ten steps to write a review

10 Steps to Write a Review

So you’ve read a book. You liked it. Or you didn’t. The world needs to know.

Why? Because social proof is one of the many ways books get circulated. We find out what to look out for, and what to avoid by the people that went before us. I’m sure many friends have recommended you a book, or told you to steer clear of one before. Think of these instances as mini reviews. They might have told you what they didn’t like, or just given you their “star review” – ie: It was crap. Don’t read it (1 star). Or, OMG, you totally have to read this book like now (5 stars).

If you’re writing a review, try and give more than just a star rating. This helps potential readers reason out if they would enjoy the book (regardless of your star rating).

So now, here are some pointers in helping you write a nice, sparkly review (whether or not you enjoyed the book).

1. Bear in mind the Genre
Try and keep the following things in mind when reading a book, especially if you have agreed to give a review afterwards.

  • What genre is this?
  • Does the style of writing fit the genre?
  • Is this story unique to the genre, or has it been done before?If so, is there a unique spin on it?

2. Interrogate the Characters
Stories are about people. Even when they’re about dogs. Or cats. Or aliens. The point is, a story revolves around its characters. So while reading, think about these points:

  • Do the characters come alive in your head when you’re reading?
  • Is the dialogue believable? Does it sound natural and true to the characters?
  • Who’s point of view (POV) is the story written in? Is this consistent? Is it a nice head to be wading around inside?

3. Investigate the Setting
The setting is important, even if its New York. Or Mars. Under the sea, 20,000 years ago. (See what I did, and also there?) So when the author is painting the backdrop of the story with his/her paintbrush of words, do you:

  • Feel immersed in the world, whether it be familiar or unknown?
  • Does it fit the genre?
  • Is there anything unique about the setting, or the way it’s painted?
  • Is there too much/too little description?

4. Ponder on the Language
The way the story is told is of great importance. Some stories have a flowerly, classic feel to them. Others are harsh and dark. Sometimes this is very important in genre fiction. In fairytale fantasy, you would prefer a whimsical tone, not something harsh and abbrassive (except perhaps if it’s a dark fantasy).

  • Is the writing easy to follow?
  • Does it feel like reading poetry, or the dictionary?
  • Were you entertained not just by the story, but by the way it was told?

5. Get Touchy-Feely
Great stories resonate. They make you feel something. Try and explore that (except if you’re reading erotica, because then no one wants to know what you were touching when you read the book. Or maybe they do. I dunno. But rather keep it to yourself.)

  • Was the main character relatable?
  • Did their strife/journey/transformation resonate with you?
  • If it’s a warm and fuzzy book, did it make you feel warm and fuzzy?
  • If it’s a dark and brooding book, did you have to sleep with the light on?

6. Writing the Review – Intros
Once you’ve read the book, sit and think about it for a while. Run the plot through your mind. Dredge up the characters and some of your favourite scenes. Then write your intro.

  • Describe the book, without revealing any spoilers. About 50% of the “storyline” should be fine.
  • Mention if it’s a series, the first book ever by this author (if you have that info), and what your first impression was.
  • Write a nice starting sentence like: Book ABC was the thrill of a lifetime! or I wouldn’t recommend Book ABC to anyone with arachnophobia.

Everyone wants to know what you like and what you don’t. Start with likes. If there aren’t any then… well… I guess the author will just have to suck it up.

  • Who was your favourite character? Why?
  • Was there a particular scene you enjoyed?
  • Did the plot have enough twists and turns in it for you?
  • Was it an engaging read that kept you up way after your sleepy time?

8. The Bad Place
Things might jar. Something seems off. Now’s the time to mention it. If you really didn’t enjoy the book, then this section might be a bit larger than the one above it. Above all else, try and keep this section constructive. Don’t be mean. Just state facts.

  • What didn’t you enjoy? Could you imagine the book working if these issues were corrected?
  • Were these flaws found consistently throughout the book?
  • Is it something that can be overlooked, perhaps overshadowed by a positive aspect?
  • If some grievous sin was committed, mention it here.

9. Wrapping it Up
Conclude your review with a summary. Try and add these elements to your last paragraph.

  • Did you enjoy it?
  • Would you recommend this book? To who?
  • Would you read another book by the same author?
  • Would you read the next book if this was part of a series?

10. Spread the Word
Once you’ve written a review, don’t just post it on your blog. Make sure to include your review on all these sites, if the book appears there:

  • Amazon
  • Smashwords
  • Goodreads
  • Booklike

I hope this helps with your next review. This template is a great way to provide a plethora of information to potential readers, helping them make an informed decision about their next read. It also helps the author… more than you can ever imagine.

Happy reviewing!

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Ronel van Tonder

Ronel van Tonder is a science fiction author from South Africa. Having recently completed her dark, dystopian sci-fi trilogy, The Corrupted SUN Script, she's hard at work penning a new standalone sci-fi novel, The Seventh Glitch. When she's not writing, Ronel spends her free time slaying rendered baddies in the form of robots, gangsters and aliens - with any weapon that happens to be at hand.