be too much. She switched gears a little bit on her blog and said:

“For me, personally, being a “book reviewer” has sucked out some of the joy in reading. If you read this blog you know it’s not like my reviews are super serious and they are more conversational but, still, wearing the book reviewer hat has made me feel like I constantly need to be on the lookout for things that I can be critical about in books rather than simply just reading and then talking about what I thought about a book…”

What do you think? Does this help at all?
How do you feel about review writing and reading?

43 responses to “Review Writing: How to Stop Hating It

  1. This is exactly what I needed to read today. Yesterday I wanted to write 4 reviews, I finished 1, because I really never know what to write, if it’s even worth the time since they don’t get too many views. I’ve tried list reviews, and they do work for me but sometimes I start jabbering on and then a list doesn’t work. I’ll definitely be keeping some of your ideas in mind.

    Helen @ My Novel Opinion recently posted: Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts [26]
  2. I really enjoy writing reviews. Like you, I populate the rest of the post in advance (usually), and I take notes in my Trello list while I’m reading the book, so it makes it really easy to write the review. I almost always write the review the day after finishing. I am not reviewing way in advance, so I usually need to get my post together ASAP, or I’ll have nothing posted on my site that day. It normally takes me 15 minutes or less to write the review as long as I’m not distracted.

  3. This post is fabulous! I love the idea of not holding yourself to a particular review technique! I have tried (sometimes successfully, other times not so much 😉 ) to NOT force myself to write reviews that seem boring to me just because I am sending them to a publisher. If I don’t want to write it, why would anyone else want to READ it?!

    Finding gifs IS a struggle, but it’s fun too- and when I cannot find gifs, I have a word for it: Gifficulties. They are real. Thanks for sharing this, it’s great advice!

  4. Anne

    Ha, schedule that shit indeed! I just went through a period of reading books from BEA that won’t be released until the fall and have been putting off writing reviews. But why?! I never plan ahead, but just yesterday wrote one for mid-September (I know it isn’t that far away, but it is progress) and it felt good to schedule it out! I am such a pantser when it comes to blogging, but I really think I would feel better if I wrote my reviews soon after reading. And I agree about reviews in general. I still enjoy reading them and like to see different styles of reviews.

  5. I actually enjoy writing reviews! I started writing them for me and continue to write them for me. I basically have the world’s worst memory, so I like to have them as a reference to look back on. And getting everything drafted except the review is a GREAT idea. I’ll do that when I start a book, just get all the other stuff put together and then it’s so much easier to write the review. And I find that I do better at writing them immediately after finishing a book. If I let them sit, I have a hard time remembering what I loved and hated and it takes 3x as long. I do like writing other posts on the blog and yeah, reviews don’t get a lot of comments, but then I don’t comment on a lot of reviews, only if I’ve read the book or want to read the book or the like.

    Kristilyn (A Little Time to Read) recently posted: Budget & Reading Recap for July 2015
  6. I am a lazy person. So I dread review writing IMMENSELY. It just takes so long and so many words to put into sentences. Maybe I need to find a new way to write my reviews but gah! I like being consistent. I kind of like filling in all the details because it’s the easy part. I don’t have as many things to link as you so I guess that’s where our different opinions come from! Haha. Funny thing, I usually write my reviews a few days before their supposed to go out (Oops. I’m lazy and I procrastinate..ha..) and that is probably something I need to stop doing. It just creates stress for me and *throws hands up.* Yeah, me and review writing aren’t on very friendly terms. I definitely need to find new ways to make it more enjoyable…Thanks for the great tips!

    ~Kaitlin

    Kaitlin @ Next Page Please! recently posted: Bout of Books 14 Sign Up Post and Goals!
  7. This post is just everything, and so in depth about reviews, so you best be extremely proud of yourself Lauren! Oh, and thanks for link to my post too, that means an awful lot. There are SO many different ways you can review a book, or review anything, and there’s such variety in the blogging community, it’s so vast with so many different methods, shaking up these methods is fabulous and keeps you going! 🙂

    Amanda @ Nellie and Co. recently posted: 20 Super Awesome Blog Post Ideas
  8. Ugh the worst part for me is also filling in all the book info. It is pretty tedious. Also my problem with reading books that won’t be released until later is that if I read that, then I won’t have a review for the upcoming week! Which is why I probably won’t read those books until later, even though I REALLY want to.

    Awesome post Lauren!

    Valerie recently posted: Stacking the Shelves #29
    • I know what you mean. I have a lot of reviews scheduled out at this point, so when I read a book with a later release date, I usually don’t have to worry about missing the immediate week. I got lucky!

  9. What a wonderful post and so many great ideas. I don’t actually hate writing reviews either, it’s just getting the energy to do it that is sometimes the problem. You’ve got a lot of great ideas for how to keep it fresh. I 100% agree with doing all the links and things before you even get to the review. That’s the bit that sucks all the fun out of it for me, so if I have done it in advance then I can just jump straight into the reviewing of the book.

    Charnell @ Reviews from a Bookworm recently posted: Paper Towns by John Green: I Just Don't Get It!
  10. I loved reading your thoughts on writing review, Lauren! It’s so cool to hear about other people’s processes when it comes to review, as well as to see examples of alternative ways to “review” a book. I schedule my reviews out beforehand as well, and I like populating draft posts with the basic information for them (which is my least favorite part as well). But what works for me is doing bulk review writing; I wait till I have four or five before I sit down and write all the reviews. Great post!

    Alexa S. recently posted: Tunes & Tales: Unbreakable Smile
  11. This was a SUPER HELPFUL discussion for me – I feel like the populating of the book info is always my least favourite part and I’m totally going to start doing that beforehand now. Thanks for the idea.

    Also, I need to make my reviews shorter – I tend to go on and on, and I’m now on board with the 3 paragraph review. MUST DO IT.

    (PS I love your blog design and clicked on Angiemakes.com and now I’m obsessed. So you both get a follow from me today!)

  12. Um 1) I love this post and 2) It’s ironic that I came across it as I try to catch up on reviews with only an hour or two to blog each night after work. I really like your “Reasons to Read” review type! I also agree with you, UBB makes review posting easier but there’s something SO annoying about filling out all of those fields, and if I do it ahead of time it makes me feel SO productive (although I tend not to schedule them in advance for fear of them publishing before I get around to writing them, but maybe that will serve as a motivator!) Also, thanks so much for the shout out!

  13. Also I’m pretty bad about taking notes while I read, despite buying numerous journals specifically for this purpose. I try to post it pages that strike me and I’ll usually remember my thought if I do that, or when I finish the book I’ll go into my drafted up template for the review and do quick bullet points so that they’re there next time I open up the draft to write the actual review.

  14. […] Review Writing: How to Stop Hating It @ Bookmark Lit: I enjoy writing reviews, but I know a lot of book bloggers think it’s tedious. My only problem with writing reviews is that I tend to not write them right after finishing the books, so I have to do a million all at once. Lauren shares some great tips for dealing with this problem! […]

  15. Ahhh I loved this post! I usually take notes as I go along and sometimes I’ll even take a break from reading to just write a rant about a certain thing which definitely helps later xD. The 200 word review idea is interesting and I think I might give it a try in the future. Amazing post!

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