Bookish Chat : How to write a review when the words don’t come

September 24, 2014 Bookish chat 28

I think anyone who writes reviews will have experienced that dry spell that can happen when you sit in front of your screen and nothing happens.  You make coffee, check twitter, stare out the window, come back to your screen.  And still, NOTHING!  You are drawing a blank on what you want to say or even where to start.  I find the three star rating books are the biggest culprit for this and I have come up with my own system for dealing with them.

Bookish Chat

How I write reviews when I’m drawing a blank:

  • Write the title of the book in the middle of the page and then around that, write down all the words or phrases that spring to mind.
  • If you need prompts – think about how you felt about the characters, if the romance worked, did it roll out too many troupes, how was the pace, did the writing inspire you.  Just ask the questions that are important to you to stimulate and organise your thoughts.
  • Just one or two word answers, you can elaborate later.
  • Then review your page, highlight the points you want to cover.
  • And now you have the basis of your review and you just need to flesh it out.

I don’t do this for all my reviews or even for most of them. Mostly I sit down and just leave the thoughts flow on to the screen. But if I’m struggling or if it has been a while since I read the book, following the above always helps me.  It sounds simple but once you have some ideas on paper, it will get you started and give you a structure on which to base your review.  Seriously, I swear by it, it works!

Bookish Chat : Do you have a system that you use when you struggle to find ways to talk about a book?  What works for you?  I’d love to hear about it.  Or if you try this, let me know how it works for you.

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28 Responses to “Bookish Chat : How to write a review when the words don’t come”

  1. Dee @ Dee's Reads

    That’s a really good idea. I find the 3 star reviews the hardest to write too! I usually write a review with zero organization, but for the harder ones I have to answer the questions, like, what did I like about it? What was done well? Suggestions for improvement? Junk like that 😉
    I do know that If I don’t write a review within a few days of finishing, I forget a lot of things, and even with notes I leave on my kindle, it’s soo hard to write a review. So I force myself to write a review, even a short one, within a few days maybe a week tops after finishing.
    Great topic!
    Dee @ Dee’s Reads recently posted…Book Review: Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire

    • trish

      I’m EXACTLY the same, I need to write the review ASAP or I lose the feel for the book. I usually have pieces highlighted and one or two notes and a few GR statuses but my review just feels more passionate when I write it immediately as I’m still in the world of the book. Sadly I always have a few that I’ve left on the back burner.

    • trish

      Like you I don’t use a system for my most of my reviews, I just vomit out my thoughts! But for the ones I struggle with, I try this. And I always have to leave my reviews overnight after I write them and then come back and make changes. Like you said, it adds more meat as you realise something you’ve forgotten or take out something that doesn’t feel relevant.

  2. Cassidie Jhones

    Your ideas are quite dandy! I seldom have an image as to what I’m going to write about in my review. But by the time a finished adding the details (publisher, release date, genres, etc.) the words just come and from then on I know what I felt while reading the book and it flows out. It’s not often that I have a rather tough time typing out a fairly long and elaborated review. It’s more frequent that I inadvertently omit something I had in mind. This is due to the fact that I don’t take notes because then I can’t get sucked into the book that much and indeed enjoy it.
    Cassidie Jhones recently posted…Into the Fire by Ashelyn Drake (Birth of the Phoenix #1)

    • trish

      Your use of the word dandy made me laugh! I haven’t heard that word for years :O I know what you mean about just formatting the book information though, that alone just brings you back to the world of the book and gets the mind focused.
      I like that you can just soak up the book as you read and don’t feel the need to take notes. I do that a bit but often jot down a quick note on my kindle if I really love or hate something. Mostly like you though I rely on memory and FEELS!

  3. Lola

    I hardly ever have this issue, but when I do I usually just force myself to start writing. I also have a standard structure for my reviews, so when I am stuck I usually just start asking myself questions about each tpic and usually once I start writing it will work itself out. I try to write my review soon after finishing the book so everything’s still fresh in my head, I thinkt hat helps with writing reviews.
    Lola recently posted…Lola’s Ramblings: How do you Dream?

    • trish

      You are right, sometimes the hardest thing to do is just start writing. I do have to force myself sometimes too but then I feel great afterwards like I’ve really accomplished something.
      And I couldn’t agree more about writing reviews asap as it’s so much easier. But sometimes life gets in the way. Stupid life! :O

  4. Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library

    3s are definitely the hardest! For me there tends to be nothing that sticks out either way so I don’t have any point to really talk about. I do the word or phrase thing too when I’m stuck and it’s very helpful. I also have a standard form I fill out and I tend to jump around filling in the other parts before putting in my thoughts if I’m really struggling to figure out what I want to say. Great post! Glad to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this!
    Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library recently posted…The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

    • trish

      I think your standard form is a little similar to my questions. It’s all just about prompting yourself and finding a few key phrases that can help sum up your feels for the book isn’t it. Those awkward 3 stars are the pits! It’s so much easier when you love or hate a book as at least that way you have topics you feel passionate about and they nearly write themselves.

  5. Lark

    That’s a great system. I’m furiously taking notes. 🙂 A lot of times when I can’t seem to get a review written it’s because the book felt mediocre and not worth writing about. Luckily, since I don’t take ARCs, I never have to review any book I don’t want to…but when I hit a dry spell reading-wise it’s suddenly very hard to come up with any post at all. Your advice will definitely be of help then. Thanks!
    Lark recently posted…Bookish Art for September

    • trish

      I’m glad it’s of some help Lark. I hesitated about writing it, as it seems so basic but then again it’s helped me so I thought others might get inspiration from it too. No harm writing about those mediocre books from time to time as those are the ones I want to avoid so it’s helpful to find reviews on them. Or at least thoughts on why they didn’t work for you as that would guide me on whether those issues would affect me or not.

  6. Angie @Angela's Anxious Life

    It can be so awful when you just have nothing to say. Sometimes I will write up the little thoughts that come to my mind and then come back and re-read what I wrote later. At that time I can usually think of more to add to it. I usually also write the review right after finishing the book. That way my feelings about the book are fresh.
    Angie @Angela’s Anxious Life recently posted…The Maze Runner- Movie Review

    • trish

      I TRY to write my reviews asap and I know they sound better when I do. And they do flow easier when I’m still in that book zone but it doesn’t always happen. I usually write my review and come back to it the next day too to add a bit more, just leaving it settle seems to help.

    • trish

      Been there, done that too! I have a few on a list that I’d still like to review but I know it’s never going to happen at this stage and I’m just deluding myself!
      Those pesky 3 stars are like a double blow. First a book that was ok but not great and then you have to struggle over the review. Not fair!

    • trish

      I love your idea Mishma. Recording a few thoughts would be an interesting experiment and so easy to do with my phone, I’m definitely going to do this to see how it works for me. Thanks for the idea!

  7. AmberBug

    This is a great post, such helpful information. Sometimes the blocks just come and I find it hard to push forward. Next time I’ll have to try some of these, thanks!

  8. Rachel

    When I first started blogging I didn’t have much of a problem writing reviews, but as time has gone on, and I’ve read much more than usual, it becomes more difficult to say something original, or to pinpoint original aspects of books that make me say “wow”. When I’m excited to write a review, that’s how I know I’ve found a great read. Any that go in the 2-3/5 category I struggle with – they’re OK reads and I could probably string a paragraph together about them, but I don’t have TONS to say. When I first started blogging I had every intention of reviewing every book I read, but I questioned this recently. At the minute, I’ve come to the conclusion that I do at least want to acknowledge that I’ve read them and share my rating, so I’m considering doing a monthly round-up of mini reviews for the books I don’t have a lot I feel I want/need to say…

    I love your feel-good blogging idea, and thought I’d share my feels for your blog here! I really like your header image and your blog layout – it feels really distinctive, and although this may not be directly related to blogging, I LOVE that you’re Irish, as there are so few of us in the community! 🙂 I love your discussion posts (and don’t participate in them as often as I should) but they usually spark a ton of ideas off in my head and make me think about bookish and blogging issues. I LOVE your Green Giants feature, I don’t read enough Irish authors, which is a shame, as we have so many great ones for such a small Isle! I’m thinking of making this one of my bookish new year resolutions, and will probably look to your feature for inspiration on what to read. I really like the layout and structure of your reviews, and I’ve found that we have similar tastes in many cases, so I’ve mentally added you to my “trusted reviewers” list, and I’ll usually check your review out for a book I’m indecisive over, especially that last part where you do the “Who should read…” – I’d love to be able to round off my reviews with a recommendation line like that, but I feel I need to be more “well-read” first so I don’t get it wrong!

    R x
    Rachel recently posted…Louder Than Words Review and Giveaway!

  9. Nuzaifa @ Say It with Books

    The biggest obstacle for me when writing reviews is this irrational feeling saying that I’m going to not know what to say or that what I say feels repetitive. To overcome this I jot down a few words that come to my mind when I think of thee book, like you said. Later, I elaborate on those ‘keywords’.

    The hardest reviews to write are the books I feel very ‘meh’ about. The ones I hate and love are much easier! 😉

    Switching up my review style has also helped me-Try a chat style, list type, GIF-heavy review every once in a while. 🙂
    Nuzaifa @ Say It with Books recently posted…Mixology: The Banned Books Edition

  10. Jess @MyReadingDress

    This hardly ever happens to me until yesterday. I sat down and decided that I needed to crank out my review of Belzhar and then nothing happened. And I was shocked because this is so rare for me. I always have something to say, you know? After a while, I thought, what the heck–I’d just write. And that I did. I just poured all my thoughts out. Everything was a tad disjointed. I had paragraphs that didn’t flow but I had something out. And when I wrung myself dry, I took a step back and reevaluated. It was all there, it just needed reformatting. But I’m glad I did it that why because then I knew what was worth keeping and what wasn’t. You have some fantastic tips though so next time I’m suffering this situation again, I’ll be sure to refer back to this post. Fantastic discussion! <3
    Jess @MyReadingDress recently posted…Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

  11. Marni J

    When I’m reading for review, usually it’s an eBook. I use the highlight and notes options which have helped me during times that I’ve gotten stuck. I look at those at the end and can start getting the ideas of how my review is going to go and usually the words start flowing after that. There have been times that I’ve had to walk away and come back at a later time. Normally though, I try to jump into my review as soon as I’m done reading so I don’t forget key thoughts. Than as the day goes by, I might change or add to the review before posting.
    Marni J recently posted…Silvern by Christina Farley

  12. Ana @ Read Me Away

    If I’m just not feeling it, I just don’t write the review. I’m always afraid that forcing myself to write a review will just end up in me being frustrated. Although if I’m running out of a buffer, then I just go through my usual format (initial thoughts, characters, pacing, world-building) and hope that something sticks. 😛
    Ana @ Read Me Away recently posted…Talk To Me 40: Characters being TOO snarky

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