Archive for January 19th, 2008

Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge: Write a Review

Sue Fagalde LickBy Sue Fagalde Lick

Welcome to the new Freelancing for Newspapers challenge. Each month, I will suggest a task that should be fun and may even lead to publication. You are welcome to share your results or discuss the challenge here, as well as at my Freelancing for Newspapers blog. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

Reviews are written and published on almost everything a person can experience or buy, including books, concerts, trips, restaurants, CDs, art exhibits, movies, cameras, computer software, cruises, cars, even the latest hybrid roses. Look at the feature section of your newspaper for examples, especially in the Friday and Sunday editions. Freelancers write many of these reviews. Although they don’t pay a fortune, they do pay something and earn you clips that may lead to other work.

A review is more than just a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, four stars or no stars. It’s a blend of explanation and evaluation. In an average of two double-spaced pages, sometimes less, you need to pack a lot of information. At minimum, the successful review must contain:

  • An engaging first line that makes the reader read on
  • A theme or idea that ties the review together
  • Basic information, such as title, author, publisher, what type of product it is and a summary of what it contains
  • Background on what has preceded it, such as other books the author has published or previous CDs by the same artist
  • Evaluation, looking in particular at the purpose of the thing being reviewed and how well it achieves that purpose, with examples to back up your opinion

Your challenge this month is to write a practice review. Keep it under 500 words. The shorter the better, as long as it contains all the necessary elements. Look at published reviews to see how the writers do it. In addition to your local paper, try The New York Times Book Review or the Rotten Tomatoes movie reviews. A search for “[name of type] reviews” will yield more examples.
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Sue Fagalde Lick, author of Freelancing for Newspapers, worked as a staff writer, photographer and editor for newspapers in California and Oregon for many years before moving into full-time freelancing. In addition to countless newspaper and magazine articles, she has published three books on Portuguese Americans. She has taught workshops at Oregon Coast Community College, online for Writing-world.com and for Willamette Writers and California Writers Club. She offers an online course on reviews as well as individual coaching. See her website and visit her blog.

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