There are many different types of reviews that can be written – long, short, detailed, vague, succinct, positive, negative, critical, snarky, gushing – but the most challenging to write is the spoiler-free review.
No matter whether a book is loved or hated, understood or confusing, as reviewers we want to give our opinions and thoughts about the books we read. And part of that sometimes involves discussing certain aspects of a particular book – writing, plot, characters, even a specific scene.
But as reviewers we also owe it to those who read those reviews, to try not to take away from their enjoyment of the book, and so we must hold certain facts and opinions back. No matter how much we may want to talk, gush, scream, commiserate or cry about them, unless we warn our readers of those spoilers, it’s sometimes best to refrain.
Even if it means our reviews don’t fully express our viewpoints. Even if it becomes that much harder to organize our thoughts into any coherent form. If we love a book, we want potential readers to love that book, too. And if we give away all those great, shocking, happy, terrible moments, then we, as reviewers, are taking that experience away from them.
And even if we dislike a book, not everyone may dislike it as we did. And while it serves a purpose to warn our readers of potential pitfalls in the story, writing a tell-all isn’t always the best direction to take. Because if we do this, we may lose significant readership or gain the reputation of a reviewer who ruins books for other readers.
I know I tend to avoid all spoiler-filled reviews or reviews that take you step-by-step through the entire plot of the book, much like a Wikipedia entry. Because if I were to discover those key points before reading the book myself, I probably wouldn’t end up reading the book at all. And instead of that review giving an author a sale, it has taken one away.
But, I don’t tend to read reviews before I write my own, and so the spoilers don’t reveal anything I didn’t already know. But when I see reviews that give away the ending in the first sentence, without warning, I don’t tend to go back to that site. And that costs that blog a potential follower, as I tend to blog stalk quite often.
It can be extremely difficult to talk about why we liked or disliked something without going into detail, but sometimes we must. And being vague can also make our reviews seem more generic than they would be if we did a point-by-point analysis of our specific likes and dislikes.
But sometimes this is just the way it has to be. Because revealing the fact that a much loved character died, or that they broke someone’s heart, were severely wounded in battle, or that they were evil incarnate instead of the boy next door, would only devastate an unsuspecting reader.
Our job is to convey our thoughts and feelings about a book as honestly as we can, with as much information as we can give, but not too much. It’s not the reviewers purpose to re-tell the story, it’s to describe it in a way that isn’t too revealing and to give an opinion about what was read. We can ramble on endlessly, as I tend to do, or we can get straight to the point. But whatever way we choose to do it, we should think of our readers. Put ourselves in their shoes.
And that’s what I do, or at least used to do when I first started out. I’ve gotten fairly confident in writing spoiler-free reviews, but I check every once in awhile, because it’s just so easy to get caught up in the story and the moment and find that your fingers have typed things you were so sure you didn’t plan on talking about.
In my early days of reviewing, in order for me to stay on track, especially in my “on a personal note” section where I tend to be more free with my thoughts about a book, I would ask myself a series of questions and if I answered “no” to any of them, then those points of discussion wouldn’t make it into my review. And I usually asked the questions after the fact, so as not to lose my train of thought. Of course this typically involved much editing prior to the actual post going live, but it has, in at least one instance, saved me from making a huge mistake.
Some of the questions I ask myself are –
* Would I want to know how a story ends before I’ve even picked it up? Never. Not in a million, bazillion years. No. Just, no.
* Would I want to know which characters were good or bad? Depends. If it was laid out at the beginning, with no question, then yes. If it was part of the twists and turns in a story, then no.
* Would I want to know which character was lying about who they were? Never.
* Would I want to know which character won’t be in the sequel? Absolutely not. Oh no. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever tell me that.
* Would I want to know if the book was a quick read or it was weighty? Yes. Please. I must be in the right mood to read either type of book.
* Would I want to know if the book was fast-paced, slow-paced, action-filled, suspenseful, heartbreaking? Oh yes. These are always things I like to know beforehand.
* Would I want to know if the writing had good flow or more of a choppy feel? Yes. Some days I want flow, other days, choppiness.
* Would I want to know if the characters were believable, lovable, well-developed, well-written,interesting or the reverse? Definitely. I’m a huge character connect reader and I would love to have this information before I met them.
* Would I want to know if the storyline was poorly executed, confusing or tough to connect with? Most definitely.
* And would I want to know if there was a love triangle, if there was a smokin’ hot love interest, or if there were any steamy scenes? Oh yeah. But I would only want teasers not reveals. It’s great to be teased about a potential hottie. It’s not great to find out that the main character dumped love interest #1 for love interest #2.
Spoiler-free reviews are not easy to write. They pose a great challenge, especially when a book has made you so excited that you just want to shout out from the rooftop how much you loved that book. And you want to gush all about it to anyone who will listen, and even to those who don’t wish to.
So, whatever makes it easier to write those helpful but spoiler-free reviews, go for it. Because an honest review with zero spoilers is far more appealing than one that reveals too much.
What do you do to create your spoiler-free review?
Do you find it as difficult as I do to write your reviews spoiler-free?