Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Blogger "Voices:" Is There a Right and Wrong Kind?


yes, i realize i haven't read harry potter yet. don't judge!


I've read TONS of blogging advice posts by bloggers for whom I hold the utmost respect. The piece of advice I stumble upon most frequently is this:

FIND YOUR VOICE.

It's as simple and as difficult as that, right?

I had no freaking idea what that meant, at first. When I started out writing reviews on GoodReads, I felt like I had to give an intricate, professional mapping out of why I liked the book or why I didn't like it. And I did it using a voice that wasn't my own, but rather what I thought a book review was SUPPOSED to sound like. This honestly became tedious after awhile. This isn't how I speak in real life. This isn't an English paper I'm writing or an article for the New York Times. This is just me, giving my opinion of a book in the best damn way I know how.

If I were to talk to one of my friends over coffee and gush about a book with which I've recently become enamored, I'm not going to explain how deeply moved I was by the perfect placement of that semi-colon. Heck no. I'm going to nonsensibly delight in the "OH NO SHE DIDN'T" and "PERFECTEST COUPLE EVARRR!" with arm flailing and crazy eyes.

If you've ever read a review by me, you know the following: I am, if nothing else, enthusiastic about the books I love and I want you to love them, too.

If I read a book that I love, you'll know about it. I'll shout it from the rooftops. I will tweet 5x times a day and nag EVERY ONE of my real life and blogger friends until they purchase said book and ultimately agree with me. My reviews mostly consist of gushing. Seriously. I'm quite long-winded with the gush factor, too. I don't write well-structured reviews and they're hardly professional. I prefer to type up my reviews in a conversational fashion. The words I spew from my fingertips are things I'd say to my friends over the phone after I just closed an amazing book that had a ridiculous impact on me.

But I can't help but wonder if this helps me or if it hurts me.

It's been drilled into my head: FIND YOUR VOICE. Well, I think I've found it. But am I ultimately hindering my potential as a blogger if I avoid the more professional route? Do authors, publishers, other bloggers, readers prefer the professional, well-structured reviews to the incessant fangirling?

Disclaimer: By no means do I plan on changing the way I review. Structure and professionalism are my mortal enemies! This is the easiest way for me to get my point across. Take me or leave me! ;)

So what do you guys think? Have you had any experiences where you have been turned down or overlooked because of the particular structure (or lack thereof!) of your reviewing style? Do you prefer professional, formal reviews or are you down with the hardcore raving?

Inquiring minds must know!

EDIT: This is not to say that I don't enjoy deep, analytical reviews. I freaking love them. Because you guys are doing something I don't quite know how to do. I don't think there's any "right" or "wrong" kind of review, personally, because your reviews are YOU and that's what's important, is it not?

38 comments:

  1. I think reviewing style is completely subjective, to be honest. You have to find something that works for YOU, personally. That's the only way, you'll say something meaningful, you know? I've never been turned down for my sarcasm, or my amazing sense of humour or wit - or my modesty, for that matter...I think publishers look for honesty and merit above all else. Just stick with what makes you enjoy your reviews...that's the easiest solution :)

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  2. I used to write my reviews the way I thought they were supposed to be too haha

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  3. The way you're doing it seems to work for you. You've gotten so much exposure and followers in a short amount of time.

    I tend to do more professional reviews, at least that's how it ends up coming out. I don't particularly like writing in a too familiar voice, as I want it to be more about the book than about me—I know it's still my opinion, but I feel like it's more subjective that way.

    That said, I find myself feeling miffed when people write about how they hate writing in a way I do, and make it sound like what I'm doing is wrong. Find your voice, they say, but sometimes it seems like they think my way is the wrong way. Do you know what I mean? I don't get a lot of participation or comments on my blog and I wonder if it's because of the way I write.

    Not that I'm going to be changing either, as I'm also going to be using this professionally as well as extracurricularly.

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  4. I read all types of reviews, except for those one paragraph reviews. Those have no place in my google reader.

    I think it takes all types, and no type is really better than the other. I mean, I love deep, insightful analytical reviews, like at The Book Smugglers, The Zen Leaf, and Things Mean A Lot. But I also LOVE fangirly reviews, like at your blog. I also love tongue-in-cheek, funny reviews too, like at Books I Done Read and Dead White Guys.

    Do I think it hinders you as a blogger? No.

    But, I think there is always room to improve. Like, with me, I waver between analyzing and fan girling. I know the more I blog, the more I improve in reviewing. I know I want to be able to better articulate why something is so awesome or so stupid. And well, I think I will get there someday.

    So, if you really think that puts people off or publishers, then maybe you could try to, idk fangirl in a more analytical way?

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  5. Before I started posting reviews on Goodreads, I read other people's reviews and was like, "Uhhh...Why didn't I think of that?" I wasn't sure about posting my own reviews because I thought I sounded stupid. Haha. Then one day I said screw it and now I just ramble a bit. :) Annnnnd I like your reviews!

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  6. I love reading your reviews. In my opinion, when a review is written like a conversation I have a better time following it. I think I'm still trying to find my voice. Sometimes I think I come across too professional, but then attempt to throw in wit & humor too. It's a struggle I'm continuing to work on. Plus I have this fear of misspelling or using grammar in the wrong way. I know that's a fear I need to get over because HELLO! I'm going to be a teacher some day lol. But seriously.. keep doing what you're doing (even though yes, you said you were lol).. because it rocks!

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  7. When I started blogging I would always read other peoples reviews and feel uncomfortable about my own. Other reviews just sounded so much better then my own. They would post, like, a whole page. I usually post a LOT less then that. Then I convinced myself that I dont care about what anyone else does ;)

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  8. I struggle with this same issue Jen! People say to find your voice but then you read these tweets about someone doing something "wrong." I have decided to just write however that book speaks to me and call it good. It is YOUR blog so you should do what makes you happy, right? And I, for one, love your fangirly reviews and will read them for as long as you keep writing them :)

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  9. Tahleen, I think concise, in-depth reviews are absolutely fabulous. I hope it didn't come across that I was putting them down, but rather that I cannot pull them off myself without sound like I used a thesaurus on every word and like I'm trying too hard. These reviews are great because I love to read all sorts of reviews and I've found that those professional reviews often offer key points I may have overlooked in an onslaught of emotion or excitement.
    I agree that it should be about the book, and a more professional approach may capture that better than the emotionally-driven reviews. I loved your review for Speak. (Just went back to re-read it!) I think you have a knack for perfectly capturing your feelings for a book, all the while KEEPING your review about the book.

    April, I want to kick myself in the face everytime I read a one paragraph review. Like... why even have a blog if you're just going to paraphrase the freaking summary? But I digress... I LOVE LOVE LOVE your reviews. I've told you that repeatedly before. You are eloquent and articulate in your reviews, but you also are great at displaying your personality in what you write.

    Jasmine, thank youuu :) And I totally agree. I started that way, too. I felt like no one would want to read what I had to say, because everyone else's reviews were so infinitely superior to anything I could come up with. And then I decided I didn't care anymore! Rambling = AWESOME.

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  10. Thank you Jen! I think I needed to hear that. Sometimes I get sad and wonder if people read them haha, but I'm glad they do! Or at least, I'm glad YOU do haha.

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  11. Tahleen,
    Haha, I have everyone's blogs bookmarked on my phone, so I read them all every day. The only thing that sucks is that I don't comment as much as I should due to the fact that the only access to the internet I have most days is on my iphone (and I hate using that to comment!) From now on, when I read your reviews, I'm going to tweet you my thoughts. Deal?? :)

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  12. Hi Jen,
    As a reader of reviews, I want to hear "your voice." I am a new blogger and I have heard this advice a lot. It is so true though, I look back at my first few reviews and cringe! I did not find my voice until I read bad reviews of a book I loved. My review turned into a defense of that book; "Stray" by Rachel Vincent actually. I am still learning but I do not want to read professional sounding seriousness, I want to read the gushy rambling, I love this BOOK reviews so that is what I try to write. I wish I could only write reviews of books I LOVED!
    Shannon

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  13. Well, you know my thoughts on this! I love your blogging voice. I think I have a mix of blogs in my Google Reader--those who write incredibly thoughtful and analytical reviews that make me wish I was a genius like them (Steph Su, Tahleen), blogs that feel like my best friend is telling me about a book (you!) and then some that are in between the two. I need them all--sometimes I need to think, sometimes I need to laugh and sometimes I need that fangirling!

    I fall somewhere in between them all. I don't think I have a blogging voice. I feel like sometimes I'm fangirly and conversational and sometimes I'm analytical. I guess it's however the book made me feel is how I'll review.

    I wish I had a distinct blogging voice sometimes!

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  14. Jamie, that is an interesting point. "its however the book made me feel is how I'll review." I have never thought of that before but now I think I am the same way. The more I love a book the more gushy I get. If I did not love it as much I try to be more thoughtful and use my big girl words, ha!
    S~

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  15. And Jamie, thanks for thinking I'm a genius haha.

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  16. you have to be yourself and you are a gushing fangirl than by all means let your blog reflect that. there's also nothing wrong with trying to be more serious if that's your thing; I'm not much for the gushing myself although I think I'm enthusiastic about what I love in my own way, too. it's your blog- do your own thing.

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  17. I with you Jen. I write my reviews as if I was talking to a friend. I am not professional in the least; but I have a good time.

    I always love reading reviews where it is like people are actually taking to you. It's more personal and it tends to make me want to buy the book more :)

    Sarah
    That Bookish Girl

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  18. I'll be honest...I think my reviews are HORRIBLE! At least to me they are, I'm hoping I'm my own worst critic. Posting them makes me very, very nervous for some reason. I'm worried about spelling and grammer and if I'm actually getting across what I want to say. Also, I feel like my vocab needs improving since I read TONS of books, but still have trouble using "big" words. I do need to understand that they are just my opinions and thoughts on a book and to not worry so much, but I always worry. Also need to understand that some people like reading certain types of reviews, be it either really professional or fun and witty. I'm not sure where I fall in those 2 categories, maybe something in the middle.

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  19. I would say that no one wants to read a book report so adding your personal touches is a must. Relating to the blogger is just as important as the book. If you proof read and spell check then you should be good, but don't over edit. Over editing can be like a hair cut if you go in for a trim and come out cutting 5 inches off.

    Enjoy what you do and the rest will fall into place.

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  20. Jen, honey, your conversational gushing helps you so much you will never even know the extent. You know how many people love you because of your very open enthusiasm? There's nothing to be embarrassed about; we LOVE that about you!

    Don't know if this helps or not, but I often have the same doubts about my review style, too. I'm probably more on the analytical end, because, nerdily enough, that's just how my mind works, like you said. Only I realized that I think I like reading the gushy, enthusiastic, entertaining reviews more. What does that say about me?!?! Gwahhhhhrrrr!!! *goes to hide in corner*

    Just kidding. :P

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  21. This is really interesting, and as I've wondered the same thing it's great to hear that I'm not the only one. I think my reviewing voice is descriptive rather than opinionated, relatively objective, and perhaps even a little academic. That's me, and while I'll occasionally write what I think is a real fangirly love letter to a book instead, mostly the response that feels most natural to me is the more analytical one.

    That said, I sometimes wonder if my reviews aren't blogger-y enough. There'll be people out there who read book blogs because they're generally less formal than professional reviewers, and I do think maybe they'll find mine... I don't know, cold maybe?

    I personally like all different types of reviews: structured ones, snarky ones, fangirly ones. As long as the blogger writes in an entertaining way and has something interesting to say, I'm there.

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  22. My reviews are from the point-of-view of a tween. I try to write like I would tell a friend about a book. I don't use big words, I don't just write a summary, I give my opinion, I can get gushy, I try my best to be polite, and I don't worry about it.

    My voice is that of a nerdy kid.

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  23. Oh, and Jen, gushing is good if you ask me. = D

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  24. I also love your review voice. That is in part because it sounds so YOU. There are some blogs with very helpful reviews that are not especially memorable, but I remember what you write, and I could pick your reviews out of a lineup. Keep gushing and fangirling! It keeps me very entertained.

    I definitely tend to write on the more analytical side but that's partly because that is how my brain works and partly because I'm still trying to remind myself on a daily basis that I'm not in school anymore. I think a lot of aspects of my writing style have just been really drilled into me.

    I'm very envious of the easy, conversational flow of your writing. If anything, I think my seriousness holds me back way more than your arm flailing enthusiasm. People really get to know and like you through your writing, and that is an admirable thing.

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  25. I used to freak out and take forever writing reviews, going back and deleting the whole thing and starting over again because I didn't want to sound too unprofessional or fangirly but lately I just do what I feel comfortable with which is very fangirly if I love a book and just honest about my opinion if it's something I did not like much without being bashing or rude towards the author. I love to be all fangirly about books that's why I started blogging about it, it shows how much enthusiasm and love you have for it. Great post! =)

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  26. Well, who's to say that in-depth, well thought out reviews and emotion driven ones can't go hand in hand? I like to think that's what I do. Of course, my readers are the judge of that, but I do try to go into detail and explain things while not being stiff and informal.

    But I love your reviews, Jen!

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  27. This is just the post I needed to read, because I've been wondering whether my fangirly, completely unprofessional review weren't good enough for me to publicise, but I'm really terrible at being professional sounding and all that... I'm so envious of all the people that can write out an essay discussing all the ins and outs of a book, but I just can't do that. I type like I talk and I talk like a fangirl about books, and thats how my reviews come out.

    Oh well, at least people say they're fun to read :D Awesome post though :D

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  28. This post is just what I needed! I think I started out writing with my own voice, but later saw all these posts about "what not to do" and I started worrying that I was doing all those things. I feel like my reviews have been really stilted as of late because I've been stressing about filling what I've heard makes a "good" review, when everyone's ideal is actually completely different so I could never be *everyone's* perfect blogger. Sometimes I forget that I started this blog because I wanted to keep track of books for myself, not please the masses!

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  29. Excellent discussion! To this day, I still question my "voice". The voice in my reviews changes, depending on how I felt about the book. I am not consistently funny or serious or professional, and still worry about how I sound in them. I guess that is a normal thing for a blogger. :)

    I think there is room in the book blogging community for all types of reviews, but the fun and/or gushy ones tend to be my favorite. That is why I love reading reviews like yours and Naughty Book Kitties. Like you said, it's how you would tell your friend over coffee about your newest read. So keep the gushing coming, because I lurve it. ;)

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  30. ahh, yeah, find your voice.

    a few times i'm scrolling through my google reader and i can't identify who's written the review or post, you know?

    But then other blogger i could pick their review/post without a hint because they discuss the book in their own unique way.

    i think it can be intimidating to begin blogging ~ especially when there's A LOT of blogs out there. it can take a while to find your voice for some people.

    mostly, i want reading blogs to be fun. some people take it so so seriously. i want to say ~ lighten up a little1 We're talkign about books ~ you're doing it b/c you love it. i like to see that love :)

    x

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  31. I think the people that use book blogs as a Reader's Advisory source are going to be just fine with your laidback gushy style. :-) The people that are looking for more professional polished reviews may look at some blogs, but for the most part they're getting their reviews in the journals and professional sources (I write my VOYA reviews and my blog reviews in different voices). I don't think a publisher will care as long as the bottom line is "buy the book," and I don't think an author would care either.

    So keep on gushing girlfriend.

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  32. This was definitely a problem for me when I started blogging. Still is a problem from time to time. It's hard for me to do a review then go and read one that is longer because then I think "Oh they put so much more thought into what they said," or if I read a shorter one I think "This person's post is so short and sweet, but it still said so much about the book."
    But from I always feel people can tell if you are being you in your review or trying to be like someone else. And everyone wants an honest review, so I just basically write my review just like I would tell my friends about it.

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  33. Oh and p.s. I think gushing posts are the best. Those are the ones that really make me want to read a book. So keep gushing :D

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  34. Love this Jenaroo (I do not know where this came from, I just go with the flow). You + me = same mind-set. Sure, it's a little less professional, but if you really want to know what I think about a book and I am swooning like a crazy woman over it, you bet your butt I'm going to let you know it. Using a lot of CAPS and exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!

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  35. I agree with a lot of what everyone is saying. I still feel like I'm trying to find my voice. I took a film criticism class several years ago where I had to write movie reviews, so I tend to lean toward the professional side of reviewing. And because I majored in creative writing, I often want to analyze things instead of review them. That's what it feels like to me, anyway; I have to try really hard to stop myself from analyzing novels like I did in creative writing and literature classes. When I wrote my review for Willow, I had a really hard time not writing about the parallels I saw to The Outsiders.

    Part of the reason I tend to lean toward professional reviews is that I feel like I don't have much of a sense of humor, so if I try to make jokes, I think it comes across as not funny and me just trying too hard. I would love to figure out a way to have more fun with my reviews, though. And like Tahleen, I also don't get a lot of participation or comments on my blog, and I also wonder if it's because of the way I write.

    But at the same time, I have to remember why I started blogging in the first place: for myself, to do something I enjoy. My goal wasn't to become a "celebrity" blogger (which is how I think of Kristi at The Story Siren). I think it's awesome that so many bloggers have thousands of followers and receive tons and tons of ARCs and whatnot, but right now, it's not something that's realistic for myself. So I'm constantly reminding myself of that, that way when I don't get as much participation or comments on my blog, or when publishers don't contact me about doing reviews, it's easier to accept.

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  36. My blogging voice is the same as my regular voice that I use to speak to in the people in my life. My friends have told me time and time again that reading my blog is just like having a conversation with me because I write the way that I talk. It works for me because when I write reviews, I'm writing them with the thought that I'm telling a friend what I liked and didn't like about the book. It's all me and completely real.

    For everyone it's different and really, all you have to do is find a voice that works for you and you'll be good to go.

    Interesting blog topic, me likey!

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  37. I don't have anything new to add to this conversation except to echo what other have stated. You should be you when reviewing a book. Conversational/snarky/fun doesn't equal unprofessionalism. Heck, I think that having a fun tone definitely provides perspective on books that other analytical reviews may not. Hearing your voice is an excellent addition to the collection of reviews on a book!

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