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The author’s platform #blogging #amwriting

Today’s image is a picture of my husband’s amazing hydrangea from last year. It’s covered with green buds right now, and I can’t wait to see it bloom again. It’s my favorite plant in his lovely garden.

So what does a hydrangea have to do with blogging? Nothing, although a photo from a garden would be a good image for an author’s blog post. Blogging is a good way to connect with readers. It’s a platform where you can advertise your books and discuss your interests, and most importantly, talk about what you are writing.

I have made a personal commitment to post three times a week on this blog, plus I contribute posts to three other blogs. I do this because each time I write an essay on the craft of writing, I clarify my own thoughts on those points. Also, posting the occasional flash fiction on Friday keeps me sharp and keeps me writing little bits of prose I might otherwise not have the chance to write.

Many of you know that I first began blogging because my former publisher insisted I do so. This, he said, would help get my name out there, and give me a regular platform for my opinions. That original blog is long gone, and those posts were pathetic attempts to write about current affairs as a journalist. That blog failed because writing about current affairs is something that has never interested me.

What I learned from that otherwise-negative blogging experience is important: it wasn’t until I stopped trying to fit into a mold someone else had designed for me and began writing about my interests that I learned to love the craft of blogging. When I made that connection and commitment to writing about what I enjoy, I began to grow as a writer.

When I’ve had a small success and am in danger of becoming too full of myself, blogging never fails to provide me with a sharp dose of reality. I must work hard to proofread my own work and then publish it. Nothing bursts your bubble of self-importance like discovering gross errors and bloopers several days after you published the post.

Oops.

Regularly writing blogposts has made me a “thinking” author, as well as a “pantser.” I can write using the “stream-of-consciousness” method or write from an outline of whatever interests me at the time. I do the research, and the post begins to write itself.

I have found that a good length for a blogpost ranges from about 500 words to not more than 1,000. Having that limit means I must keep my area of discussion narrow, and not get sidetracked.

This helps me when writing flash fiction, as most flash fiction can only be up to 1000 words. When I first began writing flash fiction, telling the entire story in so few words was often an issue. Writing blog posts really helped me learn that skill.

I have found that writing blogposts isn’t that difficult per se. I can knock one out in less than an hour if I’m fired up about the subject.

What I find most challenging now is sourcing ideas for new and interesting content. I have written posts on nearly every aspect of the craft, and don’t want to bore people. I also write on the craft for two other professional organizations and don’t like to repeat myself there either. These commitments have me scrambling though my notes to see what questions people might want to have answered, and then doing the research—my favorite thing.

During the week I make a note of any interesting topic that might make a good blog post. The only day I write blog posts is Sunday, but I write the entire week’s posts that day. If there is a lot of research involved, I make footnotes with citations and sources as I come across the information. When that is the case, getting the week’s articles ready could take the whole day. Usually writing the posts for the week only involves the morning.

If you are a blogger who only posts once a week, writing your blog post should take less than an hour.

I spell-check and self-edit my posts as well as possible. Then I go to each website where they will be posted and pre-schedule them. By using the tools each platform offers (be it WordPress or Blogger) to schedule in advance, they will post without my having to babysit them. Having that ability allows me the rest of the week to work on my true job, which is writing novels.

If you are an author, you really should be blogging too—but you don’t have to blog as frequently as I do. Think about this: your website is your store, your voice, and your public presence. Readers will find you and your books there. So, offer them a reason to come and look at your books.

Many of you are saying that it’s hard to gain readers when your website is new, and you first begin to blog. This is true, but that will change if you just keep at it. The reason we write is for people to be able to read our work. When we have a limited audience, we feel a little defeated in our efforts to gain readers. In the world of blogging, as in everything else, we start out small and gain readers as we go along—but we gain them more quickly if we keep the content updated at least bi-monthly.

Because authors want to gain readers, it’s necessary for them to use every platform available to get the word out. Updating our website blogs twice a month offers us many opportunities to do just that and keeps us in touch with the people who count—our readers.

My next few posts will discuss the little things I’ve learned about blogging, beginning with how to get your own author blog up and running at little or no cost to you. I am fluent with WordPress and Blogger, two free-to-the-author platforms, and I will explain how to get started with both platforms. After that, we will talk about finding new content.


Credits and Attributions

Hydrangea, image by Connie J. Jasperson ©2017, All Rights Reserved

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#amwriting: Citing Sources and Image Attribution

Writing blog posts isn’t that difficult per se, as I can knock one out in less than an hour if I’m fired up about the subject. The real challenge of blogging regularly is finding interesting content. But that is also how you grow in the craft—you become a better writer when you write on a variety of subjects.

I write posts for several other blogs besides Life in the Realm of Fantasy. The way I handle my blogging commitments is this:

  1. During the week, I make a note of any interesting topic that might make a good blogpost. The only day I write blog posts is Sunday, but I write the entire week’s posts that day.
  2. If there is research involved, I make footnotes at the bottom of my composition document as I go. Getting five articles ready on my busy weeks could take the whole day. Usually writing the posts for the week only involves the morning.

For a blogger who posts once a week, it should only take an hour or so.

So WHY did I mention making footnotes? Isn’t that just for academic stuff?

Not at all, Grasshopper. We must give credit where credit is due. It’s your legal obligation, but there is a moral one here too: if you wrote something good and someone quoted you verbatim, wouldn’t you want to be credited?

First let’s talk images:

When we first begin blogging, sourcing images seems like no big deal. You google what you want, see what images pop up, right click, copy, and use them, right?

WRONG! You can get into NO END of trouble that way. A friend recently pointed a telling blogpost out, and it bears being referenced here again: The $7,500 Blogging Mistake That Every Blogger Needs to Avoid!

An excellent article on using Creative Commons Images can be found here:

I use Wikimedia Commons and Public Domain images. Wikimedia makes it easy for you to get the attributions and licensing for each image. Another good source is Allthefreestock.com, where you can find hundreds of free stock photos, music, and many other things for your blog and other projects.

Sometimes I need images I can only get by paying for, and I go to Dreamstime or Canstock, and several other reputable sources. For a few dollars, usually only two or three, I then have the right to use the image of my choice, and it’s properly licensed. The proper legal attribution is also there on the seller’s website, clearly written out with the copyright and artist name, so all you need do is copy and paste it to your footnotes.

I keep a log of where my images are sourced, who created them, and what I used them in. I also insert the attribution into the image details on my website so that when a mouse hovers over the image, curious readers can go to the source. (In WordPress, you must be on the WP Admin dashboard. Click on the image and go to ‘edit details’). If you can do this, you won’t have to credit them in your footnotes.

We may want to quote another blogger or use the information we have learned from them. Plagiarism is an ugly word, and you never want to be accused of it. To that end, we cite our sources and only use images we have the legal right to use, also citing their source.

Citing sources:

First, I open a document in my word-processing program (I use Word), save it as whatever the title of the post is in that blog’s file folder, and compose my post the way I would write a story.

  • Composing the body of my post in a document rather than the content area of the blog-template allows me to spell check and edit my work first, and I feel more comfortable writing in a document rather than the content-window.

I keep a log at the bottom of my page of what website, who the author was, the date of publication, and the date I accessed it. I have found the simplest method is the Chicago Manual of Style method:

Purdue OWL Online Writing Lab,  General Model for Citing Books in the Chicago Notes and Bibliography System, Copyright ©1995-2017 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved.

Website: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/717/03 Accessed Jan 10, 2017

When you quote from Wikipedia, you can click on the ‘cite this page’ link in the left-hand column, which is a menu of items pertaining to Wikipedia in general and to that article. ‘Cite this page’ is listed under ‘tools.’ Clicking on this link takes you to a page offering citations for that page in CMoS, APA, or MLA style, whichever suits your need. All you need to do is copy and paste the one you prefer into your footnotes, and your due diligence has been done.

All this information for your footnotes should be inserted at the BOTTOM of your current document, so everything you need for your blog post is all in one place. When my blog article is complete and ready to post, I will insert a line to separate the body of the post from the credits and attribution notes.

When readers view my blog, if my post were one that I did research for, they would see this at the bottom of the post:

Authors need to blog about who they are and what they do because they can connect with potential readers that way. Using pictures and quoting good sources makes blogs more interesting and informative.

Photographers and artists are just like writers—they are proud of their work and want to be credited for it. Protect yourself and your work by responsibly sourcing your images, giving credit to the authors and artists whose work you use.


Credits

Portions of this article and the screenshots first appeared on the Northwest Independent Writers’ Association  Blog in January of 2017, written by Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved.

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