Val wrote a really great article on the short attention span of readers who don’t actually read longer reviews. There has been a feeling that the longer the review is, the more thorough and worthwhile the review may be. I’ve fallen into the trap of that thinking and I can honestly say that may not be true. I tend to be overly verbose so I can appreciate the more succinct reviewers.
However when attempting to “trim down” a review I find that everything seems so important to say. [I’m *so* glad I’m not an author and have to edit beloved scenes and characters.] I always do a paragraph at the top that summarizes my feelings on the book. This is for those that don’t want to read anymore and it’ll briefly give the highlights or the potential problems. From there I summarize the plot in one paragraph and then go into the meat of the story. I talk about the characters developed or under developed, the world building, the plot itself –does it make sense or not- and the writing, editing, mistakes or not. As anyone can see this definitely adds up when writing a review.
So which of those topics or any presented in reviews are actually important to readers? This is what I wonder. If readers are really possessed of such short attention spans what is important to know? Val claims that the star rating is the first indicator and I have to agree. I know the majority of readers will first and foremost make snap decisions based on the star rating. Some will read further and a lot won’t bother so those star ratings are the first and potentially most important part of any review.
What else though…do readers really care if characters are developed and three dimensional? This is such a stock statement to review writing that I wonder if it’s lost any meaning. I wonder if the only time this should be trotted out is if the characters are wooden, boring, or without any appreciable depth at all. Is it fair to give the benefit of the doubt to the book and assume all is well if not explicitly stated otherwise? I think the exception to this is the obvious character driven stories where that is the essence and importance of the story, much more so than an action plot or a mystery.
I also really wonder if readers care about the writing. I realize what a negative comment that is but truly think about it. What appeals to one reader about the writing may not appeal to another and rarely do any reviews talk about the writing except in broad terms. The writing is good, decent, excellent, poor. What makes it good versus decent versus poor? Does that matter to the reader so much as the story itself? Will plot holes ruin the mystery or are the characters interesting?
I’ve read many, many, many reviews that are lengthy but tend to just be recitations of the story with about one or two paragraphs tacked onto the end with personal feelings and thoughts. Clearly these reviews take effort and care to write so much but again, I wonder if that’s at all helpful.
I’m just as guilty of the problems in review writing as any one else and so this isn’t to call reviews out on being boring or not worthwhile. It’s more of a question to the readers – what is important to you and amid all these staples we find in reviews, do any of them really matter?