My Review Process

Well, I fairly thoroughly covered my review process in My Blogging Workflow, so there's not really anything new to say today! But here it goes anyway.

Step One: Transferring Notes

I take notes while I read, and if the book in question was a physical book (as opposed to an ebook), I'll have at least one page of handwritten notes on loose leaf paper. (If it was an ebook, I'll have notes stored on my Kindle--but probably not as many as I'd like, because it can be a pain in the ass to take notes that way.) I store these notes in a large three-ring binder, just in case I ever want to refer back to them after I've finished writing the review.

Anyway, this is the point at which I get my notes organized. First, I transcribe everything into either a Blogspot draft or a Google Doc. (A Blogspot draft is for reviews I expect to finish writing in one sitting; if I'm going to be taking my time with the review in question, it'll go into my Google Drive.) While I use page numbers on my physical notes, I usually switch to simple bullet points in my transcribed notes and simply jot down any page numbers that I think might actually be included in the review.

Step Two: Reorganizing Notes

As I said in the My Blogging Workflow post, I now begin reorganizing my notes into points. Notes that talk about the same character or plot point are grouped together at this stage; if I talked about the main character on page twelve, then talked about him or her again on page one hundred and twelve, those notes are going to be copy/pasted under a single heading about the subplot. If I complained about a particular subplot on page fifty two only to be pleasantly surprised by the outcome of said subplot on page three hundred and five, those two notes will be grouped together under a single heading about the subplot.

And once I get my notes grouped together under headings, I take a few more minutes to reorganize the headings into a coherent order that I'll be able to turn into a reasonably flowing review a few steps from now.

Step Three: Introductory Paragraph

With all my notes reorganized, I'm ready to start writing my review. But before I start turning headings and points into paragraphs, I skim everything I've got so far--including my star rating--to get a feel for what I really thought of the book. The star ratings here at Amara's Eden correspond with my satisfaction in regards to the book, not my technical critique of it, so it's purpose here is to help define the tone of the review; a three star rating should correspond to a warm review, as it means I enjoyed the book, while a two star review will be less enthusiastic, given that I thought the book was mediocre. Higher star ratings earn more praise and enthusiasm, while lower star ratings correspond to colder, less interested reviews. On the other hand, some one star books may receive passionate reviews... but not in a good way!

So, with my attitude toward the book in mind, I write up my introductory paragraph. If I have anything potentially relevant to share at this point (such as an anecdote from childhood, the story of how I discovered the book, a few words on why I was or wasn't eager to read the book, etcetera), this is where I deliver it. (Alternately, it may go into a closing paragraph later.)

Step Four: Points Become Paragraphs

It kind of turns into an elementary school style essay at this point (make of that what you will...), with headings and their supporting points forming paragraphs. Hopefully, I came away from the book with enough notes to make a relatively coherent review of a reasonable length at this stage.

Step Five: Reflection and/or Closing Paragraphs

Once I've gotten the introduction and the meat of the review out of the way, I'm almost finished. After having summed up my thoughts pre-support in the introductory paragraph, it's time to do that again with support in the closing paragraph, which may include whether or not I recommend the book, who I would recommend it to, whether I'll be reading sequels or other books from the author, and other relevant information.

But before the closing paragraph, I may include a reflection paragraph. If I'm at all conflicted over the content of the book or my reaction to it, I might choose to spend a few paragraphs musing about the points I've brought up so far and my response to them. If I'm uncertain about my star rating, this is where I'll mention it; sometimes I'll qualify that I wanted to like the book, but didn't, or that the book was, in spite of my complaints, actually better than I expected and a potentially positive experience for someone else, or some similar observation.

Step Six: That's All, Folks

Of course, there's some quick proofreading to be done before hitting publish... and what happens after that point is included in the end of My Blogging Workflow, so if you want to know more, you should go check that post out!

So, do you review in a similar fashion? Do you do something entirely different? Have any suggestions for how to write better reviews in general? Let me know in the comments!

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