I often see bloggers commenting on how far behind on reviews they are, or how they’re unhappy with their current reviewing process. While this is less of a tip and more of a look into how I blog, I figured it had the potential of being helpful for someone looking to revamp or rethink their review process.
While reading, I jot down little notes and page numbers for quotes that struck me – whether it showed a character trait I liked, a plot point I enjoyed/disliked, a reflection that I felt truly spoke to the person’s feelings at the moment – whatever I think will help me to better explain why I felt a certain way toward a character/plot element. I usually reference the page number and then a little blurb to explain why I made note of that page number. I don’t stress taking notes, though; I don’t want to make myself feel like reading is a chore, or that I have to read super critically and catch every little thing that I liked/disliked.
Finishing a Book
Whenever possible, as soon as I finish a book I try to jot down my initial reactions. For my upcoming review of Siege and Storm, that looked a little something like this:
- Too much focus on Alina’s struggling relationship with Mal; not enough focus on what the Grisha were doing to prepare for war with the Darkling.
- Not enough Darkling. Can there ever be enough Darkling?
- Loved Alina’s hallucinations and how creepy yet thrilling the Darkling continued to be.
- Loved Sturmhond, although I’m not as smitten with him as others.
- Loved the twist with Sturmhond; didn’t see it coming at all.
- Loved watching Alina struggle with her new power and her hunger for more.
- Disappointed by the ending; pretty anticlimatic, although I did enjoy coming to the slow revelation of exactly the repercussions of Vasily’s naiveté.
I usually do this on my computer, because I can get my feelings down faster. If I try to manually write out these initial feelings, I get ahead of myself and my page ends up as a jumble of crossed-out words/thoughts, as I left one half-finished thought for another!
But once I’ve got my initial flurry of feelings down, I pick up my notebook and write down things a little bit more in depth. I reflect on my reading experience and write down anything that comes to mind, even if it seems small or insignificant.
Prepping the Review
Once I’ve got my initial feelings down on paper and I feel comfortable that I’ve captured my reading experience effectively, I can move on to prepping my review. This usually entails filling in all of the Ultimate Book Blogger info, tagging and categorizing the post appropriately. This is where I grab the book image and make my banners/featured images. I also type up all of my notes and all of the quotes I made a point to highlight, while reading.
Writing the Review
If I’ve been successful at following my review process up until this point, writing my review is actually the easiest part!
First, I try to pair my initial reactions to quotes, in ways that make sense. So if made a note about being upset with how quickly the romance had developed, for example, I’d generally have highlighted a quote that served as “proof”, so to speak. Then it’s just a matter of articulating why I was upset with that element, and strategically placing the quote. Sometimes I’ll even frame my thoughts around a specific quote, which always helps to fuel my creative writing energies.
Then I’ll grab all of my scattered thoughts and start putting them together, by theme. I’ve usually jotted down enough that I’ve got a framework of various topics to elaborate on – the characterization, the worldbuilding, the pacing, the romance, etc. – and it’s more a matter of organizing my initial reactions into something that flows coherently.
Then it’s just a matter of proof-reading/editing, and I’m good to go!
What does your review process look like? Do you have any tips for how to stay organized with your thoughts on a particular book?