Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How to Write a Rockin’ Review

Now Presenting:  

Shera at Book Whispers has some mad media skills. (She’s studying media design in college.) The quality and zest she put into her review of Entangled impressed me so much I asked her to contribute a guest post on writing reviews that engage, entertain, and enlighten.

Here’s Shera!

Briefly describe your review style.

Nervous organizer/organized ranting. I always plan my reviews out and redo them and redo them.

How do you go about writing your reviews?

Before I start up any review I make two lists. The first one contains things that I enjoyed about the book and then the second contains things that I disliked. After the list is complete I come up with my rating. Since most sites that host reviews only have 1/5 to 5/5 rating I created my own rating list around that. Keeping to that rating key is the most important part for me.

Mine goes:
5/5- Fabulous, a beautiful obsession!
4/5- Great! Really enjoyed it.
3/5- Adored it, just a few minor details held it back.
 2/5- Average/disappointing, library check-out
1/5- I couldn't finish it or wish I hadn't

Even if I’m posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads I put my rating at the bottom of each review. Because in my mind 3/5 is well worth reading and for others it might not be readable. So make sure the reader knows how you rate things.

When I was really new to review I would make an outline. Showing where the opening and ending paragraphs would be, and then list the items I wanted in the body. Now that I’ve had more experience I don’t usually do outlines unless I’m stuck on a review.

For the review editing process I don’t have anyone besides myself to read them before they get published. So after a day or two I go back reread my review and then make any edits, which usually helps to make sentences or a point clearer, fix grammar errors and such. I’d recommend this for anyone who doesn’t have an editing buddy. 

How do you keep them not only informative, but entertaining?

My biggest goal is to never recap the book. Sometimes I don’t even summarize the beginning just because that bogs down the review. In any review I always make sure to touch down on the characters, plot, and the style of the writing. To me these are the most important parts of any book, and when I read a review that is what I’m looking for.

For entertainment . . . I pull on my own weird humor. I’d like to think it makes others laugh and keeps them entertained.

Summary – how do you sum up the story without giving away all the goods?

Just be vague. Yes, that sounds hard and it is. Sometimes I don’t think the summaries on the back of the book do a good job, they either don’t sell the book or give too much away. There are many different ways to sum up a book and I try to only sum up the beginning of the book and make hints to the rest of the content. (This is the main thing I use for myself.)

Any good reviewer will keep summing up the book as the review progresses. Talking about certain points that were important to characters, or events.

Is there a delicate way to handle a book you didn’t enjoy? And how do you go about that?

I try to be as polite as possible, which can be hard when you read a book that literally every friend recommended to you and you wasted your cash on it after you realized how horrid it was.  

The first and most important part of writing a review for a book you disliked is having valid points. Don’t just say the “book was awful, and a waste of my money” or “book sucked, nuff said.” No one will take you seriously and I think the author deserves more respect than that. Elaborate, say that “the book was awful do to the lack of plot and the one dimensional characters.”

Swear words are another hard spot for me. If you’re a personal reviewer it’s OK, and I’ve read many reviews I’ve liked that drop the potty mouth all over the review.  However, if you’re doing it for a blog, organization, or a group keep it clean. Most readers I’ve asked state that after they hit the potty words they just can’t take the reviewer seriously. That’s not to say you can never amp up the language in your review, just do it tastefully.

I’ve actually had more replies from authors on my 1 to 2 star ratings then reviews praising the book. Why? Because the author is so happy to see a reviewer who didn’t like the book actually take the time to state why. It sounds crazy, but it’s true.

I loved it! Yeah, and? How do you go about describing what made a book worthy of your love?

That list thing that I do before starting any book is the big factor for this one. Sometimes when a review is written for a book that you really enjoyed you just can’t stop raving. In fact, before I started using the list to help me I would write 2 to 3 page reviews. Some people can’t put into words what they liked, but listing it helps you put your thoughts in order.

A poorly written review for a book you love can sometimes kill another reader’s interest in a book.

Also don’t just throw words around like great, amazing, awesome, and perfect all the time. Be creative.

Are you currently accepting books for review and what kind?

Yes I am! My main focus is urban fantasy and paranormal romance, whether it is adult or young adult. Steampunk, dystopian, and other such genres are also accepted. If it’s fantasy I will read it.

One final and very important question: You ask every author you interview whether they’re on Team Vampire or Team Werewolf… What team are you on?

Ouch! Way to put me on the spot! For a long time I've been on the border. But I would have to say I'm firmly on Team Werewolf.