Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Q/A: How Do I Write A Great Book Review?

Q: How do I write a great book review?

A: Excellent question!  There are some people that write something like "great book" and call it a day, but a good review has different elements.  A great review contains these elements.  I may miss some things that people like to post in their reviews, but here are a few tips I live by when writing reviews on Barnes and Nobles or Amazon.

I would like to mention that some people post summaries of the literary work before writing their opinion.  That can be a mistake.  In writing your summary, it can give away critical plot points.  So, in doing this, take caution.

There can always be more to add to this process of reviewing.  For short reviews, I prefer STOOW: Star Rating, Titling Your Review, Opinion of Key Characters, Opinion of Plot, and Worth Reading Value.

1) Star Rating
Most people give star ratings alone so they may not see why I am mentioning this.  It is so easy to give a star rating on B&N, Smashwords, and Amazon, but forget to put a star rating on anyway.  Star ratings get tallied and averaged into an overall star rating so do remember to give one, because the star rating is the first thing people look at before any written review.  Some won't even consider reading something that is below four stars. So those little stars are important.

2) Titling Your Review
Some don't see the value in titling your review.  If it is an option, by all means, write one.  A good title is an eye catcher and will draw attention to your specific review.  The title can be a related to how you felt the book was or the work itself.  I have read reviews that have titles like "Awesome Book!" or "Must Read Mystery" and both are good.  I read a review of Wicked Magic in which one review referred to the book as a "dark fairy tale".  That would make an awesome title because it is a summary of the book in a few words.

3) Opinion of Key Characters
Step 3 and 4 are interchangeable depending on what you want to start off your paragraph with.  I always mention who is my main character and whether I like them or not.  If I thought they were weak, strong, boring, nagging, etc. I would mention it with an example that doesn't ruin a plot twist.  Remember, you want to explain without giving anything away.  Love interests are key, too.  I always write if I preferred the main character with their love interest or someone else.  Did I like the love interest?  Did I not?  Why?  This is just a short summary of a character of two, but it is not a review to name everyone in the book.  Doing that would really make it more of a summary.

4) Opinion of Plot
Now we go to plot.  Again this is interchangeable with option 3, but this is just your general option about plot twists without giving one away.  You can say something like... "I liked all of the twists and turns the story took.  It kept me on my toes."  I wouldn't write about specific instances that would ruin a story, but you can say "The Elven war between the races is quit interesting, and I didn't expect Willow to be so instrumental in ending it."  I didn't mention specific scenes.  I didn't mention how that was done.  I didn't mention the events which led up to this moment.  I kept it general so that a person who read it understand what I am talking about, but a reader, who hasn't, is still interested.

5) Worth Reading Value
I always like to tell anyone who reads my review if it is worth reading.  This is the section where you can write personal experiences, too.  I had a reader write that Wicked Magic was a great story to read with your kids.  That is something that can be mentioned in the final portion.

A reader review should really be like a paragraph at most.  It is not meant to be as detailed as a blogger's review, but it is the first thing a potential reader will see.  It could really be the difference between someone reading a book or rejecting it so each reader review is important, especially when many bloggers refuse to review indie books or have long reading lists, making them too busy to review.  Before a reader googles a book review, they read your review.  So next time you read a great book, be kind and write an honest review!

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