Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Meta-Post: The Yard

Hey, so that review was a little different?

Yup!  I'm trying something different.  The meta-post I did the last week got me thinking about new and different ways to write about the books I read and it occurred to me that maybe some of the reason that I was struggling to get reviews written was that the form was bringing me down.  So the next few "reviews" will all be written in a different way and maybe at the end of this experiment I'll have found a new way to do these things so that they continue to feel fresh.

So for your review of Alex Grecian's The Yard you went for a self-interview?

I thought that it might make the writing easier if I was able to ask myself questions about the book.  I didn't have to worry about finding a flow and I didn't have to worry too much about the order in which I presented the information.

Did you find it easier to write in the interview style?

Yes and no.  It certainly felt more casual and I wasn't too concerned about writing a "proper" review, but it still wasn't easy.  And I guess I should clarify that it was definitely easier to write than my review of A Sense of Direction and I think I did a much better job representing the book this time.  I still feel like the book deserved a better written "review" than what I gave it.

Well it wasn't really a five-star book - what did you think it deserved?

I just think that any book that isn't awful deserves a well-written review that highlights what's great about it while keeping a critical distance.  I'm not jumping up and down over The Yard, but it was a decent book and people that like that kind of book will probably really like it.  I think I have a lot to learn about how to properly summarize a plot.

Why not just use the publisher's plot summary?

It feels like cheating.  And I want to get better at it!

The publisher gave you a copy of this book for review - how does that change how you go about writing your review?

I felt obligated to write about it and to do a good job.  As part of this experiment in different review types, I have a few things I want to try that I'll use only for books that I've acquired on my own.  If it turns out silly or flat out BAD, I don't want the publishers, publicists, or authors to feel like they wasted a book on me.  But to get back to your question, if I like the book and I think others will like it then part of the review, as far as I can tell, is selling the book to my readers.

You say that as if you have soooooo many readers!

Don't be mean.

I noticed you used more pictures than usual.

I felt like throwing in some pictures gave it a bit more substance.  I'm not sure if that was successful or not, but I thought it looked nicer with some pictures.

No animated gifs?  The internet loves an animated gif!  You'd probably have more readers if you had more of those things!

That might be true.  People like funny things.  It's just not my personality and I didn't feel like they would help that particular review.  I think you can probably count on at least one gif-heavy review in my future.

The book's author, Alex Grecian, tweeted some clarifications at you.  How does that make you feel?

I mentioned his twitter name (@alexgrecian) in my tweet about the review and I always get nervous when I do that because I want the author to know I've read and written about his/her book, but I'm secretly hoping that they don't read it.  I know that sounds strange, kind of like "notice me, but don't look too close!" I feel like my reviews are clunky, but one of my goals as a blogger is to become a better writer and my reviews should get better.

But ANYWAY... I was horrified and flattered at the same time when I got his reply on Twitter.  I quickly did a search of the book using Amazon's very nice search interface and found the quote he referenced in the tweet.  At that point I needed to figure out how to update the review to fix my error and also highlight that the fix had come from Alex Grecian.  I think it turned out okay.

I feel better about it now and I think it sort of makes the review more interesting.

Something to look forward to, I guess.  Anything else?

I found it interesting to be able to ask myself questions as a way to introduce a concept or to move between the parts of the review.  It felt really fluid.  I probably spent much less time re-writing sentences because I was trying to maintain the feeling of a conversation.  The biggest challenge was figuring out how to work a quote from the novel into the review.  It still feels clunky to me, but I think it works.

Will you do another self-interview review?

I think so.  It still feels fresh and writing about The Yard like this, wasn't as painful or difficult as writing my last two reviews.

So what format will the next review take?

You'll have to wait and see!

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