I love writing reviews. They’re my favourite blog posts, alongside discussions, and they’re an important part of book blogging. However, I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with them, and some even hate reviewing books. While I’m in no way an expert, I really love reviewing, so I thought I would share some of my tips and tricks to make writing book reviews much easier for yourself!
Take notes while reading
This might seem like too much effort, but it’s worth it. If you try to review a book without any notes, you probably won’t remember half of what you wanted to say. Also, most bloggers review books quite a while after they’ve read them, which makes it even more difficult to remember anything about it. Your notes don’t need to be fancy – you can write them on a piece of paper that you keep next to you while reading (and later you can just slip it into the book), or, the way I do it, you can create a note on your phone with all the stuff that comes to mind while you’re reading.
Keep in mind, you don’t have to use all of your notes. If you write down all of your thoughts (which is what I tend to do), it will be way too much to fit into a review anyway, and there will be a lot of stuff that you don’t agree with anymore. For example, at the beginning of a book you might write down ‘bad world-building’, but then the more you read the better it gets, so when it actually comes to writing your review, you can just delete that note you took at the beginning, or you can mention it and add that the world-building improved throughout the novel.
Arrange your thoughts before you write the review
Whether you do this or not depends on your personal preference, but if you struggle to give your reviews a nice structure and you feel like your thoughts and opinions are all over the place, this is a good step to take. If you took notes while reading, you will probably have a mess of thoughts written down, so what you need to do before just jumping into your review is look over everything you’ve written down and decide what order you’re going to put your notes in. If this is your first time taking notes, I’d recommend actually arranging the notes physically, so either moving them around on your screen or writing them down again on paper in the right order. Because I’ve been doing this for a while, I usually just read through my notes until I find one I want to start with, and I write as much of the review as I need until I go find a new note that continues on from the previous one nicely.
When you’re arranging your notes, thoughts, and/or opinions, try to do it in a way that makes sense content-wise. If you’ve just talked about the pros of a book, don’t mention one con and then go back to the pros, your review will just end up being a mess (unless the specific con you want to mention is directly related to one of the pros and fits into the text really nicely, but let’s ignore that for now). Basically, use your common sense. One thought should be followed by a related one. If you can’t find a single one of your notes that relates to the part of your review you just wrote, you can jump to the next thought of course – as long as you don’t continuously move back and forth, as that will just confuse your readers.
Look at other reviews for reference
This obviously doesn’t mean you should copy another review word for word. But sometimes, if you’re struggling to find a good way to start, or a nice way to jump into your next opinion, looking at other reviews can be really helpful. If there’s a review you’ve written that you’re especially proud of, figure out what you did that you like so much, and apply that to the new review you’re writing. If you absolutely hate every single review you’ve ever published, or you’ve never reviewed a book before, you can look at other people’s reviews as well. Just don’t look at reviews of the book you’re reviewing yourself – once you’ve read someone else’s thoughts, even if just for reference, they will be difficult to get out of your head, and your own opinion, voice and writing style will suffer.
If you really struggle, create a template for yourself
Figure out a way to begin your reviews, and then stick to it. Maybe start with a general description of the content (always a good idea), then go into characters, writing, setting, etc. Keep a document or note somewhere, so you can always go back to it and make sure your reviews are consistent. This rigid way of reviewing is obviously not necessary, but if you’re struggling to get it done, it can certainly be helpful.
Take photos of memorable quotes
This only applies if you’re planning on including some quotes in your review. If you are, taking pictures of said quotes is always a good idea. Of course, you can copy the quote word for word, but that will take longer and interrupt your reading unnecessarily. If you don’t ‘save’ the quotes, you will get frustrated trying to find them again when the time comes to write your review. Of course, you could just mark the quotes in your book, but I often don’t have all of my books around when I’m blogging, so if I decide to review a specific book and don’t have it with me, I can always just take a look at my camera roll and find the quotes. This is quite a personal tip, so just figure out what works best for you!
So, why write reviews in the first place if they’re this complicated?
Why indeed. Taking notes, arranging them, taking pictures – it all seems like a lot of work. But reviewing has so many benefits.
- It is the first thing people look at when they find your blog. Not everyone might be interested in reviews, but most people will check out your directory and decide whether you have the same reading taste. They will read your reviews and quickly figure out if they agree with you, if you have common values and ideas. Reviews are just a great way of showing people who you are and what you like.
- It’s the only thing outsiders care about. Fellow book bloggers will read your tags and features, but someone who has no idea that book blogging is even a thing is only going to find your reviews. This will be publishers and authors searching for bloggers who have reviewed their books, as well as readers who want to know what people think about a book before buying it.
- It targets a very specific audience that will be genuine in their interest. The way I usually find new blogs to follow is by reading the blogger’s reviews of books I care about, and if the reviews are good, I always leave a comment. Reviews might not get as much attention as tags and features, because those are more generalised and everyone will find something they like, but once someone leaves a comment on your review, you can be sure that they genuinely enjoyed reading it, and are not just commenting as a way to network.
- It makes for a pretty cool portfolio if you’re interesting in reviewing. This is quite specific, and not everyone will find this a good reason to write reviews, but I personally would love to one day review books professionally. And, well, if you can show that you’ve been reviewing books in your spare time for a while, with no profit and only your own readers as an audience, that will look pretty damn cool on your CV.
- It will get you ARCs. This is a reason that I don’t really care about, because I mostly read backlist books and rarely want to request an upcoming release, but I know a lot of people love ARCs, so I thought it would be good to include it anyway. When you e-mail publishers to request an ARC, they will check out your blog and probably look for reviews. So, if you have a few, and they’re somewhat good, that’s pretty neat. If you never review books, you might still get the ARC, but the publisher might be doubtful about your promised review.
- It’s a heck load of fun. Seriously, once you get into it, reviewing is amazing. Adding another link to your review directory (and having reviewed enough to start a directory in the first place) is satisfying as HELL. And discussing a book in-depth as opposed to just quickly mentioning it brings you so much closer to the content, the characters, the author – everything. Reviewing is just amazing!
Phew, this turned out much longer than I expected. I hope you guys find something useful in the tips above, and maybe a few reasons to get into reviewing. Seriously, it’s so much fun, and it makes your blog look real nice. If you have any tips on making reviewing easier, please feel free to leave them in the comments below – and if you disagree with something I’ve said, do let me know as well. Sometimes I just talk a lot of crap and have no idea.
Also, how do you guys feel about the new featured images? I’m shortly going to change them all up on previous posts so that my blog doesn’t look wild. I hope you like them!
‘Till next time and happy reading!