Writing Reviews

I enjoy writing reviews on my personal blog. Whether it be for a book, movie, or TV show, writing reviews allows me to give my own opinion on a particular work to a wider audience, as well as helping me to seem more like an authority on the subject when the work in question happens to be in my main genre (namely horror). And there’s an added benefit to writing reviews: by identifying what works or what doesn’t work in a movie/TV show/book, you can learn from these examples and incorporate them into your own fiction to make your stories better.

I’ve been writing reviews on my blog almost as long as I’ve been blogging (for examples, click here), and I think knowing how to do it and doing it as often as possible actually works in your favor as an author. Below I’ve written down some tips to writing reviews, based on my own experience and things I’ve picked up from reading the reviews of others (especially those in Entertainment Weekly):

Review both good and bad works. Sometimes it’s tempting to only review the good stuff. After wasting perhaps several hours on a work that proved to be well below the bar, the last thing you want is to spend any more time on it. However, writing a review on something you disliked not only does a lot of much-needed venting on how you wasted money getting that ticket or buying that paperback, but it may help someone decide whether or not to check out said work, and perhaps avoid several hours of trying to get through a book that fails to please.

Opening, summary, thoughts, final rating, closing. This is the structure I usually use for my reviews. I give a little opening that gives my impressions of the movie, positive or negative. Then I give a short, hopefully spoiler-free summary of what the film is about, followed by a paragraph or two about what worked and what didn’t work. Finally I give a final rating (more on that below), and I write a final piece, usually something relating to any possible sequels or how this book was one of the best I’d read in a long time or some other third thing (you guys get the idea).

Use a rating system. You don’t have to use a rating system, but I find them helpful. Something simple, such as on a scale of 1-10, 1-5, out of 5 stars, a grade between A+ and F (though I wonder, if you’re a schoolteacher during your day job, is using that rating system too much like work?). I prefer using 1-5 with decimals. The last review I gave was a 2.6 out of 5, if I remember correctly. It’s simple and easy to understand, which is what I hope everyone thinks my reviews are.

Make sure to name all relevant people. Include the names of the author, or the name of the writer, director, and actors if this is a TV show or movie. Also, if you feel themake-up artists producers, and composers or anyone else should have their names mentioned, do it. Just make sure you explain why these names are mentioned.

Unless your blog is dedicated to reviews, don’t do them too often. It’s that whole thing about staying true to the theme of your blog and not wanting to deviate too much from that. Sure, a review every now and then is good, but don’t do it too much that you forget why you’re writing your blog in the first place.

If you want to find out more about reviews and writing them, you can check out mine through the link above (though you’ll also find reviews of my own books among them and a few other things, so you might have to wade through all that). You can also check out blogs dedicated to reviewing different movies/books/music/TV shows (too numerous to list here, I’m sure), any pop culture or entertainment magazines (People and Entertainment Weekly) and review aggregator sites (IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, etc.).

And readers, we want to hear from you. Do you write reviews? What do you get out of it? Do you have any tips for the rest of us? Let us know in the comments section, we’d love to hear from you.

And if we get enough tips, I might post an article with your suggestions listed. So don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on reviews and reviewing. You might see them posted for all to see in a future article.

25 Comments

  1. That structure idea really helped! Thank you for sharing it. I am trying to better the way I write reviews, so this post was great 🙂

    1. I’m glad I could be of help. Good luck writing reviews in the future.

  2. storywrtr says:

    I don’t mind reviewing books and such. It’s a great way to practice synonyms and metaphors. I can share something I’m excited about. It’s doing those reviews that are negative. Having been brought up to not say anything bad about anyone or anything, it is difficult. If I disliked that book, I delete it from my goodreads. Hated that movie, I won’t ever talk about it.

    It’s definitely difficult…

    1. I can understand why you wouldn’t want to do negative reviews with that sort of upbringing. Good thing is, you don’t have to do a negative review if you don’t want to. Just stick to the ones that you enjoyed.

      Thanks for commenting and good luck with future writing and reviews.

  3. M. Howalt says:

    Those are some very good points! Thanks for writing this post. 🙂 I rarely write reviews, but I’ve considered beginning to talk more about the books that I read on my blog, and these things are definitely worth considering.

    1. I’m glad you liked the post. Thanks for reading and commenting, and good luck in the future.

  4. This is a good structure in how to write reviews. Reviews that are well thought out and objective in stating why the book/movie worked or didn’t work for the reader is especially important. One sentence reviews don’t help the potential reader make a decision to either buy or not buy the book. I really like the format you presented.

    Early on I wrote reviews on stuff I liked and didn’t like by trying to stick with the “why”, but I quickly learned that some authors (sadly) will go into attack mode if they aren’t given full praise on their books. I ended up removing all of my negative reviews because I was ganged up on by one of the author’s “friends” or aliases (I’ll never know which, but possibly both). And what made this even worse was the fact that this was a well-known author in the romance genre who is with a reputable small publisher. I expected a higher level of maturity from an author with a good fan base and sales, but it just goes to show it’s the personality (not the accomplishments) that makes for good character.

    1. Exactly. You’d think Justin Beiber would be a little more mature, but he’s far from it. In the end, the personality matters more than the accomplishments.

      Thanks for your comment, Ruth.

  5. I never do negative reviews. If I don’t like a book, I just won’t review it. Since I’m an author myself, I won’t do that to a fellow author. I’ll let readers who aren’t authors do that if they feel a need to. One of the reasons I won’t give a bad review is that it’s just my opinion. I hate to bring down someone’s star average, for instance, on Amazon. What if it’s just me? Reviews are so subjective sometimes. And I’ve been on the receiving end of negative reviews that were just downright nasty, sounding like maybe it was another author’s friend or something. I just stay away from negative ANYTHING. it’s better for my soul. 🙂

    1. A lot of people feel the same way you do, so you’re not alone. And really, it’s your comfort that’s most important. Thanks for commenting.

  6. ronfritsch says:

    Rami, I generally follow your outline in writing reviews. I also refuse to give a fellow author a negative review. I can usually tell by the end of the first chapter or so if I’m not going to like a book. Then I simply move on to something else. But if I genuinely like a book, I’m eager to write a review and give it as many stars as I can.

    1. I’m starting to find a lot of people don’t like giving negative reviews, more than I previously thought. It’s very interesting. I wonder if someone did a sociological study on it, what sort of results they’d get.

      Thanks for your comment Ron. As always, it’s greatly appreciated.

    2. I’m the same way. All it takes is one chapter, and I know if I’ll like it or not, and if I don’t, I move on.

      1. It took me about seven to figure out that I wasn’t going to finish “A Discovery of Witches.” Maybe I’m just indecisive.

  7. Rami, I think the reason some of us don’t like to give bad reviews is because we know how it feels. We’ve had those bad reviews. Sometimes they make us want to cry, and sometimes they make authors want to give up, especially newer authors who haven’t grown a thick skin. I never want to make anyone feel that way. 😦

    1. ronfritsch says:

      I agree with you, Lauralynn. “We know how it feels.”

      1. This is interesting. Maybe it’s because I haven’t gotten many bad reviews yet, but I kind of get where you’re going with this. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

    2. That’s true. I hadn’t thought about it in a long time, but in March 2010, I got eight 1-star reviews on three books in the span of one month and thought I was the worst writer who ever lived. This was just at the time I finally made more than $100 in sales. I believe I made $400 that month. Even though I made more money than I ever dreamed possible with self-publishing, I was miserable. I remember crying in the shower and seriously debated unpublishing all of my books. The only thing that stopped me was an email from a fan to hold me to keep up the good work. I have that email printed out and hanging over my desk.

      1. That’s a lovely inspirational story, Ruth. Thanks for sharing it.

  8. Primarily when writing reviews on my blog, it’s movies. Some of them are negative, of course… cathartic for wasting two hours or so of my own time.

    1. Oh, isn’t it just? Thanks for commenting!

  9. M T McGuire says:

    I actually worry a lot about reviews. I have given a good but slightly flawed book 3 stars and followed it up with a book by a different author which was a fantastic premise but just way, way too overwritten, or at least, there was a lot about how one character felt for another which could have been demonstrated with action, covert looks, a touch of the hand etc (says she sounding hackneyed) and the way it was told could have been done differently, beats per minute tripling in her presence etc… I ended up giving up. I am still wondering what happens in the end but it takes so long for each scene to get to the point that I’d rather spend the time reading something else. As a dnf I should give it one star but the idea alone is worth three. But I can’t give it three because the other book I’d given 3 to would then have to have 4 and I wouldn’t have anything left to give books that shone out like beacons if all the books I’ve given four stars to suddenly get 5… it’s a real mine field.

    Cheers

    MTM

    1. This is a good example of why it’d be great if you could give stars to different aspects of the book. For example, it’d be nice to be able to give a star rating to premise, storytelling, grammar, characters, etc. Then those ratings could be averaged out for the overall rating.

      1. I think some websites already do that, though I don’t think it’s for things like books.

      2. M T McGuire says:

        Yeh. Thinking about it. That is a fantastic idea. I just have to decide what categories I’d use.

        Cheers

        MTM

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