How To Write A Book Review | My Book Review Writing Guide
Writing a book review can be tricky. Sometimes you feel an itch after you read a book that you need to discuss it and sometimes you’ve enjoyed or not enjoyed it and absently don’t think about it ever again. Reviewing isn’t for everybody and isn’t for every book. It is largely based on what the individual wants to share in their review to express their opinions on the book.
However, I have had a few people ask me how I write my book reviews or just mention how they like my style of reviewing (thank you so much, you kind person). So I thought I could write this post to give you guys a guide on how I write my reviews and some tips of things you can add to your own reviews if you don’t do so already. Please be aware that it’s taken me a while to even have a process but I’ve been using it for a while now — my one-year blogiversary is soon and I can’t believe it!
Reviews for me are a great way to analyse what I’ve read and get an overlook at what I experienced and how that’s relevant or enjoyable to me. Sometimes a book makes me want to rant or gush about it and sometimes I need to actually go back and have another look. Guaranteed, once I have another look or another deep think about the book, I usually come out of it feeling pretty good and almost better than when I’ve just finished the novel. I think it’s a great thing to reflect back on material that you read, you can spot things you didn’t fully notice before and this is especially true when you read other people’s reviews too.
So how do I write reviews?
Step 1: Finish the Book
It’s really easy to make the mistake of starting to write a review for a book before it’s over, however, you should definitely finish the book first because you never know — sometimes, okay a lot of times, the ending of a book can make or break it.
Sometimes it can also help to wait a little while before writing a review so you can fully reflect on what you’ve read in a holistic way and have a small time out to think about everything you want to write. Tabbing your books also helps to keep those favourite quotes/moments/important information at the ready for when you need it to write your review.
Step 2: State the Basic Stuff Including the Blurb
Not everyone who reads your review will have already read the book or know about the premise or author. It’s pretty important for people to have the right context on what review they are reading so it’s quite standard in reviews to include the blurb.
Blurbs can also be known as the synopsis but to me, that means including a summary of everything that happens in a book not just an introduction to the story, the meaning can vary and is up to you.
The blurb of a book gives the reader a general idea of the premise and also just states what the publisher and author want readers to know before they pick up the book. It’ll have the basic information of what it’s about and hopefully, also makes the reader want to read it too!
It also never hurts to reiterate some information about the plot and/or characters so that readers can generally know exactly what you’re talking about in a review. If the reader doesn’t know that e.g. the love interest’s name is Jared from the blurb and you’re talking about how much you love Jared in the book, confusion will hinder how enjoyable and how easy to understand your review is.
Don’t forget that if your review does include spoilers, to please put a warning so that anyone who hasn’t read the book yet doesn’t get spoiled. No one likes getting spoiled about character deaths or lethal plot twists (unless you happen to enjoy spoilers…I kind of do but I still avoid them).
Step 4: Categorise
So, you’ve read the book, you’ve got the basic info explained. Now it’s about planning!
I happen to prefer categorising out my reviews so that my opinions on a book are logical and slightly systematic for a more consistent structure. As fun as it is sometimes to just throw out your opinions on a book in any order based on what I’m feeling, when a review is too jumpy or unorganised, it isn’t as appealing to read.
I don’t always have these categories in subheadings – it’s generally whenever I feel like it or whatever is easiest which is, again, depending on what book is being reviewed.
My basic book review categories are:
Characters (and their development)
Plot (plot twists, the direction of the narrative, concepts/issues it discusses)
Writing (including tone, style, medium, flow, cohesion & coherence)
World Building (this is usually for more fantasy/sci-fi genre books, but you can still address this for general fiction/contemporary novels – generally includes the setting of the book, magic system, languages, culture & customs introduced etc.)
Overall (a brief summary of your opinions/feelings on the book)
Step 5: Dot Point & Write It Out
Now you’ve got a basic structure, the next step is to actually write the review! I like to write out short dot points for each category before I start writing so I don’t forget things I want to mention.
Writing a review doesn’t have to be like an essay, it can be informal and relaxed with lots of first-person comments like ‘I like Jared’s character development’ (I don’t even know a love interest named Jared, don’t ask) or more formal and critical like ‘Jared’s character development was well written and added much depth to the story’.
You can be as straight forward or abstract as you like. Share what gripped you in the story, what made you cry or laugh, what were your favourite parts, tropes, scenes, characters were – share anything you’d like because this review is YOURS.
Step 6: Edit, Add Fine Details & Schedule/Post Away
I’m guilty of not editing my own work as much as I should but it is important to look over your review to make sure you didn’t get information mixed up or wrong (like author, character and place names) and to pick up any small typos. Software like Grammarly can also be your friend for picking up grammatical and spelling errors in your review too.
You can add some fine details at the beginning or the end of your review, such as a book rating; out of 5 or 10 or 20 stars if you’d like, you can also add where anyone can purchase the book if they’d like, maybe an author bio, or a cool photo to show your readers what the book looks like. The world is your oyster when it comes to flexibility in book reviewing, don’t be scared to try out new things, new formats and challenge yourself but most importantly, have fun! Reviews shouldn’t be like a chore, review if you want when you want.
Once you’ve written your review, you can schedule it ahead or post it on whatever platform you use. From your own personal blog to Goodreads or even in a twitter thread.
What About Mini-Reviews?
Sometimes you might want to review a book but not go into a lot of detail or write much and mini-reviews are therefore your friend 🙂 I tend to write mini-reviews when my thoughts are shorted, more straight forward are generally only 1-2 small paragraphs. They’re great to share your short, sweet and simple thoughts on a novel without getting too much into the nitty-gritty.
What About Audiobooks?
Who said that you couldn’t review audiobooks? Listening to audiobooks is reading too and I have my first audiobook review scheduled for this blog soon and the only changes to my review writing system for that is that I add a couple of categories to my review drafting process to address:
Cast (the different voices for characters, especially when there’s more than two people narrating the book)
Narration (style, tone, speed, etc.)
Audiobooks are a growing part of the book industry and book community, and it’s so exciting to see more and more books come out with audiobooks that have a full cast too. It can truly create such a great, immersive reading experience.
So, what did you think of my review writing guide? Do you write your reviews like I do? Do you have any tips for me?
Looking forward to your comments,
Until next time,
Jenna @ Bookmark Your Thoughts
Great post! It took me a couple of years to finally figure out how to layout my reviews, but I’m finally happy with my reviews. The ONLY thing I want to fix is how long they are … I still feel like I write WAY too much lol!
I always tend to write heaps too!! Although I’ve kind of just go with it, I’d rather a long, well thought out review than a super short and less detailed one for me. It can take a while to figure out your style and way of reviewing. Thank you!
Kat @ Novels & Waffles
I’ve always struggled with the “state the basic stuff” part of writing a review haha. I just want to jump in and share my thoughts, but you’re totally right – readers need context! I’ve also gone back and forth on whether or not I should even include the book blurb, because I know I never read them in other people’s reviews. But you’re making me reconsider. Anyways, thanks for a WONDERFUL post, as always! 💛💛
I completely understand and I feel the same way sometimes but yes context is so important! TYSM <3 <3 all the love for you <3