Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Armchair BEA (day 2): Blogger Development and Genre

I've always had a pretty haphazard approach to my blogging. When I started my blog it was simply because I wanted to write but about what I didn't know. So my first 4 months were filled with short posts about current affairs issues, links to articles I'd written, meanderings about places I wanted to visit. At around the same time I started to find a lot of book blogs and it seemed like the perfect thing for me. You see, although I have friends and family who like to read, none of them read as much as me and more importantly, none of them want to deconstruct it with me. So I started to write reviews, not for every book I read, but for the ones I really felt like reviewing, and then I started to take part in memes like TTT and Follow Friday and it all sort of developed from there.

I'm still far from a big blogger, but I think I've gotten myself into a rhythm I like. I post at least one review a week, a Monday post that's full of pop-culture and bookish links (no one knows better than me how important procrastination first thing Monday is!), and hopefully another post, either a readalong update, a recipe, a discussion post or a meme. At one stage I was posting two reviews a week and another two to three posts but with my PhD studies I just don't have the time, and I'd hate for this to ever feel like a chore.

I stopped caring about how many followers I had pretty quickly. I noticed that if I took part in the memes I would amass a bunch of "new followers" but of the 20 that followed me, i'd maybe see one or two of them commenting on my reviews after that day. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have several thousand people reading what I have to say about books, but I'd rather a smaller base that engage with my reviews and who I develop friendships with than a large number that are never actually around.

I haven't really gone "pro" but I do get sent requests to review books from authors and the occasional publisher and earlier this year I was invited down to the Harlequin Blogger Summit which was pretty amazing! In the end though, since I have such limited time thanks to my study, I read the books I want to read. It can be hard to say no to an author (I've had a few that don't seem to understand the meaning of the word) but if it's feeling a little bad/awkward vs missing out on the new Rainbow Rowell because I'm reading some boring, poorly edited book about a werewolf in love with a mermaid - well it's no contest!

The best advice I could give another blogger is (do you guys even want advice? Too bad, you're getting it)

1. keep your blog simple yet engaging visually. Don't have music start playing when the website loads, don't have hundreds of pictures and awards on the sidebars (and actually, 1 sidebar is usually more than enough), and don't have too huge a sub-heading under your blog title. People are there for your writing and all these things get in the way, and I know I will often X out of a blog if there is too much going on. If you must have these things, create a separate page for your blog roll, awards, etc.
2.  Get involved in the community. Blogging was always fun, but now I can't imagine giving it up thanks to the friendships I've formed. It's so much fun to fangirl over authors or books with people on twitter, or get into discussions about books on their blogs and to share Christmas or birthday cards. It's easily the best part of blogging, better than the occasional free book, and better than the excuse to read. 
3. Be yourself. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but when I started reviewing they were very similar to the articles or essays I'd hand in at university. It was formal and maybe a little dry. While I love to read reviews that sound like one half of a discussion with a friend (it makes commenting more easy too) they don't have to be full of slang or gifs, just be comfortable and write something you'd like to read and which gets across some of your personality too.

 Yay!! Genre fiction! The biggest drain on my life was during my under-grad when other students (and teachers) would look down their nose in disgust at genre fiction. Apparently if it's horror it can't be good. Apparently if it's sci-fi it can't be good. Irregardless of the fact that some of the books they were praising, such as Frankenstein and Dracula are freaking genre novels!! I touched on this subject in a blog post I wrote way back in my earlier days while I was waiting at an airport and remembering classmates complaining about the shoddy genre writing available at airports and how it was leading towards a dumbing down of society. YAWN.

Regardless of what Lit snobs might say, genre fiction is fabulous and really, 98% of books published are technically genre fiction - so there's absolutely zero ways for you to be both a reader and a genre hater! I read from a lot of different genres, but I guess horror would be the main well I keep returning to. I love, love, love Stephen King, and if you're yet to discover the wonder that is King I must recommend Cell, Pet Semetary, The Stand or The Shining. The man is a machine, and a master at adding supernatural horror to emphasise everyday terrors like losing a child, or bullying. Really guys, go find a Stephen King book and sit your butt down and READ. Aside from King, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson is phenomenal, if you liked the film versions (shudder) then you will be blown half way across the globe when you read the book. Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist is a vampire story with heart (although I haven't been as impressed with his other novels), Children of Men by P.D James is an short but great dystopian novel, and William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist is as iconic as the film, but in a completely different way.

Outside of horror, if you're a fan of myth and fantasy, then American Gods by Neil Gaiman is probably perfect for you, or if you prefer religion and fantasy you'd do better with Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. And because he's the greatest, read Warren Ellis's Crooked Little Vein if you want a crime novel with a nasty edge or his FREE online comic series, Freak Angels for a dystopian series.

Got any recommendations to throw my way?


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