Blog posts about reviews are not scarce, there are many “how to”, “when to” and “what to” guides from many book bloggers. And do you know why? Because writing reviews is hard. To overcome our difficulties, we try to provide guidelines, advices and rules that would simplify our life as book critics.
Not so long ago, Drew wrote a very interesting post «There is no right or wrong way to review». I have also written previously on How to get back on track with reviews and also a discussion post about Why do we keep writing them.
But there is always time when we hit this wall again. Stare at the blank page for many hours without knowing how to start our review. Can this be considered “writer’s block”? I definitely think it is. In fact, we are writers, even if some don’t consider blogging as the type of creative writing.
I’ve experienced this so many times. And that is when reviewing books becomes a chore. The horrific chore that prevents me from reading new books.
After writing and struggling through over 100 reviews for my blog, GoodReads, NetGalley and other numerous websites, I’ve compiled a list of tips to help overcome the writer’s block when writing book reviews (at least these have helped me in the past, and as nice as I am I couldn’t just keep them for myself).
Blank pages are scary. In fact, they mesmerize me into some trance preventing from writing down a single sentence.
The first thing I do for every single review is fill the page with essential for me information about the book, it can include:
- Book title
- Blog post title
- Insert the Book Cover
- Insert the blurb
- Date it was published
- Update the disclaimer if the book was provided free for an honest opinion
With just a few simple details there is already a structure to my future post. While coming up with the title for the blog post, I think about the book, its content, the feelings, and already an idea forms in my head of the direction I want my review to take.
This doesn’t mean that you have to add all of that information to your reviews! Add what you consider relevant or don’t add anything at all. Or add some other information. The purpose is to fill the page.
And just like that the work is already in progress. The first step was taken. The rest will be just as simple.
If the above doesn’t help, I usually move onto the next step and that is when reading ARCs or books on Kindle becomes very handy! (It’s so simple to just copy-paste all of my notes from Kindle file right into the review document.)
Why does it help?
1 – It reminds you how you felt when reading the book.
Maybe I didn’t like the writing style and highlighted many sentences that I found crooked. Or maybe there were many jokes that I actually enjoyed. Or even some beautiful quotes or memorable moments that are worth mentioning. These are topics I can mention in my review and even give some examples from the book that will help explain my point of view.
2 – I always highlight names. Names of characters, names of places, names of cities, all the names.
Having names accessible, allows me to remember (A) the descriptions of the characters, (B) some plot details, for example, where the characters are from, where did they travel to, etc. This information can be useful to elaborate my own little blurb or introductions to the review.
I try to only follow this step when absolutely necessary, and stay objective while reading the reviews of fellow readers.
Seeing what other people had to say about the certain book can spark a wide array of feelings. I can agree with certain points, and I can absolutely disagree with others. This helps to stimulate conversation and discussion, gives us a case to defend and try to come up with the most convincing arguments.
This is why we blog afterall! It is nice when everyone agrees with your point of view, but it’s even more fun to have different opinions that contribute to a discussion.
That is probably why I much prefer to write reviews about books that I didn’t enjoy.
Whether you actually publish it as Q&A or just for the purposes of your first draft, this can be a very helpful technique. In fact, some books provide questions in the end for book club discussions. You can use those, of course, or come up with your own.
Replying to questions, even to the ones you created yourself, will speed up the process by a lot. Trust me, I use this method quite often! I’m yet to actually publish any reviews as a Q&A, but I definitely use it a lot for the 1st draft, and then delete the questions and organize the answers in a coherent way.
Think of another fun way to write about the book. It might stimulate your wish to actually write that long-forgotten review. I always try to think of some fun way to structure my reviews, usually influenced by the book itself.
For example, instead of writing a review to «Furthermore» by Tahereh Mafi, I decided to create a list of things we should all know when travelling into the Furthermore. And did a similar post for «Ready Player One» by Ernest Cline, where I talked about 6 games you ought to know before reading the book.
These were not exactly opinion posts, but they did other things: (1) attracted attention to the books, (2) gave a few snippets of what the readers might finds in them and (3) were fun posts to write (and hopefully to read too).
I hope you found these tips helpful! How do you overcome writer’s block? Share your tips on writing reviews in the comments below!