There’s something to be said for secrecy. Nothing worse than going to a movie and finding out all the best parts were given away in trailers, or meandering through your social media feeds and having someone give away a key plot point (anyone recall the King Joffrey fiasco? The Red Wedding? No? Trust me, it was crushing).
Secrecy surrounded The Force Awakens from the very start. Some were miffed by it. How dare they keep info from us?? That continued right up to opening day, and now we have folks threatening to delete “friends” from their list and disown family members who give anything away.
Throughout all of this I couldn’t help reflect on how Wendi and I tend to keep our stories under wraps through our whole writing process and beyond. Close friends know better than to ask me too many questions. All I have to do it give them The Look that says, “Do you really want to know? Too bad, I’m not going to tell you even if you beg and try bribing me with a lobster salad bagel sandwich from The Bagel Café.” (and if you’ve ever been to the BC in Vegas, you’ll know that’s one offer you have to fight to refuse).
What scares me though are reviews, particularly the kind that are more of a story synopsis than discussion of the story itself. I read through those on the edge of my seat, fervently whispering, “Don’t give it away…don’t give it away…” Not to sound obnoxious, but our stories are so tightly written even creating a spoiler-free back cover blurb is a challenge.
We like allowing our audience to discover all the twists and turns for themselves. We want them to experience it the way we did, not knowing what’s coming next, gasping for air between heart-rending scenes, feeling each and every triumph and pitfall. In a society where so much is given away, it’s good to have a few secrets.
This is why I don’t understand how writers can post chapters in progress on their blogs. And while critique groups are good, I have a hard time bringing myself to share a work in progress because it’s not done! That has nothing to do with perfectionism or fear of ridicule. It’s just not done. We’re still working magic.
If you want to see how to write a review without giving anything away, take a peek at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds review of The Force Awakens. Chuck did a great job of telling you how he felt about the film without letting one single spoiler slip.
So, how can you write a review without spoilers? Here’s a few tips to put into practice (and feel free to practice on our Saga!)
- Don’t summarize the whole book. Sure it’s great to refer to events here and there, but don’t give a rundown of the story from cover to cover. Leave some meat on the bone for those new readers to sink their teeth into. They don’t need a play by play. A brief one liner on the overall theme is enough. Need some examples? Carrie Ann Lahain is queen of the log line. Go take a look at some of her reviews for excellent examples.
- Write from the heart. How did the book make you feel? Bored? Excited? Frustrated? Frustrated in an oh-so-good way? Did you throw the book across the room? Did it leave you wanting more? This is what readers really want to know. Check out Erin Talbert over at Bookstruck Books and Other Loves to see how it’s done.
- Be honest. Nobody’s perfect. Honest feedback helps authors grow. Didn’t like something in the story? Offer constructive feedback rather than just saying you didn’t like it. What would you have preferred to see instead?
- Discuss themes. Every book has a theme. Many books have intensely deep themes that aren’t always apparent on the first read-through. Dig into the story, what do you think the author was trying to say? Was it pure, mindless entertainment or did you find a message in there? What symbolism did you discover?
- Who’s your favorite? Who was your favorite character and why? Hero or villain, what made that character memorable for you?
These are just a few tips to get you started. Can you think of more? What kinds of reviews help you the most as a reader looking for that next “all nighter” book? How do you feel about authors keeping a tight lid on their stories until the day they release? Let us know in the comments below.