Monday, August 9, 2010

I'll Order a Sandwich, Heavy on the Good Stuff

No, this isn't turning into a food blog. Although it is early morning and I'm warming my hands with a hot mug of java. Is coffee considered a food? :-)

What I'm referring to is actually an outline of a review. A sandwich if you will, with layers that make up a pretty good format to follow if you're new at reviewing. It's pretty simple, really.

I'm not sure if the synopsis/blurb-only people will be open to this but it's a rule I've followed and it's never steered me wrong.

The Sandwich Rule: Positive, Negative, Positive.

First piece of bread: The hook (which is the second piece of bread in the loaf that you reach for because it's always freshest behind the first slice) which can be a teasing introduction sentence or a paragraph. (always positive)

The condiment: (It's too early for spicy mustard so use some mayo) An overall feeling for the book can be expressed here. What ever goes into this paragraph will be positive. Good stuff.

The fixings: Here are the meats, the cheeses and the lettuce. Oh, can't forget the tomato. This is where a reviewer will discuss the H/H, the effectiveness of plot, dialogue and other aspects they liked, what moved them, made them laugh or sniffle, or hint or tease about favorite scenes without revealing anything that would spoil the fun and adventure for a reader experiencing it for her/himself. Were there any secondary characters you'd like to meet again? This is the heart of the review and sharing with readers how it made a reviewer feel at times is a big bonus. On average, this can be two to three paragraphs, although if the book is a novel plus, it could be many more paragraphs.

The spicy condiment: I split my condiments when I make a sandwich. Here is where I use mustard and freshly ground pepper. This is also where I usually mention the things that didn't work for me in a book. You know, the negatives? Again, it's done with respect but here a reader will find the tartness of a review. Issues I'll mention might be: being thrown out of the story because of too much head-hopping, hard to follow dialogue, editing/misspelling and how much or little it affected the rating of the story, show versus tell (too much telling is NOT good writing) or basically anything that either made you stop reading, or made it slow to read. However if it recaptured your interest at some point, and it really redeemed itself you can end this paragraph by mentioning that too because....

The bottom piece of bread: This is the wrap up paragraph. This is the place that reiterates the good stuff. It's positive and it's where a reviewer recommends reading this book and why. It will mention if the reviewer is excited about finding more from this author or if this is a series, that they're eagerly anticipating the next installment because of reading this book. No negative references go in this final paragraph. Why? Because if you end it with , "It's a must read" the recommendation is deflated and undermined. Also, your wording here must reflect your stance in the spicy condiment section. If you rate it a five - a top rate, yet your spicy condiment let it be known that you were thrown off by a character's name being misspelled all over the place and the macho hero practically sucking his thumb at one point in the book, then the high marked endorsement won't make much sense. It would be more in line with a 3 1/2 -- 4 1/2 mark with the positive recommend being toned down some, "If a reader is looking for a satisfying happily ever after, this book delivers. Ms. Author has a delightful tale that readers of such and such will enjoy. It was worth the read." ... see? It's positive but it's not gush-gush glowy and fan-girl squee.
That's the Sandwich.

I realize that not a lot of reviewers follow this example but this can be tweaked. How? By putting the negative in the middle instead of closer to the end. It's still following the basic format of:

And that's all there is to it.

I don't know about you, but I'm ready to eat. ;-)


Alisha Paige said...

Great blog! I love how you outlined all the parts of a sandwich and compared it to a review. I wish every reviewer had a copy of this blog. I think we'd all have better menus from which to choose the books we read. And now I'm hungry!

Xeranthemum said...

Alisha, your comment means a lot to me, thank you.

The site for whom I review for is pretty pleased as well and has actually asked their reviewers to visit, especially the newbies. I really would like reviewers to come visit as well as start a dialogue.

I realize that some of what I say may not be received well but I had to start somewhere.

And like I said on FB, your post really got me to thinking. There really isn't ONE place that actually discusses HOW to review and what makes some better than others.

Maybe, just maybe, this could be that place?
Only time will tell. But I'm SO glad you liked what you read. ;-)

And...roast beef or ham? *gg*

Pauline B Jones said...

I've always wondered how one sorted through your impressions of a book enough to condense it into a review. I tend to write, "I liked it," which would be why I'm not a reviewer. LOL

Great analysis of the process. I will look at the sandwich of my reviews more carefully. :-)

Sandra Sookoo said...

This is a very interesting look at building a review. I wish more reviewers would see it this way :-) Good job!

Xeranthemum said...

Hello, Pauline! And thank you for visiting.

Also, thank you for the compliment. It's a process that works for me but I am willing to share it on the blog in hopes it could help others who wonder the same as you.

I will look at the sandwich of my reviews more carefully.
lol... :-)
Love it!

Xeranthemum said...

::WAVES:: Hi, Sandra!

Thank you!

Chrystal said...

I have bookmarked and followed your blog for future reference while writing my next reviews. Great posts and topics!