June 06, 2018

The Craft of Reviewing: Or How I Amended My Evil Ways Over the Years ๐Ÿ˜€

Hello sweeties!

This post was inspired by an email conversation with a lovely soul who told me my reviews are art. I replied that I don't know if they are art, but they surely are craft. I usually sweat over them - even the ones that flow more easily are (almost) always the product of a couple of days' work, at least (only one day at the beginning, but then I became more self-conscious...or my reviews more complicated, which is the point I'm making with this post). And since I started blogging, the way I review has changed, if slightly. Of course, the voice is the same - but I've been adding or detracting things as I went on. Not that my way of reviewing was actually evil to begin with, of course ๐Ÿ˜€. That was just a clever (um?) and attractive (um?) title for a blog post. But I've made a lot of slight adjustments over these five years and a half, and today I want to share my journey with you. I hope you'll do the same ๐Ÿ™‚.

Oops, I did it again. Enjoy your David ๐Ÿ˜

So, in 2016 - after I'd been blogging for 3 years and a half - I realised my reviews were not only long, but intimidating. Oops. I couldn't seem to write shorter ones, plus I went on and about with all those huge blocks of text...you know the deal. So, I came up with the idea of breaking my reviews into parts using headlines. Which I still consider a significant improvement ๐Ÿ˜‰. But after a while, I also realised my reviews were STILL too long. So, starting with this one, I decided to break them into no more than three parts, and since then I've been slowly trying to make those parts shorter too. Which isn't an easy feat, but I've had great mentors along the way. How so? I've been learning a lot from authors...no kidding. They talk about their writing process on Twitter, blogs, interviews, and I find myself using the tricks of their trade in my reviews. I try to pinpoint the things I like (or don't particularly care for) more and more clearly. I try to express my feelings without making the review about me. A bunch of super-easy tasks, really.


What I mean is, the way I feel about them, reviews are hard. (And ratings are even harder, as I've already admitted some time ago). I'm not trying to write a paper about a book (which would be boring, anyway), and I'm not averse to fangirling from time to time, and I do want my reviews to have a personal touch, but I'm approaching them more and more like I would a novel:

SHOWING, NOT TELLING -> I want to cover all the important points without giving too much away (which I probably still have to work on);

BEING ORGANIC -> I don't want them to jump back and forth (and maybe tell the same thing twice in two different contexts/moments). Timey-wimey is great for Doctor Who only ๐Ÿ˜‰;

BEING CONCISE -> I'm trying not to to waste too many words when a few suffice (and are more incisive). Now this is a little more difficult, because I'm the Stephen King of reviews - but at least, if I can't help making them long-ish, I want all the words to be unique and necessary...

It's funny, you know - because sometimes I feel like my blogging life became more complicated since I started to try and trim my reviews (not to mention my struggle to find clever, or at least meaningful, headings)...but some other times I just take flight and, voilร , the review is done in one sitting. And it doesn't matter if I loved, liked, partially liked or hated the book (well, I haven't "hated" a book in a long time, but you get my meaning) - it just flows. Either way, I do believe I'm becoming a better reviewer this way...am I? ๐Ÿ˜“๐Ÿ˜€

Please don't take this seriously LOL

It's your turn now...do you approach your reviews with a particular mind-frame? do you second-guess yourself? has your reviewing method/style changed since you started blogging?

22 comments:

  1. I'm such a mood reader and a mood reviewer. In the earliest days, I thought I was only writing reviews for my eyes onle and I had no idea how to write a review so it was very basic and blah.

    Then I found my voice and they were more on the free flowing, snarky side.

    Then I got kind of self conscious/compared myself to other reviewers that I admired and wanted to write more professional sounding reviews - those were my worst (IMO). It's just not me and they ended up being boring.

    Then...the slump. My second worst review period lol I hated reading - and thereby hated reviewing and was just cranking them out because I had agreed to. I'm all for honest reviews but when you hate everything and write negative ALL the time - no one wants that.

    Really, I have no set structure (as I'm sure you can tell lol) Sometimes I'm in a mini mood, sometimes I have a lot of thoughts and write long, rambly reviews.

    I do try to learn from authors as well. I find book summaries/blurbs to be a good place to start. They (are supposed to) reel you in, give you a basic understanding of the story, be consice and help you decide if you want to read the book.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. Quote: "I have no set structure (as I'm sure you can tell lol)".
      Haha, yes, I can. But the important thing is, there's always a personal touch, something that only you could have put into them, though it's not like you make the reviews about you. That kind of balance is not easy to achieve, but it makes for the most useful and yet entertaining ones.

      Your reviewer's voyage was...interesting. So many phases, and even one where you hated reading (?!?)...unbelievable LOL. Of course, if you committed to too many books back then and ended up feeling forced to read (and review) them, it makes sense...

      About minis...I realised I love to write them (for Goodreads purposes) right after reading the book, and I started to collect them on my blog three at a time two years ago, but I end up always writing long reviews for the same books after a while, even if sometimes I realise that the short version is better. It's like a compulsion...I have to talk about my books at length LOL. I wish I could write less wordy long reviews, but I can't seem to hold back...

      Delete
    2. I think the "personal touch" is the most important thing on a blog.

      I follow bloggers that review all sorts of ways - long, short, squeeing, formal...I do have my preferences - but as long as I know the bloggers tastes in books, I love them all because it reflects their personality. As long as that comes through it's all good for me.

      Delete
  2. I don't think I'm very good at crafting my reviews. I'm very informational and that's about it. But I guess that's okay. To each their own.

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    1. Informational is good - the only reviews that I feel don't add anything to the mix are those where the reader just seems either to fangirl or to hate the book. I mean, you don't have to write a paper - just let me know what worked and what didn't and why. The fact that you stayed up all night reading or threw the book across the room doesn't help me very much LOL.

      Delete
  3. Writing reviews is definitely an art form. I have a few formats I like to use, because I like variety, but I always try to be as concise as possible. I know I skim the really long reviews, so why would l write them. I also try so, so hard to make sure there are no spoilers in my review. Hate them!

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    1. It's great that you think reviews are an art form...though probably, an underrated one ๐Ÿ˜‰.

      As I said, I have a problem with being concise LOL. I'm trying, but...

      As for spoilers - I've had the occasional book ruined on Goodreads because of people posting blatant ones. If I really want to include a spoiler, I use a special tag...but most of the times, I try to tiptoe around it, so to speak.

      Delete
  4. No, I don't have any particular mindframe or method for reviews. I do each one however it feels right. Sometimes they're long. Sometimes they're short. Long is not always bad though. Maybe for blogging it's not the best, but when I'm on GR and interested in a book and trying to decide if I want to read it, I find longer reviews more helpful because they give more info. But I do often go back and edit my reviews to try and make them more concise because I have a tendency to use lots of extra unnecessary adverbs and whatnot lol.

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    1. LOL, I hear you about adverbs and such.

      I agree that some books may need longer reviews, whatever the reason. Mine are not all the same length either - but on the whole, my more recent reviews are a little shorter than some of the older ones. It's also interesting that you favour the longer reviews on GR. Maybe on a blog they would feel more intimidating?

      Delete
  5. I don't think I've actually told you this but I do consider your reviews to be extremely well thought-out and written. Works of art, for real! I was here to see your transition into cleverly split up reviews and I must say I'm floored every time I see them because they scream EFFORT. I have always been very spontaneous with my ones. I sometimes type it all up and then split it into separate potions or I sit and just word vomit till 2000+ words, OR I jot down points. There's no telling with me because it's all about how I feel about a book so it makes it harder to stick to one format. I do try to be concise and avoid spoilers though :)) Great discussion, Roby!

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    1. Quote: "and I must say I'm floored every time I see them because they scream EFFORT."
      I'm so happy you said this, because boy, they sure ARE effort ๐Ÿ˜…. But any kind of review is valid (except the ones where people bash the author of course). I tend to over-obsess about things, so of course reviews are no exceptions LOL. On the other hand, using different styles or formats depending on the book doesn't make the review less "right", and doesn't detract from the enjoyment the reader finds in it (um, it probably ADDS to it, in the long run...). Being concise is a goal of mine...though I'm not sure I will ever achieve it. SPOILERS WE DON'T WANT. I had a couple or three books ruined by Goodreads spoilers (USE THE DARN TAG PEOPLE) and URGH. Sometimes it's difficult not to give plot points away, but those reviewers didn't even TRY, for goodness' sake.

      Thank you for coming out of your Uni and K-Drama cave and participating in the discussion! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Delete
  6. I don't have a method! I just say what I feel and click the publish button. I do read it over and over again to make sure the grammar and flow sound okay, but as far as the content... it's whatever's in my heart at the moment. I usually find it easier to write a review the day after I finish a book, because I need a few hours to process how I'm feeling.

    My blog is my space. I hope that people enjoy reading what I share and review, but it's okay if they don't. It's an outlet for me to express my love of books, and sometimes my dislike.

    L @ Do You Dog-ear?

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    1. LOL, not having a method sure makes life easier. Then again, I suppose that's just the way I'm built...trying to do things with a particular rhyme and reason. But it's not like I do that with an audience in mind either. I would like to learn how to write shorter reviews because I know most people tend to skim...but as you said, my blog is my space. If I need more words than I would like to, then so be it. Maybe someone will enjoy my long ramblings all the same LOL. Either way, if I need to write a long rambling, there's probably a reason...

      Quote: "I do read it over and over again to make sure the grammar and flow sound okay".
      Same...I kind of obsess over grammar, to tell you the truth, what with being a non-native speaker...

      Delete
  7. I keep a journal near me when I'm done reading a book and make a bullet point list of things I like, things I want to say, how it connected me and try and make that into a review. Sometimes, this works and I make some good reviews (at least, I like to think so) but sometimes I feel like no matter how many times I try and draft my reviews it never works. I love reading other reviews and getting ideas from other bloggers, it helps me figure out how to work on improving my reviews.

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    1. You're very organised! But if sometimes that doesn't seem enough, I'm sure it's not your fault - reviews are tricky that way. And some books are more difficult than others to review, either because you don't want to spoil anything or because it's difficult to convey the feelings they ignite in you...

      And since I have only just met you (hi!), now I'm curious about your reviews...expect me to come to your blog and read some!

      Delete
  8. Your reviews are definitely some of my favorite of all the bloggers I follow. They're unique, well-phrased and easy to read because of the way you divide them. (And, as you know, I love the frames.) Most of the time I read them even when I'm not at all interested in the book you're writing about. :D

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  9. I love your headlines! They're so unique to your reviews. I don't know anyone else who uses them. I also share your struggle in being concise lol. I have a lot more to say about some books though, and not much to say about ones that fall in the middle, so I figure it all shakes out in the end.

    I added an About section a few months after I started reviewing because I found myself getting mired in plot summary. I strongly dislike reviews that are mostly summary; it's so easy to say what happened without explaining why it matters, so this helps me get it out of my system and move on.

    I usually write reviews on the weekends and then review and post during the week, after they've had a day or two to sit. It helps me catch typos, repetitions, and awkward sentences. Beyond that, I try not to stress about them too much. I do consider reviewing a craft, but I don't want to lose the fun either!

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    1. Quote: "I love your headlines! They're so unique to your reviews. I don't know anyone else who uses them."
      Thank you! Headlines give me a headache sometimes, but they're also fun to come up with!

      Quote: "I strongly dislike reviews that are mostly summary".
      Along with the ones that bash books/authors (those of course take the cake...and with "bash" I do mean "bash", not "I didn't like this book because xyz reasons"), they are the ones I dislike the most. I mean, they are...not really useful...and potentially spoilery ๐Ÿ˜ฑ.

      It really doesn't sound like you don't stress over your reviews - they're so well-thought and full of real content - but at the same time, I can see that you're not trying too hard...I mean, it's not like you're not spontaneous. It's a difficult balance to achieve! You should be proud! I need to sit on my reviews more because English is not my mother tongue, so I check and check for stuff that doesn't make sense (whether in content or style or grammar) until I drop LOL. And even doing so, I commit some grammar crime here and there. I'm actually entertaining the idea of writing a post about that...๐Ÿ˜‰

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  10. Bashing reviews are an instant pass. I tend not to read bad reviews for books I love anyway, unless I trust the reviewer. I don't need that negativity in my life. They're helpful when I'm deciding whether or not to read something though. I don't trust a handful of five star rave reviews because pretty much every book has some, but a well-thought-out two or three star review might point out something I really can't tolerate in a book.

    Hahaha, thank you! I try to make sure they're balanced and not too dry. I've said it before, but your English is lovely. Your process is clearly paying off because you make it look effortless. :]] I could never write a review in another language. I took years of Spanish, but it would still look like a child wrote it if I tried. And native-speaking children probably have a better handle on verb tenses than I would. Grammar crimes are always going to happen though, native or otherwise. My nerd brain loves learning about that stuff.

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    1. Quote: "a well-thought-out two or three star review might point out something I really can't tolerate in a book."
      Exactly! They're the ones I read first when trying to make up my mind about a book. And they even work the other way around for me - sometimes the reviewers point out the things they didn't like, and I realise they are, in fact, the same things that I tend to dig...(...that happened with White Space, for instance).

      Quote: "Your process is clearly paying off because you make it look effortless. :]]"
      Thank you! I know you always speak your true mind, so I'm a happy bunny now!

      Delete

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