Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

How To Write A Review – Step One

with 8 comments

Start taking notes. You’ve probably forgotten your pen so use your phone:


Take more notes. You’ve probably forgotten your notebooks so use the back of a receipt from your butcher:


Take lots and lots of notes. You’ve forgotten your nice notebooks and your nice pens but there is always something in the stationary cupboard:


These are all notes for a review I am currently writing for Strange Horizons of The City’s Son by Tom Pollock. Once the review is actually published I might well revisit the process of writing it.

Written by Martin

1 December 2012 at 14:38

Posted in criticism

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8 Responses

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  1. I have to admit I hardly ever take notes. Usually I don’t really fire up whatever part of the brain it is that produces reviews (the reptilian part, some authors might say) until after I’ve finished. I try to read the book like I would read any book, and then afterwards, when I have a vague feeling about how much I liked it, I start thinking about why I liked it or didn’t like it. Then unfortunately I have to go hunting through the text for quotes and such…probably this whole “notes” business would save me a lot of time.

    Matt Hilliard

    1 December 2012 at 15:36

  2. I confess I’m bad about taking notes, but excuse myself by saying most of what I do review tends to be short stories or TV shows, for which it’s fairly straightforward to re-read the thing several times and search for items that seem to deserve being referred back to. It’s a weak excuse, but I’m a weak reviewer.

    Joseph Nebus

    2 December 2012 at 03:34

  3. Matt: Despite my copious note-taking there is always one quote that I forgot to write down. The process of then hunting through the book for it is agony. I just couldn’t imagine doing it for all of them.

    Joseph: I also review films and I write far fewer notes for them because I consume the text in one sitting and I start writing my review a lot more quickly. Plus on DVD you can rewind (although I still sometimes have a panic coming out of the cinema that I’ve forgotten the key line of dialogue I wanted to use.)


    2 December 2012 at 09:58

  4. Please use “incomprehensible cryptic bollocks” as a tag for a future review post.

    Also, why are you using an email for review notes*? Try something like Evernote (http://evernote.com/evernote/guide/ios/) which allows you to sync your notes with multiple devices.

    * I shouldn’t point fingers considering I drafted reviews in Gmail for years.


    3 December 2012 at 14:18

  5. I should point out that “incomprehensible cryptic bollocks” is a quote from the novel rather than a judgement on the text.

    And let me be clear, you madman, that I have never drafted a review in the body of an email. I also don’t think I need a specialist app to jot down three sentences, paricularly when I’ve already got an app that allows you sync your notes with multiple devices. It’s called Gmail.

    PS Don’t you owe me a review?


    3 December 2012 at 14:29

  6. I used to obsessively file all those scraps (superstition – and I thought I’d maybe one day be able to make a cut-up poem by splicing all the fragments together). But one day I realised they were filling up a quarter of the wardrobe, so they ended up in the recycling. Regret it now!


    10 December 2012 at 01:14

  7. […] you’ve followed step one that you should have the most important thing a reviewer can ask for: an unblank page. Of course, […]

  8. I’ve been known to write four times as many words of notes as appear in the finished review. It’s a nightmare, but I can’t stop doing it. Some of those will be fully worked-up paragraphs, others more along the lines of, “p121 & on: What the fuck does he think he’s *doing* here?”


    25 January 2013 at 15:03

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