Lessons Learned Formatting Old Posts for WordPress, or, the Evolution of a Blogger

As you all probably know, I moved to WordPress about a month ago. The move messed up the formatting on all of my old posts. Now, it doesn’t matter so much with most of them, but I have to add all of my reviews to the review archive, so I might as well get them formatted up nicely. At this point, I’ve got all of 2013 in my archive and all of 2010, since I lost my spot and decided to start from my first reviews and just head back towards the middle. I suspect I still have about 500 or more reviews to go. So. Yeah. Anyway, this has not been entirely fruitless, however.

My Old Reviews Are Worse Than I Thought
Okay, I knew they were bad. I mean, really bad, but it was still startling to have to look at them. I mean, in most cases, for the first several months of book blogging, my reviews were shorter than the book’s blurbs! Unsurprisingly, there was basically nothing of note in them. I debated not even putting them in the review archive, because just wow is that bad. However, that’s where my blog came from, and I’m not going to be embarrassed of it. Well, not too much anyway.

did i do that

I say EMBRACE THE AWKWARD. My guess is that all of us are embarrassed of our old reviews. It takes a while to find your stride and figure out what kind of reader you are and what kind of reviewer. Finding your own voice and what format works best for you takes time. Part of my problem early on was that I also wrote up a summary of my own, instead of including the publisher’s summary. This made me feel like I’d written more in the review than I actually had.

I Had NO Clue What Sort of a Reader I Was
You might think that it would be obvious what sort of books you enjoy and why, and that your reading wouldn’t change with blogging all that much. Looking back, I see a bunch of criticisms I would no longer make. Most common, I would subtract points from a book for not creating a firm picture of the settings and characters in my head. Now I almost never subtract points for this, because I now know I’m not a visual reader. In fact, if I do see anything in my head clearly, I heap praise all over the book, because that’s all the author’s talent at description.

King-Arthur-On-Right-Wrong-In-Sword-In-The-Stone-Gif

Blogging really does make you more self-aware of your qualities as a reader. Where before, a book was a book and I liked it or not, I can now break it into various categories, and even place those in a hierarchy of their importance to me. In some ways, I’m more critical now, but in others I’m much more forgiving because I have a better sense of my own limitations.

I’m a Marshmallow
Guys, I was so blunt to the point of meanness in my reviews back in the day. Of course, there were only like 20 people to see those reviews ever, so it’s not that big of a deal. Looking through those early reviews, I pretty much just put down my criticisms of the book and moved on, without bothering to praise the elements I liked.

cat says fuck this

Though I’d forgotten how harsh I was, I do remember making a concentrated effort later, when I joined the blogging community, to highlight the positive as well as the negative, which did not come naturally to me, though it does now. I even try to put the positive things up front, because our brains tend to retain that stuff more easily.

Even when I did try to give a compliment in my early blogging days, it came out like an insult. My most positive reviews for the first couple of months read pretty negatively. And people think I’m mean now. Ha!

Blogging HAS Helped Me Choose Books More Wisely
In the last couple years, I’ve developed a sort of good old days way of thinking about pre-blogging/early blogging days, back when I got books out of the library spontaneously and read them. I felt like I did a much better job of picking out books to read than I do now. Now that I’ve edited my earliest reviews, I see that that’s not the case at all. In my first couple of months of blogging, I only read a couple of books I loved and a whole slew of ones that I loathed.

decisions friends

While, yes, I do have some unsolicited review copies (or even solicited ones) that turn out to be traps, I wasn’t necessarily so good at picking books for myself before either, and I’m still generally trending upwards. Giving myself the freedom to DNF has been a big help recently. Even more important, I’m now connected to other readers and able to remove some of the worst books from my reading list. I’ve also learned to let other people help me choose what to read when I have a free read. Debby (Snuggly Oranges) has volunteered to choose all my free reads for me, so, hey, at least the pressure’s off…of me anyway.

How do you think your reviewing style has changed since your first reviews?

24 responses to “Lessons Learned Formatting Old Posts for WordPress, or, the Evolution of a Blogger”

  1. Meg says:

    As I’ve been reviewing books for all of 5 minutes I can’t really comment on my reviewing style changing. But I can tell you that since discovering all of you lovely folks on GR and twitter, my reading/book-picking style has gone through a complete overhaul.

    Before, I used to go to thrift stores, garage sales, library sales, basically anywhere that would let me fill up a box of random books and leave with them in exchange for $20. I had a handful of authors I kept an eye out for and reread constantly (you don’t even want to know how many times I’ve read all of Jennifer Crusie’s books) but it was mostly like stumbling around in a pitch black room looking for the light switch and praying I didn’t fall and break my neck. They were dark times my friend.

    Now I’ve found a group of people whose opinions I trust and biases I understand to help guide me towards books I’m more likely to actually enjoy. While it’s not a perfect system, I am quite pleased with the fact that my success rate has shot through the roof and I’m starting to actually have standards about what I read (whaaaa? Crazy, I know) The only downside being, now that there are actual books I specifically want and look forward to, I spend all of my money getting brand shiny new copies the second they come out because patience is not my thing. Oh well, worth it.
    Meg recently posted…Review: How to Love by Katie CotugnoMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      True. I’m a bit jealous of folks like you and Ellis who came into reviewing knowingly, and thought about it a lot before posting that first review. You guys can look back and not be embarrassed. In theory.

      JENNIFER CRUSIE IS AMAZING. THIS IS NOT AN EMBARRASSING THING. I’ve read pretty much all of her stuff. Ditto Meg Cabot and Janet Evanovich. If I did stumble across something good in that dark room, I clung to that author.

      *waves goodbye to money* Black sheep things and white sheep things still strike, but generally I’m a lot more mindful. There’s a lot less of picking something up that I know nothing about, reading all of it, and then realizing that I was never interested in the first place. Though used bookstores still get me. OOH, shiny cover, but then I check GR and I’m like NO WHY DID I DO THAT?

  2. Anya says:

    Omg yes this. I went through my old posts to fit them into the UBB plugin format and … yeah. I had a problem especially since when I started I decided to review books that I had read a while back because I couldn’t read a book a week (how things have changed), so a lot of the time the review consisted of very general statements because I couldn’t remember much! I have since realized that I really must review a book immediately after reading otherwise I will not be able to remember enough details to write something of quality.

    I also did the my own summary thing, which was just painful to write and I think it kind of shows.

    I’m also definitely picking books better, though I worry that I’m missing out on good adult books since I follow so many YA bloggers. I find YA sf/f books that I’ll enjoy easily, and there are certainly enough of them to fill all my time, but I like adult books too when I find good ones…. On the whole, I’m relieved to have book bloggers to help me choose what to read though!
    Anya recently posted…SIGNED Allegiant Giveaway!My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Oh man, I’ve always done the review right when I finish, because that would just not work for me. A couple days after I finish, I’m already forgetting things. Heck, when I write the review, I’ve often already forgotten the MC’s name.

      Why did I bother to summarize when someone was kind enough to do that for me? LAZINESS WINS.

      Finding adult books is harder, and a lot of my fails are there, because I don’t know too many bloggers who reveal adult outside of the romance/paranormal romance genres.

  3. Bonnie says:

    I am so living this right now too. The past reviews being shit is huge for me. Not only were my reviews total shit but I wrote like a few sentences and called it a review. Lol I’m seeing these and thinking, “Why did I even bother?” Thankfully, progress is more evident and makes you at least feel better about NOW.
    Bonnie recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday – Snowblind by Christopher GoldenMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Hahaha, I know. My early reviews are exactly like reviews I would now mock privately. MY SHAME. But, seriously, why did I bother. That’s how I grew though. That was me getting the motivation to be a blogger, so I guess it paid off eventually.

  4. Angie F. says:

    Oh gosh, I remember going through all of my old reviews when I switched to WP earlier this year…LoL While I don’t think my current reviews are all that great, they are much better than those first few!

    I 100% agree about blogging helping me figure out what kind of reader I am, and making it easier to choose books I’ll like it. It also makes things more fun even though it is a lot more work than just reading for the sake of reading would be.
    Angie F. recently posted…Wishlist Wednesday [39]My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I still don’t like a lot of my reviews, but I do at least think a few of them are quite good. None of the old ones were. I’m not really sure if I was under the illusion that they were or not.

      It is more work, but I really don’t regret the time spent on it. I’ve seen a lot of people toying with the idea of quitting because they no longer feel happy with the community, which saddens me. I’m not there.

  5. My reviews are much better now, but I’m not really embarrassed by the older ones. They aren’t the worst out there, despite the fact that some of them are HUGE. Like I couldn’t stop talking, haha. I’ve always been sure about what type of reader I was until I met YA. A complete new world opened up to me šŸ˜€ I’m still trying out new genres and discovering new things I like. It’s also easier to find books I know I’ll truly like and I even started to DNF books.

    And good luck with all the formatting!
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Review 208. Paula Guran ā€“ OUAT: New fairy tales.My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Oh man, you had the reverse problem that I did. My reviews are pretty long now, but my first ones were two paragraphs. And not long paragraphs. It’s weird because I’m so chatty normally.

      Blogging made me stop DNFing for a while, but I’ve finally gotten that ability back. Thank goodness!

  6. Lili says:

    I was really scared to write negative reviews when I first started blogging. My reviews focused on the positive with a small mention of anything negative and that was it. I was very lenient in my ratings because I hadn’t really discovered my true taste and what it is to really LOVE a book. Looking back on it, books got 4 stars that should have gotten 3. Some books I loved weren’t all that great, but appealed to the general mush inside me that we all have somewhere. And even now, I have days like that. When I read a book sick my entire mentality changes. It can be terrible and I’d still greatly enjoy it…like WILD CARDS lol I cringe thinking I gave it three stars at times, but in the moment I enjoyed it. And book blogging isn’t really about the moments, it’s about the general analysis of the entire thing as a whole. That’s what I’ve moved towards with stricter ratings and more critiquing. My fear of being negative (in a respectful manner) has totally been obliterated.

    • Christina Franke says:

      You started out as the reverse of me. It’s just so much easier to criticize than to praise. It’s simpler to account the things that didn’t meet with my approval than to explain WHY something worked.

      I didn’t have ratings early days, but when I first added my rating system that happened a lot, but I’m giving myself the freedom to change them as I process my posts from the move. Because I want to. I’m just making them consistent with what my rating system ended up meaning.

      Bahaha, I have some like that too. There are books I probably shouldn’t have enjoyed but did. Hey, that’s fair though.

  7. Rachel says:

    My old reviews make me cringe in horror. I’ve only been blogging for a little over a year, but my writing has gotten SO much better. I’m sure a lot of this is due to the fact that I’m studying media criticism in college so now I write essays on media all the time, but wow. I prefer to not ever go and look at them and just pretend they don’t exist. I was a completely different person last year, and like you, it took me a while to come into my own, where I knew what I liked to read and what kind of reviews I like to write.
    Rachel recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday: Crash Into You by Katie McGarryMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Getting involved in the community and reading other reviews really helped me figure out what I liked to read from others and feel like it would be okay for me to be myself in my reviews. I thought I had to be a certain way (boring?), but now I know that was silly.

  8. Judith says:

    I actually had the same thing when I moved to WP a few months ago and looked back at my oldest reviews. What was I even trying to do there?! Starting a book blog was a pretty impulsive decision – one day I was like “hey, this is cool, I want to do it too” and did it – so I didn’t really think about the way I wanted to review at all. I’m jealous of all the people who figure out they want to start a book blog and then wait a while to set it up properly and all. I never did that.

    But anyway, back to review style: what’s funny is that I’ve been talking about this with Ellice, who writes guest reviews for me, and who has just started writing reviews. She is not completely satisfied with the way her reviews are right now, and I remember feeling the same way after a while of blogging. My reviewing style has changed a lot over the past year and I am happy with the way it is now, but there’s no way it started out that way. I think that seeing that transformation is pretty fun.

    The thing that’s most diffficult for me is rating. A year ago, I gave books 5 stars that I would probably give 3.5 right now. Somehow, the fact that that rating is still on my blog as if it’s still correct bothers me. But I don’t want to change it because it WAS how I felt about it back then. Sigh.

    Can you tell that I did not think this comment through? Rambling.
    Judith recently posted…Top Ten Character NamesMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      That’s basically what I did too. I think I’d only seen like two book blogs at the time, and both trended towards shorter reviews, so I guess I assumed that was the done thing? I’m not sure. But, yes, I’m so jealous of folks like Meg and Ellis who thought and planned before launching into reviewing.

      Just read one of Ellice’s reviews this morning, and I thought it was good. Still, it takes a while to find your voice. I’m very happy with some of my reviews, but hate others. Though I doubt that will change. I generally loathe my own writing.

      Rating is difficult. I think I finally have a really good handle on what my ratings mean to me. The community’s still tricky, and I have to work hard not to rate up or down to fit in better, which would be silly. I’m actually letting myself add and change ratings as I go through updating my archive. Basically, I think having ratings that mean different things as my blog evolved is really confusing, so I’m standardizing.

  9. Ellis says:

    I’m going to repeat it for as long as you’ll be saying otherwise: you are NOT mean. Of course I’m super curious about those old reviews now šŸ˜€ I remember my first review… I had to write it for an English lit class and I had no idea what even went into a review, so I did this weird analysis kind of thing that was absolutely not the assignment. Meh.

    I joined Goodreads shortly thereafter and I observed for months before I started to become active. My oldest reviews are gigantic. Novellas got nothing on them.

    It’s funny that you mention the lack of positive criticism in your early reviews. To me, you’re one of the bloggers who considers a bad situation from multiple perspectives before writing it off. Okay, not in Wasteland per se, but I remember this instance in The Summer Garden where you said something like “I can understand why he’d do that because of everything he went through, but NOPE.” That doesn’t sound all that negative to me, to be honest.

    Anywho, good luck with the remaining 500 reviews!
    Ellis recently posted…Review – BloodfeverMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      You don’t know me irl. I am a bit mean. However, I don’t think I’m mean to authors. There’s only one review that may have crossed the line, but that bit was also just snarky brilliance so I’m not taking it out. So.

      That’s what I do NOW. I try to point out the good as well as the bad, because it’s only fair. However, with books like Wasteland, there’s nothing good to be said. NOTHING. Actually, I did put in some praise: that it was mostly boring, when it was not being infuriating. It wasn’t infuriating at every moment. !!! So positive. High praise!

      *hits head against neverending review mountain*

  10. Saji Connor says:

    Oh it’s great to read qlways sincere opinions from you!
    Concerning my blog, I have very few follower in the Italian version and in the English version too.
    It happens to me to come back to see my old review, and yes, they were just like a note about the book and what it seemed to me, just in a short post.
    Now I tend to see a little bit more deeply and I like to put everything that I can combine to that reading.
    I know things can be better for my reviews, but it needs time and experience on reading!
    xoxo
    Saji Connor recently posted…TAG: 99 Random QuestionsMy Profile

  11. Awesome post. I cannot imagine going back and formatting all of those old reviews and if I ever switch to WordPress I may not bother. But we’ll see. When I changed my blog design I didn’t bother to go back and reformat. I probably should have but nobody ever looks at those reviews anyway so… And I’m lazy.

    It’s funny that you say you’ve realized that you are not a visual reader when my path has been the exact opposite. I never used to mention imagery and painting a mental picture in my review and now sometimes I feel like that’s ALL I do. šŸ˜€ But you know…I look for that stuff because of the editing thing I do on the side.

    I don’t remember your reviews being particularly mean and now I am thinking I need to go back and check some of these out! Hahaha.
    Kara @ Great Imaginations recently posted…[Blogger Trick or Treat] Christina at A Reader of Fictions!My Profile

  12. […] Christina from A Reader of Fictions discloses a few things she’s learned through her blogging journey. […]

  13. […] discussed updating her old reviews and feeling the pain of remembering your newbie blogging posts, I am so there with her, please don’t look at my first reviews […]

  14. I’m kind of on the fence with this. On the one hand, I find my reviews have changed from being mainly plot summaries with an “It was great!” tacked on at the end to an actual review (now with barely any summary in my review portion — I include a synopsis for that reason). To this day, it still irks me when people call their summary of the story with a one-liner thought at the end a “review.”

    On the other hand, when it comes to buying books I find I’m a lot more judgemental with WHAT I’m buying these days. And, really, with what I’m reading. I think before I really got into blogging, I would read what I want, when I want, and usually get it from the library or the odd trip to the bookstore. Now I find that I’m a little too focused on what I’m getting that I miss the joy of BROWSING books and just picking up whatever suits my fancy.

    There’s also the problem of me wanting to read MORE books which means I stick to shorter tomes. I feel like I’m missing out on SO MANY BOOKS but I just can’t wrap my brain around the fact that it’s okay to spend more than a few days on a book.

    I’m still changing as the years go on and I hope that I can find a happy medium. I’m thinking that my ways as a reader will definitely change in the new year and I hope that I can be less judgemental towards the books that I’m choosing.

    Great post!
    Kristilyn (Reading in Winter) recently posted…Cover Love: Books Iā€™d Put in the Freezer (Halloween Cover Edition)My Profile

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