Writing The Perfect Review

Do you want to write the perfect review? Do you want to know how to do it? I will tell you.

Pick a work to review, any work, a novel, an anthology, a fanzine, whatever. Tear it to pieces. Think about all of the things that reviewers worry about – characterization, plot, style, philosophic themes, objectives, appearance, whatever. Try to get in as many slants as possible. Find a unity of perception. Write it all down; get everything on paper; write at least thirty pages.

Now take that thirty page analysis and boil it all down to two or three pages. In doing so retain all of the essential content of your thirty page critique. What is more, your two page condensation should suggest further thoughts that were not in the thirty page critique.

Is this the perfect review? No. You can not write the perfect review this way because your two page piece will be a warmed over rewrite and it will show. This is an exercise in learning how to write write rich, dense, suggestive and illuminating prose.

Pick another work. Do it again. Keep doing it until you can do it easily and naturally. Once you can do it well try to write those two pages without first writing the initial thirty page critique. Think of all the things that would have been in those thirty pages but don’t write them; just write the two pages. When you can do this and do it so that those pregnant two pages come naturally and so that they reflect the inspiration the work at hand inspires in you – then you are ready to start writing reviews for real.

Sounds good. I guess I’ll let someone else do it.

This page was last updated September 8, 1996.