Positive Ways to Write a Negative Review 101

Friday, April 13, 2018

I do not claim to be an expert of writing reviews, especially negative ones with a positive slant.
However, I have been reviewing for eleven years and in those eleven years I have seen doozies of very harsh reviews. What bothers me the most about harsh review is that the author becomes the object of the attack instead of the words on the page.

If the reviewer finished the book, what kept them reading? There had to be something positive, yet most reviews just go on and on about what was wrong.

Think about the book you are currently or just finished reading, are you or did you enjoy it, if so why? If not, why not? If you aren't enjoying it would you be able to write a review with some positives that gives the potential reader the ability to choose whether they would like to read it?

This might seem a little weird but what was your expectation about the book.
Let's say you've had a really, really bad week. Sick kids, broken down car, husband just lost his job...so you look at your shelf and see a book by one of your favorite authors, and think "hmm...this is just what I need." A Calgon take me away moment. You start the book and it grabs your attention, you continue reading because parts of it pull you in, you get about halfway through aren't totally enthused but you're committed and it's keeping your mind off of your reality so, you finish it. You close the book and think what did I just read, and why, because it just didn't give you the warm fuzzies you were expecting. Is that the book's fault or did you, the reader expect more from the book than it was intended to give?

We all read for different reasons. I read because I love it, and it gives me a place to go when I have to stay home. I also read because promoting inspirational authors is a divine calling, and I truly enjoy every minute of it. Yet, it doesn't matter how much I enjoy reading I'm going to come across a book or two that just doesn't cut the mustard for me, which bears the question how do I write a fair review without trashing the author. My answer, very, very carefully.

First things first, if you've had a rough week, similar to one I described above, let the book sit for a few days. You don't want the "troubles" of the week to influence your review. It's not fair to the book or the author.
In a paperback copy of a book I have a post it note with lines and make notes, on a kindle copy I highlight and leave notes throughout the book. Write down notes that are on your mind immediately after finishing that you can come back to after a few days.

Second, no matter how hard it may seem pull out one positive thing from the book. Maybe you liked the setting the author placed the book in, the way the MC interacted with everyone even if you didn't like certain things, it could even be that the book was real. Whatever you decide is the best positive start the review off with that.

Third, as you give the meat of your review, which should be about what you didn't care for, be kind. Think about what would be encouraging to read if you were the author.

For example, saying the book was believable, and I was surprised by the suspense thread, but I found the faith thread to be a little preachy, or nonexistent is kinder than saying . . . this book isn't even moral, or I felt like I was being smacked over the head with a Bible while reading.

In ending your review attempt to find something else positive about the book. You always want to end a negative review with something positive.

For me, if the genre is out of my normal comfort zone and I didn't care for it, I'll say "This is not a normal genre read for me, if it is something you read, give it a shot don't take my review alone."

As a reviewer it is our job to write a truthful review as kindly as we can. I don't ever want to hurt an author with my words. I want to encourage their writing and hope that my review provides some constructive criticism.

Two of my reviewer buddies have agreed to allow me to post reviews they wrote about a book they didn't care for or one that took some time getting into.

Carrie from Reading is My SuperPower wrote a review about a book neither of us cared for, If He Only Knew.

Molly from Cafinated Reads wrote a review about The Man He Never Was. It is my favorite book of James Rubart, but Molly states very kindly how difficult it was to get into.

Here is my review of Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not? by Travis Thrasher. This was the first book I reviewed that I didn't care for.

Writing honest reviews isn't easy, whether it is a book you loved or one you didn't care for. It takes thought and care. I've been told that author's have pretty tough skin, and while that might be true, I don't want to be responsible for putting a dent in that skin by my words.

I am honestly not writing a post saying "you must do this!" when it comes to writing a review. That is not my intention.
I recently read a review on Goodreads that I felt was rather harsh. So, I thought to myself why not use my blogging skill to give some hints on how to write a review for a book that a reader may not really like, yet to fulfill a blog tour requirement they need to write a review of said book. I know for me it took me a few days to write the review of Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?, mainly because I hadn't written a negative review until then.

Happy Friday!!


6 Responses to “Positive Ways to Write a Negative Review 101”
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it's important to balance honesty with kindness - and to be kind even in your honesty. That's why these reviews are (or should be) so hard to write!

Exactly, Carrie! We’ve talked about this and both agree that writing reviews for books we don’t care for can be excruciating. They should never be off the cuff, immediate thoughts. They need to be thought out. Even prayed about.

Nice post. I am not a real blogger (I've had a few guest spots) I don't know how you all do what you do. I do review books though. I've written a few reviews of books I didn't really enjoy. I tried to focus on one or two points that I thought others might like.
There are days that I might not be feeling well or just in a bad mood that I know I should not write any type of book review. I take a couple days, look over my Kindle highlights and notes, then go from there.

Hi, Andrea! Those are great thoughts. Thanks for sharing them. ❤️

I totally agree with this post! I’m struggling right now on writing a review of a book that gets a 2 Star from me. It’s so hard. But, if we can’t be honest, what can we be? I always try to respect the authors though, as well as other readers as just because I didn’t particularly like a book, doesn’t mean others won’t enjoy it more than I. I know with this review I absolutely have to be honest on my thoughts but it’s taking lots of prayer because I know it’s going to upset the author, no matter how kind I am in the review. :(

Thanks for the great post and some examples of writing an honest but constructive review. I’ve been seriously writing book reviews for about 2 years now and ran into some problems trying to write reviews for books I didn’t enjoy just recently. Although I tried my best, I realized (after some interesting feedback from the authors) that I perhaps shouldn’t read books in genres that I don’t particularly enjoy (or just don’t post those reviews) and that I should make ‘encouragement’ as my primary goal, not critique of writing technique or plot development while staying true and honest. And, yes, prayer has become a big component of writing my review.

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