Saturday, October 08, 2011

Do you summarize?

Lately I've come to realize that writing reviews is a lot more stressful and full of pressure than it should be. As somebody who prides myself on my writing ability, I find myself spending a lot of time making sure the review is perfect. Although I enjoy writing reviews and sharing my thoughts- there's one thing I don't enjoy and that is summaries! Having to come up with a unique plot summary for each book I review honestly is the most time-consuming part of writing reviews for me and the least-enjoyable.

So I had a thought. Plenty of big blogs just use a summary already available like the one from Goodreads. Why not me? I think this would allow me to focus on the personal part of the review and you'd still have an easily accessible synopsis so you know what I am talking about. I think this will make writing reviews a lot more fun for me.

Anyway, I am curious on your thoughts so I'm including a mini poll. Please let me know what you think, it's anonymous and I'd really love to get some feedback on this issue. Feel free to comment as well about your own thoughts.



Thanks for your feedback!

16 comments:

  1. Oh no. Don't stress yourself over the summaries.

    I don't like the Goodreads summaries because they always contain a lot of spoilers. When people have those in their review, I always skip that part. If you start using those, please label them clearly so I can skip it!

    I prefer when people use 1-2 sentences that just say a little of what the book is about. Reading over your reviews, you could probably just go with the first sentence of most summaries you have. Or maybe use a sentence or two from the Goodreads summary, with credit given.

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  2. Thanks Chris. My summaries are definitely going to change, I'd rather spend more time generating original content and reading than summarizing! But I definitely want to be mindful of spoilers, I haven't had a huge problem with them in Goodreads but after you mentioning that I took a look and realized exactly what you meant.
    However, each summary will be clearly indicated at the start of the review (probably in italics for example) in which case that should make it easy to skip.

    This is an example of one I am thinking of using for my next review (from the book tour website):

    Nineteen-year-old Irma lives in a rural Mennonite community in Mexico. She has already been cast out of her family for marrying a young Mexican ne’er-do-well she barely knows, although she remains close to her rebellious younger sister and yearns for the lost intimacy with her mother. With a husband who proves elusive and often absent, a punishing father, and a faith in God damaged beyond repair, Irma appears trapped in an untenable and desperate situation. When a celebrated Mexican filmmaker and his crew arrive from Mexico City to make a movie about the insular community in which she was raised, Irma is immediately drawn to the outsiders and is soon hired as a translator on the set. But her father, intractable and domineering, is determined to destroy the film and get rid of the interlopers. His action sets Irma on an irrevocable path toward something that feels like freedom.

    Do you find ones such as that too lengthy?

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  3. Myself, I find I sometimes write summaries, and sometimes not. It depends on the book, and whether the summary I see on Goodreads fits what I want to say about the book. If it's good, why mess with it?

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  4. I don't generally summarize, which I'm sure you know. I don't think its necessary for the most part, 95% of people whose blogs I look at, I look at because I want to know their personal opinions. I could get a summary anyway. Besides of which, unlike a lot of people, I don't actually like summaries very much. It often feels like it ruins the book for me. I know that some of my followers have expressed disappointment that I don't give a summary, but for the most part I think people are fine with it. If it's bugging you, I'd definitely let it go.

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  5. I prefer the blogger that doesn't do a summary but if your goal is to become a professional reviewer than I think you should continue. I agree it time consuming, when Netgalley requests it, I take forever to do it.

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  6. I think it is a little long, my opinion. I usually use Amazon's summary. There has been only a few times I have took sentences out because I felt it gave to much.

    Good luck with choosing.

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  7. I don't read the goodreads summaries that are posted on blogs. I'm always afraid they will give to much away. I don't read the summaries on books before I read them, either. I don't really always summarize the whole book in my reviews. I hit the high spots. Enough to know the basic premise. But mostly what I try to put in my reviews, and look for in others' reviews, is how did you FEEL about the book? What did you like or not like? What were the book's strengths or weaknesses. I usually skim detailed summaries even if they are written by the blogger. I go the to end where they tell me what THEY think. Just my opinion....

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  8. I often skip summaries, especially when they are copied from somewhere like Goodreads. I find such summaries often give away more of the book than I want to read. I used to copy summaries from Goodreads, but I switched to writing my own. I try to only mention what happens at the very beginning of the book, perhaps an overarching premise. I think most people focus more on a blogger's personal thoughts, so my advice would be to do what feels right to you and not worry about the summary too much!

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  9. Wow thank you everyone for the feedback! This has definitely got me thinking. There may be a bit of a learning curve as I find a new style... I am thinking maybe highlighting a sentence or two summary at the beginning (either my own, or from synopsis online) might be a good idea. I just think I might suck at that sort of thing, but ultimately it should be a lot less work than what I'm doing now. I'd rather spend my time writing my thoughts, not a summary you can find anywhere.

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  10. haha that actually is the amazon summary!
    However it also contains this "That rare coming-of-age story able to blend the dark with the uplifting, Irma Voth follows a young Mennonite woman, vulnerable yet wise beyond her years, who carries a terrible family secret with her on a remarkable journey to survival and redemption. "

    of which I was thinking I could just use from "Irma Voth follows" on. maybe that is a more appropriate amount to share about the story?

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  11. Spoilers is one of the main reasons I started writing my own summaries, but it's good to know most people skip them anyway. I think I will try having a summary sentence or two at the beginning, very vague, either pulled from promo material (goodreads/amazon, etc) or simply one I write myself if I can't find one I like. either way I see where people are coming from and find it very interesting to know. thanks!

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  12. I just type of copy/paste what is available on the back of the book. Mostly because most people judge a book not only by the cover but by that mini description. AND I find most of the time that description really doesn't do the book proper justice at all! :)

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  13. I like unique summaries, but I also understand how stressful writing reviews can be when you write your own summaries. If I feel that I can add something to the summary that the generic one can't, then I'll write my own, but if I find myself stumped and stressed at having to write my own summary, then I'll go with the generic one.

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  14. I tend to do both. I leave a link to the Goodreads summary and write a small one of my own. The summary I write can be difficult because sometimes it's hard not to give too much of the plot away.

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  15. I just use Goodreads summaries myself.
    It saves so much time, plus, I feel like I'm spouting out spoilers when I write one myself. I don't usually read the summary part of reviews to be honest. I tend to cut straight to the details of the review, unless I've never heard of the book, then I might check it out...usually on Goodread though. haha Personally, I feel putting two summaries, one from somewhere like Goodreads and one of your own is a bit much. I want to know a person's thoughts, not their summary, and I totally agree with you Zoe, it's stressful enough trying to keep up with reviews on top of your school stuff, so why not just cut out that part to lessen your stress.

    I say switch to Goodreads, or even the summary on the back of the book. I tend to use GR because I can cut and paste though. ;) haha

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  16. ReflectionsofabookaholicOctober 11, 2011 at 12:43 AM

    I use Goodreads summaries but also summarize myself in three or four sentences. I think book descriptions can be misleading so I make sure to summarize in my own words but very briefly.

    If the description is spot on, then I don't summarize. Maybe you don't have to do the same thing for every review.

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