You might use some or all of the following advice in your fiction review:
- opening sections might indicate the larger question(s) book/work raises and/or indicate something about the author’s other work or other information that might be relevant to your sense of the work. You might want to consider using the opening section as a kind seductive hook to make readers want to read on.
- give some sense of the book as a whole even when it is a collection of short stories or poems; point out the writer’s intentions
- the very briefest of plot summaries – enough to enable the reader to orientate herself in your review; your briefest of descriptive summary doesn’t have to include everything!
- include evaluations about form, style and content.
- use very short quotations to illustrate and explain your points, and to give a concrete flavour/language of the work.
- think about this book in relation to the author’s other works or any other personal information that is relevant to your discussion of the work. You don’t always have to include this but sometimes this information is illuminating.
- compare the work with a similar ones by a contemporary or relate the work to a social or literary trend
- please be aware of reviewing conventions regarding tenses; if possible, keep in the active mode – avoid the huge abstractions and generalisations.
- include a personal response – but remember the review is less about you than about the author’s work. No very long aside about your reading process because you don’t have many words (only 650; anything much over and the review will be returned to you to prune).
- Remember you don’t have to cover everything but will have to make good judgement as to what is important for the purposes of evaluation.
- Reviewing is not the same as writing scholarly essays.
- Think about Voice, Tone and Audience
- think about clarity and readability; readers are likely not to have read the book but may consider reading the book (or not) after your review.
- think about your economy of meaning/expression
- DON’T GUILD THE LILY (more is usually less!); avoid over-florid or sycophantic exclamations, try to avoid cliches such as “must see/read” or “standout” etc. If possible, please avoid using “relatable” as it doesn’t really say very much beyond the sense that the text elicits a positive response from you.
- don’t be afraid to criticise but don’t repeatedly put the boot in! Reviews that put the boot may say more about your personality (nasty?) and less about the text itself (you need to think quite carefully about the “reviewing personality” you want to project.)
- Try different modes and voices until you are happy with it.
Above all, be open-minded (esp. if the form or subject matter isn’t to your taste); we’re all happy to give you feedback.