Tuesday, September 7, 2010

W is for The Wolf's Den

With less than a week left of my self-assigned Alphabet Challenge, I figure it's about time I let you in on my secret to success. Well, maybe not the secret, but rather some secrets. ...Which will no longer be secret... Here's a look at what goes into making a post here at The Wolf's Den.

Alphabet Posts

First step is usually to figure out what each letter stands for. Some letters have definitely been easier than others. Sometimes reading others' blog posts has been the only way to get inspiration.

Once a topic has been chosen (though, in some cases before that happens) I head into my image editing program (Paint.NET) to choose the font and make the letter image. It only takes a couple minutes at most, so I tend to do a bunch at the same time. Next I upload the image(s) to my photobucket account, where it can be linked to in my post.

Now's when I finally bring up blogger and start making a post. After linking to the photobucket image, I skip the copy and focus on the end segments. First there's the image of and link to the font, which is typically from DaFont. Some are easier to remember than others, so I sometimes have to check my image program to see what the font was named. But, once located, it's pretty fast to insert into the blog.

Next comes the second-most tedious process of the blog: inserting the Books I've Read section. My first stop is my Excel document of all the books (I remember) I've read. Arranging the books in alphabetical order by title allows quick access to those that fit the letter of the day (though I have to make checks in both books starting with A and The as well). Once I've found a few books I enjoyed that are stand-alone or beginnings to a series, I head over to Powell's website.

Now, some of you might wonder why most of my links are to Powell's instead of, say, Amazon or Borders or B&N... Well, I've considered doing the Amazon route, and possibly earning (a meager) income from providing links, but have decided against it. Ultimately, I figure people will shop where they want, and my linking to a particular store won't deter them. I like Powell's because they provide new and (lightly) used copies for good prices, and their selection is top-notch. Plus, have you seen their City of Books?! But I digress.

On Powell's I take a few minutes to find links to each of the books on my list, while simultaneously looking up images for the books on Google. Once an image is found to my liking, I insert the image into the blog post, then change the link to the Powell's page. In order to comply to my OCD-ness, I must make all the book images the same height—which is accomplished with a little copy, paste, resize in Paint.NET. With each of the images a cool 125px tall, and appropriate widths, my books section is all set.

Finally I'm ready for my video embed. iTunes is my first stop for music artist/group ideas, but if that fails then I simply scan my favorites list on YouTube. Once I find an appropriate vid, it only takes a few seconds to get the embedding code and insert it into the blog post.

And that's it! ...Well, except for the copy, but that part's boring hard to explain my little secret. *wink* All in all, it usually takes about 45 minutes to complete (though this one is taking quite a bit longer!).

Book Reviews

The first step of a book review is, of course, reading the book. I've found myself thinking more about how I read now that I'm blogging about it. I actually consider if a book is working for me, how the characters feel, if I'm enjoying it, and how to summarize/spin the plot of the first 50 pages. It's a lot different than I remember reading before—even when I was supposed to be analyzing books in college. After the first 50 pages, though I usually relax into the book and trust it to take me where it will.

Once I've finished a book, I usually go to bed. Since most of my reading is done at night, I tend to finish books around 3 or 5 in the morning, making sleep a necessity. But even if it's not the middle of the night, I like to give myself a night to digest the ending. Sometimes my first impression of a book weighs too heavily on the ending, and if it's a cliffhanger or otherwise incomplete, it tends to jade my thoughts about the book as a whole. Letting it stew in my mind overnight, or through another day, allows emotions to cool and enjoyable aspects to return to the limelight.

Now that I've got a general impression of the book in mind, I sit down to the blank blogger page and begin.

The title of the post is never the book title. I know, it'd make it much easier to identify—or to pick out on Twitter—but I find I like a little humor in my titles, and just putting "Review of Blank by Yadda Yadda" is boring.

Next is the No Spoiler introduction. I never post spoilers of a book. Ever. As I said, I generally only go into specifics of the first 50 pages OR what is revealed on the book jacket. The only time spoilers might make it into a post is when the book is a part of a series, as with my reviews of the Young Wizards books, and those are only spoilers for previous books. If I can at all help it, though, spoilers are usually contained to "A, B, and C are still alive".

Then comes the book image (always 185px wide), the title of the book (with link to online book-seller), series, # in series, and author name(s). Pretty straightforward.

I write my own introduction hook for the book. This means no disrespect toward those who write the jacket-copy, I simply like putting my own words toward the book. Again, I limit the summary to about the first 50 pages (or so), so nothing too important is given away. I think this is a good limit so that it gives readers a chance to see if they're interested, yet still holds back enough that they're left guessing.

Next, I give my own impressions of the book. I usually touch on the characters, any prevalent themes (romance, mythology, etc.), and writing style. If I have any problems with the book, I usually address them here (though, if plot related, I'm very discreet). Praise is often harder to articulate, but I do try my best to get some of it across—even if it's just recommending it for people "who enjoy blank, blank or blank".

Finally, I state my approximate reading time. Since I often finish my books in one or two sittings, this is fairly easy for me to record. Easier still if I'm listening to an audiobook, which states the time right on the case (though I have to adjust it slightly when I speed it up).

I don't post ratings. Firstly, I don't feel comfortable giving a book a number. It makes me feel like a judge - and from my many marching band competitions, I've learned to greatly dislike judges. Plus, how do I quantify emotions? And what scale do I use if a book is great but not as great as another? So, for me, it's just easier to write about a reading experience than to whittle that down into a number.

And that's it! Hope you enjoyed a look into my blog! And if you have any suggestions, questions, complaints, or well wishes, please don't hesitate to comment!

Some W Books I've Read:

My Favorite "Weird" W Artist:

And More Here & Here!

The W Font: