Stuck? Prompts for Writing ‘Positive’ Book Reviews! #1

Hello friends, I hope you are all having a fabulous day and are reading some lovely books!

Now that I’m in the thick of university, one of my biggest challenges when it comes to blogging is writing a review under pressure. Usually, it takes me two hours (two hours!) to write a review, but I’ve been aiming to write them in under an hour. One of the biggest problems I encounter when writing a review is simply not knowing what to write or how to approach a review.

To help myself – and you! – out, I’ve put together a little collection of book review writing prompts to help facilitate the writing process. This is not a how-to, but a way to help get the writing process started. Under each header will be a bunch of questions that you can answer. I have provided a variety of questions, so choose what suits the purpose of your book review or your argument!

In the post’s title, I’ve used the term ‘positive’. The term ‘positive’ is a little simplistic, so instead, this post is for book reviews where you want the reader to read the book. Next month, I’ll be publishing the second post, which will have prompts to help you write book reviews where you don’t think the reader should read the book. And, hopefully, I’ll write a third post that will help you write a book review where the book was problematic.


Introduction

Things you can talk about: sell the book, what makes the book unique, why you picked it up and why others should too.

In a few sentences, what is the book about?

  • [Book name] + [protagonist + conflict + development/obstacle they must overcome].

If you had to sell this book to someone in a few sentences, what would you say?

  • Who is your target audience? e.g. its diversity and representation; important theme/s; something you are interested in; unique; fun, etc.

What were your feelings when you just finished the book?

  • Some people like to read books that make them feel emotionally engaged. e.g. I am an absolute, snotty mess.

What really stands out to you about the book?

  • What positive thing do you want the reader to associate the book with? Writing, characters, plot, themes, conflict, development, subject matter, relationships, etc.

What is the general consensus of this book? Is it true?

  • This is a good way to connect to a reader who hasn’t read the book but has heard the same things and may be curious.

Why did you pick up this book? Did it meet your expectations?

  • e.g. I read this book because Friend told me about it / hype / saw it around, etc.

What is the genre of the book?

  • Goodreads is your friend if you aren’t sure!

Writing

Things you can talk about: style, pace, ease of reading

What was the writing style like?

What senses did the writing appeal to?

  • Did the writer appeal to your senses of smell, sight/imagery, sound, taste, or touch/feel?

What was the pace of the writing? Did it work with the story?

  • People have pace preferences, but why should they be patient/let themselves enjoy the ride?

Was the writing easy to read?

  • Was the writing style more ‘simple’ or was it more ‘flowery’ or used complex diction?

Plot

Things you can talk about: gist of book, what you liked, memorable things, conflict, climate, resolution

What is the general gist of the book?

  • [Book name] is about a [protagonist] who [conflict + development].

Why did you like the story? Why should others be interested in the story?

  • Relate to feelings, things learned, different perspectives, enjoyment, fun, relatable to personal experience, thought-provoking, etc.

What was a scene/moment that was memorable to you, and why?

  • Best if spoiler-free; memorable things give the reader something to look forward to, and connecting it to something you liked helps them build an idea of what they can expect from the book.

What makes this plot unique to other stories?

  • Why is this book worth reading? What makes this different/better than a book with a similar story?

Address the plot’s three components: conflict, climax, and resolution.

  • Was the execution of the conflict, climax, and resolution effective? What did you think of them? Why were they done well?

Themes

Things you can talk about: portrayal of themes, importance of themes, challenges an idea, execution of themes, effect of themes

What are the themes of the book? What ideas does the book explore?

  • Think about how it relates to a wider idea and/or can inform or enrich someone’s understanding of an idea. e.g. identity, relationships, life-changing events, goodness, political ideas, interpersonal strengths, etc.

How were the themes portrayed in the book?

  • Connect the idea to the book itself – talk about scenes, character development, story development, conflict, resolution, etc.

Why do the themes matter? Why are they important?

  • If you have a lot of knowledge or a passion for the theme, talk about it! Relate it to personal experiences, opinions, academic expertise, etc.

Do the themes in the book challenge an idea?

  • Themes can challenge ideas or institutions, ranging from things like racism, sexism, and ableism, to false beliefs, myths, stereotypes, etc.

Did the author articulate or portray the themes well? Why, and how?

  • Talk about how the themes were portrayed – what was the author trying to convey? What did it make you think about?

If the theme is contested/controversial, what side or perspective/s does the book take? Why is this important?

  • In other words, what argument or perspective does the book offer?

How did the theme, or portrayal of the theme, make you feel?

  • How you feel about a theme is valid! What feelings did the themes evoke while reading and after reading?

Characters

Things you can talk about: main character, side characters, identities, development, favourites, relationships

Who was the main protagonist?

Describe the main protagonist (or other important characters).

  • Talk about their identity/identities and/or their personality.
    NOTE: If you don’t know their identity, research! Describing a bisexual character as a ‘LGBTQIA character’ or a Chinese character a ‘diverse character’ is not acceptable and contributes to erasure.

What makes the main protagonist so interesting or such a good character?

  • What makes Character X uniquely Character X? What differentiates them from the other characters?

Why should we care about the main protagonist?

  • Talk about the protagonist’s good qualities, their goal, their development, how they represent something, etc. Or, the protagonist is meaningful to you for your own reasons.

What sort of character development can readers expect to see in the book?

  • Talk about how the character grows, develops, or even regresses, and why this meaningful to the story itself.

Was the character development interesting, and why?

  • Did the character go through interesting growth or regression? What made it so interesting? Did they change in ways you didn’t expect?

Who was your favourite character/s, and why?

  • Favourite characters can give the story momentum and be something we connect to — but all of you are probably experts in this question!

How were the relationships between characters in the book portrayed? What were the relationships that stood out to you, and why?

  • Think: romantic, platonic/friends, familial, or intimate, and ships (if any).

Constructive Criticism/Addressing Problematic Parts

Things you can talk about: improvements needed, parts underdeveloped, weaknesses, problematic elements

What didn’t work or could have been better in the book?

  • Were some characters underdeveloped? Was there a weakness in the story? Was the delivery of the themes weak?

What was undeveloped, and why should it have been more developed?

  • Was there an element in the story, a character, or a theme that you would have liked to be developed more?

What was the book’s weakness?

  • Don’t include a weakness just for the sake of including one; consider whether it affected your overall opinion of the story.

What was problematic element/s about the book?

  • Address what the author did / about what might be harmful to some readers.
    NOTE: If you know of someone or a review that was hurt by the problematic part (because they belong to the group that it affects), consider including a link to their book review.

Conclusion

Things you can talk about: main take away, convince reader to read the book

What do you want the reader to take away from your book review?

  • Highlight your favourite thing about the book or what makes this book awesome, or summarize what you have talked about in your review.

Why should the reader read the book?

  • But seriously, why?

Ways to end your review (a.k.a. the hardest sentence):

  • Reiterate how much you liked / enjoyed it
  • Reiterate the best thing about the book
  • Tell people they MUST read it
  • Answer the question: is it worth reading?
  • “This book will make you [feelings].”
  • If it was one of your favourites of the year, say so!

I hope these prompts are helpful, and can help cut down your review writing time! I hope to publish the second installment of these prompts sometime next month. 😃

If you have any suggestions on how this can be improved, please leave a comment and I may add it in. Happy reviewing! ❤

Advertisements

42 thoughts on “Stuck? Prompts for Writing ‘Positive’ Book Reviews! #1

  1. this is so great! reviews are my weak point and I always get so behind on them. I feel like I never talk about enough in my reviews and I only focus on certain things. So I’ll definitely be referencing this post more. thanks xxx

  2. This is quite similar to what I do. I also take notes when I’m reading, then type them up, then check through my writing prompts to ensure I’ve covered the main topics and haven’t got anything else to say. I don’t mind writing a short ish review as long as it’s to the point and I don’t cover everything every time. I also have different prompts for fiction and non fiction :-)

    • Hi Lucinda!
      Ahh I do that too! I used to have a notebook dedicated to notetaking for reading, but now that I’m in uni, I try and read without that sort of pressure. But it it’s so useful when it comes to writing the review. :)
      Ohhh, go you! It’s great that you have a system that works for you. <3

      • Oh yeah, there’s so much reading and note taking at uni you definitely need to just enjoy a book as a form of escapism. I’ve borrowed a few prompts from you and amalgamated them into my own template, so thank you! And best of luck with uni! 😊

  3. How do you always write the most amazing reviews, I wondered, now I know ALL of your awesome tips haha :P thank you for this incredibly helpful post, will bookmark for reference for sure <3

  4. No joke: I’m bookmarking this page ’cause I know I’m gonna need it some day soon. Thank you for putting this together! You’re amazing!

  5. Thank you so much for these suggestions! I find that whenever I read a book I really love it’s hard to explain why exactly I love it so much in words. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    • Hi Zoe!
      I know what you mean! Sometimes it’s just *so* good that the reasons you like it are personal, which, for me, is hard to put to words.

      You’re very welcome, and I hope my post can help you in the future.

  6. This is such a great guideline for writing a book review! Sometimes I get into it and blab on about how amazing the book is and sometimes I don’t know where to start esp since I haven’t written a review in a while XD Your reviews are always so detailed and insightful! Mine is quite straightforward I’d say lol.

    • Hi Thuong! How are you?
      Hahah, I know the feeling all too well, trust me! But I hope it can be helpful to you. <3
      I like your reviews! I think mine are too detailed… I'm thinking of curtailing the depth but we'll see. ;_;

      • Heyyyy! Sorry for the late reply. I’ve been out of the loop on book blogging for so long! I need to get back into the swing with it. I’m doing good thanks for asking and yourself? I’ve been a terrible reader this year.
        Aw thank you! No, you keeping going on with the in-depth reviews, they’re what makes your reviews so interesting to read! ;) x

  7. This is such a great resource CW! Thanks so much for sharing because I’m sure myself and lots of others will look to it to make review writing easier. I know I can sometimes take days to write a review

  8. Pingback: Monthly Novel Rewind: Bye, April showers; hello, May flowers! - Novel Ink

  9. Thank you so much for this! While I’m not a blogger, I do want to try to leave some reviews on GR and I always struggle what to say besides “I really liked this book!” Lol
    I know I’ll never leave lengthy reviews (I’m always impressed with those that do!!) I just want to leave a few sentences without sounding like I didn’t read the book. I am def saving this post!!!💗

    • Hi there!
      Oh you’re so welcome! Hahah I know that feeling! Especially when the book is *especially* good and you just want to transfer all your feelings about the book onto the page.
      Ahh I hope this post helps you in the future! <3 All the best with reviewing! ;P

  10. What an amazing (and detailed!) list of prompts for book reviewing! This is so very helpful CW. I struggle with writing book reviews, so I am WAY behind because I always put them off. I bookmarked this post and will 100% be utilizing it to start playing a little catch up with my reviews.

    Brilliant post!

    • Hi Amanda!
      Aw, thank you so much! I’m glad that you find this helpful.
      Oh gosh, me too. T_T I think I’m like 20+ reviews behind, but am slooooowly teaching myself to stop being so darn fussy.
      Thank you!! <3

  11. Pingback: Wrapping up April 2017 (and why you should expect more blog inactivity) – That Bookshelf Bitch

  12. Pingback: The Weekly (#47) and Monthly Hufflepuff: April – The Writing Hufflepuff

  13. Pingback: April Wrap-Up || May TBR (2017) – She Latitude

  14. Pingback: April 2017 Wrap-Up

  15. Pingback: April Wrap-Up – the story salve

  16. Pingback: April Recap: My current reads (all coincidentally by Asian authors)! | Read, Think, Ponder

  17. Pingback: April Wrap Up and May TBR – THE LITERARY HUNTRESS

  18. Pingback: April Wrap Up 2017 | My Midnight Musing

  19. I’ve been stuck with writing reviews lately and this post is so helpful, I just want to give you a hug and thank you by showering you with rainbow sprinkles <3

  20. I love this “Write Amazing Reviews like CW 101” post. ;) (Also, I’m going to call you CW whenever it’s not DMs on IG and/or Twitter from now on. I had no idea you preferred being called that until I came across your embracing your names post! (I don’t comment but I read most of your posts when I’m on hiatus, hehe.) You should have told me!!) Anyway, this is so wonderful. I’ve been feeling very uninspired when it comes to writing blog posts lately. I feel like all my reviews sound the same? Anyway, this is super helpful. So thank you for sharing!

    Summer

Leave a Reply! I'd love to hear your thoughts/comments. <3

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s