In the past few years, "review" has been one of my most common node types here on E2. It is something that I enjoying doing, and that I wish that I could see more of on here. To encourage people to write reviews, I want to explain how I write reviews (which is not the only or best way to do so), and then more importantly, I want to write about why I write reviews.
First, you need a target for a review. Some of the things that I have used for subjects of reviews are movies (short and long), books, and television shows. There is most likely some form of media that you are enthusiastic about, and there is a good chance that other people share your enthusiasm, or could given enough prodding. For me, I usually only read or view my chosen target once, and do little or minimal background information. This isn't out of laziness as much as I don't want to cloud my reaction with critical appraisals or extraneous biographical information. The first paragraph of my review usually consists of basic factual information: the year of release, the type of medium, the name of the creators, the genre of the work, and sometimes a little bit of context. For example:
"The Stars in Their Courses, a 1995 novel by Ivana B Leshargo, and was her first foray into writing science-fiction."
The second paragraph I usually include a brief synopsis, which I try to make spoiler free. This includes the setting, characters and basic plot. I sometimes will include spoilers if the work either is so well-known that most people know the ending, or if the work can't be described critically without explaining the full run of the plot. I also usually don't describe the plot scene by scene, because that seems needlessly encyclopedic. I will usually segue between writing an outline of the story to describing my reaction to it. I may include general remarks about the work's general reception, but I don't include an overall metacritique of other critiques because...that is a lot of work. In general, I like to just give my personal reaction to it, giving both positive and negative reactions, and comparing and contrasting it to similar works. I will usually then write a concluding paragraph where I provide some overall context for the work's importance.
Although Leshargo will never be a second Vonnegut, this book is still an interesting read, and provides some interesting insights into the course of Portuguese literature of the late 20th century.
At least, this is how I usually do things. There have been works who I disliked so much that I turned them into rants, which often did not meet with much approval by this sites editorial staff. But this is my simple backbone for writing reviews.
That then, is the how. But for me, the "why" is much more important. Why am I in the process of watching the entirety of The Twilight Zone and writing reviews for all of it? Why do I try to put down a few paragraphs on every book I read? There are a few reasons.
My first personal reason is that by writing something, I seem to retain more. When I look back at books I have read over the years, I find books that I remember liking, but that I don't remember much more about. And then there are books that I can place into much more context. And the books that I can remember are usually the ones that I've written a review of: even if I write only three short paragraphs, I tend to retain a lot more. The ability to add linking between different works also lets me see how my interests have evolved: I often discover one writer through another.
A wider, non-personal reason, is that this site is well-designed for writing reviews. It is actually a very good niche for the format we have here. More encyclopedic and objective information is available elsewhere, and places to dump purely personal feelings are also available elsewhere. But writing a review allows people to combine personal insight, reactions and experiences with something that is objectively available to others. The fact that this site allows multiple writeups from different angles also helps reviews: a popular novel or movie would quite comfortably fit ten reviews, each adding something different to the overall picture. Reviewing also doesn't require specialist knowledge: although having a graduate degree in English might give you some perspective into The Grapes of Wrath, just about anyone who reads the book is going to have something valuable to write. Also, finally, I hope that reviews could be a way that more people are drawn to this site. There are many people who like to read and discuss their favorite books, movies and television shows, and I would be quite happy if more of them did it here.