They tell us that to be good novelists, we must read and read a lot. The same goes for the writing and watching of movies and, as a writer who subscribes to this theory, I spend a lot of my disposable income (too much, some tell me) on books, the cinema and DVDs.
But for every book I read and film I see, there are dozens that I have to leave behind, due to the vastness of choice and the fact that there are only twenty-four hours in a day (some of which must be spent earning a pesky living). So to help me choose what story gets my undivided attention during my spare time, I rely heavily on reviews.
Not so long ago, reviewing of books and films mostly came from the established journalists who would provide us with a few column inches on their opinion in the Sunday paper. These still exist of course and some, such as Barry Norman, Mark Kermode and John Carey, have made a name and career for themselves solely as reviewers. But in this modern age (do I sound old using that expression?) of the internet, the likes of Goodreads and Amazon allow anyone to become a de facto reviewer. And for those who just want to gush about the book they love or trash the one they hate, that’s fair enough.
But there are also dedicated publications websites, such as Total Film, entertainment.ie and, of course, writing.ie which feature fully impartial, honest and detailed reviews. These publications don’t necessarily have the aforementioned journalists on staff to do that job and therefore welcome, and at times rely on, contribution from freelance writers. You can upload your reviews to writing.ie here.
As I mentioned above, it’s not just about gushing or trashing and so there is a certain skillset that should be attained for those of us who wish to become, and be taken seriously as, a reviewer. And this can be realistically split into two categories, (1) how to write a good review and (2) how to actually get it published.
The general knowledge how-to website Essortment.com gives us a practical guide into how to creatively and effectively critique a book and then how to climb the reviewing ladder. , suggesting that we should start off on our own website or blog and work our way up until we’re getting paid the big bucks by the daily newspapers.
Rose Matthews on Chron.com suggests that having a background as a novelist or screenwriter will definitely augment our abilities as a reviewer. In her column about the role of a critic, she also reminds us that a review should include both a description and an evaluation of the story.
For more detail on to what to look for when we’re reviewing a book or film, it’s worth checking out Wikihow’s step-by-step guide. It suggests that, crucially, we need to see more than what the usual audience sees and that we need to set different parameters for different types of film.
Bookkus.com not only offers advice on becoming a book critic but also offers opportunities to have reviews published on their website. By signing up, we commit to review a certain number of books per month (we choose the quantity that we‘re comfortable with) and then read and submit a review of each book. This might be a worthwhile alternative to posting our own blog, as they already have a dedicated following.
That said, we might be more comfortable starting off within the comfort-zone of a blog. It means that we’re fully in control of how and when we submit during the initial finding-our-feet period. And of course we can continue to maintain and post to this blog we start being published elsewhere. Many established reviewers continue to contribute to their own or corporate blog. Mark Kermode, for example, regularly posts on his BBC blog. It gives him the freedom to write longer and more detailed reviews and commentaries and expand on items he has previously published or broadcast. Mark’s blog, which also features video clips and interviews, is an excellent model on which we can base our own.
“The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.” – Oscar Wilde
Giz A Job.
Essortment.com s guide to critiquing and getting a job as a reviewer.
“If you love to read a job as a book reviewer might be perfect for you.”
So What Am I Doing?
Chron.com takes us through the role of a critic.
“A critic offers an assessment of arts or culture and can specialize in one of a variety of genres, including film, theatre, music and books.
WikiHow guides us through what we need to look for when reviewing.
Bookkus.com invite us to become a book reviewer on their website.
“When you ask us, “How to Become a Book Reviewer?” We say, “It’s not hard, join us!””
Here’s One We Made Earlier.
Mark Kermode’s blog on the BBC website is a good model for setting up a reviewing blog.
“This twice-weekly video blog is the place where he airs his personal views on the things that most fire him up about cinema.”