Writing Review Articles – How To Succeed
Many writers aspire to be reviewers, but few can do it properly. Though writing review articles may seem like a dream job – being paid to see movies, listen to CDs, read books, go to the theatre, eat in restaurants, drive new cars or watch fashion shows – there are some unique challenges.
Editors take calls every week from people saying that they’ll be able to provide a world-class review of, say, a concert if the magazine will only organise a backstage pass for them. Don’t do it because you’ll look like an opportunist rather than a writer.
Writing Review Articles – Expertise Required
Reviewing jobs are almost always the preserve of high profile experts on a subject. The people who do reviews are asked to do so by editors because they are considered to be very experienced in a field, and the reader is able to associate their name with an expertise in a certain field. This authority gives their opinions weight in both the eye of the editor, and the eye of the reader.
It is very hard for a freelancer who is just starting out to get a job reviewing for a publication, simply because they do not have the same reputation and authority, and it often takes years for someone to build up this authority in the eyes of the reader and the editor.
Writing Review Articles – Build Up Authority
Well, how do you build up this authority, I hear you ask.
The best way to do this is to write for a particular publication on the one subject. For example, if you aspire to be a film reviewer, then you may want to write articles and features – which include facts and interviews and research, as opposed to straight opinion – for that magazine, and start to build up a relationship with that editor and that audience.
Once you have done a number of articles, the editor (and the reader) will both recognise that you have a certain level of understanding in the field, and then be prepared to allow you to review (or in the case of the reader, read your review while attributing a certain level of authority to your opinion). As said, this is a long-term challenge for freelance writers who have just started out, but it is certainly not an impossible one.
On the other hand, reviews in magazines often go to former staff writers who’ve gone freelance, or people well known to editors, so be careful how you approach them.
Writing Review Articles – Temper Subjectivity
A review, essentially, is a critical examination of something that involves either praise or condemnation. This, by its nature, is an extremely subjective process. After all, one man’s music might sound to someone else like cats fighting over garbage cans.
Therefore, the reviewer’s subjectiveness should be tempered through the kind of broad perspective that comes with experience and knowledge. Sadly, this is not always the case. While all magazines would like to say their reviewers have a superior understanding of their subject, many are staff writers who closely guard the privilege.
This makes it very hard for budding reviewers to get started. If you are an aspiring film or TV reviewer, in particular, you’d best be served by pursuing it as a hobby while deriving your main income from other forms of writing.
Writing Review Articles – Define Your Niche
I would suggested that, if you want to write about theatre, for example, and have a real chance of being commissioned, that you think about how you can create more traditional articles around these subjects. For example, you might do a piece on how the shows have been received by a selection of fans, and whether it had lived up to their expectations.
For this you could interview people who attended the shows, as well as experts on the subject such as credible theatre writers, and theatre critics who may have seen the show. This would allow you to write about the subject whilst also giving the piece a great newsworthy angle.
Reviewing is a very competitive field and writing review articles may not be the best place to start for a budding new writer. If you feel however that you can prove an overwhelming expertise in a particular field you should at least be prepared to give it a go.