As of today, I have been blogging for three years, and I am beginning to think I almost know what I am doing.
Here's what I did this past year:
I decided to focus on my favorite genre---fantasy and science fiction, with a particular emphasis on middle grade books. Having this focus made blogging seem more pointful; it gave me an identity in my own mind, a little niche that I could fill. I've enjoyed blogging more than I ever had before. And my blog hits doubled.
This past May I made a choice to look for more books that featured characters of color--this is an ongoing process.
This year I added two new regular features--announcements of new releases of science fiction and fantasy (sff), and weekly roundups of blog posts about middle-grade sff. These are huge time sinks, but I like doing them 1. because I like to feel helpful 2. because they are interesting to me. Thanks to everyone who has left me comments saying that these are, in fact, interesting and helpful posts!
I added header art, featuring a nebula in the shape of a mysterious orange space snail, which helped give me a Distinct Brand, at least in my own mind....I think I am the only blogger with a mysterious orange space snail in their header art.
But despite my new focus, I still feel a tad schizophrenic, because I write for three audiences.
There is the audience of people who like the same books that I do, for whom I write posts that essentially say "go read this book right now because it is really good." Those posts are the most fun to write, because I don't have to think much at all, and because it is so very satisfying to urge others to read beloved books. I'm also thinking of this audience when I write reviews that say why a book I thought I'd love didn't work for me, which is not quite so fun...
Then there is the audience of adults who might be buying the books, or putting them into the hands of kids. This is a harder group to write for, because I have to justify to a greater extent why I think a book works, or doesn't work. This is the audience I am thinking of when I review books I've gotten from publishers, and so the stakes are higher and I try (with mixed results) to be more professional.
The third audience I have in mind is parents of nine year-old boys who are picky readers. I don't write for this audience all that often, but it sure is satisfying when I am able to type: "and my son sat down and read this cover to cover."
But in the end, I'm writing for myself. As much as I want to be a Useful Resource, of a Source of Good Books (and I do want to be these things, very, very much indeed), I also want to enjoy the process of blogging. Which means trying to stifle the voices in my head with their messages of what I Should be doing (ala Liz's post today at Tea Cozy), and just doing the best that I can.
And part of that includes continuing to work on my spelling and proof-reading, which is very hard for me. Here is the comment I got on my very first college paper: "There are so many typographical errors that it is difficult to assess the severity of your spelling disorder." This, very sadly, continues to be the case. Even with Spellcheck, bad things happen, and I quite often hang my head in shame....It is especially sad that post titles live forever with their mistakes in them (and I can't believe I just did it again with this post. SIGH). It is also very sad indeed that Technorati doesn't let people edit the descriptions of their blogs, and so I am stuck blogging forever about fantasty and sciene fiction :) - that is a brave smile.
But thank you everyone who reads the blog despite everything--readers and bloggers and publisher and writers and all, and thank you especially to those of you who have left encouraging comments, the sort that lets me know that there is a point!
And if anyone has any Useful Thoughts about things I could do to make my blog a better place, I'd be happy to hear them (if they are tactfully phrased....).