Monday, April 4, 2011

Confessions of Another Common Blogger

A week or so ago, Eva of A Striped Armchair wrote a great post about how she writes her blog entries, and ended with some questions for us, her readers: 

So what about you: how do you go about blogging about books, both on the practical and philosophical levels? Do you have neat rows of pre-scheduled draft posts just waiting for their turn (if so, I’m jealous!)? Do you regularly edit your posts or just type whatever comes into your head? Do you aspire to any particular ‘style’ when you’re writing about books? If so, why? And if you’re a blog reader rather than a blog writer, what kind of approach do you enjoy most?

It got me thinking about how I write my posts. I honestly don't know if I've ever thought it through on a philosophical level, or even what that would mean. My blog is a platform for my opinions, my ramblings and my love of books; I write about things I read and things I'm interested in, things that I hope my readers are interested in, too. I try to be topical when I can, like when I wrote about Borders or when I asked my husband to work with me on a post about the FTC regulations; it makes sense to maximize your interest and mine by staying on top of what's going on in the book world.

On a practical level, I try to plan my posts out, if not actually compose them, a few days ahead of time. So my average week consists, if I'm lucky, of a couple of memes (not more than three and that's a lot, including Sunday Salon, Friday Finds and maybe something else if it's a slow week), a couple of reviews and if I can think of something, a discussion post like this. I have tried using my Google Calendar to keep track of when I plan to post specific posts; I started using it when I did the series on Other Press last year, because it helped me to have the posts almost physically laid out so I could be confident that they went together in a way that felt right. I still use it sometimes (for example for my latest, series on Europa Editions, and for another two interview-review series I have in the works) but not on an everyday basis.

I almost always pre-write and pre-post Sunday Salon and Friday Finds; those are the two memes in which I participate consistently and there's no reason to wait to do them if I have material. Then, my blog does the heavy lifting while I sleep in! Everybody wins.

Apart from a little scheduling, though, my reviews tend to be pretty spontaneous. I have a Moleskine just for jotting notes once I finish a book, because sometimes it's weeks after I finish before I post a review and I want to make sure I remember key points, passages or quotations. These notes help me a lot when it comes to composing a review, particularly because my response to the book at that time is so immediate and fresh. Four weeks after the fact I may remember the book differently! I tend to write short reviews of three or four paragraphs, because those are the kinds of reviews I most like to read- short and to the point. If I love a book I usually write more.

When I write, I don't have a style in mind per se, except to sound like myself and to write in a way that seems "good" to me. I'm not sure I can articulate what that means exactly! I want my posts to show some personality, some humor and (hopefully) some intelligence. Nobody wants to read dull-as-dishwater, badly-composed posts full of grammatical and factual errors by someone who doesn't seem to know, or care, what he or she is talking about. I don't like to read posts like that and I don't like to write them.

Editing? Yeah, I do that, sometimes. At the very least I'll run a spell check but usually what happens is I post the review, tweet out the link and then look at it and say, oh I need to change this, that, and this, too, and then feel embarrassed that I sent something out half-baked. So I should probably edit more before posting or promoting a review (or any post) but sometimes the time is there and sometimes it's not. I will probably edit this post extensively before I publish it; I like to really fine-tune opinion posts so I'm saying exactly what I mean to. With reviews, I fly by the seat of my pants more often than not.

When it comes to reading blogs, I like bloggers who write well the best, and bloggers who write about the kinds of things I read. I have a lot of faithful readers whom I love and appreciate dearly who write about genres totally outside my reading bailiwick, and sometimes I just don't know what to say beyond "Glad you're enjoying it! Sounds great!" And I know how trite my comments must sound but it's just a way of saying "Hi!" because, you know, it's just kind of not my thing but I want you to know I stopped by. But I love you! I do! And please keep commenting here because I love you!

I think the "how" of blogging comes down to "Just do it," and you'll find your style and a rhythm that works for you. Then just keep at it!