Let’s Talk: How to Write Negative Reviews

Hi there, fellow readers! Today’s discussion post is going to be a little long, but hopefully worth it!

In my short time as a blogger, I have seen a lot of people say they hate writing negative reviews. I’ve even seen a few people on Goodreads and NetGalley who outright refuse to do it. They’ll give a book a low star rating, but then they’ll write nothing but good things about the book in their review.

Personally, I have no problem writing negative reviews, and, to be perfectly honest, I sometimes enjoy it as much as writing positive reviews because they tend to spark the most conversation about a book. So, I decided to do a little mini-series about negative reviews. First up is how to write negative reviews in the first place.

This is all just based on my personal experience as a blogger, and as someone who went through a lot of writing workshops and critiques to get my Creative Writing degree. If you have a different opinion, feel free to let me know!

Let’s get to it!

Always, always, ALWAYS be respectful!

I don’t care if you just finished the WORST book you have ever read; when it comes to writing a negative review, ALWAYS stay respectful. Even if you hated everything about it, the author put a lot of time, energy, and passion into that book, and you have no right to be a jerk.

“But Ryann,” you say, “If I REALLY hated a book, how can I be honest without seeming disrespectful?” I’m so glad you asked. Always remember that this is your OPINION. What you hate about a book, others might LOVE. Instead of outright declaring, “The characters were AWFUL,” try something closer to, “Personally, I found it hard to really connect with any of the characters.” This way, you’re being honest about your dislike of the book, while still remaining respectful of the author and others who may enjoy the book.

If you can’t pinpoint WHY you don’t like something, don’t mention it

This one might be a little controversial, but for me, if I can’t tell you WHY I didn’t like something, I won’t mention it. I will never say, “I just didn’t like this aspect of the book, I’m not sure why.” I will always try to work out the reason.

Simply saying you didn’t like somethingย doesn’t help anyone. If someone reads my review and sees, “I just didn’t like it,” that doesn’t tell them if THEY won’t like it. But, if I can say, “I didn’t like the romance because it had ALL the insta-love,” they can decide whether or not insta-love is a good enough reason for THEM to pass on the book. And, if an author reads your review, “I just didn’t like it” doesn’t tell them how they can improve their writing for their next books (and it can just be a little demoralizing).

Try to find something to like

I know this can sometimes be a little difficult, especially if the book you disliked was a book you had been looking forward to that utterly disappointed and betrayed you. But being able to mention one or two things you liked about the book will go a long way in turning a negative review from seeming like a long rant to a more respectful, “not for me.”ย In my reviews, it’s sometimes been as simple as, “This book had a great premise,” or “I can see a lot of potential for Book 2,” or it can be more specific, like, “While I was disappointed with most of this book, Side Character #2 really stood out and kept me reading more.” Whatever it is, try to make sure you add some positive aspect into a negative review to let readers know you really did give it a fair shot.

The 3-2-1 Rule

This one is probably just a me thing, but I have a 3-2-1 Rule I try to follow. If I REALLY disliked a book, to keep my negative review in check, I’ll keep it to 3 points: 2 negative and 1 positive: 3-2-1. This rule helps me keep my review organized, and also keeps me from ranting about everything that bothered me. Instead, I pick the top two things that irritated me, and leave it at that. Then, I’ll add that positive aspect mentioned above, to let readers know I really did try to like the book. This way, I don’t sound like a jerk, and readers don’t have to read the mad ravings of a disappointed book lunatic.

Main Quest

That’s it for this week’s discussion! Thanks for reading!

What about you? Have you ever found it hard to write a negative review? Do you disagree with any of my negative review rules? Or do you have any of your own to add? Let me know in the comments below!


31 thoughts on “Let’s Talk: How to Write Negative Reviews

  1. I have even felt “bashed” for not liking or even liking a book that others didn’t!! People are very critical in their reviews sometimes. I never want to bash a book without considering the points that you made and I enjoyed your post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a nice post! I just wrote a not so negative but a mildly negative (lol I think it was mild, I don’t know?) on my blog. And yes I really hope I wasn’t too harsh because I did followed it up with positive comments.
    I agree that the author must have put so much of energy and their time into the book, and reading bashes about the characters and the book they are so attatched to must leave them heart-broken!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I worry that I might get too harsh in reviews sometimes but I just get really passionate in reviews for books I didn’t enjoy. This can cause a lot of all caps talking… but I also try to play my rage for comedy more than anything. And I always try to find SOMETHING good to say, most of the time, that’ll mean that I mention liking the ideas behind a book but not the way those ideas were executed

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have the same issue! I get a little too carried away, sometimes. And I use the all caps a lot, too ๐Ÿ˜‚

      I think as long as you find SOMETHING nice to say, then it all works out! โ˜บ


  4. The 3-2-1 rule is a really good idea for keeping a review on track. It can be easy to let your emotions get in the way sometimes so if I didn’t enjoy a book I give myself a few days to distance myself from it and then write a more objective review. It can be daunting though, especially if it’s a book that a lot of people have loved!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! The 3-2-1 Rule is probably the most important for me. Looking back on some of my earlier reviews, I cringe at how rambly/unorganized they are.

      And giving yourself some time away from the book is a great idea! It gives you more time to organize your thoughts.

      (And disliking a book everyone else loves is THE. WORST.)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. AWESOME post!! I have had a lot of people tell me they don’t like writing negative reviews, but as readers we need to be honest about the things we don’t like. And I agree, we still have to be respectful! A book is published because someone, somewhere enjoyed it, and the author was brave enough to write it and put it out in the world. Thanks for the awesome post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! ๐Ÿ˜€ When I first started blogging, writing negative reviews always made me feel a little guilty. But I was always more interested in being honest, so I had to lay down these ground rules for my negative reviews. And I hope some other book bloggers may find them helpful.

      And few things bother me more than when I see someone being disrespectful towards a book’s readers or author just because they didn’t like it! Just state your opinion and let other people love it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Right. I feel like we need to be totally honest in blogging because we spend so much effort writing gushing reviews that it would be unfair to write about things we didn’t enjoy! And I admit, I may not have worded my dislikes as eloquently as your ground rules suggest, but I always try to make sure that I state that it is my opinion or preference and then I try to find something positive to point out.

        I absolutely hate seeing people disrespect authors, and bloggers with different opinions!! It’s hard to avoid seeing that on Twitter though. That is where I see the most book hate, but I get a lot of blog traffic from there. But I am with you, state your opinion and leave others alone unless you are able to have a civil, intelligent discussion.

        Liked by 1 person

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