ruminations on my first year of blogging

Today my blog turns one year old, or celebrates its first anniversary … I’m not sure which is the correct etiquette in the blogging world as I still count myself as a beginner, a newbie, a blogger in L-plates.  I’ve learned a lot of new things about blogging and book reviews in this year … and I’ve also learned quite a few things about myself …

I absolutely love writing

If you asked me to tell you when I first fell in love with reading that would be easy to answer – bed time stories!  But if you asked me when I first fell in love with writing, that would be more difficult to pinpoint. It’s something I’ve pondered a lot in this past year as I finally get the opportunity to indulge my love of all things wordy and try my hand a spot of creative writing here in my blog.

I’ve loved reading books for as long as I can remember, and it was my husband, Mark, who convinced me to start this blog.  Secretly, I’m certain I caught him stifling a yawn when I chattered on about the latest book I was reading!  I exaggerate (a little).  He isn’t as fanatical about books as I am, but he’s been my number one fan, and my most trusted critic, for my writing so I have him to thank for this incredibly fulfilling first year.  

I really didn’t think my blog would come to anything, but I rather liked the idea of being able to rattle on about all the books I’ve read … and that’s all my blog really was to me when I started. I had no idea quite how moreish, welcoming, and expansive this world could be. 

My reviews have definitely evolved during this first year.  I look back on my early attempts and cringe a little … some are littered with spoilers, and then when I realised that wasn’t the done thing my next batch became so vague any reader would have trouble knowing what I’m wittering about.  It took a month or so to find the right balance, but I’m rather chuffed with the reviews I’ve been writing since those early hiccups.  I’ve learned a lot from broadening my network of book bloggers – asking advice, reading their superb reviews, picking up on feedback from authors etc.  This is a genuinely lovely, supportive community and if you’re open to feedback and seek out new ideas then you really have nothing to stop you.

I’ve also realised my reviews are heavily influenced by the book I’ve just read.  The tone, pace, cadence, and language I find myself using are all attuned to those of the book.  I was initially a bit hesitant about declaring this here, but the more I think on it the more I’m convinced I can’t be the only one.  When I love a book, I thoroughly lose myself in its pages and its stories so it makes sense that I get swept up by that voice.  And with books I really love, I want to write the review more or less as soon as I’ve finished reading it, to do justice to what I’ve just read whilst the ‘feeling’ of it is still enveloping me. 

For me, writing my book reviews feels a bit like writing a short story … having been given the most enormous helping-hand by the book’s author! Their book, their ideas, their style; they’re all the prompts and inspiration, and my review is a responsive short story about my experience. In this respect, I’m being given one opportunity after another to write short stories spanning so many different genres, eras, dramas, romances, settings and so on. I don’t have the imagination (or the patience, tenacity or talent) to even contemplate writing a book myself, but I adore being so inspired by the stories of others to create my own review.

My self control is woeful

This isn’t really new news to me.  I only have to catch a glimpse of Mark’s face when I exit the garden centre (back in those heady days when we could. sigh!) with a heavily laden, max-sized trolley of foliage and flowers, pots and gadgets … only to dash back inside to collect the second trolley!

But I appear to have reached new highs … or lows?  Well, I’ve reached new levels of carefree abandon and unbridled hoarding in this beautiful, gorgeous, bookish world.  My last office job was located two doors down from Waterstones … my lunch hours became a paperback trolley-dash even then, even before I knew book blogging was a ‘thing’.  But then I found this world, and a little birdie mentioned NetGalley … well, damn!  I make no pretence at reining myself in there.  I check it daily (confession: probably three times daily) to make sure I’ve not missed out on something new and exciting.  I’ve taken FOMO to a new realm that I’ve affectionately named, FOMOOB.  No moobs here.  Fear. Of. Missing. Out. On. Books.  

Flippin’ genius 🤩

Also flippin’ daunting … my NetGalley list has reached a size where it could probably be spotted from space, and is certainly in danger of crashing the internet.  It’s my dirty little secret … Mark builds me new shelves faster than Geppetto, and can be heard chuntering most days about any new paperback and hardback arrivals, but if he could only see the towering e-pile! 😳🤫

The books I get sent give me such a thrill

A new book arriving through my letterbox is the loveliest thing.  To be sent a book by an author or publisher is such a buzz; whether it’s a final printed copy, and an uncorrected proof copy, or a superproof, I see that book as a gift and an expression of confidence that I am a good enough blogger to be trusted with a copy.  Let’s face it, these books are in huge demand, and they’re not from a bottomless well, so to be sent one is, yes, an enormous thrill.

I have a bit of a ritual with new books – always have done.  Every new arrival here is stroked, coo-ed over, sniffed (these three steps can be repeated several times), and then placed reverentially on the table to look at for a few days.  I don’t find them a home on my shelves immediately because I just want to give it love-heart eyes for a time first.  

Then there’s the photographing and tweeting and insta-ing … that’s a given, and the first time I get to express my thanks to the lovely person who sent it to me.  

Next there’s a more prolonged spot of photographing, ready for the book review itself.  I’ve leaned the hard way to get this photo early on, because I read in the bath … whilst I rarely drop a book into the bubbly, watery depths (horrors!), wet hands and humid air play havoc with the covers (as do hands with even the merest trace of moisturiser on, btw), and a crinkled, curly-cover may be the truth of a hugely-enjoyed book, but it does no favours to the publisher’s marketing campaign.

I’m undecided about stars

Star ratings occupy my mind a little more than is healthy.  Do I? Or Don’t I?  That is the question.  I hoover-up similar conversation pieces by other bloggers in the hope of finding the definitive yes-no answer, but I know in my heart of hearts that I need to make my own decision.

I’ll always have to commit to a star rating when it comes to uploading my review on GoodReads and the online retailer platforms, but for my own blog I’m toying with the idea of ditching this mechanic.  It feels a little divisive to me, and I’d like to think I’ve evolved my review to a point where it makes my opinion and enjoyment perfectly clear.  Over time I’ve started to view star ratings as a rather blunt tool, I mean, whilst my five-stars signify a rather simplistic ‘absolutely loved it’, will everyone know that this translates more gushily to ‘I’ll never part with my copy / I’ll only every share my copy with the most vigorously vetted friends who I can trust to return it, and even then it’s at great discomfort to me until we are reunited / I’m already planning to read this one again very soon’?  Probably not. 

And don’t even get me started on that problematic three-star rating … that one is the source of much procrastination on my part.  It goes without saying that one reader’s five-star read can be another reader’s DNF.  

Mmmm, thank you for sticking with me through that … quite a brain-dump that turned out to be!  I think I’ve made up my mind … no more stars for this blog.  Let the words do the talking.

I’d underestimated the power of social

Oooh, my word, did I?!

I entered the blogging world thinking people would flock to read my reviews.  I’m not big headed, really I’m not … I just though that’s how it worked 😳

But I’ve had my wake-up call, and over the past year I’ve come to realise the importance – and the power – of social media for book sharing, and as a resource for growing my blog following.  I’ve blown the cobwebs off my dusty old Twitter account, and I’ve lolloped forth into Instagram with more enthusiasm than style.  Like my blog, I’m still very much in L-plates on these two platforms, but I’m loving every minute.  

Twitter has been my biggest enlightenment, and it’s through this much maligned platform that I’ve found my tribe, having been welcomed into the blogging world by so many like-minded book lovers.  It’s here I’ve learned about blog tours (not been brave enough to join one yet, though), hooked up with Peter Donnelly @TBRreviews for my first buddy read, entered countless book giveaways and competitions, not to mention making connections with so many talented authors, bloggers, and rather wonderful publishers and PRs.  And then there’s the supremely fabulous #squadpod who have been the most uplifting, positive, fun and supportive group imaginable.  Thank you ladies 😘 🥂 you know who you are!

All in all, it’s been a year of learning more than I thought I would when I first pressed that ‘launch’ button on WordPress. I’ve loved every minute of it, and I can’t wait to see what year two has in store for me!

Thank you for taking the time to read this!
I’d love to know what you’ve learned about yourself since you started blogging … and what one gem would you share with other newbies?

17 thoughts on “ruminations on my first year of blogging

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