Two Questions About Writing Reviews

I've been thinking about a couple of things the last few days to do with writing reviews and so thought I'd put it to all you to see what you think.


First is to do with writing a synopsis. Lyndsey and I do things differently, she writes it up in her own words while I use the publishers blurb for the vast majority of reviews I post here. Now in my opinion neither is wrong, but I've seen some criticism of using blurb in the last few days (not from fellow bloggers I hasten to add, but elsewhere) There's a couple of reasons I use the blurb; Firstly, by using what the publisher already has on the back of the book and on sites like Amazon and Goodreads I'm not giving away anything that isn't already easily accessible to readers and avoid spoilers. Secondly, why rewrite whats already written? It's been designed to give enough of an idea about the book and if it's in anyway misleading then my thoughts on this would be part of my review. Different people interpret books differently, and to me this should come across in your review not in the synopsis. But what do you think? Do you write your own or use the publishers blurb? Do you think it's cheating to do so or perfectly acceptable and does it make any difference to you when reading a review?


My second question is about review length and what is a reasonable word count. I probably enjoy a variety of lengths and think the effectiveness comes from the reviewers ability themselves rather than the amount of words. Some people can write fantastic and informative reviews in just a few words...both Jan @ Eating YA Books and Michelle @ Fluttering Butterflies write some amazing mini reviews which pack so much in, I don't know how they do it. Other people like Sya @ The Mountains Of Instead write longer reviews, but because her style is witty and interesting they are always a joy to read. Not everyone can pull that off! But longer and shorter reviews are both as valid as each other, in fact I'd rather read a nice snappy mini review than 2000 words of utter tedium. But what do you prefer...long, short or a bit of both? Are you like me who sometimes struggles to stop rambling in reviews or are you concise and to the point?


What I love about the blogosphere is the many different styles of review writing that make each of us unique. I'd hate it we all wrote the same way, how boring would that be? To me there isn't a right or wrong way to write a review, after all we all have the same motivation....to talk about the books we loved (or didn't) and no-one should be telling people their way is wrong. Thankfully I haven't seen this here, but it has happened this week on a site I use and got me thinking about these two questions.


Discuss!

17 comments:

  1. I think I am a member of the site you are talking about and I find that on there word length means a lot. I think that there people find reviews useful the longer they are, sometimes regardless of content. Personally, I have never understood that, I have read some reviews that have been awarded Crowns and got lots of positive VU and I just couldn't even bring myself to wade through the mountain of words to find the good points. Sometimes the reviews feel like they are written to attain the maximum word length instead of being an interesting informative summary of the product.

    I think there is a place for both, longer and shorter reviews. I tend to write both, I just write until I feel like what I need to be said is said. Sometimes I have more to say about a certain book than others.

    I also think that the majority of other bloggers are nicer (I have had a few bad experiences with people being rather mean on other review sites)

    I also tend to re-write the synopsis, but I'm not sure why I do this, I just do. I have never really minded one way or another how people give a blurb of the book as long as there isn't any spoilers, I just don't see a huge difference.

    Thanks for the great discussion post and sorry for my long winded comment :)

    Jules

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  2. Hi Jules, it's a great comment! I didn't know you were over there! I very much doubt I will be though. I haven't been targeted personally mind, it's just something that's been annoying me.

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  3. As you say, there isn't a right or wrong way to write a book review. The blogs I follow are all different. some write just a paragraph or two, others I have to scroll down he page to read it. For me it's more to do with what is written than the length.

    Regarding the synopsis. The synopsis is the synopsis so why write it again? I certainly don't think it's cheating to use the ones off Goodreads or Amazon, or of the back cover of the book. They to me are the 'official' description and so that's what I'll use on my blog. not that I have anything against those that write there own of course, but I don't have time to do that too. :)

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  4. I use the publishers blurb - I don't see a problem with doing that at all, although I have heard people complaining about it in the past (on twitter). I'm already writing the review, so I don't see the point in re-writing the synopsis too and basically just rewording what's already there.

    As for reviews - the best length for me is somewhere between 500-700 words. Any longer and my mind sometimes starts to wander. I've seen blogs where reviewers pack a lot in to a very short review, and that works too, but only for some people!

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  5. I use the summaries found on Goodreads. Why try and rewrite it if you can't do it better?

    My reviews are usually medium to long in lenth. I unfortunately am not one of those brilliant people who can write short reviews and still get all of the main points!

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  6. Vicki, great post.

    When I first started blogging I tried doing my own summaries and found myself spending more time on them than on the review, that is why I went to using the publisher's summary. I would rather spend time on the review and that is often still very hard for me.

    As you mentioned I do both short (thanks for the compliment too) and longer reviews, and I love reading both your reviews and Lyndsey's as well as a lot of other bloggers who have such a talent for writing. But I also just scan some reviews that are too long as it really takes time hopping from blog to blog reading and commenting. I would agree with Leanne that 500-700 words is about the most for a review. Anything longer just takes too much time to read.

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  7. I like writing my own summary becuaseI think it picks up on the aspects of the story which I found the most entertaining. If that makes sense. Sometimes if I didn't like the book much, or am finidng it very hard to put the summary into words I will just use the back of the book.

    Also, my review length varies. It really depends on how much I loved the book, what kind of mood im in and how long i have to write the review...

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  8. I personally prefer reviewers to use blurbs given by publisher/from the back of the book (unless the blurb is too short and uninformative lol). I don't like spoilers and I think bloggers-own-written-summary can be more spoilery.

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  9. I do a mixture. Sometimes if I feel the blurbs good I’ll use the publishers, some blurbs I hate though when they make out it’s something I don’t feel it is like there’s this huge love triangle when really there’s only one boy and a semi interested friend. Or if a blurb gives too much away, in that case I’ll usually write my own. If I really like the blurb though then I’ll just use the publishers.

    As for long and short reviews I really like both! I guess it’s the same with books there can be really great long books and equally good short ones as long as in that space you use you’re informative about the book without being spoilery that’s all that matters to me :-)

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  10. Thanks for all the replies...interesting to see we all have our ways and styles and agree none of them are wrong!

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  11. I vary. I use the blurbs I find on Goodreads, but I also usually write my own synopsis as well to give a different viewpoint on what the review is about (because sometimes the blurbs really give nothing at all to go on). If I'm concerned about giving any spoilers at all away though, then I won't write my own. As for word length - I ramble, I do admit. But then I write mini reviews too - I guess I'm just inconsistent! :P.

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  12. I use the publishers synopsis for the reasons stated and because I just do not have the time to write my own. I do admire people that can re-write the synopsis.
    I do feel that the pettiness that is shown on a certain site for using the publishers synopsis is quite frankly disgusting it is as if people havent got anything better to do. Why read something that you are only going to slate - just dont bother to read it and move on.
    Review length differs as sometimes you just cannot find the right words to express yourself or a few words will sum up completely how you feel about a book.
    Again on a certain site some reviews are just long for the sake of it. I do think that there is no need for repetitiveness in reviews, it seems some just ramble for the sake of the word count.
    There is no right or wrong way to review it is personal and subjective.

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  13. I use my own summary and tend to skip the blogs that don't write their own. It's just my personal preference. I mean, I can go read the summary on goodreads or amazon, why read it off a blog?

    As for length, I'm drawn more towards medium length reviews. I find it's easier to find something to comment on when the review actually has some meat to it.

    I guess there's more than one way to skin a pig, just as there's more than one way to review, but I definitely have my preferences.

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  14. Great post :)

    Personally I use the blurb for the synopsis - I'm so worried that if I wrote my own I would accidentally give something away or misrepresent what the book is about. Besides I'm sure a publisher would do a better job of writing it than I ever could.

    As for length my reviews are typically on the short side with occasional medium length ones - I admire anyone who can create the longer one's and maintain the interest of their reader, I'm sure if I tried I'd have people falling asleep! lol :D

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  15. I write my own synopsis and opinion of the book with added author information as my intention is to draw the blog reader to wanting to read the book for them selves without giving away any spoilers.
    I do not think many of us have the time to enjoy long and complicated reviews when trying to keep up with other bloggers.

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  16. Oh gosh, thanks for the nice things you said about my mini-reviews!

    I think it's a very interesting topic to write about, but as you say, there isn't a right way to write a book review.

    I use the goodreads book description, but then I also try to summarise what happens in my words in the review.

    I do both to try to keep everyone happy. Personally, when I read other people's reviews, I skip over the official product description because just as I don't have the time to write that thing in my own words, I also don't have the time to read it when reading other people's reviews!

    As for length, I like both. Short and snappy are great, but only when everything relevant about the book is included. Some people are just great at writing succintly (like Lauren at I Was a Teenage Book Geek!) and some just have this wonderful writing style that fits more of a longer review (I'm going to second your mention of Sya at The Mountains of Instead, who just writes beautifully)

    I like both and have both in my google reader. My preference is for shortish-to-medium length reviews. I'm not a big fan of reading the minute details unless it's done in an incredibly interesting way.

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  17. For some reason, I've only just come across this excellent post. Firstly, thanks for your kind comments. To be honest, my reviews are longer because I get a bit carried away with them... I've recently tried my hand at mini-reviews but don't enjoy writing them quite as much.

    Re. synopsis - I used to just use the Goodreads blurb but started to review for a larger site that didn't accept this so I started writing my own. Now that I've been doing it for a while I can't imagine going back to using the blurb but nor do I mind when other people do. As long as you get a rough idea of what's going on then no problem, right?

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