Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Reviewing and Blogging with Fiktshun


Hi, guys. Today we have another guest. Let's give a super fabulous welcome to: Rachel from Fiktshun. I adore Rachel and her blog so much I thought that I would ask her to come on over and talk with us about her history with blogging and reviewing and maybe even give us some pointers. Check it out!

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First, I just want to say thank you to Amy for inviting me to stop by her lovely blog to talk a little bit about my experience with writing reviews. I promise to try not to be too boring, I won’t guarantee that I’ll be successful! 

Reviewing has never been an easy process for me. It’s always been the hardest part of blogging, which is funny, because without the reviews there really wouldn’t be a point in having a book blog. 

Originally I thought I had to follow a certain format for my reviews. In fact, when I first started out I had never read a review - editorial or otherwise - and I had never written one. I didn’t even want to write reviews when I first bought the domain name Fiktshun. 

And shortly after I bought the domain, in May and June 2010, I tried my hand at writing them. And I absolutely hated everything about it. I had no idea what I was doing. I had to search Google for instructions on how to write a review, and tried to follow them to the letter.

It was boring. It felt like writing a book report. I had to keep referring back to the instructions to see what I was missing. I even went online to read a few editorial reviews to see if I was on track.

I had no idea there were book blogs or that bloggers didn’t always follow the format of traditional reviewers. If I had, I might not have given up. But I did. Because I knew I couldn’t possibly be a reviewer. What an awful job that was. Who could possibly want to do that day after day? 

When I decided to give blogging and reviewing one more try - thank you Amanda Hocking - I hated writing reviews just as much. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that a blurb from my review made it onto Amazon and Barnes & Noble and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. 

I wouldn’t say it got better or easier. After several reviews, a friend of mine said they all sort of sounded the same, a little generic, and I was devastated. That’s when I decided I need to re-think my approach. 

I didn’t want to sound generic. I didn’t want to bore readers to tears - not that I really had any readers at the time - but I figured that I would if I kept writing reviews like I had been. I also wanted to add something creative to the review and not just summarize the book.

So, over the next few weeks I began creating my own synopsis of each of the books I reviewed. And I loved it. It was fun! I hated summarizing a book, but a synopsis just came so easily. I would just close my eyes and let my mind wander until it landed on just what I wanted to say. 

By this point I had discovered book blogs, and I learned that a lot of reviewers on the blogs would give their opinions of the books they read. Adding the “I” factor to the review made it more personal for readers. It totally made sense.

While I still couldn’t bring myself to veering completely away from the traditional format, I wanted to add in that personal touch. I wanted readers to know what I really thought. And so I added the “On a Personal Note” section to each review. 

For just a short while they were really short. I’d just say that I loved a book, was blown away by something or was super excited about how things ended. But, as with most things with me, the short didn’t stay short, and the opinions weren’t just simple declarations of love, but long-winded rambles about my feelings toward each book I read.

Fast-forward to today. Reviewing hasn’t gotten easier. It’s actually gotten more difficult in some ways. Finding new ways to express similar feelings about a story is a challenge.There are only so many words in the English language that are appropriate descriptors.

There are many days when I wish I could just switch to the opinion only format and leave off the more formal analysis. But I’m my own worst enemy and can’t just give up on something because it’s difficult. 

It takes me anywhere between two and six hours to write a review. I had one that took me an hour and a couple that took me eight and nine hours to write. But most take me between two and six from the moment I put my fingers on the keyboard and prepare myself to write.

I do envy those whose words come so easily. For me, it takes significant effort to corral my thoughts in the right way. 

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all doom and gloom. I enjoy writing reviews, where I once hated doing so. And I don’t need an instruction sheet to write my reviews any longer. And on those really good days when the thoughts and words just flow, I actually look forward to sitting down to write.

But, what makes it all worth it? What makes those bad days, where I want to pound my head against the desk, a distant memory? It’s the feedback I receive. 

Knowing someone read my review and liked what I had to say, decided to add a book to their reading pile because of my enthusiasm, or introduced them to a new author, makes all the hard work, the struggle and the tears of frustration, worth it. 

No one who has ever tried blogging said it would be easy. But after ten months of consistently blogging and writing reviews, I can honestly say I couldn’t imagine my life without it. 

I don’t imagine writing reviews will ever get easier for me. Each book is different, so each review will be. I still have a lot of room for improvement and I expect my reviews will evolve as long as I continue writing them. 

I have no magic formula on how to do this thing, but what I will say is this:
  • Write only about what you love
It’s not worth it if you’re not having any fun. You have to love what you do or the burnout will come quickly and hit really, really hard.

  • Write your reviews in your own voice - it’s what people want to hear
It doesn’t matter how someone else does it. Your voice matters. Whether you think you’re as eloquent as another reviewer or as critical as yet another, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what you have to say. 

If you choose to change your style do it because you want to, not because of what you think you should be doing.
  • Blog your way - if it’s daily, weekly, monthly or whenever, it’s your blog
Don’t feel obligated to blog every day, or even every week. If you can only blog on occasion then that’s what you need to do. Try not to feel too much pressure (says the stressed out person writing this post). 

Remember, editorial reviewers just have to read the book and submit their reviews. They don’t have to fill the empty spaces with content. They don’t have to learn html coding. They don’t have to market themselves on the various social media outlets. And they have an editor to help them with their grammar.  

*We bloggers do it all ourselves. On our own, with little help from others aside from other bloggers. So just do what you can do and that will be enough.*


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Thank you so much, Rachel. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to hang out with us for awhile. As for the rest of you..

Have a wonderful week and thank you for stopping by.

Happy Reading & Arrivederci

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