Reviews Change Just Like People Do
It’s 2016, which means I have been blogging for an incredible three years! It’s hard to imagine it has already been this long, and yet in the next breath I realize just how much has happened in these last three years. My first year of blogging was a hot mess of trying to figure out everything. I still wasn’t very good at it by the end of the year, and a lot has changed over these three years, most notably how I structure my reviews.
Review Format #1
My very first month I wrote a pair of reviews: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Geist. You can tell how bland my review format was then. Long, detailed reviews. This is why there were not many reviews my first year; I was too consumed with writing “the perfect review” and ended up agonizing for hours over writing a review.
In my first version of reviews I didn’t include any information about the author or how to socialize with them on the interwebs. That was something I learned and implemented later.
These two reviews had a word count of 722 and 1,588, respectively.
One of my reviews in those first few months that I was most proud of was Gabe’s Plan, which weighs in at 1,814 words!
Review Format #2
My second review format came to life in November 2013. At this point I had been blogging for nine months, returned from a hiatus, and was ready to do this thing!
This is when I learned to direct readers to the author, so I began including a bio, photo, and all the social media links at the bottom of points. I also included a synopsis from Goodreads, clearly differentiated and labeled my synopsis and my review.
The review opening also changed drastically. I created a very structured background of the book that was the top of the post. I have kept a majority of this structure to this day in my review format.
This particular review was written by two authors, and even with a bio feature with both authors and the new book background info, this review clocked in at only 974 words!
After nearly a year in, I was learning more and more about blogging, reviews and etiquette, and the content of my reviews started cutting down. However, I maintained this format for a long time.
Review Format #3
I made a slight change in 2014 to include book purchase links. I also stopped labeling the synopsis and instead let the synopsis naturally follow the book information and buy links.
After a full year blogging, with all of these changes to the format of the review, this review contained only 677 words! The content and depth of review is steadily decreasing.
Review Format #4
My fourth format of reviews came about in June 2015. School was out and I was ready to try some new and refreshing things. I started chunking my reviews and giving them sub-headings: The Skinny, The Players, First Impressions, and Second Thoughts.
I thought this was a very creative way to break apart my review and make it more appealing to readers. Often we don’t quite agree with the way a synopsis is written, so I wanted my own chance to re-write and summarize the book, as well as lay out the main characters. I struggled with the First Impressions section for every review. I didn’t quite know what to put in this section, and it often fell flat. I wanted to keep it, though, to cutely pair it with my Second Thoughts section that contained my actual review.
This new break up left the above review, A Time for Everything, at 1,655 words. This was not the goal I wanted, which was ultimately to have a more concise review. I still felt I was struggling with this new format, and I was bulking and chunking it up instead of slimming it down. I took out the sections First Impressions and Second Thoughts and replaced them with a My Thoughts section, but that still wasn’t enough. So I went out on the hunt again for a better review format.
Review Format #5
Then, in November 2015 I discovered what I thought would work. I wanted to keep the break down of the review, but it needed to work for me without excess verbiage.
I changed how I actually reviewed the book. Paragraphs? Gone!
WHAT? Sacrilige! Or so I thought.
From the young age of first grade, I have been taught to write in sentences. Since second grade, it’s been ingrained in me to write in paragraphs. In middle school all the way through college, I devotedly reviewed, edited and revised my writing.
Instilled in me was this very detailed way of writing, and I carried it over into my reviews. It was a mind-blowing epiphany that I don’t have to write reviews like that!
Why? Why do I want to complicate things more? Why do I want to be so wordy? Forget that! My new format, that I am very pleased with, still has subheadings, but the titles have changed to work for me: The Skinny, The Players, The Quote(s), The Highs and Lows, The Take-Away, and Recommendation. I have all of the components I need, and everything has a place.
I turned The Highs and Lows into my review. It has the things I saw in all regards: pacing, writing style, character development, character interaction, plot development, setting, etc. It’s a quick snapshot overview of the book and allows me to really break it down! Here is where I took a big leap by including things I saw as fantastic and things that rubbed me wrong. I am always terrified of negativity in my reviews, so I try to keep things balanced and I realized this allows me to be more honest in how I review books. It also lets me cut down on those lengthy, wordy reviews. I love it!
My new and improved review format now looks like…
Here are a few reviews with the new review format:
- Adult Fiction:
- Children’s Books:
- Middle Grades:
What do you guys think of the new review?
21 thoughts on “Thoughts on Thursday: Reviews Change Just Like People Do”
It’s interesting to see how your reviews evolved, and I’m glad that you found something that works for you. The first reviews I wrote were only a few sentences. I had no idea what to say. Now I try to keep my reviews between 300 and 600 words. One-sentence reviews don’t look legitimate, and people rarely read really long reviews.
I thought it was pretty neat to see the process honing down as I was working on this post. I definitely don’t think anything less than a few paragraphs is a legitimate review. I don’t read really wordy reviews, either. I might skim them at best.
Great post! I love your new format because it tells you just enough to let your readers know how you felt about the novel. Sometimes it’s hard to find a balance of trying to please your readers and yourself. For me, I try to keep my reviews around 5 paragraphs. It’s just enough to say what I need to but not give too much away. 🙂
That’s also a little of how I felt with the lengthy reviews. I didn’t want to be giving too much away, so I cut back. Five paragraphs sounds like just the right number to gain interest and say what you need to say.
Yeah, that’s the hardest part about being a book reviewer. I always try not talk about what happens plot-wise too much. 😊
I like this post! I like the new format. I don’t think I’ve quite found the format I love yet but here’s to finding it. 🙂
It’s a journey – that’s for sure! I hope you narrow it down and start finding it soon.
I like your new format, and it’s encouraging to see that other people take some time to develope the format that flows best for them. I’m still trying to figure out what works best for me, though. I tend to write long reviews and agonize over getting them perfect. When I don’t, I feel like the review ends up being really superficial, when what I want is to be thoughtful. Then again, some books just aren’t that deep, and it’s hard to come up with a lot to say!
I used to do that, too! I felt like I was the only one who appreciated most of my reviews. Is that just a blogger thing – comes with the territory? It is definitely about what works for you. I hope you find your exact review match soon!
Thank you, Charlie!
I think it’s fun that you took the time to see how your reviews have progressed over time. I used to just write random paragraphs about books, and now I use a bulleted approach with the things I like and don’t like (which I’ve relatively recently changed the titles to “What Fed My Addiction” and “What Left Me Wanting More” to go along with my blog title). I like my current approach, but I’m definitely still a bit wordy at times. I feel like I should try to make my reviews shorter, but I seem to only have two modes – long and bite-sized (which are usually just a single paragraph about the book – I group several bite-sized reviews together).
Good that you found a format that works for you 🙂 My first reviews were also super long and rambling…..very interesting to see how we evolve with out blogs. I prefer doing mini reviews now. Happy reading!
I like your new format. I have a tendency to write long reviews, but I’ve been working on breaking them up under headings. I don’t want to go below 600 words for a review because it will negatively affect my SEO. That’s not a problem, considering I usually have a lot to say about a book without giving spoilers. I like that your headings are snappy, not bland like my headings, which are usually something like My Likes and My Dislikes.
[…] Thoughts on Thursday ~ Reviews Change Just Like People Do […]
My format has changed a lot over the years as well. My writing style has really matured. So I get what you’re saying. great post 🙂
I liked to write my own synopsis also!! I like the way you break things down into categories. It’s fun. I always liked how the FYA does their reviews in sections… it’s an entertaining way to read a review!
Fun post! I’ve definitely noticed and enjoyed watching you grow your own process. I tend to be a short reviewer. I know that I don’t read the longer reviews on Amazon and Goodreads so I try to make my review almost more of a teaser. For better or worse, I guess we’re all necessary! 🙂
Thanks so much for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com this week!
We are necessary! 🙂
I’ve sometimes consisted trying to break up my reviews into parts like this since it does make things easier on people when they read the reviews, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. My thoughts just don’t always organize themselves in the same way for every book, so I feel more comfortable with more freedom, even if it means my reviews all look a bit different and random lol. But I did eventually add a little “Recommended For” section in my reviews to kind of point out the most important things for people to consider. Oh, but I also wrote my own brief synopsis since the real ones are usually too long and I know that I almost never read them on review posts for that reason. Anyway, I say everyone should write the kind of reviews that work for them, and there will always be someone out there it’s perfect for!
I have started writing a synopsis as well and I include the one from Goodreads with my own to give readers more insight (at least, I hope).
[…] were a couple discussion posts I was pleasantly surprised with! Consequences and Chaos: My TBR Jar, Thoughts on Thursday: Reviews Change Just Like People Do, and my ShelfLove/Discussion post Thoughts on Thursday: The Most Annoying […]