Tell me if this ever happens to you.
You open your blog programme intending to write a book review. But instead of punching the keys, you just stare at a blank screen waiting for inspiration.
You write a sentence. Erase it. Start again. And again. And again. Hours pass and all you have to show for your effort is a headline and a few sketchy paragraphs.
If that sounds familiar, welcome to my world.
Though it’s never felt easy, you’d think that after nine years of blogging I’d have got the hang of writing book reviews. Instead it’s become harder, noticeably so over the last year. Each review seems to take longer and longer to complete.
Every time I sit down to write, the words refuse to come. The more it happens, the more stressed I get and the less the words seem to flow. Somedays it feels like the very last thing I want to do is to write a book review.
Seeing the frequency with which other book bloggers write and publish book reviews adds to the frustration. How some people manage daily reviews is beyond my comprehension. They must be super efficient writing machines.
I know I could be more productive if each review consisted of a large image and a synopsis of the plot copied from the back cover or the publisher’s website, wrapped up with a couple of sentences of reaction. But to me, that’s not a real review. I want to offer a product that’s of a reasonable quality, one that shows I’ve given some it some thought.
But every time I prepare to write a review, it feels like I’m preparing to go into battle.
I’ve tried the usual suggestions for how to overcome writer’s block or to be a more productive writer. Some worked better than others.
Giving myself an incentive (like a coffee or choccie when I’d written x number of words) didn’t make one iota of difference. I just had the coffee anyway.
Taking a break from the screen was far more effective. I found that walking around the garden or even emptying the dishwasher helped to clear the fog. When I returned to the screen, my fresh pair of eyes often spots ways to improve sentences or to improve the flow from one thought to another.
I’m going to need more than this however if I want to win the battle. So I’ve come up with two ideas to help me write reviews more quickly and with a lower stress level.
Overcome First Sentence Syndrome
Every piece of advice about how to blog says the same thing: to capture the interest of blog readers, you need a strong first sentence. One that will use emotion and empathy to grab their attention, intrigue them and spark their curiosity.
If you can craft a first sentence that ticks all of these boxes, I take my hat off to you. I’m prefer to go more for workmanlike intros that are clear and succinct and contain enough of a hook that readers feel they want to read more.
Once I get that first sentence nailed, I know the rest of the post will come together more easily. But until it is (which can often require multiple re-writes) I can’t move on to the rest of the review .
This attitude is going to have to change. I won’t pretend it’s going to be easy because it requires me to break a habit of a lifetime. The fact is I’ve suffered from first sentence syndrome in most of my writing – from college essays to newspaper reports, executive speeches and press releases.
But it’s not too late to change. i just have to keep reminding myself that I’m writing a blog for pleasure. I’m not being paid to write reviews. Nor am I writing for a hyper-critical audience. Perfection is not necessary. All I need is “good enough” .
Stop Writing Blind
I never take notes on any book I am reading so when I come to write the review, I’ m always starting from zero.
I don’t remember key points like character names and place names so I have to dig through the book to find them. Some passages and quotes will be marked with Post-It notes but by the time I get around to using them I’m likely to have forgotten their significance.
The longer the gap between when I read the book, and when I come to review it, the more of an issue this becomes.
I need to learn to jot down a few notes as I’m reading the book. They don’t need to be extensive; anything will be better than nothing.
Then maybe, what I should do is type those notes into a draft post as soon as I finish the book. That will give me a head start for when I do get around to writing the post. They could be a simple as bullet points, certainly not full sentences.
Book Review Techniques: Your Suggestions Needed
If you are a book blogger fortunate never to have battled with the same problems that beset me I’m hoping you’ll share the secrets of your success. I’d love to hear how other bloggers approach review writing. Do you keep notes? Do you always write the review as soon as you finish the book? Do you follow a structure for every review or prefer to have a free-flowing approach?
I’m looking forward to hearing your recommendations and ideas.
Did you find this article helpful? Do let me know by leaving a comment below. If you’re looking for other tips on book blogging or how to use WordPress, check out all the articles in my A2Z Of Book Blogging.