The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.extra (How I Write a Chapter Review)

Hi, and welcome to “Emily gets bored of reviewing chapters and goes looking for other self-indulgent content.” I’m your host, Bored Emily, and I’m here to talk you through how I go about writing each TRC Reread post. I’ve done this upwards of 55 times, so I’d like to say I have it down to a science, but I really don’t.

There’s a couple different style of chapters that you’ll find in The Raven Cycle, some more common than others, and after the standard first look process I go through with every chapter, they mandate different processes and styles of writing. I’m going to do my best to talk about the process overall, as well as go into a little more depth about three distinct styles of chapter you can find in Stiefvater’s writing.

Post-It Noting

Before I even crack open the word document where I write all of the chapter reviews, I go through the chapter with a pen and a stack of post-it notes. This is partially for me–I discovered that if I went straight into summary I wasn’t enjoying the content–and partially because without getting a sense of the chapter as a whole, the reviews were really top-heavy and unfocused. I spent a lot of time talking about what was going on at the beginning and then ran out of steam by the end, and there was no understanding of the chapter as a whole narrative unit.

I drop a comment whenever I see something that might be a good quote for the ratings at the end, or when I notice something interesting or dumb. A lot of it is just me cheering on Blue whenever she does something sassy.

They’re helpful because a lot of the time I’ll be tired of writing once I get to Thoughts and Feelings, and that sucks because I do have a lot of those during the first pass at a chapter, I just forget them while I’m summarizing. Being able to go back through and scan for notes not only jogs the old memory but also creates a process of inherent revision: I get to tweak the original post-it idea into something that makes a little more sense and flows better in whatever section of the review it’s going in.

the fun thing about post-its is that they can be helpful, cute, or so unnecessary I don’t even want to address them

The timing varies; I sometimes do this right before I jump into a review, and sometimes I’m too lazy to write so I just get a couple weeks ahead on post-it noting. There’s pros and cons to both methods; fresh eyes can be good but if I wait too long I might have no idea what the hell I was trying to say.

Whether or not anything on the Post-Its makes sense, after I’m finished marking up a chapter I have to jump into summary and review. This process is pretty different for each type of chapter, so I’m gonna go through them one by one.

Short Villainous Interludes

Stiefvater likes to throw in a word from our resident bad guy every couple of chapters. I was more against this in Raven Boys because I didn’t like the villain, and less so in Dream Thieves because the Gray Man has a sense of humor. But regardless of the character, Short Villainous Interludes have a couple of key characteristics: 1) They’re less than 5 pages, 2) They feed the reader 1-2 important nuggets of information that the Gangsey doesn’t know about yet, and 3) For the first 2/3 of the book there is little to no emotional weight to them.

These are easy to bang out because there’s very little plot to cover. The summaries are quick and consist mostly of me just making fun of people, and my thoughts and feelings are most generally something in the realm of “ugh” and “this is not as bad as I thought it was going to be.”

Where I run into trouble, sometimes, is the ratings. I’m supposed to pick out a character moment and a turn of phrase, but often these chapters are so short I’m left feeling like I’ve already copied the entire thing in quotations. But while that feels morally wrong, it’s not the worst thing. I wasn’t lying when I said these chapters are, at most, five pages. It’s not a lot to be copying down.

Bottle Episodes

This term comes officially from television, when, to save money on sets and extras (and maybe for the writers to do an in-depth character study, but this feels like wishful thinking on my part) there is an entire episode spent in one place. Think “The One Where No One is Ready” from Friends.

What I mean when I talk about books is a chapter where the Gangsey and/or the women of Fox Way are hanging out in one place and talking. This could have emotional weight or be important to the plot, but it could also be utter nonsense. The key to these chapters is that we’re learning about the characters and there’s not a lot going on besides a lot of hilarious side comments I want to include but don’t have room for.

Posts about these chapters end up being far too long and enormously over analyzed because I’m having such a good time learning about and gently making fun of my favorite characters. I write them fast and I mourn them when they’re over.

Long Emotional Rollercoasters

These chapters are exactly what they sound like. They usually involve Adam Parrish or Ronan Lynch and their complicated pasts. Whenever I skip a post or take time off, it’s usually because I ran up against one of these and the work just isn’t that fun anymore.

That’s not to say that these chapters aren’t good–they are, and they’re enormously important, and this series would be absolutely nothing without them. It’s just that there’s so much going on with these characters that I don’t feel qualified to talk about, or that shouldn’t be lightheartedly addressed, and it takes a long time for me to figure out how to go about them. And on top of that, these chapters tend to be the longest in terms of word count, so there’s another reason they come out much slower than the others.

On the plus side, they’re usually the ones where I spent far too much time agonizing over which sections to quote simply because they’re full of words put together in such a lovely way. It’s just that they often talk about such unlovely subjects, and it makes me feel a lot of feelings.

To Sum Up:

There are other kinds of chapters you find in these books, but the three detailed above are the most common. I might do another post later on the other kind, but I also might not. I’ve learned not to promise anything, since I’m so bad at keeping up with anything during the school term.

I’ve wanted to make a post like this for a while, so I’m glad it’s finally happening! I might start including pictures of my post-its in the actual chapter reviews, since frankly that and the summary are my favorite two parts of the process and I’m doing this primarily for me, so why wouldn’t I enjoy myself?

If you have any suggestions for this process, or just think you know a better way and want to tell me about it, please do! I’ve bankrupted myself on post-its and fancy pens, and would welcome an alternative!

(thanks for reading, see you soon, etc.)

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