Book Review Writing 101

As an indie author, one of my most time consuming activities when trying to avoid writing is reading reviews for books I’ll never read. This might seem like a futile activity, but I like to think it gives me an idea of what readers are looking for, it allows me to avoid common pitfalls of writing a specific genre, or, failing those, it at least entertains me for a couple minutes. The latter is provided by what the internet seems to be best at doing: exposing me to the nuts out there and the stuff they want everyone to read.

In short, in the place of the three extra books I could’ve written during the time I procrastinate is up-until-now useless knowledge about what makes a reasonable book review.

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Instead of writing three extra books, this cat attempted to master winking. Nailed it!

Book review writing is difficult. I had a brief stint being active on Goodreads, and I wrote a few reviews. They’re shit. And not horseshit, which is almost pleasant when encountered on some country road, but the type of shit you might encounter in some inner-city back alley, which you can’t, to a reasonable degree of scientific accuracy, tell whether it came from man or dog. I totally understand that without the shit reviews out there, customers wouldn’t be able to make pseudo-informed choices about the books they buy. If only qualified people wrote book reviews, I wouldn’t have any, and I wouldn’t even sell the meager number of books I do. But what I don’t understand are reviews that fail on some basic level. Not able to articulate why the story about that wizard gave you a semi but you stated it anyway? That’s cool with me. But what I can’t forgive is writing a review that doesn’t meet the four requirements below. Book Review Writing 101 – shoot for horseshit, not human or dog shit.

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Sweet shit.

When writing a book review, you should ensure:

  1. Your star rating is justified by your review

Along with writing the shit you write, you’ll be required to give the book a star rating. It’s important to make sure that if you, say, give it a three-star rating, you make sure you articulate to a reasonable degree of clarity why you knocked two stars off. I received the below review on Smashwords. It’s my first and only one on there. I appreciate her taking the time to write it. It’s a favorable review, but I can’t help but wonder why it wasn’t at least four stars.

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Smashwords, you are the website that distributes this book.

Till the day I die, I’ll always wonder why baseball team A never won the Wold Series, how political party C made such a mess of country B, and why, despite my book being very entertaining, I didn’t inspire this reader to press that sweet five-star button.

2. You finish the book before writing a review

A book isn’t like a plate of food. You can’t take one bite and decide you don’t like it, unless that one bite was riddled with objective errors, like the chef used piss to thin out his sauce instead of water. Confused metaphor aside, if you don’t finish a book you’ve failed to attain the primary qualification for reviewing said book: you didn’t read the frickin’ thing.

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Send it back. Terrible character development.

When I go to my dentist, she doesn’t lean over, exposing her cleavage a little, and take one look at a molar and give me a clean bill of dental health. She looks at all of my teeth and then decides, based on the cleanliness of each individual tooth, that I do a bang-up job of brushing my teeth. I’m also a pretty decent flosser, but that is neither relevant nor contributes to the metaphor.

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I couldn’t decide which caption to go with, so I’ll put both: 1) “Yep, that was definitely a nipple” and 2) “How many fingers am I holding up?”

3. You don’t assume everyone has the same reading tastes as you

It may sound simple, but people like different stuff. While I’m not a fan of hotdogs, I quite like burgers. Some people watch football on a Saturday afternoon; I prefer to watch movies. The below review can be read in two ways. He could either be defining my target demographic somewhat or he could be saying that, because it features the subject matters stated below, the book is objectively bad. The fact that he gave it two stars seems to suggest the latter. I don’t like posing for pictures with a dog that looks suspiciously like me, but it’s not to say it’s an objectively bad pastime.

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If this book for you?

4. You know what type of book you’re reviewing

When reviewing a book, it’s important to know what category or subcategory the book falls into. You’d come across as a bit of a doofus if you wrote a review for Sharknado 3: The Third One based on its merits as a serious natural disaster movie. Equally, you’d come across as a doofus, at least in this humble author’s opinion, if you wrote a review of a comic mystery book (aka, bumbling detective) and you reviewed it based on its merits as an example of “noir detective fiction,” which is incidentally a non-existent, paradoxical subcategory, as I pointed out in a previous blog post.

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Define finally…

 

That’s all I’ve got, which is to say it’s Saturday afternoon and I’m going to watch a movie while eating a burger. If you’re on the way to a football game and have a hankering for a hotdog, go fuck yourself. What you like is obviously shittier than what I like.

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User of words

If I made you laugh at least three times, can you do me favor and press one of the share buttons below. Like what you read? Press the follow button to read blog posts future me promises me he’ll write.


The first in my series of comic mystery novels is perma-free on Amazon.com. Check it out here.

The best way to interact with me on social media is via my Facebook page, which is my way of saying head on over and like it.

 

Interjections Are a Funny Business

While reading a review of a book I was thinking of buying, I came across an interjection I’d never encountered before. At first I thought it was a typo, that the person had meant to write “belch.” But upon googling the word, I was proven wrong. The word that had got my attention was “blech!” Just in case you didn’t magically understand its meaning from reading it, blech implies nausea. Of course it does.

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Blech!

I found it among a list of equally bizarre interjections, and in the absence of anything else to blog about this weekend—blech!—I thought it might be good fun to try them out. What kind of writer would I be if I couldn’t incorporate the likes of feh, gak, and neener-neener into my writing? And what kind of writer would I be if I couldn’t come up with my own equally bizarre interjections? A shit one, just in case that wasn’t clear.

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Now what would he say next…? I know, “Neener-neener!” Nailed it.

Here we go:

  1. Neener-neener, often uttered in a series of three repetitions, is a taunt.

Reading neener-neener once makes poking my eyes out with a public restroom toilet brush seem preferable, let alone reading a series of three, which I’m informed from the list of interjections I’m referencing is often the way it’s used. But who am I to stand in the way of the evolution of the English language? I’m pretty sure that if had one of my characters use this in their dialog, readers might think I’d swapped my green tea breaks from writing for a casual smoke of crack. Or that I’d fallen asleep with my head on the keyboard and hadn’t edited out the result, which is basically how I wrote the first Hancock novel, according to one reviewer. But fuck it. I’ll do whatever it takes to stay fresh and happening. Time to pop my cherry:

Girlfriend: Did you forget to clean the bathroom this weekend?

Me: Neener-neener neener-neener neener-neener!

Girlfriend: *Takes away my crack pipe and hands me a cup of green tea*

  1. Feh is an indication of feeling underwhelmed or disappointed.

No commentary this time, just straight into the cherry popping:

Girlfriend: What did you think of that Matt LeBlanc film?

Me: Feh!

Girlfriend: Ah, so a C minus?

Me: On the money.

Well what do you know, it is actually effective communication. I actually gave that pile of steaming cinematic feces a D plus, but still, impressive.

  1. Gak is an expression of disgust or distaste.

This interjection has typo-accusation bait written all over it. It’s barely a noise, never mind a word. My googling gak further revealed that it’s also a noun that means a sticky or messy substance. As soon as I read this, coming up with a way of using gak in a sentence was child’s play:

Girlfriend: *While sorting through dirty laundry* Dan…what’s this gak on the bed sheets? *Drops laundry upon realizing* Gak!

  1. Chrecckkkcccxxxx is an indication of great pain, like when one stubs one’s little toe on a coffee table leg or reads a series of three neener-neeners.

I have to confess to making this one up. I have another confession: it’s my favorite. Why? At least it’s an approximation of something people in the English-speaking world actually say, which is more than can be said for feh, neener-neener, or gak. Next time you mistake your open wound for a steak dinner and pour salt in it, give it a try.

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Chrecckkcccxxx!

So there you have it. Was that as good for you as it was for me? If so, press one of the share buttons below. Otherwise, feel free to type any one of the interjections above into the comments section.


 

My books, which aren’t a result of me falling asleep with my head on the keyboard, can be checked out here.

The best way to say hi is through my Facebook page. You can also say gak, feh, or neener-neener to me there.

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