Reviews: How I approach them

I’m sure anyone who is reading my reviews regularly knows this, but I’m going to confess I don’t have a system for my reviews. When I first started them (if you go back and look at the oldest of them), I tried to follow some kind of pattern. Set a structure and stay inside it. Give a rating of some kind.

I hated it. I found it very frustrating when the review I wanted to write didn’t fit in this structure I had built. The boundaries weren’t fences keeping the wilderness out – they were a prison keeping me from exploring!

So I scrapped the formula and went freeform. What can I say – I’m a pantser at my core. But it helped. I was able to explore. When I feel an author did an exceptional job (either positively or negatively) on a specific element I can chew on it longer. If something like “world building” wasn’t really important, I can leave it out of my review entirely.

And this doesn’t even count when I want to review something long-form like a tv show or multiple works by an author. When I reviewed Terry Pratchett’s Moist Von Lipwig series, I focused on the character. Practchett has so many Discworld books that the world building is secondary across dozens. Besides, there was something interesting going on across the trilogy.

I talked about the struggle of world-building across series in several reviews – it was an interesting thing to observe as a writer and something I think could be good for readers. I know as a reader, stepping into “book 3” when it wasn’t on the cover is frustrating. I want to know if this is actually “book 4” because there is a prior trilogy I needed to read before.

I recognize the benefit of structured reviews. Reading some kind of rating on world, character, plot, etc. I just am a pantser at heart.