You ask, we answer! This is our new weekly feature where we pick one or more questions from our readers, open the Cuddlebuggery Vault of Secrets and share the goodies with you. Or something. These questions can range from completely random oddities to semi-personal. We promise to try to answer them all while staying within our comfy bubbles. Pinky swear! If you’d like to ask a question ask them in the comments.
This week’s question is from Bieke from Istyria book blog:
So I love the reviews you guys write for books and I’ve always wondered how you do that? What is your ‘process’ if you have one? Do you take notes while reading? Do you have any tips for people that are fairly new to reviewing books?
Excellent question! We shall all answer in part:
99% of the time, I have no process for writing a review. Most of my ideas come as I’m writing and even that’s a little chaotic since I write my reviews out of order. Meaning: sometimes I write the middle of the review first or the ending or I’ll write about the part I loved/hated first and write everything else around that. I also, like to write around the midnight hour because it seems to be the only time where my creative juices start flowing.
For the other 1%, it’s something from the book that might remind me of something else. Sometimes it’s Greek Mythology, song lyrics, pictures of my face, The Sword in the Stone, Spock, or maybe even a snoop dog gif I’ve been dying to use (why, yes, sometimes I DO write entire reviews around ONE gif). Themes seem to be my thing. I pick one and try to make it different from other reviews I’ve written. But since most of my stuff is written the day of posting, many times weeks after I’ve read the book, I usually don’t know what kind of review I’ll churn out. I’m a very sporadic person in most aspects of my life, reviewing definitely being one of them.
That being said, I suppose there is a slight method to my madness, but it depends on where I’m reviewing at. If it’s a review for Cuddlebuggery, I’m more liberal with what I write and I allow myself to go off topic and ramble to my heart’s content. If it’s for YABC I try not to ramble as much and cut and profanity for the review (their house, their rules). If it’s for Tor.com, I stick to explaining the plot more, less rambling, more explanation of character, settings, etc. because they’re expecting those types of reviews. So, basically, I have a different reviewing style for each different site where I love to combine and exchange at will depending on my mood and the book. I make my rules and break them. I do what I wanna!
I don’t take notes. Notes are for organized people and I am a lazy person with no time. I’ve tried in the past and failed miserably since I suck at being consistent. I also happen to lose all my notebooks. Okay, I lied, I have taken notes before, but I was reading on my kindle because I’ll be damned if I lose my kindle. But I generally have a pretty good memory when it comes to remembering details because I read. really. really. slowly. This is also why my reviews tend to be more detail oriented, longer and more nit-picky. (Meg and Kat are speed readers, but the literary gods did not find favor in me for this ability.) For example, I read Bleed Like Me by Christa Desir months ago and I remember pretty much everything about it. I’ll go forth and write a kickass review. OH GOD I’VE DAMNED MYSELF. EXPECT A HORRIBLE REVIEW NOW.
Tips? I’m not sure. I don’t have a set process for myself, so it’s hard to give tips out. But I’ll say the cliché thing here: Try to be original. Think outside the box and experiment with different reviewing styles. Find your own voice and try not to imitate anyone else.
I generally just throw pizza at the wall and the stare at it until words form out of the splatter patterns, then I write those words down.
Kidding. (Or am I?)
(No, I am. Obviously. I hope it’s obvious, anyway.)
Pretty much the only thing I’m consistent about is taking notes while I read. My memory is appalling and as much as I always intend to write my review as soon as I finish the book, it’s usually at least a few days, every now and then a few weeks. Without notes I’ll be sitting there writing things like ‘so Creeper Dude did a thing to Perky McWhatsherface and it bothered me for reasons…’ which is helpful to no one. I have the Google Docs app on my phone and I start a new doc when I start a new review book. The thoroughity (go with it) of my notes depends on the book, sometimes I’ll end up with pages and sometimes I’ll finish and realize I wrote down three things and oh shit better write this review quickly. A handful of times I’ve taken notes so cryptic I don’t even know what I’m talking about and I had to go back and skim read to jog my memory (thank Kanye I’m a speed reader).
As far as process goes, it varies. Sometimes I look at my notes and realize how about that? I’ve written a review. Sometimes I have a stylistic idea and write the review around that. Sometimes I have no idea how I feel about a book and I figure it out as I write my review (or not). Sometimes I stare at my laptop for hours shouting (often aloud) WORD BRAIN! WOOOOOORD! Sometimes I have a lot of feelings and word vomit an entire review without realizing it. Sometimes I get all giftastic and thememy gifs. It all depends what my brain decides to do when I sit down to write a post.
One thing I have noticed is that all of my reviews tend to be conversational. It wasn’t something I consciously set out to do, but I find I have an easier time getting my words out when I think of it like I’m telling someone a thing. Maybe it’s just because I’m so used to talking to myself, I don’t know.
As far as tips go, I feel kind of weird giving tips because I’ve been doing this for what? Like five minutes? And it also makes it seem like I know what I’m doing and should be listened to which hahahahahahahahaha. Definitely what Steph said about finding your own voice. I’d add don’t get stressed out about being the funniest, shiniest, bestest, most specialist unicorn of them all right out the gate. You’ll spend all of your time and energy comparing yourself to others and you’re better off all around just doing your thing.
I think my favourite reviews are written with this one process – I try to figure out what the biggest factor of the book was for me, good or bad, and I talk about that. Sure, I’ll gloss over the other stuff too, but if you can whittle a reading experience down to its essence and discuss why you liked it or didn’t, I find that resonates with people.
People aren’t always going to necessarily remember the details or whether the plot was fairly paced for City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, but many will remember that the book felt familiar. Then, when they read a review talking about that – it’ll click for them. I’d rather talk about what was memorable and stood out as the apex of the reading experience than every little item on a check list of things you’re supposed to talk about. Not every book requires a paragraph devoted to the quality of prose or the pacing of the book.
The second thing I think is involved with my favourite reviews is when I’ve taken that big factor of the book and I find a way to present it and my thoughts of it to the readers as solidly, quickly and with as much humour as possible. Obviously, this doesn’t always work out, but I love it when it does. When the whole thing comes together and you just KNOW a review is done. That’s a good feeling. When you’re able to look at a review and say:
My tip was going to be about finding your own voice but a certain SOMEONE stole that already. So I’ll say this, write the review that the book deserves. If you don’t feel like you have a lot to say about a book, then it’s probably an average book. Don’t talk it up. Don’t fill space to fill out your review. I’ve done that before and it’s a waste of your time and your reader’s.
Just do things the way you want to do it and you’ll find reviewing more rewarding and less draining. It is, after all, just a hobby.
Personal Pic of the Week
We are all on instagram, but we’re starting this thing where we’ll share little pics to show tidbits of us. Completely random photos of things we love, other hobbies, etc. Follow us for the fun! This week’s from Kat where she shows you socks she plans to crochet!
Have any other burning questions? Ask in the comments below! We’ll be answering the other questions we got as we go along!