Sunday, May 07, 2006

metablogging - how I blog

Jill at Unfinished Chapter 80 poses an interesting question: How do you blog? That is, the actual writing part of blogging?

When I am blogging about a book or movie or TV show, what I usually do first is the research. At the minimum, that includes a site about the item. For the book, it's usually Amazon just because that's where I usually shop. (And, I've stopped, temporarily, the Amazon Associates part of creating links for items because it was too time consuming.) But, depending on the site and the information provided, I may do Barnes & Nobles or the publisher. For visual medium, that means IMDB,, and the official movie/network site.

For books, I then look for information about the author/illustrator, preferable their own site. I also look related information, like author interviews.

At this point, if I have run out of blogging time, these are all saved in a favorites folder called "story ideas". (But I'm thinking of changing that to the more specific "current blog post.") If I do have time to blog, I start the blog post with the following structure: book jacket photo, title, author; and then what may well be the end of the post, such as "author interview here." So it starts with all the links already there. With that structure in place, I start writing.

The actual writing takes place in the blogger software; there is usually no need to link anywhere since it's been done. I usually refer to my reading journal, where I record my impressions of books. (A typical entry has no plot summary, but instead lists what I liked, didn't like, fave quotes.) I look at it in preview, revise, read it out loud, revise. Post. Find a typo, edit, post.

Seriously, it doesn't take as long as it sounds.

When I write in response to something -- a news article or another blogger's post -- if I don't have time I save it in my story ideas folder. If I do have time, I link as I write.

While I like my story ideas folder, I find that I need to go in every month or so and clean it up because there are story ideas that go stale. By the time I sit down, everyone has already posted about it and I feel I have nothing new to add. Or, I posted and didn't delete the site from the folder.

If I'm writing something not for blogger, whether fiction or non-fiction, my first draft is handwritten; the second draft takes place when I'm putting it into Word; then I print out, revise, print out, revise. I have tried writing first draft on the computer but I get antsy tied down to one place to write (hence my increasing desire to get a laptop.)

By the way, Unfinished Chapter 80 is Jill's new blog; go take a look! Short description: an academic examination of children's literature. Long description: here.

So, how do you blog?


Michele said...

I have two windows open - the Blogger page, and the page. I find the Amazon link for the book or movie I'm reviewing, then go into the Associates page to create the link, then dump it into the Blogger page. I then write the review - hopefully in one go without interruptions ! Preview it and try to remember to check the spelling (using the spellcheck on the Google toolbar), then post it.

If I'm writing about a news story, I have the webpage for the news item open so I can copy the link for the full length item into Blogger, and also copy and paste the bits I want to quote in my comments.

When it comes to writing essays, I write reams of notes, longhand on narrow ruled paper using a blue ballpoint pen (a slimline Shaeffer with a narrow nib). I then write the essay longhand, type it up (revising as I go) in Word, print it off and edit it, then type up the amendments and print it off again. Proof-read it and hope I don't need to edit it again. Then send it off to wherever it's going... I can't write an essay direct to Word as my writing has no flow; it becomes staccato, and includes far too many hyphens and ellipses ! (Rather like my emails and Blogger comments, really !)

Talking of the pen I use, when I went to buy it, I asked the shop assistant if I could hold it and explained I wanted a pen that was slim and not too heavy with good balance. He looked at me like I'd just walked out of the mental hospital and said "It's a pen." So I gave him a similar look back and said, "No it's not, it's a writing tool and I will spend many long hours using it. I want one that will not cause my hand to cramp up because it's too fat or too heavy. I want a pen that I can use and take a pride in the writing that is done with it. If I just wanted a pen, I'd go back to the cheap biros I used to use before I took up writing !" I think he then remembered that I was the one with the money to spend as he shut up and let me find a pen I liked.

(Sorry, I didn't mean to go on quite so much there... !)

Liz B said...

I also use the Google spellcheck! Much better than the blogger one.

Pens are so important. I totally agree. They have to have the right weight, and fit just so, and the ink -- well, pens are not all the same.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty new to this whole thing, but I keep something similar to your story ideas folder in the body of a recurring Outlook task that I have (the task is "write in blog"). I'm pretty much ruled by Outlook. But I, too, find that things go stale pretty quickly unless I write about them right away, so I use it more as a "to do" list. As in, write a review of this book that I just read, etc.

For book reviews, sometimes I just start writing away in Typepad, but if I'm not near my computer, I try to at least draft out some notes in longhand right after finishing the book. I find that my thoughts are pretty perishable, too. I also try to read as little as I can about what other people think of the book until I'm finished. But after I've written a review, I might use the promotional material from the publisher, or a website, to put some "about" information at the end.

I use the spell-checked in Typepad, and I would say that it's decent but not perfect. I'll have to try the Google toolbar one. Thanks for the pointer, Michele. And Liz, thanks for an interesting discussion.

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion here! I didn't even think to talk about how I assemble notes, or how I revise/proofread.

I do notes lots of different ways, but when I feel inclined to spellcheck, I paste into Word. LiveJournal has an okay spellchecker but Word's highlight-in-red thing quickly lets me see where the mistakes are, which is often enough to correct them without resort to actually running spellcheck.

I love Jen's notion that thoughts are perishable. And, Liz, I too always read what I write out loud. I think this makes a HUGE difference (even though occasionally I decide to leave an awkwardness awkward because I don't have time to find a nicer phrasing, especially since I view my blog as inherently a sort of rough draft). I've been proofreading papers for people at work recently, and I can TOTALLY tell who reads their stuff out loud and who doesn't.

I wonder if the method of blogging/writing depends on what's being blogged/written about. I don't do book reviews so much these days - more close readings and thoughts on literature and librarianship - so my methods might be different from those of more active book reviewers.

Anonymous said...

Also - what about coding? Do you code (html) as you go, or put it in later? I used to have to put coding in on a second run-through, but I've gotten so good at typing all the <'s and the /'s so quickly that it's almost just like typing another letter in the words at this point. (Do Blogger and Typepad even make you hand-code? I seem to remember that some of the newer blogging software doesn't.)

Michele said...

Liz I'm glad it's not just me who feels that way about pens !

Anonymous said...

Are you guys aware that you don't really have to go to Amazon to create links to products? That is, once you have the code to link to a product, all you have to do is fit in the isbn of the new product and more or less always that will work. Take a look at my book links at that's how I make all my links. And here's an explanation right from the horse's mouth:

"If you would like to link directly to an item's detail page using a
text link, you can use the following format to construct your links:

The n's here represent the 10-digit ASIN of the product, and
"your_Associates_ID" stands for your Associates ID. The
text, "ref=nosim," is what allows your visitor to be taken directly
to an item's detail page when the link is used."

So there's no reason to stop adding your associates ID!

Liz B said...


Thank you so much for that tip! That is so much easier than what I was doing.

Michele said...

Fine - except that Associate links look like this:

Not like you've quoted, Debra !

dhamel said...

Hi, Michele. You can check with the folks but I think you'll find that that other stuff isn't necessary. My one link to is:

And as far as I know it's working.

And I just checked: clicks are definitely registering for the quarter.

Michele said...

OK, thanks. I'll try it out...