At the beginning of the year I posted about my 2019 Reading And Blogging Goals. I listed ten things I wanted to do this year. Wow ten. I didn’t realize it was that many until I just counted it. Huh. Anyway, I listed ten things I hope to accomplish this year:
- Get caught up on my reviews
- Open the blog to review requests again
- Read more Self-pub/Indie Books
- Another Self-pub Fantasy Month?
- Finish up series I’ve started
- Warhammer 40K
- Star Wars
- Clean up the blog
- Reduce the size of my TBR
Because this isn’t simply a book review blog (I mean mostly yeah but not completely), it’s also my thoughts on books and reading and the blog in general, I’ve decided to take some time to address each one in more detail because I know you’re all riveted by it. OK, truth be told this is really to help me keep on task. Anyway, here’s the second deeper dive into my goals…and for this I’m going out of order…
CLEAN UP THE BLOG
This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. I’ll be honest and admit when I started the blog I kinda threw it together quickly. I picked a style, worked up a bio and contacts page, wrote a review, and went live with it. Not long after I added a few other pages like my rating system and pages to list my reviews by genre. None of it really looks great and some pages haven’t been updated in a while. I REALLY need to work on this, and Some of it will impact other goals for the year. So here’s what I’m hoping to do…
Update My Rating System
Basically I started questioning whether to keep a rating scale and if so what would my new one look like. I’ve decided I’m keeping a five star rating system. I’m also keeping ratings that include half stars. Gone are technical ways of computing a rating…from here on out it is mostly subjective. I’m also going to try to be a little stricter on myself when giving out my ratings. I’ll be explaining what the scale means in a future post when I update the page. I feel like I need to do this before I move on to other goals for the year like opening up for review requests again. I think it’s only fair for anyone requesting a review to know how it will be judged. For now just know this is coming and it will probably be the first update I make to the blog pages.
Genre Review Pages
I have three pages on the blog devoted to listing my reviews by genre; Fantasy Reviews, Science Fiction Reviews, and Supernatural/Horror Reviews. I created them so that it would make it easier for anyone visiting the blog to find specific reviews. Maybe someone wants to know if I’ve reviewed a specific book, or maybe they want to know what I’ve reviewed by a particular author. whatever. I wanted something that could be accessed that would be easier to navigate than scrolling through the main feed.
I am woefully behind on updating these pages. In fact I can’t remember when I updated any of them last. Wait…I just looked…it was six months ago (which is better than my rating system page…that was a year ago). So yeah, there’s a bunch of reviews I need to link to these pages. I really just need to devote a day or parts of two days to doing this.
I want to do more than just add the missing reviews though. Right now the pages don’t look very aesthetically pleasing. I also want to come up with another format for how they look. I’m really not sure what I want that to be yet though. So for the short term I may just add links and later update the graphic content. We’ll see.
I’ve been toying with my review format ever since I started the blog. At first I wrote long flowing reviews. Then I moved to long reviews broken up into sections based on recurring structures like plot, pacing, characters, world-building, themes, etc. Each review would include something about each of the structures. Then I moved on to long reviews that might include some but not necessarily all of the structures in a format that flows based on my feelings about what I liked and didn’t like about the book.
Do you detect a pattern above. I tend to write long reviews. No…no I pretty much always write long reviews. Even when I try not to, I end up writing over a thousand words. I can’t help myself. I need an intervention. Some of you say you like my long reviews. If you are one of those people you tend to be authors who like that I’m saying a lot of nice things about your book. I really don’t know if any non-authors like them. Suffice it to say I recognize this flaw in my character and have come to embrace it. The long review will probably stay.
What I’m not sure about is the format within the review. I kinda like what I’m doing now where I lay out the book info (author, publisher, publishing date, series), and then the blurb from the book cover (which sort of covers my plot section), and then dive into the rest of the review and close with a rating. The main body lately is broken up into sections but they are less formal and structured than before. Like I said above, my more recent reviews don’t cover every aspect I could discuss but rather focus on the specific things I like/loved or disliked/hated about a book. I’ve also made a much more concerted effort not to include spoilers unless very minimal and I note it ahead of time.
One problem I had when I started the blog was that I was used to writing very technical and critical reviews in grad school. We had specific formats and expectations for what an academic review looked like and it was kinda drilled into me. I still catch myself thinking that way when I’m writing a review and I have to make an effort not to. This is probably why mine are the length they are and why I’ve used the formats I do. This isn’t all bad though. In some ways I find my experience with academic reviews helpful in my approach and how I formulate my thoughts. What’s difficult is moving from making an objective argumentative academic critique to a subjective emotional one that sometimes includes the objective.
Anyway…I may still change up the review format a little over time. I’m just not 100% settled on what I’m doing now and don’t feel like I’ve found my brand so to speak.
The Overall Look
Speaking of graphics, at some point I’ll probably update the template for the whole blog. Like I said above, I put this together pretty quickly one weekend and I went with one of the free templates. I didn’t want to commit to a paid upgrade if I didn’t know I’d still be blogging in a year. Well it’s been over a year and I’m still here. I’m not ready to fork over any extra money just yet but I’m thinking about it. I would like the option of nicer templates and layouts that the paid options give you. I’d also love to have a branded look one day which would potentially mean commissioning some sort of logo and header. Some of ya’ll have done this with your blogs and it looks great.
What I CAN do in the short term is clean up my existing template. I may get rid of some of the clutter like the tag cloud and banner links. Anything I do with the overall look will come last and maybe not this year.
Well that’s about it. I figure it’s enough for now. Again, this is a goal for the year so I’ll do bits and pieces over time, but the first update will probably be to my ratings page. I just really want to get it all cleaned up so I don’t feel embarrassed when ya’ll visit.
In the meantime I have pieces of two reviews in draft form. One is for Wake of Vultures, by Lila Bowen, and the other is for The Bear And The Nightingale by Katherine Arden. I expect to have at least one if not both of these posted sometime this weekend.