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Book Reviews?

Discussion in 'Ask the Staff' started by Cloud, May 2, 2012.

  1. Cloud

    Cloud Minstrel

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    Most fantasy writers like to read fantasy.

    Part of the appeal of a fantasy forum (for me) is a community with similar reading tastes that I can swap recommendations with.

    As such, the "Novels & Stories" board was one of my first stops... and if I'm honest with you, I'm disappointed with it.

    I think the board needs subdividing into general book chat and specific book/series reviews/discussions.

    Good Fantasy Books for Children?
    Do you have a re-read shelf?
    Favourite -type- of character?

    These are interesting threads to skim and chat in, but I feel they detract from a more serious/considered look at the field we're all passionate about.

    Ideally, I'd like to see a sub-board with threads focused on specifics works, possibly with a more structured template (standard required links to wiki/amazon pages, etc - or standard, if you like this I think you'll like...).

    Anything not fitting the profile could be nudged back into the general book chat main board.

    I know it's easier to suggest things than to implement and maintain them - but I thought it was worth at least flagging it for discussion.
     
  2. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

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    Hey Cloud,

    Thanks for the suggestion.

    We could consider creating a sub-forum titled "reviews," specifically for serious book reviews. We could even create a template to be used for each review.

    The question is this: is there significant interest in doing this? Or would the majority of members prefer to leave things as they are?

    Feedback is appreciated.
     
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I'm disappointed with it, too.

    But a big appeal to the forums, for me, is being able to contribute to the community. I know there are people here who have read and enjoyed and would be happy to discuss any number of books in the genre. Would you be willing to start the conversation with a post about the themes a few particular book has? Or else write reviews for some of the books you have read? A number of writing forums have "Book Clubs" that focus on one book each month, and I'm sure there are people who would jump at the opportunity.

    If you build it they will come doesn't work for forums and subforums. Let's get a couple of people with energy and enthusiasm to activate the Novel and Stories forum, the way Phil and Sidekick have in the Challenges, and then build around their needs.

    You could do that.
     
  4. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I've personally found some pretty good recommendations on the Novels and Stories section. There is actually a thread that lists a lot of people's personal bests which I thought could help those looking for new stuff to read.

    I would like a Book Review section myself, but we'd need someone to spearhead something like that to get interest going. Like Devor and Black Dragon said, if there is need or want for it, then someone could take the iniative to go forward with it.

    I take book reviews with a grain of salt though. I have to really trust the reviewer to buy into something. Either that or it's an author recommended by an author I already like.
     
  5. Kelise

    Kelise Maester

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    If there were to be such a thing, I would strongly recommend that an in-depth formatting style be required. State what character it's written in, how many view points there are, and have a star rating for characters/plot/world building and so on. Otherwise there's no reason as to why we all can't just look up the book on goodreads.

    If we made it really in-depth then it could be valuable. People could easily find books they generally enjoy (I find third person a lot easier to read than first person, for example).

    Though, like Phil, I generally only take book reviews from people I know I already trust.
     
  6. Cloud

    Cloud Minstrel

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    OK... well I'm just blue-skying here... so please feel free to poke holes...

    But I'd love to see a couple of well written reviews being posted every week. Like the article team - but focused down to the work which has inspired us all to write.

    Weekly...
    Maybe 1 "current" review - for a book or series within the last two years.
    Maybe 1 "classic" review - for a book older than two years

    I'd put the 'classic' review on a monthly cycle... 2+yrs, 5+yrs, 10+yrs, 20+yrs etc.

    Rather than lumping a small group with the responsibility, I'd encourage maybe a core 'reviewer' group of 4 members to take one review a month, with a wider group of 12 - 20 chipping in more sporadic reviews (both to spread the load and to make it a more inclusive activity).

    starconstant - your point about goodreads - valid!
    Why doesn't the mythic profile contain a standard link to a goodread account, the same way film forums link to imdb or cartoon/manga forums link to deviantart.

    Also - Devor - book clubs - structured discussion. Great idea.

    I'm a big sci-fi reader as well as fantasy, and I'm currently nearing the end of a mission to read every winner of the Locus sci-fi award. I find award lists a great way of discovering new authors, new styles, broadening my understanding of the genre, etc. Yet nowhere in the forum have I spotted much reference to the Hugo, World Fantasy Award, Locus Fantasy, Mythopoeic, etc. Seems (to me) like these should be a staple discussion/debate in a fantasy community - and if they're not, perhaps more could be done to highlight them. These awards are there to highlight (and more importantly, celebrate!) the best works in the field.

    Outreach programs to existing review sites are also a good idea.

    Aaaaand that's me out of steam...

    My apologise if I seem overly opinionated or critical in any way - I wouldn't be here if I didn't think you guys have done a fine job! I'm just a big believer in the 'never stop moving forward' philosophy. Everyone needs a plan... or a dozen... ;-)
     
  7. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    So let's get this going. Who here would be interested in joining a team to manage the Novels forum, Book clubs and Reviews?

    I think this is something the site really needs. I'd be happy to help get this going if we can get three-to-four people on board.

    Let's see who's in and then get people into a chat room to figure out how much the group can accomplish. The list of ideas can really go well-beyond anything stated here so far, but only if people are on board.
     
  8. Kelise

    Kelise Maester

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    I could be interested. I write reviews for the website SentiantOnline and would be interested in getting better at it. Like I said earlier though, I'd love to have a detailed 'form', so to speak, to fill in so we have more detail than the general review.
     
  9. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    That can be done.

    One thought which crossed my mind was to create reviews for the forums page, edit those reviews as a team, and post them not only on the forum or on the MS Blog, but on that book's Amazon account under a Mythic Scribes name. If we can build up a reputation as a legitimate reviewer, it would then draw more attention when we review the work of MS members (which of course, would also have to be legitimate reviews).
     
  10. Kelise

    Kelise Maester

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    That would be utterly awesome, and I'd be in for that. Could also post to GoodReads, smashwords (if available) and so on.
     
  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    We need more people so we can schedule a meeting and figure it out. Who else is in?
     
  12. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

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    There are lots of good ideas in this thread. Once you have things figured out, let me know what you need and we can make this happen. :)
     
  13. Phin Scardaw

    Phin Scardaw Troubadour

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    I'm totally in.
     
  14. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Great! So far that's you and starconstant. Cloud, are you in? We need 1-2 more to get this going.

    We'll figure out the specifics when the group's together, but to be clear, loosely we need people to agree to read fantasy books, write and edit reviews about fantasy books, and lead conversations about fantasy books.
     
  15. writeshiek33

    writeshiek33 Sage

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    i am in as aspiring writer i read quite a lot of various fantasy type books
     
  16. Cloud

    Cloud Minstrel

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    Count me in :wavespin:
     
  17. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Great! So that's starconstant, Phin, writeshiek and Cloud. How about everyone PMs me a list of days and times (and time zones) where you expect to be free for a meeting in the chat channel, and I'll schedule one. I may also try to catch each of you one by one to brainstorm a bit before then.

    I think the best thing we can do is to figure out a process that we can set up and initiate as a team, and then open it up clearly for the forum. That way we can put in a lot of energy and a bit of work now to get things going, but then be able to scale back our individual commitments once things are more established. So as a group we'll come up with a review template, write the first few reviews, lead the first few discussions, figure out if there's a schedule or a quality level we're shooting for, and set the energy levels while we lure others into helping us out with it.

    Anyone else up for joining in?
     
  18. Phin Scardaw

    Phin Scardaw Troubadour

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    I'm in Montreal - Eastern Time Zone. I'm always up late, and never awake before noon. Probably if we just continue posting in this thread we'll be able to achieve the same as in a live chat, and perhaps more efficiently.

    This is what I propose:

    We begin with reviews of 500 words or so.
    We divide the reviews into sections in which the various elements are discussed:

    1) plot & pacing (not a synopsis, but an assessment of its quality)
    2) character (description of main characters and memorable ones, and how effectively they were established)
    3) world & language (discussion of the fantasy realms - what works and what needed development)
    4) themes & tone
    5) originality & literary quality

    At the end of each section we can give a simple star rating. I like the idea of sections and ratings that are consistent - that way readers will know what to expect, and the format will help us writing the reviews from missing things or going astray. Of course we need to decide on the sections together and how to best judge the topics we are considering.

    Also, we should share the reviews intimately amongst ourselves before sharing them publicly. This way we can polish them to perfection and present quality work.

    Should there be one of us elected as a team leader? If not it might be a task to come to a general consensus if ever we disagree. Or simply let majority rule whenever we need to vote on something.

    And we should kick around some ideas about how to get people on MythicScribes or from other sites to read our reviews. We'd be a lot of sad reviewers if no one was receptive to our efforts.

    I volunteer to write the first review.
     
  19. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    So let's keep posting here, but I think we do need to meet live as a group.

    Here's what I was thinking:

    We put together two kinds of reviews. One is short, straightforward, the typical sort of review you might read on Amazon, with about 500 words and a discussion about the quality of the story's elements. The other kind of review would be longer, more like an essay, talking about the work's contributions to the fantasy genre. LOTR would get a longer review, Percy Jackson wouldn't.

    To do this, we need:

    - Template/Guidelines for writing each kind of review. I think that a review formula is okay, even for example, to the point of having each paragraph of the review open with a personal reaction and close with a line that reads like poetry. That kind of thing helps to maintain quality across different reviews.

    starconstant: Can you put some kind of template together? Be sure to include Phin's notes above.

    - A list of fantasy books that any good reviewer would be expected to review, which deserve a longer review and which a shorter one, as well as a list of what we've read and what reviews we can write quickly.

    writeshiek33: Can you put together a list of which books deserve to be reviewed, loosely sorted by priority level? There's similar lists and discussions already on Novels forum.

    I was also thinking that a reasonable schedule would include 3 Short Reviews, and 1 Long review, every six weeks. That way, every three weeks our reviews would appear in the blog, alternating between the long review and excerpts/links for the three short ones. I think grouping them that way will make them easier to promote.

    Next, we need to figure out a process for promoting the reviews. I think that's easy. Articles posted on the Mythic Scribes blog already reach tens of thousands of viewers because of Black Dragon's work to promote them. Reviews, I think, are even more likely to be retweeted, so viewers are definitely there.

    I was thinking we could put together a list of the books we've reviewed into one thread, which links to each one specifically. We can post our reviews of each book on Amazon and Goodreads and elsewhere, and then link back to that thread at the end of the review, bringing readers from Amazon to our reviews on Mythic Scribes.

    Black Dragon:
    Could you set up accounts at Amazon, Good Reads, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords under a Mythic Scribe-type name?

    Between the blog and drawing readers from Amazon, the readers are there, so the potential here is staggering. Our challenge is going to be finding people to help, creating a process to make sure the reviews happen, and reaching a high quality product.

    Devor:
    I'm going to focus on the submissions process, putting together a thread trying to make it easy for people to jump in, write reviews, and help with the editing. I'm also going to be the salesman and try and push people into helping out.

    That leaves us with two last things.


    Cloud: Would you be up for picking one of those and making a thread to start the discussion? In particular, if one of those involves short stories, a discussion about how you think their example can help us learn how to write would be great because anyone could follow a link, read a few short stories, and then jump into it. But anything that will get people talking in depth about these things would be great. Doing enough of that kind of thing might make people want to read more works, join the team and write reviews.

    Speaking of which, we need energy in the Novels and Stories forum if any of this is going to work, which leads me to:

    Phin Scardaw: I love your initiative. I want to hear starconstant's thoughts about a template before anyone starts writing. In the meantime, we need to build energy around this project because I don't know that we have enough people yet. I think a book club would help, but I have no idea how such a structured discussion would look. Can you fish around other sites, find some examples, and figure out a model for us to go by?

    I'm sorry if I've momentarily stepped into that role, that's usually what's required in order to get anything established. I hope that nobody's offended by it. Once things are going smoothly in a few weeks, and we've figured out a process for this which people are comfortable with, we will appoint someone to be responsible for the project, and that person will not be me. I won't have the time, but by then it should be clear exactly what's expected.

    Please be sure and post about whether the tasks I've suggested are something you're comfortable with, how it's going, or if we need to figure something else out. Thanks all.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2012
  20. Phin Scardaw

    Phin Scardaw Troubadour

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    Networking is not my strong suit, but I can research book clubs and the like. I'm not sure how such a thing would contribute much to our enterprise as my understanding of book clubs is open discussions rather than one person's review. Is the aim to find others who would like to contribute reviews, or to garner readers? Or both? A Book Club is an entirely different animal and would add more duties to our already ambitious task. What do the others think about this? I'm open to exploring it, but I don't want unnecessary distractions.

    I think that the Award-winning Novels of Fantasy would warrant the longer reviews - but there are probably already many written by professionals available online.

    I'm going to try to find material on how to write good reviews if I can. That will give us some guidelines.

    Devor, I think that your leadership is getting the project off its feet. I have the same quality but also little time.

    Certainly, I don't want to jump the gun here. I won't compose anything until we've decided on how to proceed - but someone surely has to go first, and I have a good book to review which I've just begun reading.
     
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