Monday, 24 December 2007

Thoughts on Writing Book Reviews.

I've just wrapped up on writing a book review that, if all goes well, will be published in the December issue of StarMag's Reads Monthly, coming out on December 30. (Don't miss it!)

It took me almost three hours to write all 800 words of it.

This makes me very concerned. That can't be good. I know I can do better. I can write faster, put down my thoughts more articulately in much less time.

But whenever I sit in front of my word processor, my brain just cramps up, and all the nifty little sentences I had crafted while I was reading the book to be reviewed, all faded away or if still lingering around, didn't seem all that cool any more.

I would have thought that writing book reviews would get easier the more I did them, but right now it all seems like a well-crafted video game: each level gets progressively harder. Which is all good; I don't mind a challenge.

What strikes me as odd is why? Why does it have to be harder every time? It's not exactly rocket science, putting down your thoughts on books into coherent sentences. After all it all should boil down to whether you liked it or not and then you explain why you formed such an opinion.

And yet, every time I sit down to type out the review, my brain never fails to clog. I swear if there were clockworks in there, they would just seize up and rust together when it knows a book review needs to be written. Or something.

It's not like I hate writing book reviews. I actually love writing them. I just have to wonder why my brain chooses to stop functioning when the time comes to actually sit down and write one.

I've come to think that maybe I mentally project to myself a crazy book review-reading audience. This audience changes depending on the book I'm reviewing. If I'm writing a book review of a novel by Stephen King, for example, I imagine this seething group of Stephen King fans, daring me to write a bad review or else.

It's very weird.

And it destroys my ability to concentrate on writing the review itself. I never let them influence me, of course, but seriously, that din of theirs just distracts me.

Hmm. Maybe I need to figure out how to drown out the din then things might get a little easier?


  1. I think writing in general is a challenge. Good writing anyway. It may well be a measure of the quality of your writing, this difficulty in pounding them words out in record time, no? ;)

  2. Arr, you could be right, Kenny. Just wish it could be a little easier :D

  3. i find this too ted.

    my tricks 1) use the big size post it notes to scribbles ideas, key words while reading. that is tremendously helpful. 2) don't work on the review in one go - spread the same amount of time over a day or two. (i usually take 3 days). write after a nap or first thing in the morning when your brain has written the piece for you a bit and before the inner critic wakes up.

  4. thanks for the tips!

    I don't think 1 would work for me, since my reading is mostly made on the LRT. I've resorted to using a custom made pocketmod, to jot down my notes. Maybe I should blog about that one day.

    I should do 2, but for this recent review I was given a very tight deadline (and also I procrastinated). 3 couldn't work for me. I always wake up late and even then because the wife told me to, and then it's straight to wherever she wants me to take her to...


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