How to Write a Book Review Outline
Writing a book review requires more than simply telling readers whether or not you enjoyed a story and giving it a rating. A useful book review will give readers essential information about the story and characters without giving away elements of surprise or the ending. Book reviews are meant to alert readers to a book's value and help them decide whether or not the book is worth reading. Writing an outline before you construct your review can help ensure your book review fulfills its purpose.
Read the book with a notebook beside you. Make notes regarding the pacing of the story, especially regarding how quickly the inciting incident takes place. Make notes regarding main characters, secondary characters and how these characters interact with one another and the story's plot. Note themes and metaphors the author uses. Summarize your take on the story as you go, in concise sentences you can use when you write your review.
Summarize the story and the plot. There's a difference between the two. A story is "about" and the plot is "how." Write a brief one or one or two paragraphs detailing what the story is about first, then jot down specifics regarding plot points--how the author tells the story. The plot points should be places in the story where the author twists the story or adds an element of surprise, a new direction, or when characters reach or overcome a roadblock.
Write notes on main characters and secondary characters as they appear in the story. Give a summary of the characters, their goals within the context of the story, and how each of these characters relate to one another. Write a brief character description of important characters and some of your thoughts about character believability, the integrity of the characters, and whether or not the characters are well developed.
Make notes on the overall telling of the story. Questions you will want to address in your review should be written in your outline. Some of the questions you should consider are: does the inciting incident come quickly? Is the book a slow-paced or fast-paced read? Does the plot provide a sense of thrill or mystery? Make notes about the complexity of the plot and any secondary story lines. Answering questions for readers is the purpose of a book review.
Make a note of the book's main theme and whether it is evident or implied. Make a list of the metaphors you find in the book you will want to write about in your review.
Summarize in two or three paragraphs your impression of the book. Personal opinion separates a book review from a book report. Write down your overall impression of the book's entertainment value, the skill level of the author, and how you will recommend the book in your review.
Things You'll Need
Carl Hose is the author of the anthology "Dead Horizon" and the the zombie novella "Dead Rising." His work has appeared in "Cold Storage," "Butcher Knives and Body Counts," "Writer's Journal," and "Lighthouse Digest.". He is editor of the "Dark Light" anthology to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.