Raise your hand if you’ve ever finished a book and felt as though you have so much to say about it, only to sit down to write your review and come up empty. Or, perhaps, you’ve had the opposite problem: feeling like you don’t have much to say at all about the book you read. No matter what is causing your review writing block, you’re sure to find a helpful tip for battling it below!
While You Read
The best way to remember specific chapters, characters, or moments that stood out to you as a reader is to take notes. You can highlight, annotate in the margins, or jot thoughts down in a notebook or on your computer. For me, I worry less about detailed sentences and more about capturing ideas I know I’ll want to focus my reviews on. As a result, my notes have phrases like “hero and villain are mirrors of each other” or “tragic past bonds all of the main characters” that give me great starting points to dive into further in a review.
If you’re reading on a device, consider using bookmarks or highlights to easily mark sections you want to remember for your review.
NetGalley team member Kristina shared in our article on quirky reading habits that she has a special technique for remembering favorite quotes: “When I read a line or paragraph that especially resonates with me I dog-ear the page, but specifically, I fold the page over so the corner is touching the line/paragraph that I love.”
Remembering every twist and turn of the plot can sometimes be a challenge. I’ve often found it helpful to jot down a single sentence describing what happened in each chapter. This makes it easier to remember the timeline of events, as well as smaller details you may forget later.
Consider the reviews you’ve read
My recommendation is to not read reviews for the book you’re reviewing, to avoid any accidental repetition of phrases or ideas that could be seen as plagiarizing. Instead, browse through NetGalley to read reviews and find examples that you think are effective. Ask yourself what it is that you like about the review, and find ways to showcase those same elements in an original way in your own review.
Find your pace
Some NetGalley members finish a book and immediately begin writing their review, while others may need a day or two to sit with their thoughts. Experiment to find out which method works best for you, and don’t be afraid to switch things up even after you’ve decided. After all, a book that tackles heavier topics might require more time to pull your thoughts together, even if you typically write reviews once you’ve finished reading.
If you’re hitting a wall, seek out helpful tips to guide you. I have advice here for writing a book review, a critical review, and an audiobook review! Especially helpful for anyone new to reviewing, these tips may also be good refreshers for anyone who needs a reminder of the structure of a review.
Make a sandwich
When writing your review, think about a sandwich—a little cushion on the top and bottom with the meat in the middle. Start with the summary. It’s a helpful way to give anyone reading your review context and it’s an easy place to begin. The middle of a review is the hardest part to write (as it examines the writing, characters, and plotting closely), so after crafting the summary, move on to the ending where you can share your overall impression of the book and the types of readers you’d recommend it to.
Start with social
One of my reviewing tricks is that the first place I review a book is Instagram. Knowing that my caption can’t be too long, I work hard to fit my opinion and the book’s summary into a length that seems reasonable for someone who is looking to read something short and sweet as they scroll through their feed. From there, I copy the review into NetGalley and then expand on the points I’ve already outlined.
Set up a review day
If you find it difficult to get into a writing headspace, consider having a specific day of the week when you write all of your reviews. Writing the first one may still be a challenge, but by the time you write your second in a row, your mind will already be thinking about the review’s structure and it’ll be easier to dive in and get it done!
Take a break
If you’re still stumped, don’t be afraid to step away. Read a book, take a walk, enjoy a snack. Clear your head and come back refreshed and ready to write!
A very helpful section. Lockdown in 2020 wasn’t a major problem for me but it did knock my concentration for six – it took me longer to read a book and putting the words together to give feedback/write reviews seemed impossible. Eyesight problems (now fixed) didn’t help which meant I’ve had reviewers writer’s block for almost 2 years and stopped requesting from NetGalley for a while.
I’m hoping to get started again and I’m sure this section will be especially helpful.