Book Blogging Tips

When The Last Thing You Want To Do Is Write That Book Review

The challenges of writing a book review
Photo credit: Elisa Ventur at

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.

Ideas on how to deal with the difficulties of writing book reviews

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.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

67 thoughts on “When The Last Thing You Want To Do Is Write That Book Review

  • Thank you so much for this post, it’s good to know I’m not alone! I always have at least one part of a year when I just close down to reviewing. I read a book think it’s brilliant and I’ve got lots to say and then I put it down and pick up another one! To have a rough page and write the title and some snippets while I’m actually reading is a really good idea and one I’ll try and start!

    • The suggestions that other bloggers have made in the comments have been so helpful. I’m still way behind with my reviewing but by jotting things down about one book before I start another has been such a help. Good luck Jane

  • I don’t take notes but I do highlight poignant passages as I read and I always include a few in reviews.

    I almost always write a rough first impressions review on Goodreads, so if I get stuck I go back and see if there’s anything in that I can use.

    Ultimately I let myself off the hook, if it’s not happening I just save it as a draft and come back another day, I never try to force a review if it’s not coming easily. And recently some I just let go of.

    Also I find that if I have a real conversation with someone about the book, that really helps. (Oh I just saw Lisa’s priceless comment about the dog, it never occurred to me to talk to a pet, I wonder if the cat would work 🐾🐈😊)

    I sometime scribble notes on the back page if I’ve happened to listen to an interview, that can be helpful too.

    I think your reviews are great!

    • Thanks Claire for the kind comment about my review. So reassuring.
      What a good idea to put a rough draft into Goodreads while the book is fresh in your mind. I’m going to give that a go

  • Curse Autocorrect. that should read HOSPITABLE . Not hospital

  • I’m not terribly interest in a synopsis being part of a review. For me, brief facts about the title, author and genre suffice. If I want to read a synopsis I’ll go to the publisher or Amazon. And book blogging is a hospital space from the brief to the prolix. Reviews are not a PhD project. I’m interested in other readers’ opinions. I do keep a reading diary, in which I am brutally truthful, which serves as an aide memoire when I’m bashing out a review. I seldom include much of my reading diary in my reviews. We all have our own review styles and that’s the joy of subscribing to book blogs. I look forward to more of your reviews. Your blog is the reason I started following the Booker Prize, so thank you !

    • Thanks Alison for that insight into your likes/dislikes. I do appreciate a shortish summary for books I’ve not heard of already. But some reviews do tend to give far too many details.I’m probably guilty of that at times.

  • I’m an underliner. I have pencils stashed all around the house and in all my bags, so wherever I’m reading, I can quickly underline, asterix or check a translation (I use the google translate app on my phone). When I start a new book, I create a new draft post for it that has the image, the opening line, the book details and note down any awards it has won or other such facts.

    Sometimes, as I’m reading, I then get inspiration. It could be a connection I make to another book, a time in history I’m unfamiliar with (so I do some research), an event that brings on a rant, a link to an article or another blogger that I want to come back to when I finish the book. With long books and NF, I jot down my favourite quotes once a week or so.
    I usually don’t use all this stuff when I come to write the post, but it’s handy having it there to act as a springboard to get me started. And the relief I feel some days when I open up a draft and see the page already full, is immense! It takes the pressure off.

    • I can’t bring myself to be an underlined unless it’s a text book. So I resort to post it notes but forget to write anything on them to remind me why I chose that passage.
      Your process for getting a head start on a review is a great idea. I’m going to start doing this because it’s certainly going to feel less onerous to open a draft and see some text already on the page rather than be faced with a blank. Thanks Brona❤️

      • Hope it helps Karen. Your posts have been so helpful to the rest of us, glad I could return the favour ☺️

  • I blog ahead of myself so I am always lagging with my reviews but I can write them when I want over the weekend instead of struggling on work days. And I stick post-it tabs in important places to remind myself what I was struck by and what I want to say.

  • Thanks, this is so helpful! There really are times when it’s so hard to find the words to write and the tips in your blog are so insightful 🙂

    • The bloggers who left comments here with their tips are so generous with their knowledge. the book blogging world is a wonderful collaborative effort

  • I am not a reviewer who sits down and types out a review pronto. It sometimes takes a couple of hours or more.
    I take notes while reading and this helps so much. Taking notes is a study skill that I began many years ago.
    While writing the My Thoughts section I write what I loved about the book or what I didn’t like about the book.
    I am not a fan of long reviews, and I prefer to get the points of why I like, love or dislike a book.
    In a fiction book, I write the themes I found and other points of interest about the form of the story.

    • That study skill is definitely something to hang on to. I never mastered the art – ending up writing far too many notes

  • How to approach writing reviews is a topic I’ve been chewing on for some time. You’ve raised a lot of ideas and given me much to think about. I do take notes while reading so I can find details easily. Something I always look for as I read is a quotation that could introduce or open the review. I don’t usually include the quotation in the written review, but thinking about such key passages often helps me organize my thoughts. Thanks for posting this.

    • That idea of finding a quote that has had an impact on you is such a good idea – even if you don’t use it, just by reflecting on it could give you the frame of how to approach the review

  • Can I ask a stupid question? Do you have to write book reviews? I started my blog, because I love writing. If I don’t enjoy writing, I will just stop. Until quite recently, I had a rule of thumb about every other blog post or so being a review. But like you, I don’t always feel like writing reviews, so I’ve given up on that. I keep a list with other ideas and topics I can write about. Since I come up with new ideas a lot quicker than I write posts, I will never run out of ideas, even if I stop writing reviews completely.

    As we discussed in another of your posts, the reviews are typically not the posts which get the most comments. I am pretty sure, the people who visit my blog wouldn’t mind if I write fewer reviews. Of course, it may be different for the people who visit your blog.

    If it’s any help, the first sentence never determines, whether I read a blog post or not. Also, I have an idea for you. Sometimes, I write mini reviews, because it feels a lot easier. It happens regularly when I’ve decided to write a mini review (hence taken the pressure off myself), the words just tumble out and I end up writing a full length review. Furthermore, I am telling myself, that I am not a professional critic and I don’t have to do a fully rounded in-depth analysis, which would give me top marks in a course for English literature. Personally, I like to read if you liked the book or not (and why) but less interested in a deep literary analysis.

    In any case, I hope you overcome your occasional writing block and if not, I am more than happy to read the other types of content you produce.

    • Absolutely not a stupid question – I think its a very pertinent question in fact. The answer is no I don’t *have* to write reviews – of late I have been writing a lot of other kinds of content as a form of avoidance. But I would like to get back to more regular reviews because I use them as a way of keeping track of what I’ve enjoyed or not enjoyed (a form of journal in a sense).

      I should adopt your approach too and remind myself that I am not writing for the Literary Review so I don’t have to turn in a highly polished review nor is it an assignment for a lit course.

  • Something I stopped doing years ago: stop putting a starred rating on a review. As I explained to someone recently, I think stats are flawed: I could give a review 5* cos it’s the best thing an author has ever written, but compared to other books in the same genre….it could be a 3* at best.

    I used to have a page I copied for book reviews but I seem to have lost that somewhere along the way. I’m thinking of building a new version (picture, blurb, review etc).

    I’ve never done the ‘1st line captures your audience” thing (which is possibly why my numbers are as low as they are, lol).

    I Find that it’s easier to write a review if I either love or hate a book, as there is something I can latch on to. Unfortunately do many books are under the “meh” Category, which means that, as a reviewer, I find I have to actively be more creative. Boooo!

    • I’ve never got into the star rating idea – I would find it impossible to apply.

      Yep it is easier to do a review when you have a strong opinion either for or against the book. the ones that are perfectly fine but not memorable are harder to do.

  • I must confess to struggling a bit at times lately, too, and I think not making notes as I go is possibly an issue. Also reading very quickly causes problems – although I do mark passages of interest or to quote. I think lately I just have to be in the right frame of mind. Once I get my opening paragraph I’m usually ok, but that’s always the main hurdle!

    • So reassuring to know that even a prolific and accomplished reviewer has the same struggles sometimes. So true that the mental/emotional state at the time can play a part. When I’m not in the right frame of mind I might do a different kind of post, anything but a review, but them the backlog of unreviewed just gets longer and longer

  • Im no help I’m afraid. I’m experiencing the same right now, the words used to come much easier but during the last year or so it’s been difficult. I’m hoping it’s just a phase and I’ll find my rhythm again. In the meantime it’s taking me 5 hours to write a review I’m often feel is substandard.

    • Your reviews are never sub standard! How you manage to review as much as you do and keep the quality so high is a mystery to me. I sometimes wonder if the more you write reviews, the quicker you get – a bit like the performance improvement you get if you do any kind of exercise. But there must be a point at which you get diminishing returns because you just run out of ways to express ideas (there are only so many ways of saying fascinating. engrossing, compelling etc)

      • Thank you, that’s sweet of you to say. I think your diminishing returns theory definitely has some merit.

  • Right, I really sympathise with your predicament, Karen, and in many cases empathise too as these have been familiar enough obstacles to me. So, a couple of responses to your points, last one first.

    I do take notes, though how much depends on the book: in odd cases it may only be publication details and the odd page number, at other times it can be thumbnail characterisations, quotes, family trees, themes, a timeline, an attempt at analysing structure, literary parallels, all often spread out over three or four pages. These definitely help me structure the review and while I don’t necessarily include everything noted they bring out the main points I would want to make. So, yes, take notes, unless it’s such a short work (like a novella) that you know what you’re going to say in a succinct critique.

    (This is why I have to reread books I read ages ago and take notes on them before I can review them in a way that satisfies me: I’d be afraid of missing out vital points that would correct any misconceptions I held the first time around.)

    Now about starting. I often find a suitable quote that encapsulates the approach I want to take to head up the review. This can prove a starting point for my introduction and clarify how I want to proceed.

    Alternatively (or as well) I aim for a three-paragraph opening—short-ish, succinct sentences—almost like an abstract to a paper that may (a) outline the premise of the work, (b) offer or suggest my immediate reaction to it, or (c) both of the previous. Very occasionally my preamble is literally a ramble off-topic, only working my way back to the critique when I’ve finished my rant, or meditation, or whatever.

    I’ve no idea if any of this is of any use but that’s the way I work! Also, completing books in fairly rapid succession is a spur to getting a review out there before I lose the impetus. And being retired helps too!

    • Being retired hasn’t helped me at all! I still get to the end of the day and wonder where all those hours have gone 🙂

      I would have anticipated Chris that you’d make extensive notes because your reviews are always so thoughtful and full of detail – impossible to achieve that just relying on memory. I can’t see me going down the path of taking that detailed an evaluation that it would cover three pages. But I do like the idea of having “structure”, “character” “themes” etc as points cover in any notes I decide to keep.

      • There’s something to be said for the white heat of inspiration spilling out onto the page immediately after one completes a novel, and doubtless some can do it, but I have real problems sequencing (don’t ever try giving me verbal directions or asking me repeat a shopping list!) so notes are definitely needed for an extended review.

        Still, since I do love to talk about things I’ve read, maybe a dictaphone is the way to go, like a one-sided interview with myself. Is that a possibility for you?

        But that mayn’t solve your woes! I guess though that if the end result is well-crafted reviews we followers won’t be wondering how much blood you’ve sweated to get one down in a post.

        • I shall try to spare you all my tears and sweat.
          Doing a recording could be interesting (just have to make sure I do it when no-one else is in earshot)

  • There are definitely some books I find I can’t work out how to approach, and then they languish in the ‘to be reviewed’ pile for so long that I forget everything about them. Usually I just amble into reviews, starting with why I read the book and where I got it etc. If I were writing something academic it would be different, but I figure most of the people reading already know my blog a bit, so it’s more like a chat than a review.

    The only notes I make are noting useful passages to quote, and I find they make reviewing MUCH easier.

    • I’ve come a cropper on this too Simon. Consequently I have some books that I will never get around to reviewing, unless I re-read them. Good point about the purpose of the review influencing how you write it. Maybe I should try your “ambling” intro idea on the occasions where I am really struggling to write the first sentence. Much better to do that, than stare at a blank screen for ages

  • I take notes but most of the time I’m more interested in reading the book than stopping to take notes. I sometimes struggle writing reviews but sometimes it comes naturally to me. It really depends on book and mood.

    • That’s exactly what has stopped me writing notes in the past. It just doesn’t feel relaxing to interrupt the flow of what I’m reading, particularly if its a very immersive narrative, and start scribbling in a notebook.
      But I think I would find it easier to write up some quick notes the following day

  • I hear you! I spend a lot of time over my reviews too – and I have been struggling more lately but I think (hope) it’s just a phase. I do write my reviews as soon as possible after I’ve finished the book. A few times in the last year, things have stopped that happening, and I start to panic a bit, because before then it never happened. I hate being well into the next book without having written the previous review.

    Like you I have always suffered from first sentence syndrome – school essays, and so on. I am also trying to tell myself not to worry, so some recent reviews have started more boringly than I’d prefer.

    I take notes – lots of them, which slows down my reading significantly. In a way I don’t mind because it makes me think about what I’m reading and about what I think the author is doing because I am interested in the how and why of the book as well as the what. If I read less then so be it. When I make notes, I often use headings – they vary a bit but regular ones will be LANG (ie nice pieces of writing I may want to use), CHAR (for characters of course), THEMES, STYLE, and so on. I also jot down random thoughts that come to my mind, especially things that might make a good INTRO or CONC!!

    One thing I have sometimes done is to start the post before I finish the book, IF something inspires me, because the most important thing for me, more than the opening sentence but they are related, is what idea do I want to hang my review off. What is the quintessential point/thing (there can be a couple) that I want to structure my review around. I need this to make sure I don’t ramble on – though whether I achieve that, I don’t know!!

    Enjoyed your post!

    • Well this is indeed a surprise – to discover that you too struggle with that first sentence. Would never have thought that looking at your reviews Sue.

      i’m coming around to recognising the importance of having some notes to hand when I begin the review. Your headings are so helpful so today I have started to capture some reactions to what I read last night from my current book. It was a good exercise because I have a strong feeling if I did this after I’d finished the book I wouldn’t remember the detail.

      Your practice of thinking what is the overall hook for your review is an interesting one. It forces you to think about what had the most impact on you.

  • For a long time, I used to write notes as I read, but I no longer do that. I like to keep my reviews short and I always write them as soon as I have finished the book as I usually have emotions about what I have read buzzing around which help with the writing.

    • You read so much that if you didn’t do those reviews immediately I bet you’ll have forgotten the key points!

  • I had noticed that you were blogging more about other things than the books you’ve been reading but I didn’t realise it was a problem.

    *gulp* I think I’m one of those annoying people who sometimes posts a review daily (or near enough). The thing is, I love writing almost as much as I love reading, and I love sharing what I think about a book with other people and there isn’t anyone in my f2f life who’s interested in the kind of books I read. (The Spouse is interested in my NF books, but I mostly read novels.)


    I don’t think I could write a review some days after finishing the book. It’s there and then, for me. I’m usually writing the day after I’ve finished reading a book in bed when my ideas and opinions are fresh in my mind. Sometimes I’ve written in my journal about my first impressions, sometimes I’ve scribbled on post it notes (page no and one or two lines about why) and sometimes I’ve written pages and pages of thoughts which demanded to be expressed as I was reading. Sometimes I journal because I want to remember something I can’t put in the review because of spoilers. But it doesn’t seem to make much difference whether I’ve taken notes or not. Right now, unable to write fluently till my wrist heals, I don’t have anything in the way of notes and I’m just making it up as I go along.

    I know this is going to be annoying because you’re struggling, but what I find hard is a book like the one I’ve just read which is *so* rich in themes and ideas that I reckon I could write 5000 words about it and then nobody would ever read my blog again because it would be too long-winded and time-consuming and it would be full of spoilers! it’s choosing what to put in and what to leave out that’s hard because I really want to entice people to read it. That’s when I take the dog for a walk and have an imaginary conversation about the book with the book-loving friend I don’t have, where I get to rave uninterrupted about why I loved the book. When I get home, I know what to write.

    I would never say this to Amber *wink* but I don’t think having the dog is actually essential to the process.

    • I am unmasked!! If the review I had planned to write just isn’t materialising then yes I will switch to writing a different type of content. It can be fun to vary the content but I also don’t want to let that get out of hand, hence why I thought it was time to tackle my review blockage head on.

      You annoying??? No never. I have no problem with people posting daily or as near to it, as long as the content is good which of course yours is. I can only watch in awe knowing how much of a stretch that would be for me. The annoying people are the ones who blog daily but most of the content is a rehash of the publisher’s info – a cover image, blurb and maybe an extract. I see no value in that. They also tend to be the people who never acknowledge a comment.

      Writing a review when the book is fresh in your mind is a habit I need to get into. I tend to have too long a gap so it can be a struggle to drag my mind back to the book enough to write anything beyond the basics.

      Love the idea of you having one sided book conversations with Amber. Is that how you tripped over recently – getting too carried away with the conversation?

      • Ha ha, alas I can’t remember anything about what I was thinking at the time, but yes, probably, preoccupied by my thoughts whatever they were.

        I publish the occasional ‘sensational snippet’ just because I’ve fallen in love with a book, but I always put the scene in context so it’s not just an extract. I wonder if that might be an interim solution for you? Pop a bookmark on a page that blows you away with beautiful prose as you’re reading, and then build a post around that paragraph, who the characters are and why this scene is happening… I like reading posts like that because they can move a book up the TBR piles or prompt a purchase just as a review can. If you’re after readership you could stick to one or two categories of books, new releases that are in the zeitgeist and everyone wants to know about them, and classics that either bring back fond memories of reading or prompt younger readers to give them a try.

        • The snippet idea has given me food for thought so thanks for sharing that with me. I’ve been taking a look at some of the examples you have on your blog so I can better understand the idea. I could see that working well with certain books.

  • I take copious notes which I rarely look at when reviewing apart from to check page references for quotes. The act of making the note seems to commit it to memory for me. Without that I’d be sunk!

    • Yep, this is often to me. I will often scan my notes for asterisked comments or things written in CAPS, but most of it I don’t look at again – but the note-taking does help the thinking. I learnt that decades ago as a school student studying for exams!

      • I used to be a copious note taker – I couldn’t read an academic book without a pen in hand. It meant progress was slow but according to all the books I read on “how to study”, you do need to be an active note-taker if you want info to stick.

        But I have never got into that habit with books I read for pleasure. Somehow the two activities feel diametrically opposed

    • I suspect you also write your reviews very soon after finishing the book ??

      • Definitely! I need to do it while the book’s fresh in my mind but there’s usually quite a gap between the draft and posting which allows for changes if I have a rethink.

        • This is one practice I am seeing being used by many bloggers. Clearly its something I need to adopt

  • Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

    Taking notes is ESSENTIAL for me – I don’t know how you write reviews without them! Even before I started reviewing books, I always kept a notebook and pen handy to jot down thoughts as I read (which is actually how the idea to start reviewing came about in the first place). I find they help overcome the blank-page issue – if I’ve already got my notes there, I just pick a spot and start writing around them, until I have something resembling a review.

    Your point about perfection being the enemy is also a good one – ironically, I’ve found reviews and posts I’ve put together quickly and without much thought, “good enough” posts, are almost always the ones that readers like the best!

    • The technique you’ve developed of using the notes as a starting point chimes well with what I’ve read as advice to people to freeze when faced with a blank sheet of paper/blank screen. Instead of starting at the top and working logically forward, just start anywhere and build out.

      yep I’ve also found that posts I’ve really slaved over don’t get as much attention as I think they should

  • Thanks for sharing. I appreciate your reviews and never thought there was some struggle behind them.
    I do take notes as I read (written notes in a notebook for books on paper), or I highlight important passges about the plot, about characters when I read ebooks. And I sometimes take a picture of a cool passage (that I share right away through Instagram), and that I can reuse in my review.
    So when time has come to write my review, if my notes are in my notebooks, the first thing is I re-read my notes and underline in red what I think would be important to insert in my review.
    If this is an ebook, I skip that first step, and as I rego through all my highlights (or the notes now underlined in red), I copy or write them in a google doc where I store my review drafts. Then I try to organize my ideas, usually thinking of highlighting what really worked well for me in that book. And also why it didn’t work, if that’s the case.
    Then I insert where adequate the quotations I have taken pictures of.
    I also try to connect with other books of the same author, if I have read any.
    And then I try to pronounce a verdict, with a pithy sentence that’s supposed to really want to make you read the book ;-).
    I don’t think I have issues in the writing itself, but more in the time managing. Taking time to write a review means less time reading!!
    I usually do not insert the official synopsis, I prefer to retell it with my own words – plus more often than not, I think the official synopsis says way too much, especially in some thrillers.
    I’m not sure this is helpful , but this is my usual practice. Let me know if you have any question.
    At this point, I’m quite happy with my own format, and appalled at what most of my reviews looked like 10 years ago.

    • That’s an impressively organised approach. If I read an e-book I do like the highlighting function but I never thought about going through them before beginning to write the review. I am going to try this right away with a book I finished recently – if I don;t do it soon I will have forgotten it.

      Thanks so much for sharing this idea.

  • Your initial process doesn’t sound too bad! I don’t take notes, I often wait a while before starting, and I will try to just get a title and an outline going in the first session. Then I leave it for a while. Overnight even. Like you, when I come back, I suddenly see what’s needed. I think the main thing is that I try to only review a book if I feel an urge to say something. Plenty of books are just so-so, or they’re good but I don’t feel strongly, or don’t have an interesting angle. I agree with you, I could do without perfunctory reviews that are mostly plot summary.

    I do share your struggle on first (and last) lines though. They set the tone! Sometimes it’ll come right away, sometimes not till the end.

    • Agree too re perfunctory reviews. Last lines are sometimes even harder. The first line feels most important because it’s what you hope will make the reader want to see what you have to say BUT for me the last line is really the most important because it’s what the reader goes away with.

    • Yep I forgot to mention how tough that final sentence can be. You want to wrap it all up with something crisp but i often find what I write just sounds banal.

      This reminds me of a conversation I had with another book blogger recently about whether publishers who have given you an ARC prefer to have a strong first sentence that could be used in their marketing material, or a strong final sentence. We didn’t come to a conclusion….

    • I forgot about the struggle of writing a good sign off line. There is definitely an art to that – mine seem to just peter out rather than coming to a crisp quotable summary of my reaction to the book.

  • This post really surprised me to read – your reviews flow. If the process has caused you agony then it doesn’t show.
    I write without notes too. I couldn’t bear to stop reading to note stuff down, or even to underline, though I sometimes later curse myself searching for the perfect quote I know I read a day or two earlier. Lit.blogs aren’t magazines. I don’t believe someone who has clicked on your review will turn away if the first sentence doesn’t grab them. Too many of my posts, I know, begin “I …” but when all else fails I have a formula – Author, year, prosaic something (CJ Dennis (1876-1938) was born in rural South Australia) and from there it just seems to keep on going. Not helpful, I know! And it in facts follows Australian biographer Brian Matthews’ advice (in Louisa) of what not to do.

    • That’s such a lovely thing to say Bill, thank you.
      Had to smile at the image of you frantically searching through that book to find the quote – I do exactly the same.

      Good point about the difference between a book blog and a literary magazine. I should make a big sign to that effect and stick it on the wall where I can see it each time I start getting stressed about a review. It is meant to be an enjoyable activity after all

  • “start from zero” – I certainly can empathize with the emotions that attend that realization when beginning to write a review having taken no notes. Although I usually take no notes, I imagine an outline of the review as I read the book. Still, that first line looms large as a hurdle that must be cleared, doesn’t it?

    • Absolutely Michael, that first line does feel like a massive hurdle that has to be cleared.
      We seem to be in a minority in not taking notes as we are reading …

  • Oh yes!!! I’ve been there!!!

    This comment: “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.” Made me laugh out loud!!!!! So true!!!

    What REALLY HELPS ME is starting a WP draft as soon as I close the book and capture my immediate thoughts …in a series of words or phrases….absolutely no formatting or complete sentences or graphics allowed! Then when I start my review, it’s soooo much easier! The times I don’t do this, the reviews are much more difficult to write. So, YES, to keeping notes any way that you can! That jumping off point is so helpful! Because I read on my iPad using a kindle app or TBR Libby app, I sometimes jot notes in my iPad notes app….so convenient!

    • Love the Notes app! And you can copy and paste from it straight into the post.

    • There are a few themes emerging from all the helpful comments here and you’ve just echoed the 2 key ones:
      1. capture some thoughts in note form – rough and ready jottings are all that is needed
      2. write the review as close as possible to when you finish the book.

      Emboldened by your practice I spent 15 mins today crashing out some notes on the book I was reading last night. I thought it might be a chore but it turned out to be good fun

      • Oh yay! It does feel good to get your initial impressions, feelings, and thoughts out of your brain and into a concrete form! Reflection helps comprehension! I’m always amazed and surprised when I look back at my notes at how much I had forgotten about my reading experience.

        • Sometimes all I remember are vague impressions and a sketchy idea of the plot and themes

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