Confessions of a Common Blogger
On my Sunday Salon yesterday, Karenne left a comment asking:
Can you write a post discussing how you compose your posts? Do you write the post over a period of days? Do you write one review at a time and then combine them into a single post?
And since she included a sweet compliment at the end, of course I felt the need to oblige her right away. Flattery will get you everywhere, especially when a request ties in to a broader topic I’ve been mulling over. ;)
Ages ago, I was bloghopping and came across someone (I really can’t remember which blog it was, which is why I’m not linking) with an annotated blog roll. I was delighted to find my own blog amongst her selections; then I read the annotation, which said something to the effect that I don’t write book recommendations rather then reviews. That gave me a pause, and at first, to be honest, it stung a bit. Was that a polite way to say my posts about books were too subjective or flimsy? Ouch. After a few minutes of angst, I moved on, although it stayed in the back of my mind. Then, in January, I was editing my About page and came across this line:
I don’t consider myself as writing book reviews so much as recommendations.
I immediately began to laugh at my silly self; that blogger hadn’t been passing judgment on me. She’d just been describing my blog in my own words! Words that I had apparently forgotten. Last year, I outlined my bloggy interests, and looking over that list eleven months later, it’s still almost spot-on (I have opted out of challenges, read-a-longs, and tours, because with my unpredictable health and cranky laptop, I’m too afraid I’ll miss my posting day). So I don’t want to write about blogging as a whole today so much as how I approach writing about books.
To answer Karenne’s question, I generally write a post on the same day that I publish it. I’m trying to get better at doing posts ahead of time so that I have a reserve in case I get sick or have laptop troubles (ideally, I’d like a ten-day cushion), but so far that’s remained a dream rather than a reality. I do jot down potential blogging topics when they come to me; I just keep a draft post that I add to and consult when I’m in need of inspiration. I’d say I spend an average thirty to sixty minutes on most of my single-book posts, which includes formatting (finding a cover and inserting it, adding any appropriate links, typing out/inserting passages from the book, etc.) and a quick read through before posting to make sure I haven’t left a paragraph hanging. I try to remember to spell check as well, but I’m not a natural editor! ;) That being said, I often find that when I sit down to type out my thoughts on a book, my brain has already mentally composed at least half of the post! While I’m reading a book, I can ‘hear’ my post start to take form at the back of my head; I almost always know my first few sentences at least by the time I’ve closed the back cover. So sometimes the act of writing the post is more of a process of transcription than creation; those posts get done quickly.
My Sunday Salon posts I generally write all at once, although once again I’m hoping to develop the habit of writing a paragraph about each book as I finish it, so that I can then collect those together for TSS once a week. Every Sunday, as I’m trying to type as quickly as possible to get through the titles on my list, I reproach myself for not planning ahead. ;) A TSS post from start to finish takes me anywhere from ninety minutes, if I’m just focused on that, to almost three hours if I’m also on Twitter and doing a bit of blog reading to break up the writing. That includes formatting, which always takes longer since I have more covers to add and also use internal links. Most of my other posts I spend no more than an hour on; Library Loot ones are the exception, since in addition to the vlog stuff (setting up, recording, editing, uploading) I also have to track down all of the covers and edit them into collages, format all of the titles and find the links to the books on the publishers’ sites (let me tell you, most publishers have horrible search engines). My new Saturday tradition of a quote and photograph are the quickest to make, unless I get distracted admiring all of the photos. ;) The only posts that I write ahead of time and then let sit, with me making substantial revisions and possibly multiple drafts before publishing, are ones that are a bit political, like Reading in Colour. I don’t write those kinds of posts very often, but when I do I’m acutely aware of the need to be precise and mindful about my tone. Usually, I’m more of a haphazard kind of blogger! ;)
So that’s the more practical aspect. But there’s also the question of how to write about books, and why I consider myself to be more of a recommend-er than a review-er. Quite frankly, I enjoy writing about my personal reaction to a book. It’s more fun for me to ooh and aah about a lovely passage of writing, or talk about a character I fell in love with, or explain that I forgot to eat lunch because a plot had me turning pages to the exclusion of all else. Gushing comes naturally to me, which is why I began the Assembling My Atheneum series and why most of my posts devoted to a single book are about ones that I enjoyed. Yet I also find it easiest to talk about the flaws in a book if I frame it as ‘aspects that don’t work for me.’ My pet peeves are not going to be someone else’s pet peeves, and often times even if I didn’t like a book I can imagine the type of reader who would. I also write more personally, because it’s my only option. I simply don’t have the background to be able to put a book in its wider literary context, which is what I think of when I imagine reviewers. I greatly admire the book bloggers who have deep roots in literary theory, whose posts bring their intellectual powers into such stunning relief. I look forward to reading their posts and sometimes I work up the nerve to comment. ;) But I am a common blogger, just as I am a common reader. And if someone on the street were to ask me why I blog about books, I’d reply that it allows me to be a bit of a book pusher and benefit from other book pushers out there. When I begin writing about a book I adored, I’m hoping to convince my blog readers to give the book a try. When I’m reading other bloggers’ posts, I’m reading in large part to decide if a book should go on my TBR list. And for that purpose, I enjoy bloggers who write in a subjective, emotional way; once I’ve gotten to know their taste in books, I can compare it my own and judge accordingly. I hope that my readers feel similarly about my own style! Sometimes I’ve tried to add more analysis to my posts, but inevitably my writing ends up a bit stilted. My blog is a record of the relationship between myself and the books that I read, books that engage my heart at least as much as my head. And I have found that embracing myself as an enthusiastic amateur with fangirl tendencies is, to be honest, one of my blogging strengths.
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?