Do you have a standard review format?
Do you reviews always look the same way? Do they always have the same number of paragraphs or make the same number of points, or always feature bullets or headers? Do you always include quotes, or just go for long detailed paragraphs? Do you write reviews this way because it makes the process faster? Or maybe you've found your writing 'voice' in your style and you stick to it because it works for you? Perhaps you haven't thought of this question at all.
Some of my best blogging friends have a structure for all their review posts. I always know what I'm going to get when I visit one of their sites, and I love it. I know what they say will be informative, and that they'll write their thoughts in a way that's very personal to them. I trust their content and format, and I love that each says something about them.
Although my reviews are always set up the same - the book cover and description, along with general information about the publisher and when I read the book, I've tried to find and stick to a review writing style that I can use in every post. I may find one that I like for a while, but eventually I end up feeling trapped, as if I'm attempting to write within the same shaped box. Then I get stressed, my creative process becomes stifled, and I try something new.
All that is to say that I've decided that I need to stop trying to find one style to use for all my reviews, and just write each one however I want. As silly as it may sound, it was incredibly freeing to finally give myself the permission not to worry about making my review text all look the same. Now I just need to figure out how to write my reviews faster...
Do you write your reviews the same way every time?
Does that help your process or freak you out like it does me?
If you have a style, did it take you a while to find it or did you just fall into it?
Do you prefer blogs where people have specific writing structures,
or does this not really matter to you?
Do you prefer blogs where people have specific writing structures,
or does this not really matter to you?
*Guys, I had no idea what relevant images to use. But I know people like pictures, so I've included two from a peach festival I attended a few weeks ago. Wildly symbolic for this post? You be the judge.
This is a FANTASTIC discussion post, Lauren, and I love that you've asked this question because I'll be checking back to see what others have said.ReplyDelete
For me, when I started - let's just not go there. But then I went to the standard paragraphs thing, but I never was happy with that. It just wasn't ME. Then I started making lists, and I was happy with that - it worked well with things like dystopians or scifi or fantasy books because I think my readers liked seeing me lay out the plot elements for them - things like world-building, romance, etc - and I loved doing it. And sometimes I'll go back and do that again, particularly if it's the second or third book in a series and I began the series that way.
HOWEVER, I've found my niche, I think, with my Three-Things Review. For some reason, people really tend to like that? I don't know why. It kind of was something I did one day when I couldn't figure out how to approach a review that I wanted to do, and from then out, THAT's how I visualize my reviews or even think of them in my head while I'm reading. I actually sometimes come up with my three things (or a loose three things) while I'm reading the book. Dorky, I know, but it works for me. It DOES make my reviews even longer, but I don't mind.
And then I add what I consider the "real" part of the review under that, with a list at the bottom. The feedback that I've gotten over the past since I've been doing this is: some people don't read the three things, some people only read the list at the bottom, some people love the entire thing. So for me, even though I still sometimes deviate from the Three-Things Review (like today, for example, because it was a novella review and it's short) I think I've finally found my *thing* (at least for now) and I kind of like it.
I don't beat myself up, though, if I DO deviate or if my review runs long or if I stray from my format. I used to feel weird about my long reviews but I think I provide enough with my list at the bottom for people to glaze over if they don't really want to invest in the entire thing - or they can read the bottom half - what I call the "real" part - if they want to. I think I'm happy with what I do, for the most part. My early reviews, though, I just want to hide them or go back and re-do them!! So embarrassing! It took me FOREVER to feel comfortable with where I am.
It never bothers me when other reviewers deviate or do NEAT things with their reviews, but I just am not able to think in a really cool way like that. I love your reviews because I really never know what I'm gonna get when I come here, and I love that. Keep doing them how you do them!
You are one of those bloggers whom I always know what I'm going to get when I visit your site. I LOVE your review structure. It is easy to read, informative and very, very YOU :). My envy of your style is one of the reasons I've tried so hard to come up with ONE that I like. BUT I don't think that's going to happen and I'm satisfied. I also like that you're not afraid to change the way you write your reviews. BUT if I'm honest, my favorite thing you list is whether a book has a triangle or not. I'm pretty sure that is just for me. Or at least I pretend it is.Delete
Oh and, I totally agree that I write a little differently for fantasy/speculative fiction vs. Contemporary. Contemporary are usually more straight forward paragraphs because the book flows in one direction. But anything with fantasy elements is usually way more complex, and that's where I often break things down with headers. I also try to write so people could skim through my reviews easily, so I break up paragraphs (or add headers) to make it readable.
Thanks for your comment and your always support friend!
Doesn't really matter, but once I'm a regular visitor on a blog, it's nice to see how the author of the review evolves with time, but it's definitely easier for me as a reader of one's reviews to read them, if they usually follow the same formula. However, I feel like yours, every time I read a review by you, I KNOW it's yours. There's something that makes them you no matter how they're written. I always discuss romance because I love my romance, but there's also world-building in fantasy/dystopia and such and of course characters. I usually list things I liked and didn't like and just try to discuss them briefly. I tend to keep my reviews short, but informative. Depends though, if I have lots to say like in CP2 review, it could very well be a longer review. I write all of my reviews in MS Word and try to not make them longer than 1 A4. Umm.. I have mini reviews as well since sometimes I don't have that much to say and it's pointless to drag it out and frustrating myself and others with my pointless thoughts which I had to force out of myself so a mini-review it is--this goes mostly for contemporary. As for a format, over time I've tried different things. Now I've stuck to this: if it's a first/second book in a series and I can write a synopsis of my own without spoiling it for others, I'll create my own little stroy part. AS you've noticed, I out it in bold and people can skip that part if they don't like to read any kind of synopsises. Um.. Then usually follows my own thoughts and a brief conclusion-recommend/don't recommend etc. Oh, and I always try to write a small introduction and add a quote before the story part. It's like a mini essay :D heh. I always add author links just in case people want to explore one. I used to have books in the series as well, but it's pointless since most of the standalones I've read this year have ended up to be series by the time I'm done with my review. Btw, I love your love triangle and cliffhanger scale!!!!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Siiri! It means a lot to know that my reviews sound like me, even if they look different.Delete
I like that you're able to write reviews that aren't overly long, but that are very informative. I also love romance, so I'm happy that you always include it. But you're right, with dystopian/sci-fi/fantasy etc. there's a big world building element, and I love knowing about character development.
I often write in MS word too. But I don't now what 1 A4 is? Is that a paper size? I just usually write without thinking about length, but then I'll go back and edit out what I think is redundant or unnecessary. I LOVE when you write a long book for a book that you really enjoyed. That's a positive sign that it made you gush so much. Your CP2 review was great.
Such a good idea to do author lengths, and to include a summary that people can skip if they don't want to be spoiled. I always list the official summary, but I almost always skip those and prefer what the blogger tells me.
Thanks for being an awesome blogger and a regular visitor to my site!
Oops, I meant: "author links"Delete
I love this topic! I fell into my review style, if you must know, back when I was just reviewing on GoodReads and not the blog and I more-or-less stuck with it. It actually makes me panicky to think of different styles - like lists or bullet points - because giant paragraphs come so easily to me.ReplyDelete
I always start out with that "introductory" paragraph and then have a brief summary and then a paragraph dedicated to characters, and flaws, and then maybe a wrap-up. A lot of times I have more paragraphs or I find that instead of jumping straight to the summary, it makes more sense for me to explain how/why I chose to read the book. I do use quotes, but sparingly and only when I feel as if they're 100% relevant.
I don't mind what style bloggers use. I always love coming to your blog and seeing the different formats you use because it's something I struggle with. I do ocassionally have a handful of slightly different reviews, but it's quicker for me to stick to my format and I generally don't edit either, so it's easier to write. Great post, though, Lauren - I love this!(:
Your reviews are always so informative, K! I know that I'm going to get a really clear picture of what to expect in a book, when I read your thoughts. I also like that you list the books strengths and weaknesses, it always gives me a full picture.Delete
I can't believe you don't edit though! You must be fast. I'm such a slow agonizing writer, and I do a ton of editing and fiddling. It takes me a long time to break down my thoughts and get them out there coherently, but I admire how well and quickly you can pick through a book and glean the important details.
And thanks for your always support and for being my most faithful commenter! You make my blogging life brighter.Delete
I tend to structure my reviews the same: What I Liked, What I Didn't Like, In conclusion, all with bulleted lists.ReplyDelete
However, I've found that if I really like a book or am really disappointed by a book, I tend to eschew that format.
Either way, lists of some sort tend to feature heavily because lists are awesome and I love them.
I love lists too! In general, but especially in reviews. It makes it much easier to read through someone's thoughts without the flowery words. However, I rarely employ them for a review.Delete
BUT I love visiting a blog and seeing a review that's longer than usual because a blogger felt strongly one way or another about the book. It's fun to see someone gush about a story more than they usually would. Those are always the books that I want to notice. Great point!
I make sure to put all the book info on my reviews (except no blurb for my minis. Not enough room!) but after that, it kind of depends on the book. The only one that has a very specific format is my Thursday Speed Date. Sometimes, I'll do a three positives and a wish (come to think of it, I haven't done one of those in a while!). I like all types of reviews, though. As long as the writer's voice shines through!ReplyDelete
I LOVE your speed dating reviews. Those are so fun. I really like visiting blogs and seeing the creativity that comes from reading a book and writing about it. And yes, all the basic information needs to be there, though I tend to read the blogger's personal summary about a book instead of the official blurb, though I usually list both. Maybe redundant? Thanks for your comment!Delete
I do have a standard format I guess, it just helps me keep my thoughts organized! My reviews are almost always 4 paragraphs unless I just don't have as much to say, in which case they're only 3. I've set them up kind of like the 2.4 essays I used to have to write in high school with an intro paragraph, 2 body paragraphs that usually talk about the hero/heroine, and then a concluding paragraph. Sometimes I do feel trapped like you mentioned, and when that happens I take a break and do mini reviews which for some reason feel like less pressure!ReplyDelete
I'm a fan of consistency, so it's nice for me when all the blogs I routinely visit have fairly standard formats for their reviews. Just like you, I enjoy knowing what to expect when I visit certain blogs, though it's of course always fun when they change things up too:)
Jenny, even without a standard format, your reviews are so uniquely YOU. I love your essays. They are lovely and informative. Did you ever imagine when you learned how to write in school that you'd be using it as an adult? I was taught the five paragraph essay in high school, but I don't use that all that often any more. I really like visiting blogs and knowing what to expect as well, even though I don't seem to be able to do that for myself. But I've realized that I have to review for myself and I can't force it or I won't enjoy it any more. Thanks for your insightful thoughts!Delete
Love your discussion posts, L!ReplyDelete
I think the one common factor in my reviews is that they are usually LONG. Some readers don't like that, I know, but I don't seem to be able to edit very well. Ah, well.
I think most of reviews are similar, but sometimes I do like to do bullet lists, and as you know, I have been known to write a letter to the author/ book review to a certain author every now and then *cough Richelle Mead cough*
I also like to include quotes and excerpts, visual aids when applicable, and even snippets of poetry or song lyrics that remind me of something in the book. I guess in art terms my reviews would sometimes be like a multi-media collage:)
Have you ever checked out Christina Reads YA's blog? Her reviews are a list of plus (+) and minus' (-), but are still detailed, and I love them! It's like a pros/ cons list and really gives you a feel for the book:)
By the way: I love your review style. I think you always get your point across in a concise clear manner and yet you don't skimp on the details:)
I love your reviews, and I think that there is a definite continuity to them, even beyond the length (which I love!). All of your visuals and quotes make your thoughts stand out, and I love that. You also always talk about the romance and secondary characters, because I know both are important to you. I know I'll always get a thorough breakdown of a book in your reviews. I don't read Christina's reviews, but I do like that idea. Sometimes I just want to skim through a review to get the facts and those types of reviews allow me to to do that. I'm just too wordy :). Thanks for your encouragement, friend!Delete
Great discussion point.ReplyDelete
I use the same beginning for the review, with all the information about the book, the blurb and the cover. I start with a little beginning, an overall opinion.
Sometimes I do a small summary and after that my opinion. Sometimes I like to take those two together and make a story out of it :)
I like to write my reviews how I like them to write that moment. I just do what feels good, so yes, they may change and look different. I don't like to feel restricted to have a certain amount of paragraphs or X words :) I just want to have fun!
I love that you also change up your review style, depending on your mood or your reaction to a book. Glad I'm not the only one! You're right. Reviewing has to be fun, or else why are we doing it? (Unless we're getting paid, but I haven't figured out how to make that happen yet:) Thanks for reminding me of that. But I think the general consensus is that people include a summary as well as their own opinion of a book somewhere in their thoughts. Thanks for visiting!Delete
Wildly symbolic or not, I love the pictures you used. :)ReplyDelete
I don't think I have a set review style. Like you, I tend to mention the romance, and I like to focus on the characters because that's a big selling point for me, but other than that, I don't think I have a particular style. I like to use GIFs sometimes, other times I like to use quotes for emphasis, but no two reviews are alike as far as I'm concerned. And that makes sense to me, since no two books are really alike.
I say, go with what feels right for each review. Sometimes, a review calls for bullet points. I use charts in mine when I'm feeling extra cheeky. :) As long as you get your feelings out there, I don't really think it matters what format they come in.
I honestly have NO idea how to use Gifs. I need a class on them! But then I'd probably spend all my time looking for good ones :). I've also never used charts. That's pretty fancy! But I like your point that no two books are alike so why would we make our reviews all the same? That's exactly how I feel about my reviews. I write out of my experience of a book, which is different every time. Thanks for coming by and adding your insight, Jen!Delete
This is a really wonderful discussion, Lauren! I think it's great that you asked that question, especially because it's such an integral component to blogging, one that we usually don't think about.ReplyDelete
When it comes to my own reviews, I have a fairly basic format that I use (title, author, publication date, photo, quote, etc). I also break my reviews down into a summary section, my personal thoughts and then a quick summary of my overall thoughts at the bottom. But aside from that loose structure, I'd say the 'meat' of my review tends to be all over the place. Sometimes I don't have a lot to say about a particular book/movie so it'll be shorter. Sometimes I kirk out over so much that the review is GIF/picture heavy. I write based on my mood and that tends to work best for me. Besides, as a blogger I want to be as honest and transparent with my readers as I can. I wanna be me and I want my posts to reflect that, bottom line.
I kind of have a format, but I'm still new-ish and still feel new, so it's kind of still evolving. I usually do some summary, then main points or what I liked and didn't like, then I rate it, then I kind of wrap up and say if I'd reread it or recommend it. I've done some lists and other formats a few times, and I have a few ideas on how to change but not exactly sure on how to execute them.ReplyDelete
But in reading reviews, I think I like everything. I don't mind set formats with certain things, and I like lists and paragraphs. If it's written well and interesting, I will probably like it!
I generally end up writing my reviews in the same style. I've always been a stickler for consistency and formality, however. I enjoy reading reviews that switch up formats and all, but it makes me feel like I'm slacking or not expressing everything I wanted to if I don't write in a more formal style. I'd like to think that's what my readers expect of me, and that's what I expect of me as well. And I always try to hit characterization, plot, setting, conflict, romance within my reviews. The structure actually makes me feel better haha.ReplyDelete
There's nothing wrong with varying things up, however; it's just not something that works for me.
My reviews change according to the book I read and my reaction to it. If I really enjoy it, the review will be longer. I do try very hard not to summarize the book though, since we put the 'official' blurb at the top of each post. I've decided not to stress about it and just write the review as it comes. Which ultimately means that each review is a little different. I'm sure that readers can tell the difference between myself and my co-blogger Christabean tho' - our style is quite different.ReplyDelete
I do usually review the same way each time. I've been trying to shorten my reviews up a little and get to the heart of the matter so that people don't have to feel like they're reading a novella and yet still get the info, my enthusiasm or lack thereof for the story. I usually try to include one quote because I love reading them in reviews. Great thoughts here, Lauren. :)ReplyDelete
This is a really great discussion post because I never really thought about review format before! I mean, I try to have the same kind of structure of having the cover, the info about the book, then the review. But depending on how I felt about the book and what is involved with the book and its outcomes, I don't have a detailed way of writing a review. I just try to find a way to get my thoughts OUT! I need to get better on mine so I don't exactly ramble, but I do admire the bloggers who have such a great format and get their thoughts across in a great way. I also love your Cliffhanger and Love Triangle scales!ReplyDelete
I was just thinking about this the other day -- wondering if I should be more regimented. I don't have a set format. I sort of let my reaction to the book dictate the format, and single out what about the book really stood out to me. I think if I tried to be structured it would make reviewing feel too much like work. And I can't use ratings because they just stress me out too much!ReplyDelete
I do love the cliffhanger/love triangle factor you use!
When I first started blogging, my reviews were so short. One semi-long paragraph and that was it. I'm glad I changed though because now my reviews are lengthier and have more information in them. I tend to stick to the same style and format just because I'm boring like that, and plus I have this weird quirk where I like things to look the same -- books in series, movies, etc. Same same same! Haha, so yes, not much creativity with my reviews. But I do include my favourite quotes from the book, something I've noticed not many bloggers do.ReplyDelete
:D Like I said, great minds...ReplyDelete
Ah there comes the dark subject of how I write my reviews. I still don't know how to make them look good to be honest, but I think they all reflect me. I mean all of them are different and the same at the same time. They're just the gathering of some of my thoughts and one thing usually doesn't stick to the other. But I guess it's alright in my case 'cause they're like me - all over the place.ReplyDelete
Such a great discussion post! I've been a little all over the place with my reviews since I started blogging, but I have finally found a general format I like. I started out with a format similar to what I use now, but I always included a general rating (like buy/borrow/etc.). Then, a few months later, I decided to create an entirely new review format. It was longer and focused on a bunch of different categories (kind of like Forever YA's reviews). While I love the format, it was too restrictive and ultimately became a serious drag for me to write. I don't always write a review immediately after reading a book, so there were often categories where I couldn't really remember how I felt about that element of the book. Then came July 2012. I just stopped blogging. For months. And didn't start up again until December.ReplyDelete
When I finally started up, I knew I had to go back to the way I started, with a few minor changes. And that's where I'm at now. I always title my post with a phrase or something that's somehow related to the book. Then, I include the book cover and basic info (release date, pages, source & format, and links to the book on Amazon & Goodreads). I follow that with a summary of the book that I just grab from Goodreads. Then I share my "Thoughts on TITLE" followed by a favorite quote from the book. I've always included a quote at the end of my reviews, even since the beginning.
The thing I like now is that my "Thoughts on TITLE" section can basically be whatever I want. Typically, it's standard review where I write several paragraphs with a general conclusion at the end about my overall feelings on the book. But I do sometimes do different things - I've done lists of reasons to read the book, letters to the characters, things I liked/didn't like, etc. And occasionally I'll group several books into mini-reviews. I almost always open a review with how I found the book/why I wanted to read it/something along those lines. And then I usually have at least three or four paragraphs worth of thoughts!
I love that my format now is a sort of compromise - I have a general format that I follow but am able to mix it up as I want within that format. Whew! Sorry to leave such a giant comment :)
I have a structure and I love it. Mostly, because I think I've given myself enough freedom within it. I have a few points that I always hit (moments I loved and WTF moments) and I wrap the review up at the end in a two sentence impression with my rating. I used to break down the rest of the review more than that and it was great for writing reviews quickly, but it didn't fit what I wanted to talk about with every book. Now the bulk of my review is listed under "Thoughts". Generally, I touch on the characters and the story, but I'll talk about anything that really stuck out to me in the book.ReplyDelete
When reading reviews, as long as there is some sort of structure, I'm happy. I like to be able to find my way around the post, but I don't mind if it looks different every time. :)