Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Discussion (sort of): How We Blog

So Julie came up with the idea of doing a post on how we organize our blog (from scheduling to reading and discussions and all that stuff). So, we’ve split it up into sections; Scheduling, Reading (how we deal with ARC’s will be here), Reviewing, Memes, Blogging Community, Controversy and Discussions. 

And before we get started, if you want to do a post on how you blog then go right ahead and add the link to your post below. It’d be interesting to read different approaches to blogging.

Also, writing this post, advice for newer bloggers kept slipping into it but I cut most of it out because we've already gone over it before so if you're a newer blogger or you're thinking of starting up a blog then you should check out the series of posts Julie started with advice for new bloggers (with input from a bunch of other bloggers too). The posts were called What We Wish We Knew and there are one - two - three - four parts.

SCHEDULING:

Lanna: This is the section where mine and Julie’s answer will probably differ from the majority of book blogs, because there is two of us and no only that, but we live on different continents so we’re in different time zones and things.

In the beginning, we discussed the scheduling thing with each other more often but we’ve just sort of fallen into an easy routine where the only time we have to discuss it is if we have a bunch of review books with the same release dates.

So here’s how it works with us: ARC’s/review books get posting priority (i.e. one of us is reviewing a book for fun while the other is reviewing an ARC = the ARC review gets the day), there’s never been any drama with having to move each others posts or anything. If we’re both reviewing non-ARC’s then it’s just whichever review is finished first gets the next available day (which makes it sound like we race each other for days but we don’t at all). We try to stick to having only one post go up a day and don’t break that too often (and when we do it’s only if, like, for example we have two posts that need to go up on a specific day).

We post most days, but please keep in mind that there are two of us - if you’re blogging on your own or thinking of starting up a blog then don’t feel the need to post every day, our posting frequency works for us, just find something that works for you.

Julie: There's definitely not much to add here. I know I try to get review books reviewed on their release date, but if I were busy, then anytime within two weeks before and two weeks after words. 

A lot of the time, I go to bed after Lanna, due to the time difference. So one of my habits is usually to make sure we have a post going up the next morning. If not, I'll either try to throw together a review real quick, or I hope Lanna covers it when she gets up. If it doesn't happen, I'll let myself be a bit bothered for a minute, and then get over it. It's not like there's a real consequence to not posting for a day or two. (In fact, y'all should probably expect that for this month, unless we can come up with a lot of awesome discussion posts.)

READING:

Lanna: I don't have a very good answer for this. Sometimes I go through reading funks where I can't really read at all (now being one of those times), sometimes I can read multiple books in a day, sometimes just one a week so my reading schedule is all over the place. I'm a mood reader and so while I try to let reading ARC's take priority for me over my own books, sometimes I just can't because if none of the ARC's I have fit the mood I'm in then I will probably struggle through it (like trying to read a fantasy when I'm in a contemporary mood or reading something dark when I'm craving chick lit).

Julie: I do my best to read every day, but overall, I don't read that much. Usually I get in about an hour before or after my shower every night, depending on how into the book I am. Sometimes I'll sit for two hours, sometimes twenty minutes, sometimes I won't read at all. If I have time during the school day and it's quiet enough (I'm not picky about volume, but a cafeteria with 400 teenagers in it really doesn't work well for me) then I'll try to read some. I'm also a car reader. As long as I'm not going somewhere new or driving through a really pretty area, I can sit and read in the car for hours.

I generally try to read review books before their release date. Unsolicited books can sometimes get pushed to the side if they don't fit into my schedule. Other times, I'm just not in the right mood for a book or I'm wary of reading it. I feel bad, but I've got a handful of review books that have sat in my pile for over a year. They're mostly books that I've tried and didn't get into or books that I normally wouldn't have picked up. In between review books, I like to read books for myself, whether it be a review book that's a long way off, or a book I bought or won. It's something I haven't been able to do as much lately (fall was a big time for my TBR pile), but after this month, I don't have too many more review books so I'm hoping to read a big more for fun.

REVIEWING:

Lanna: for me, reviewing is just about being honest. If I didn't like a book then I say so, I don't lie about it even if I feel bad about giving an author a negative review - I try to never be mean about the author even if I don't like the book and if I didn't like it then I do try to make it clear that it is purely my opinion and opinions are subjective (sometimes I'll link positive reviews at the end of a negative one, just for people to see that not everyone agrees with me or I'll mention if I have seen positive reviews).

In a negative review, I don't just say, "OMG! This book sucks!" - I try to explain why it didn't work for me. Sometimes it's difficult not to be too harsh and I've had to tone it down a little and remove some of the unintentionally meaner remarks (when lines like, "if I wasn't holding the book I would've facepalmed so hard it would've left bruises" makes it into a review then you know how harsh the things that were too mean would've been).

If I loved a book then I don't hold back on gushing about it and if I just liked a book...sometimes my positive reviews feel a bit repetitive to me and it annoys me but the thing is, the things I look for in a good book are the same so if a book ticks those boxes then of course my reviews will sometimes sound a little similar. I've stopped worrying about my reviews sounding too same-y, I'm not going to force a review to be something it's not just for the sake of trying to make each one sound original because at the end of the day a review is just about telling someone your opinion of a book.

My review format is just like when I would write essays or whatever - an intro paragraph (stating whether I liked or disliked the book), the reasoning behind that opinion and then a conclusion paragraph/sentence which kind of goes back to the point the intro makes. Sometimes quotes are thrown in, sometimes pictures/GIF's if I feel like words aren't enough...so yeah, nothing special there. I try to avoid giving spoilers.

I sometimes take notes when I read a book, if I'm really not liking a book or I think of something I definitely want to mention in a review (whether it's something I loved or hated - the latter tends to get more notes) and I'll sometimes mark pages with post-its to mark quotes if I want to include quotes in my reviews (and with the notes, I'm not talking anything extensive; I keep a little square post-it pad beside my bed and it's 1-3 of the small sheets on that at most per book, usually 1).

Julie:  This might be the hardest thing for me. After almost two years of doing this, I still constantly worry about my review quality.

I usually start with some kind of opening sentence. Those get repetitive unless the book stands out to me and I hate that. Then I start thinking about the characters, the main character/love interest, the writing, and the plot. I try to focus on those for my basis. If I want to fangirl a book or it had something special or I didn't like a book, the I will. You'll notice, books I'm more excited about get longer reviews. It's because I want you to pick up that friggin book! Then I try to wrap things up in some kind of summary. It's really important for me to do that summary when I have a mixed or blah review. I want you to really know my overall thoughts so you can go from there, in case the rest of my review wasn't clear.

I have used post its to tab books that make me laugh or just have good quotes, but it's a phase thing. I'll find one book I REALLY want to do it with, and then I'll try and do it for the following book or two, but it's not the same.

During read-a-thons, I'll try to take notes to keep the books from getting too scrambled, but a lot of the time it's just too much work for me to take a lot of notes. But, I do think when I do it, my reviews can be more detailed. It's a problem for me.

But overall, it's mostly important that I'm honest. If I'm meh about a book, you'll know. A lot of the times, I LOVE a book after reading, but by time I sit down to review it, it's just not as good as I initially thought and then it's hard, but I do what I can. Just something to keep in mind when it comes to my reviews. My love fades as time goes on unless it's an absolute favorite. I am sometimes inclined to be nicer when it's an author I talk to a lot or I'm friends with. I never let it really impact my reviews, but it's something I think about. Usually when I do become friends with an author, it's because I knew I'd love their book or I'd already fallen in love with it, so like I said, it's not a big deal.

MEMES:

Lanna: I only ever join in with memes that I like reading on other blogs and even then, I don't do it often. In My Mailbox is the only meme I do almost every week (because 1. I have found so many books I wouldn't have otherwise heard of through reading other peoples IMM posts so I like the idea that maybe my IMM will do that for someone else and 2. I don't review every book I buy/receive, so I like to include them in my IMM so people can check them out).

I'm not a fan of blogs that have posts mostly made up of memes and I don't like the memes that are kind of like - you know those follow trains that used to happen on sites like Myspace and even Tumblr for a while? Where you're supposed to follow/add the people that participate in the train and then people follow you back? I don't like memes like that. I get it, it's frustrating starting out and feeling like hardly anyone even reads what you post and it's tempting to get your follower count up using a quick follow4follow type method but it's much more rewarding knowing that you built up your followers over time and that they chose to follow on their own and not just in the hopes that you'll follow back.

Memes are fun and if you genuinely want to join in with memes then that's cool but try to balance out your review to meme ratio.

Julie: Memes...oh memes.

I really do like some of them. In My Mailbox, for one. I love Top Ten Tuesday, which I do when I particularly love the topic. I love the idea of Waiting on Wednesday, but formatting the posts just bores me to tears. That's why we started combining, so we wouldn't have to do it as often. But then reviews built up and there just wasn't time. Maybe I'll do it again for the month of November.

But a lot of memes just bother me. Blog hops, especially. Once in a while, they are okay. But there does not need to be a blog hop for freaking Flag Day and Mother's Day and Easter and Days That End in Y. I get that memes like blog hops are great for new bloggers, but wouldn't it be nicer to have followers who really like you and your content?

My biggest meme peeve, however, are the ones that are obviously rip-offs of other memes. It's one thing to do it accidentally, but it's pretty obvious when someone is just taking another blogger's meme, renaming it, and claiming it's their own. You don't need your own meme. Honest, you don't.

BLOGGING COMMUNITY

Lanna: Julie is better with this part than I am; she's more active on twitter and things than me. I'm not the kind of person who will comment on blogs (or youtube channels of book bloggers) just for the sake of commenting, I only really comment if I have something specific to say (I tend to comment on youtube reviews and goodreads ones more often than blogs) and as for twitter... I ramble and being limited to such a small character count when you ramble is hellish so I don't use twitter often, I'm just not good at keeping things short and to the point.

I wish I was more active with interacting with other bloggers and talking to people on twitter and things because I do enjoy talking to other people who are into the same things as me (especially books), it's just that I'm not much of a twitter person or a big commenter (and even with comments, it's hard to actually discuss in comments because there's no easy reply method on a lot of blogs - which is probably why I comment on goodreads and youtube more often, because they allow actual conversations with the less strict character limit than twitter).

My answer for this sucks...Julie is kind of my source for blogging community related things mostly. If any of you want to talk with me about books or blogging or whatever, although I doubt anyone would want to, then feel free to talk to me on tumblr (then maybe add me on facebook or MSN if we talk and want to talk more or if you want me to check out your youtube or goodreads reviews then just mention in the comments and I totally will).

Julie: Honestly, the community is the thing that keeps me blogging. The people are so open and friendly, intelligent and funny. If this wasn't such a supportive, giving group, I think I would've given up long ago.

I'm involved mostly through twitter. I'm kind of an obsessive tweeter. I love being able to talk to people and get advice and bounce ideas instantly. Especially since my own family isn't big on talking and my friends usually have enough adventures to talk about in the little bit of time we get each day. So twitter let's me talk to people who get me and think I'm funny. And it lets me be involved and keep up with the community. Even on blogs I follow, I don't always actually check their post, but then somebody will link it and I'll realize it's awesome.

I'm not so good with comments. I never know what to say! I don't read reviews of books I plan on reading because I'm VERY particular about spoilers and I don't read reviews of books I need to review so I don't get muddled, so that leaves me with books I wouldn't pick up and books I've already read. And then what do I say? "Maybe I'll pick up this book, but you kind of spoiled x,y, and z for me, so then again maybe not." "Oh, I read this a month ago. I didn't like it." I don't know about other people, but that's not a comment I'd want to read. I feel bad about it, but it's just hard. I'm also horrible about replying to comments on our posts. It's nothing against you guys, really. It's just awkward for me to reply without a reply button and without knowing if you'll actually come back looking for one.

CONTROVERSY

Lanna: Controversy happens in communities and the book blogging one is no different (things like the Speak Loudly posts, book banning, plagiarism, the drama with a self published author vs. a reviewer, the topic of e-books and people downloading them illegally etc.). I'm a ranty person - if something gets under my skin, I like to rant it out of my system but I rarely allow that to end up on this blog...I try to keep it on my private blog or on MSN with Julie.

It's so tempting to put up a post ranting every time something controversial happens (and it's probably made more tempting to some people, as Kristi/The Story Siren pointed out in one of her posts, because it can drive traffic to your blog) but - I don't like doing it. I only really join in with the posts in cases like book banning or Speak Loudly when it feels like books or readers are being so horribly misrepresented by someone in such a bad way that I truly believe that there can't be too many positive posts to contradict the negative things being said...if someone is saying a book like Speak, for example, is "soft porn" and that it should be banned then I'm not just going to shut up and let that slide.

And I just realised when I actually post about controversial topics: it's when someone is trying to DO something. At the end of the day, opinions are subjective and even if something pisses me off and I disagree with what is being said, people are entitled to their opinion - but in the cases where I've written posts*, like the Speak Loudly and book banning posts, it's usually when a person (or some people) isn't just SAYING something, they're trying to DO something...like get books banned. They're not just voicing their opinion but trying to force other people to live by that opinion. That's when I believe people should speak up.

Julie: Oh, this topic. Even the idea of controversy is starting to cause controversy lately. A lot of people want to stay "drama free." I respect that...but I'm not them.
I'm defensive and I can be short tempered and I like ranting. You might not be able to tell from just looking at the blog how bad I can be. Blog posts happen when twitter ranting and private ranting just aren't enough. Twitter rants happen when private rants aren't enough.

You see, YA is a lot to me. It's my social life. It's my extra curriculars, and therefore a major part of getting me into college. It's where I get volunteer experience. It's where I've made hundreds of friends. It's where I found the job I want. My biggest inspirations are YA authors and YA books are just really important to me. This community, what we do, the others in this community are important to me. And as anyone who knows me can tell you, I'm very much a Mama Bear. You don't mess with my friends, my family, or my passions. Or I get fiesty. YA is all of that to me.

Do I like the idea of being drama free? Hell yes I do! Do I try to keep the blog as drama free as possible? ...Most of the time. Am I ever going to completely ignore controversial things that pop in my twitter feed? I'll get back to you on that.

DISCUSSIONS:

Lanna: I...like to write things out of my system. In actual writing (stories, poetry, that sort of thing) or blog post form or talking to friends and if I'm thinking about something book related or book blog related then I'll write it out of my system and sometimes I want to know other peoples thoughts on the topic too, so it becomes a discussion post. 

I don't do discussion posts unless I genuinely want to read other peoples thoughts on it too (I just wish we could find a comment thing that allows us to reply properly without it being all annoying - but I do read all the comments we get and sometimes I try to reply but I don't know if people check back to see if there has been replies to their comments or not).

As for the whole co-blogger thing - sometimes we discuss the discussion posts with each other first (like this one), sometimes we just write up the posts and give each other the option of adding to it if we have something to say.

Julie: I really have nothing to add here, except we would love to do more discussion posts, but often run out of ideas. So, if you'd like to give us ideas, that'd be awesome.

Later.

*I don't know if you have noticed, but my more personal posts on the Speak Loudly and YA Saves posts have been taken down (moved back to drafts) - it's because it feels weird for me having them out there...people got to read them, they served their purpose but there's things in them that my own family don't even know about and it just makes me feel too vulnerable having them out there. I just wanted to mention that in case anyone goes looking for the posts to find them gone and also to let people know that it's not always easy to put stuff like that out there so be sure about it before you do. They've also been pulled because Julie's mom finally found out the name of her blog and Julie was paranoid her mom would try to look it up. Also, there's a very small chance colleges who look her up can find this and the personal accounts given aren't the greatest first impression.

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