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!


R. J. said...

You have an interesting perspective. I have to agree that it is more fun to read something that is written well and is creative or funny. However, I like that people are informal, chatty and don't write as though someone is grading it. As a retired person, I don't want it to turn it into another job. As long as it is fun, that is my major requirement for myself and if someone else wants to read it, that's fine. As long as readers remember you get what you pay for, they should enjoy and not require too much of other people. I like to think of blogs as conversation among friends. Cyber dialogue takes so many forms, that is part of the charm of blogs for me.

bermudaonion said...

It sounds like you've got a winning formula!

Zibilee said...

I loved getting a peek into how you blog, and do some of the same things myself. I usually schedule posts a few days out, and have a backlog of stuff to post when I am behind. I tend to write my posts in google reader, because, you know, I can be very verbose :) I also like to get my ideas down while I am reading and to schedule things in my calendar, though that is a mess right now! It's cool to know that we are somewhat similar in the way we manage things!

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

As I spend more time 'meeting' more people and sharing more via my blog I've become more organized. Especially, with having a baby next month, if I don't want my blog to just sit there blank for awhile I have to pre-plan! I started at the beginning of the year plotting out certain posts that I know will always happen on certain days and whenever I feel like writing something I type it out and try to make it so I have a post every week day at least. Sometimes, I don't and sometimes I have so much pre-planned that I post things on the weekend. I suck at editing. I spellcheck but that is about it. Sometimes I go back and edit when I find things.

Anonymous said...

i love that you are able to have discipline and still be casual, your blog proves a nice blend of that planned and spontaneous.

you've a fantastic blog, thanks for sharing a behind the scenes look at how it comes together.


ImageNations said...

Interesting post. I write directly in blogger and, like you, I write my articles and reviews spontaneously. In fact, everything I post is written spontaneously. I also sometimes have to make corrections way after I have posted and tweeted. Concerning what to post, I still go by the traditional book and pen. I make a list of my materials at the beginning of every week; ticking them off as done or as re-scheduled.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your thoughts here. You have some good formula too. but for me, I've not been disciplined enough. I may have to welcome some of your thoughts here. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I like your thoughts and perspectives on blogging.

I tend to be spontaneous, and don't necessarily blog on a daily basis, due to life and its priorities. I try, but it doesn't always work out.

I sometimes plan ahead and post ahead, but that is for book reviews which I write the night before and post, normally speaking.

Everything else is spontaneous.

Kathleen said...

Thank you for sharing about your process. I'm always interested to hear how other bloggers approach their work as it ends up inspiring mine!

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing your blog process. I have always wondered how everyone blogs. Thank you for sharing. The one thing I just thought about recently. Do you organize your self that you write down the books you receive, and the email addresses. Because recently many publishers ask me to send me the link when I post. I can't keep up most of the time. I don't remember to post a link. I usually make a mental note. But I forget. Do you keep notes. I wondered how challenges and memes, and blogging you are able to keep up with this on a weekly basis.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I love this topic... mine seems to all depend on the time I have. When organized I like to have the book title,pic,and synopsis ready to go for the review... that takes the tedious part of of the review and leaves only the fun part.

Often as I am reading a book a line will catch my eye or remind me of something I want to capture. This I will put in my draft review post to remind me of later... it may or may not show up in the final review but at least I have it where I can find it.

Eva said...

I completely sympathise with your penultimate paragraph! I like to visit the blogs of commenters too, but if they read very different books, I'm never sure what to say.

Also, that's good advice to new bloggers; I really think the only way to find your blogging voice is to just keep blogging!

Alexia561 said...

Excellent discussion! I try to be organized and schedule reviews in advance, but life keeps getting in the way and I wind up flying by the seat of my pants half the time! *L*

I did "borrow" Sheila's idea of having the bones of a review post already written, leaving just the fun part, and that's been helping a little. Still need to work on it, but I'm getting there!

D.M. SOLIS said...

Process always fascinates me. I always enjoy the relaxed tone of your blog (and your tweets). It's nice to get this "backstage pass" and have a glimpse at the work that goes into making it look so easy. Thanks, peace,


Jeanne said...

I'm amazed at how many bloggers schedule a lot of their posts; I'm more spontaneous. Which is to say, "hi!"

Bellezza said...

I read a lot of blogs which review literature I am unfamiliar with, and sometimes I feel there's nothing constructive for me to say. But, I do agree with you that it's good to leave a comment just to say, "Hi, I've been here." Better than nothing, or embarrassing myself with something half illiterate. ;)

I also like how you said you schedule a few memes and let the blog do the heavy lifting.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog, so what you are doing works! Now that I have a baby I have to make a real effort sometimes to even get one book read and reviewed a week! But now I have a baby post every week and my quizzes, which I love to do and have people participate in (hint,hint ;))
I actually like to read blogs that sometimes have a different book focus than mine because it introduces me to books I may never have known about or considered.
Interesting post.