Editorial Assistance

Writing and Reviewing

In a previous post, I said that I would explain how I go about reviewing for Suspense Magazine. Well, I keep my word (even if it takes me ages to get back to the word that I kept). But, before that, I'd like to touch on the short story idea that's been brewing in my brain since last night two days ago.

Yes, the genre will be horror; no, I have not written anything down yet. lol. This stems from my fear of writing short stories.

The idea started because there is something odd and dark above my window, and I hadn't noticed it until two days ago. I started to ask myself all types of questions: What is it, exactly? Why did it start above my window? What if the dark stuff started claiming the room until it claimed the whole room? What if only I could see the dark stuff growing?

When I have the time, or whenever I make the time, I have a wonderful premise and vague set of plans. However, I've also accomplished making myself terrified of this room. Of course, the dark stuff hasn't grown, but I also can't get it off, and my eye always finds it. I still don't know what it is!

Now, about my process of reviewing for Suspense Mag. I have a big box of books that the editor has chosen, based on my preferences, to read and review. So far, I've reviewed about 5 books. Within the first 20 pages of a novel, no matter how big the novel is, I already have the whole review planned out and mostly written. When I actually finish the book, all I have to do is go back to the review and add in some stuff here and there.


First off, a Suspense Magazine review is NOTHING like a Wall Street Journal review. Suspense Mag publishes reviews of a lot of books each issue (as well as movies). Because of that, the reviews are asked to be 3-4 paragraphs. There is not a set formulaic format, but this is the set formulaic format I follow:

1st paragraph: Always come up with a hook. Often, the hook corresponds directly to the story's start, but not always. As long as it's catchy and relevant, I use it.

2nd paragraph: Summarize the beginning of the book until it gets to the Big Question of the novel, which will undoubtedly show up within the first 20 pages. Don't say much past the Big Question. I want to make the readers excited to know what's next -- not spoil the plot.

3rd paragraph: I give my opinion of the story as a whole. I try to keep it nice. Even if I don't like the story, I keep two things in mind: 1.) Someone else is prone to like it; 2.) I don't want authors to hate me. lol. Generally, if there's something I don't like and can't get over, I just nicely mention it.

4th: Bring the Big Question back again, usually as a standalone sentence. Or bring forth something good or unique about the novel (The examples are actually from my reviews). Can you keep up with the God of Clocks?/ Now it's up to Madison. Can she help the real vampires stop the wannabees?/ This tale is as much about loss as it is about Mo and Andrea, his wife, reminding Frank that there is as much to look forward to as there is to look back at./ In a time where vampire books are all over the place, Wolf's Cross is not only a refreshing break, but an intriguing view of the werewolves' world.

Even though I can finish most of a review early on in the story, I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS finish the novel and really take it in. I feel it would be disrespectful to the author and Suspense Mag if I didn't.

Well, this blog post is already too long. Thanks for reading!
4 Responses
  1. Weldon Burge Says:

    Tiffany, for my first Suspense book review, I took notes as I read, and pretty much had the review written in my head by the time I hit the last page of the novel. But I think your methodology is spot on. I look forward to reading your reviews!

  2. Tiffany Cole Says:

    Thanks! I look forward to reading yours as well. When I first got the box of books, I planned to do that, but I figured that would somehow make me weary of reading the book. I mean, I'm always taking notes in school.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Reviewing for the magazine is definitely an honor. I love that I get to read a book long before the masses; I feel like I'm in on some big secret and that's always neat. The only problem I have is when the book is exceptional, it's hard to stop writing about it. As far as writing a review for a book I didn't like, I don't. There's nothing good to come from a negative review and just because I don't enjoy it doesn't mean no one else will either. If I can just find one thing to connect to like a character, or the descriptions or the plot, etc. then I write my review around what I liked about the book without saying I didn't like the book as a whole. The other side of the coin, I never write a fake review. If there's nothing I can connect to, I will not write a positive review. My name goes on what I put out there and it has to be the truth as I see it or I'm doing an injustice to everyone involved.

  4. Tiffany Cole Says:

    Very understandable. It's great to have a code of ethics. You share many of my views. Honestly, I can only name about two or three books I've read that I completely disliked, and they weren't Suspense Mag books. Just my own leisure books. I reviewed one of which, but my words was so spiting that I purposely lost the review somewhere in my closet, where I won't let anyone read it. lol.

    P.S. Wow! It took me forever to reply. I wonder why blogspot doesn't alert me when I get new comments? Gotta go in the options and change something, I see...