Tag Archives: blogging

Creating your author blog part 3 #amwriting

Today marks the end of my three-part series on author blogs. (Edited to add: Parts 1 & 2 can be found at these links:)

Creating Your Author Blog, Part 1

Creating your Author Blog, Part 2

One of the comments authors make most often when explaining why they don’t keep their blogs updated, is that they don’t know what to write about. One well-known author told me she sees it as a job that is as exciting as doing laundry.

I think it’s because it hasn’t occurred to her to write about her passions. She is a woman who has many different hobbies—climbing, cooking, and kick-boxing, as well as writing. It just hasn’t occurred to her to write a 500-word article about what she did over the weekend and post it for her fans to read. As a fan, I’d love to hear about her trip to the Sasquatch! Music Festival at the Gorge and get her opinion on the various bands that played there.

However, my friend regularly tweets about her hobbies. The fact is, many authors who use twitter to connect with fans don’t think that their lives are worthy of more than the 280 characters you must work with in a tweet. But a blogpost doesn’t have to be long. Think of it as a long tweet or Facebook post, and you will have 300 – 500 words written in no time.

That is an acceptable blogpost. My first posts averaged 400 words.

A great many of us are quite adept with Facebook as a medium for connecting with readers. The work you put into a Facebook post for your author page or a tweet could easily be turned into a short blog post.

If you fall into that category, even a bi-monthly update on your works in progress and where you will be signing books is a good option. We just need something to  keep our fans engaged.

Needing a blogpost is also an opportunity to quickly dash off a flash-fiction, a drabble, or a haiku. Authors need to write and keeping our blogs updated is a good way to keep those juices flowing when we are having a creative lull in other areas.

Life, my family, and the nuts-and-bolts of writing craft are my inspiration. I am always educating myself in this craft, and since writing is my obsession, that is usually what I riff on for 500 – 1000 words at a time.

However, I sometimes write about the challenges life hands us. I will talk about the worry of having two adult children who live with epilepsy. I have discussed how being vegan adds culinary adventure to attending conventions. I also have many creative grandchildren, some of whom who give me career advice, some of the more hilarious of which have made fun posts.

Sometimes, during the week, interesting things will come up in conversations in the writing groups I visit on Facebook. Often these little questions and how they relate to my own works-in-progress are subjects that I think might make a good topic for a blogpost. So, I keep a sticky note up on my desktop and note my ideas for topics as I come across them.

Usually, the only day I write blog posts is Sunday, but I write the entire week’s posts that day. Sometimes, I write them the day before I intend to schedule them, but I like to do them well in advance, so I can proofread them with fresh eyes before their posting.

Sometimes there is research involved, and I need to quote other websites. When that is the case, I make footnotes at the bottom of my composition document as I go. Pretend I need to quote from an article on Gallows humor. Footnotes or attributions are written like this:

Wikipedia contributors, “Gallows humor,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gallows_humor&oldid=759474185 (accessed January 30, 2017).

If you are using images or quotes found on the web, only publish those you have the legal right to use. Do the right thing, and source your images and quotes responsibly. To find out more on that subject, see my article of September 4, 2017, Citing Sources and Image Attribution.

Some people wonder why I make footnotes at the end of most of my posts. I didn’t always do this, because I didn’t understand that even public domain and royalty free images found on Wikipedia should be attributed correctly. It’s our legal obligation, but there is a moral one here too: photographers and artists are as proud of their work as we are of ours—if you wrote something good and someone quoted you verbatim, wouldn’t you want to be credited? When you see your book offered for free on a pirate’s website, don’t you feel anger?

After my post is written in a document, I open WordPress or Blogger and select new blog post. Then, before I do anything else, I insert the title and schedule the date for publishing, so the post is prescheduled for the right publishing date. Prescheduling allows my blog to post a new article three times a week at 06:00 am my time (on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday) which is 09:00 US Eastern time. It updates without my having to babysit it.

I do have to be observant when I am scheduling my posts. Occasionally, I accidentally hit the “publish immediately” button, which means I end up with an extra post that week whether I meant to or not. When that happens, I sometimes use naughty words. When I get done cursing, I either skip the Monday post or write an extra one.

Once I have the post scheduled, I select the categories and tags.

For an author who is posting once a week or twice a month, it won’t take an hour to put together a post if you write in a word document, spell-check it, and paste it into the body of the post. I spell-check and self-edit my posts as well as possible. Blogposts don’t require an editor, but you should, at a minimum, check for these things:

  • We need to look for incorrectly spelled words and doublecheck the spelling of proper names. We also need to look for words that sound the same but are spelled differently.
  • We need to use good grammar—when we are blogging, it doesn’t have to be perfect but do your best. It will sound like you, and that is important.
  • Also look at sentence structure. Did you use complete sentences? What about run-on sentences? Lo-o-o-o-o-ng sentences can make reading a post confusing.
  • Numbers. This is especially an issue when using digits, as the difference between 10 and 100 is substantial.
  • Look carefully for dropped words or repeated words—my big bugaboo is the extra and or to in a sentence: and and.

Once I have my post edited as well as I can, I paste the document into the body of the post. It is a good idea to use the preview function and read your post. It looks different there than it does in a word doc, so you will find many things you want to change and can make any adjustments needed before the blog is actually posted. Even so, I always miss a lot of typos and other bloopers, so don’t freak if you have to go back and take the apostrophe of a plural word that is not a possessive: sharks vs shark’s (as I regularly have to do.)

Blogs look nice with an image, so insert pictures. I love looking for images on Wikimedia Commons and other free public domain sites, or sometimes I use my own photographs/graphics.

Blogging is where I come to talk about things that are on my mind, which are usually ideas about writing craft. Having the ability to write each post ahead of time, edit them, and select the date for publishing allows me to work the rest of the week at my true job, which is writing novels.


(07 June 2018) Edited to add the links to the previous posts:

Creating Your Author Blog, Part 1

Creating your Author Blog, Part 2

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Creating your author blog part 2 #amwriting

As last week’s post, Creating your author blog part 1, much of this is taken from earlier posts on this subject, so if you have seen it before, thank you for stopping by, and the next post will be on sourcing content for our blog posts.


Once you have your blog set up, and the catchy title picked out, etc., it’s time to start writing. Both WordPress and Blogger offer you the ability to use html (Text) if you choose, which I don’t have a clue about, or to go with the Visual (what you see is what you get). Unless you are a programmer, stay with ‘Visual.

In WordPress, choose a category now for your post–do it first, so you don’t forget to do it. I published this post in the category of writing.  Each blog post may have a different category, but you decide what your categories are. If you should forget to choose the category, it will go into the ‘uncategorized’ pile–the dreaded WordPress slush-pile where blogs go to die.

Also in WordPress, chose a few TAGS now, if you know what you’re writing about, so that you don’t forget to tag the post. That button is below the Categories list. Chose tags that most represent the core of your post, so that searchers for that subject will find your post.

For this post, I am using ‘blogger, blogspot, blogging, WordPress, WordPress blog how-to.’

If you are using Blogger, PICK YOUR LABELS NOW–Blogger doesn’t use categories, so your labels are very important. On the right-hand side, click on ‘LABELS’ and simply type your key words into the BOX, separated by commas. In Blogger, LABELS are what TAGS are in WordPress, so use words that represent the core of what you are blogging about so that interested searcher will find your blog.

Next, schedule your post: In WordPress, in the the right-hand menu-list you will open the the ‘status bar.’ Use the calendar to pick the date and set the time of day you want the post to go live.

Here is the screenshot that shows you where everything is in WordPress:

Wordpress_how2blog_screenshot2018

And for Blogger it looks like this:

blogger_details_screenshot

Now that you have that out-of-the-way, it’s time to blog!

  1. Hook me with that catchy blog post title! Pretend this post is called “Blogging for beginners.” Pretty boring, but hey – it is what it is.
  2. Put that title in the white box at the top of the page and DO IT NOW, so you don’t forget to give your post a title.

Now there are two paths for you. You can choose to wing it, keying directly into the post box as I sometimes do, or you can write it on a WORD document, edit it at your leisure, and copy and paste it into the body of the post. (In WordPress, depending on the platform’s mood, you may have to key “cntrl V” to paste it into the post box.)

Both Blogger and WordPress have spell check functions, and both will save at times as you go. However, spell check only picks up misspelled worlds, and doesn’t catch errors that involve correct spelling. When I key directly into the post box, some errors may get overlooked in the proofing process. I do try to correct them but I sometimes don’t notice them for several months, so blogging can be a lesson in learning to laugh at yourself.

Now we want to add a picture. In WordPress, place your cursor in the body of the blog post and click once at the spot where you will want the image. Then scroll up to the left side of the ribbon (tool box) and click on the circle with a + sign in it, where it says ‘Add’ (when you hover your mouse over it, it will say ‘insert image.’ This symbol is a little obscure, but once you find it, you are good to go.

If this is your first blog post, you won’t have anything in your media library yet, so click on “Upload Files.” Practice uploading images and inserting them, playing with it until you feel comfortable and know how to ensure the image will appear where you want it and will be the size you want it to be. Then, once the image in the body of the post you click on the picture, and a new toolbox opens. That is where you make your adjustments for positioning and size. You can even add captions if you wish.

In Blogger you also click on the little picture in the ribbon (when you hover your mouse over it, it will say ‘insert image’). A pop-up menu will appear, and then you will upload the image, decide the placement and the size.  This nearly foolproof simplicity is why most people who have “never done this before” like Blogger more than WordPress.

All you have to do now is post your links to Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler and all other social media you can think of. It is quite easy to set up, and you rarely need to refresh those connections.

This is where WordPress really excels.

In WordPress, we have the “publicize” option which will automatically post to our other social sites. In the Settings menu, open “sharing” and click on it. that will take you to the “Sharing Settings” page. Click on the button that says, “Publicize Settings.” That will open a list of what I think of as blog warehouses, places that collect blogs and offer them to their regular readers. You want to activate as many of them as you can.

It will take a long time for you to build up good traffic – when I began in 2011 I averaged 4 to 10 visits a day. I see those months as my training months, a time when I was able to get a feel for this craft. I have a lot more readers now because I have gained many good friends here through WordPress and am diligent about keeping this blog updated.

I highly recommend blogging if you are serious about being an author, as it helps develops your writing craft, especially when you must go in and edit out your mistakes after they have posted. People expect blogs to be a little rougher than other work as it is usually written on the wing but try to do your best work—you want people to buy your books, and they won’t if your blog posts seem illiterate.

As I mentioned above, my next post will discuss the nuts and bolts of sourcing content and writing the posts, including little tricks I use for catching most typos and misspelled words before my work posts.

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Creating your Author Blog part 1 #amwriting

Much of this is taken from earlier posts on this subject, so if you have seen it before, thank you for stopping by, and the next post will be on creating blog posts.


‘Life in the Realm of Fantasy’ is a WordPress blog. I use WordPress because it is a free, open-source blogging tool and content management system.  I also have several other blogs on Blogger (Blogspot), which is also a free, open-source blogging tool and content management system. I prefer Blogger for ease of use, but it is limited. I love the way WordPress looks when you get to the finished product stage.

There is a small learning curve for each. But with very few skills, I have a decent-looking blog at no cost to me, using the fine tools and templates provided by the wonderful people at WordPress or Blogspot–and you can too.

The thing that is so awesome about both these products is you have the option to use them in what my husband-the-programmer calls ‘wysiwyg’ (pronounced wizzy-wig) or ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get.’ The user does not have to know any programming or coding–all that is done for you already, and you just organize it the way you want it, within certain limitations.

If you want to use WordPress visit the WordPress home pageand select the ‘Sign Up’ button to register for a WordPress account. You’ll need a valid email address (that has not been used to create another WordPress account) to sign up for a new WordPress account. Follow the steps and bam! You have a blog.

But you can also do this via Blogger (blogspot), Google’s free blogging tool and content management system, also an extremely simple process.

Whichever platform you choose, I suggest you use your author name. I used Connie J. Jasperson. This links your author name to your blog, which is why you are doing this in the first place. Pick a title for your blog–this one is Life in the Realm of Fantasy.

I now pay something like $25.00 a year for the domain name, so https://conniejjasperson.com is mine. But for five years I used the free domain, which gives you a .wordpress.com ending after your blog name, such as http://myblogname1.wordpress.com.

In WordPress, begin with finding a template. Open the left-hand menu and go to Customize and click on Themes. Select one of the many free templates. Once you find a theme that you like, you are ready to go. I use Pilcrow theme for this site because I like the versatility.

In Blogger, you will also come to a screen with many options. I suggest you just start at the top of the menu where it says template and begin playing around with it until you find the look and style you like best. You will be able to see most of your changes in the area below the Template Designer.

In both WordPress and Blogger, I keep the template simple because it is easier for people to read.

Once you have decided on that catchy title for your blog and have figured out the color of your fonts and background are all organized, decide the layout. You can make it one column with no sidebar, or with one or two sidebars. Sidebars are good places for advertising your books and book trailers, along with many other things you want to share with the world, such as blogs that you follow, and offers those who wish to follow your blog a place to sign up. The trick with sidebars is to keep them from junking up the blog, which I have a tendency to do.

In WordPress, you will click “Upload.” This will take you to the part where you REALLY customize the look of your blog. Open the menu on the left and begin customizing from there. Click on Customize and go to Widgets. You can add your book images there, and links to amazon or other sellers, along with all sorts of other wonderful things that will make your site uniquely yours.

In Blogger, click “Apply to Blog” in the upper right-hand corner. This should take you back to the Blogger page, where you will look in the menu on the left and click on the “Layout” button, just above the orange Template button. On the right hand side (yours may be different, depending on how you chose to display sidebars) click on add a gadget.

In both WordPress and Blogger, you will find many options to make your site look great, from inserting images to ways to add html code for embedding videos. You can get fancy with the header or use the header they offer you. The appearance of your site will evolve over time, as mine certainly has.

Both sites have awesome and informative help in their FAQs and I suggest you make good use of them. Everything I know was learned by my asking questions.

Do take some time to play around with arrangements. You can preview it, but if you accidentally hit publish, don’t freak because until you add content and tell folks it’s out there, no one will see your mistakes. Take as much time as you need to get comfortable with the system and remember that anything you don’t like can be undone.

On Monday, we will begin with the actual blogging part of your author website. This is as crucial as anything else because it is where you will connect with your readers.

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#amblogging: How to use WordPress to Publicize your blog posts

Blogging is one thing writers need to do regularly, even if it is only once or twice a month. However, it’s hard to gain readers when you first begin to blog. After all, blogging requires writing, and many writers feel it takes them away from their ‘real’ work.

But what is our real work? We write, hoping people will read our work, and our blog is the way to connect with those readers. For the Indie Author, your blog is your store, and is where your books are sold.

However, if we have a limited audience, we feel defeated in our efforts to gain readers, and many authors let their blogs languish for that reason.

All blogs begin with a small readership. Because we all begin small and want to gain readers, it’s necessary to use every platform available to get the word out and WordPress offers us many opportunities to do just that.

I’m taking you through the WP Admin menu, because some WordPress.org users don’t have the universally dreaded “New and Better” way to post via the “improved editor” menu, but they still need to publicize their blogs. The options and steps are pretty much the same on the WordPress.com “improved editor” menus.

On the dropdown menu to the left of your Blog title, under the words “My Sites,” click the dropdown menu. Scroll all the way to the bottom and open the WP ADMIN menu.

Step One: In that menu, scroll down to “Settings” and open that menu.

Step Two: In the Settings menu, open “sharing” and click on it. that will take you to the “Sharing Settings” page. Click on the button that says, “Publicize Settings.”

That will open a list of what I think of as blog warehouses, places that collect blogs and offer them to their regular readers.

Step Three: You want to activate as many of them as you can.

Follow these Screenshots, in this order:

Step Four is an important step especially for those who use twitter to promote their posts to the world. Because I have my blog set to automatically post to twitter, I use a hashtag in the title of every blogpost. If you don’t make twitter your tool, you are missing out on an important and simple “publicizing” opportunity:

I highly recommend blogging regularly, at a minimum two posts a month. Writing blog posts develops your writing craft. Also, your blog is where you talk about your interests, your writing, and is where potential readers can find your books.

If you really want your work to be visible, use the options and tools WordPress offers you.

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#amwriting: Humility, or what I’ve learned from blogging

Tablet_KeyBoard_©cjjasp_LIRFDec19_2016One of the best things about being an indie author is the freedom I have regarding my writing schedule. Unfortunately, I’m someone who frequently over-commits myself, so that freedom is also a curse.

Blogging regularly is part of my writing commitment. It’s a good way to connect with readers. This website is where I advertise my books, discuss the craft of writing, and talk about my life in general.

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 flash fiction every Friday keeps me sharp and keeps me writing little bits of prose I might otherwise not have the chance to write.

I’ve mentioned this before (old people frequently repeat themselves): I first began blogging because my former publisher insisted. It was a struggle and I wasn’t good at it because those posts were pathetic attempts to write about current affairs as a journalist, something that has never interested me. For a blog to be successful, you should discuss what you are passionate about, be it travel, sports, cooking, motorcycles, books, or writing craft.

What I learned from that otherwise negative 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.

I admit it’s a challenge. I have to work hard to proofread my own work and then publish it. 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. Nothing bursts your bubble of self-importance like discovering gross errors and bloopers several days after you published the post.

Or years.

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.

A good blogpost should have at least 500 words but not more than 1000. This means I have to keep my area of discussion narrow, and not get sidetracked. Also, flash fiction can only be up to 1000 words, so keeping it small is sometimes the issue.

Writing blogposts 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 part of the challenge.

The way I handle my blogging commitments is this: during the week I make a note of any interesting topic that might make a good blogpost. The only day I write blogposts is Sunday, but I write the entire week’s posts that day. If there is a lot of research involved I make footnotes as I go, and getting the articles ready could take the whole day. Usually writing the posts for the week only involves the morning.

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

I spell-check and self-edit my posts as well as possible. Then I go to each website, copy and paste the document into the body of the post, make any adjustments needed, add pictures, and edit the date for publishing so they are prescheduled for right publishing date.  Prescheduling allows my blog to post a new article three times a week at 06:45 am my time (on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday) which is 09:45 US Eastern time. It updates without my having to babysit it.

I do have to be observant when I am scheduling these things. Occasionally I accidentally hit the “publish immediately” button, which means I end up with an extra post that week whether I meant to or not. When that happens I sometimes use naughty words, such as, “Sassafras!” And “Dirty Words!” When I get done cursing, I either skip the Monday post or write an extra one.

Having the ability to write each post ahead of time, edit them, and select the date for publishing allows me work the rest of the week  on my true job, which is writing novels.

If you are an author, you really should be blogging too. If you want to know more about getting your own blog up and running, see my post of December 14, 2015, Blogging is Writing TooThat post has screenshots and step-by-step instructions. It also talks about how to use the new default system here at WordPress so that you can insert pictures and make a nice looking post.

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#amblogging: trying to get the word out.

 

windows dialogue box 6 dude are you sureIt’s hard to gain readers when you first begin to blog. The reason we write is so people can read our work, and if we have a limited audience, we feel a little defeated in our efforts to gain readers.

Because we want to gain readers, it’s necessary to use every platform available to get the word out and WordPress offers us many opportunities to do just that. On the dropdown menu to the left of your Blog title, under the words “My Sites,” click the dropdown menu.

In that menu, scroll down to “sharing” and click on it. that will take you to the “Sharing Settings” page. Click on the button that says “Publicize Settings.”

That will open a list of what I think of as blog warehouses, places that collect blogs and offer them to their regular readers. You want to activate as many of them as you can.

My blog automatically post to Path, Stumble Upon, Tumblr, Google+, Networked Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, and each one of those venues has increased my readership.

I don’t normally post on Saturdays, but I am trying a new (to me) thing called Bloglovin, hence the html in the first paragraph of this post–they want you to put their code in a new post. As my blog automatically posts in a variety of different places, I figured it would confuse people if I posted a blog that just had their code in it, so I am bringing you all along on this journey!

Bloglovin is not in the WP publicize menu yet, so you have to go out to their website and try to follow their instructions, which I am doing at this moment. I will keep you all posted on how that goes, and we will see whether my readership increases or not!

.
Edit: Okay–the html at the top of the post didn’t work, because: WordPress. SO what I did was, I downloaded their logo, got the link to my Bloglovin Page, and linked that to the logo image. Now, when a person clicks on that logo, they will go directly to my page there, where the follow button is right at the top.

We will see how this works!

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#amblogging: why authors should blog, take 3: the vegan

avacado dinner salad

my favorite avocado dinner salad

One of the things I love most about writing is this blog. I have made so many friends though this little place on the internet. Blogging offers me the opportunity to riff for several hundred words on any subject I’m interested in, without interruption. Of course, I’m usually only interested in writing-craft, but this is where I come to discuss it.

Nothing improves your writing chops more than writing every day. Deadlines can be daunting but say what you will about not being able to write under pressure—I think that is when I do my best work.

And, today I don’t feel like talking about writing. I want to discuss food! As many know, I am vegan, but my descent into veganism was (sadly) not motivated by any high moral prohibition against animal cruelty. There is a certain amount of that, but it was always there in the the way I purchased food for my family. During the 1980s, much of our meat we raised ourselves, cage free, free range chickens, and sheep raised in traditional farming methods.

However, I have developed an auto-immune variety of arthritis that is triggered by meat and dairy–all forms of it. Whenever I go off my diet (and cheese is the big draw) I pay the price. So, I stay on my vegan diet and I feel good.

I have discovered a wonderful resource for amazing, healthy, vegan food: the internet.

I know! It’s not just for Facebook and online gaming.

There is information out there, and it’s all in blogs. One of the best sites for me is called The Minimalist Baker. Today the main picture on their site is a gorgeous image of peppers stuffed with cauliflower rice. That image is eye candy. I will definitely be making some form of this recipe.

Oh my gosh! That website, and the recipes Dana and John have put together are just amazing. I use more of their recipes as the basis of my own cooking than from any other website or book.

Changing your diet is difficult, because you have to change your habits. Sometimes you have to change the flavors you love, and learn to like new ones.

And if you are just starting out and can’t afford to buy cookbooks, the internet offers an incredible wealth of free information, and much of it in the form of blogs by people like me.

I love to eat as much as I love to read, and I could easily talk for hours on either subject. If you are passionate about a particular subject, a blog is a great place to talk about it. It brings together people with similar interests, and for a writer, blogging is crucial, as it gets your name out there. Blogging shows people you can write well, and blogging regularly forces you to be creative.

If you want to know more about getting your own blog up and running, see my post of December 14, 2015, Blogging is Writing TooThis post talks about how to use the new default system here at WordPress so that you can insert pictures and make a nice looking post.

  • Keep it down to about 1000 words more or less.
  • Use the spellchecker tool to look for obvious errors.
  • Write in draft form and don’t publish it right away–come back and read it over again, and make corrections.
  • If you use information found elsewhere, quote it and credit the author
  • Use images that are either public domain, or that you have the right to use
  • Put links to other informative sites in the text
chocolate chip cookies, vegan

chocolate chip cookies, vegan and yummy

Rule number one: be consistent. I began by blogging once a week on a now defunct site—but my actual posts were more often made only once or twice a month. I dreaded it and didn’t want to do it. My blog stats were in the tank because I wasn’t applying myself to it.

It’s a commitment, and authors are procrastinators, but we can write to deadlines when we have to, and it’s good for us.  Now I am writing three posts a week on this blog, and at least one post a week for each of several other venues. I spend Sundays putting my blog posts together, which I couldn’t do if I was still raising children, but you only need to blog once a week to keep your content fresh. Writing this post took me about 45 minutes, so that is a small time commitment.

But just like a healthy diet and a walk in the fresh air, a change of writing scenery is good for you.

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#amblogging: wanted: flatiron for curly quotes and other blogging twists

300px-Barnum_&_Bailey_clowns_and_geese2Blogging regularly is one of the best ways to improve your writing chops but it can be like working for the circus.  Even when you really know the vagaries of your platform, a lot of strange things can happen in your work. They go unnoticed, doing their thing in the background, keeping it interesting.

WordPress, the mighty bastion upon which my empire rests, uses ‘fancy quotes’ as the default format. While they do look better in a document, blogging can often be an off-the-cuff thing. Straight quotes are less apt to go awry.  I am not sure why this is the default, nor am I able to find a way to ‘unfancy’ them.

WordPress chooses to make things  fancy, but I don’t need fancy. Judging from the number of posts in their forums on the subject, I am not the only one.

In some places, these curvy morsels of madness are called ‘smart quotes.’ In others, they are ‘curly.’ I don’t like them because sometimes they end up facing the wrong way, and being a bit unobservant, I don’t catch that until after I’ve posted it.

I’ve discovered some out of date plug-ins that are no longer available for uncurling my curly quotes, but alas– ‘no longer available’ is not really helpful. I have a flatiron for my curly hair–I need one for WordPress’s curly quotes.

straight and curly quotesAnother seemingly random thing I’ve discovered the hard way: occasionally I will decide to cut a section and paste it elsewhere, only to find (after having published the post) that the cut section has magically reappeared, and I am now repeating myself, verbatim.

This happens so often that I neurotically look at the menu every time I right-click-cut anything, to make sure I am actually cutting and not merely copying.

I double-check the text. Yes, the cut piece is definitely cut and successfully pasted elsewhere. But when I click ‘save draft’ it magically reappears back in the place from which it was cut, and I am once again repeating myself.

gibberish-american businesses onlineThen there is the hinky formatting. Sometimes the formatting goes crazy  and no matter what I do, the spaces between the paragraphs vanish. My post becomes a wall of words. Highlighting the post and clicking on ‘clear formatting’ does not help.

The spaces will show up on the editing side of the piece, but they will have vanished when the post is saved and published. (Edit: removed repeated line. Cursed fluently.)

My hubby, the programmer, says this is most likely caused by some hidden formatting issue that happens when I am copying from a Word doc and pasting it into the post. I usually write my posts in a Word doc because I catch more mistakes that way. Then I paste it here and, using the ‘preview’ option, check, double-check, and check again for bloopers.

Randomly, the posts are rife with strange formatting that will not be removed no matter what remedy I try. If I was a programmer, I would know exactly what bit of code was causing it and fix it. Alas! I’m only an old lady with just enough knowledge to be dangerous.

Hinky formatting also occurs in my Blogger sites, but not as often. I love the way WordPress looks when it’s all going right, but I love the options Blogger offers and the compatibility with Google products such as YouTube videos. (Blogger is a Google product.)

Dealing with these little issues are why I try to write my posts several days in advance and schedule them for the time I want them to post. Once I have it scheduled, I will let it sit overnight and then come back and read it with fresh eyes. I catch a lot that way, but it’s amazing how many slip by me.

This is why I always say self-editing is not as effective as we’d like. No one sees my blog posts before they are published but me and invariably I miss some whopping eye stopper.

1024px-Trapeze_Artists_in_CircusThe most mysterious problem is the inadvertent posting of a piece that is

  • in the draft stage
  • full of bloopers
  • looks illiterate

Technically, that happens because I get side-tracked and instead of scheduling it as I normally do, for some crazy reason I click ‘publish’ instead of ‘save draft.’

I blame ghosts.

And curly quotes.

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#amblogging: WordPress Blues

wordpress logoWordPress people…you have pissed me off.

For a year now you have been trying to shove this new, less-than-useful dashboard down my throat, and for that same year, I have refused to use it. You allowed me the option to stay with the expanded version that played to my needs, and so I didn’t complain.

Today, however, you  cut off my simple access to the old, better-for-my-purposes dashboard, and forced me to hunt for a way to get back to it. So rather than the post I had intended, we are going to discuss how a determined blogger can get around your arbitrary decision.

I do not post my blogs from a cell phone. For those people who do, I am sure the bland wall of white fog that is the new default dashboard is fine, but for me it is NOT USEFUL.

First of all, the writing is pale blue and gray.

I have poor eyesight. This is a large world, so I am sure I am not the only blogger out there with compromised vision.

For me, pale blue on white becomes a vast expanse of bluish white, against which I have to strain my eyes to see what few buttons a blogger is allowed the use of.

WordPress new format screenshot empty post

 

Oh, sure, I posted a while back on how to use  this crappy new dashboard, and I CAN use it. See my post Blogging is Writing Too.

But just so you know, WordPress people, forcibly limiting my options is making me reconsider my loyalty to you.

However, being the stubborn old lady that I am, I have found a way to get back to the old dashboard. You have to know how WordPress works in the first place to find it, but I am tenacious.

In the upper lefthand corner of the new default dashboard are the words “My Stats.”

Click on this, and it will take you to the stats page.

Stats page 01-15-2016

On the left side of the page is a menu, and at the bottom of that menu is the button for “WP Admin.”

As this is my blog, I am that person and when I click on it, it takes me to this page:

Admin Dashboard 01-15-2016

This is the Admin Dashboard. You will note that in the center of the lefthand menu is the word “Posts.

Click on that and you will find yourself able to access all the options you are used to having at your command.

Admin Dashboard with post 01-15-2016

I actually use my dashboard like a professional blogger. But I am also an old lady and when I am thwarted, I get angry.

When I am angry, I blog about it.

WordPress people–I’m sure you have a good reason for limiting a blogger’s ability to access all the tools they may need. However, and I am just guessing here, I suspect that the majority of bloggers are not posting blogs from their cell phones.

People at WordPress:  I suspect that the majority of your bloggers are sitting in front of a PC or laptop.

This blogpost is for all of those people.

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#amwriting: Blogging is writing too

People wonder why I go to the trouble of blogging regularly. As an indie author, there is no better way for me to let the world know I am here. When a prospective reader googles my name, this blog is the first thing that comes up. WordPress’s stats tell us that over 409 million people view more than 20.3 billion pages each month.

That, my friends, is a LOT of potential readers, and every time I post a blog, I tap into that pool of readers.

So how do you go about getting a piece of that pie for yourself?

‘Life in the Realm of Fantasy’ is a WordPress blog, i.e. I use WordPress because it is a free, open-source blogging tool and content management system.  I also have several other blogs on Blogger (Blogspot), also a free, open-source blogging tool and content management system. I prefer Blogger for ease of use, but I love the way WordPress looks when you get to the finished product stage.

There is a small learning curve for each. But with very few skills, I have a decent-looking blog at no cost to me, using the fine tools and templates provided by the wonderful people at WordPress or Blogspot–and you can too. What you need to know is quite simple, and I’ll provide you with steps and screenshots below.

The thing that is so awesome about both these products is you have the option to use them in what my husband-the-programmer calls ‘wysiwyg’ (pronounced wizzy-wig) or ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get.’ The user does not have to know any programming or coding–all that is done for you already, and you just organize it the way you want it, within certain limitations.

  1. If you want to use WordPress visit the WordPress home page and select the ‘Sign Up’ button to register for a WordPress account. You’ll need a valid email address (that has not been used to create another WordPress account) to sign up for a new WordPress account. Follow the steps and bam! You have a blog.
  2. But you can also do this via Blogger (blogspot), Google’s free blogging tool and content management system, also an extremely simple process.
  3. I suggest you use your author name. I used Connie J. Jasperson:  https://conniejjasperson.wordpress.com. This links your author name to your blog, which is why you are doing this in the first place. Pick a title for your blog–this one is Life in the Realm of Fantasy.
  4. Once you have your blog set up, and the catchy name picked out, etc it’s time to start writing. Both offer you ability to use html (Text) if you choose, which I don’t have a clue about, or to go with the Visual (what you see is what you get). Unless you are a programmer, stay with ‘Visual.’
  5. In WordPress, choose a category now for your post–do it first so you don’t forget to do it. I published this post in the categories of Blogging, Self Publishing, Writing.  Each blog post may have a different category, but you decide what your categories are. If you should forget to choose the category, it will go into the ‘uncategorized’ pile–the dreaded WordPress slush-pile where blogs go to die.
  6. Also in WordPress, chose a few TAGS now, if you know what you’re writing about, so that you don’t forget to tag the post.That button is below the Categories list. Chose tags that most represent the core of your post, so that searcher for that subject will find it. For this post I am using ‘blogger, blogspot, blogging, how to use blogger, humor, self-publishing, WordPress, WordPress blog how-to.’
image © cjjasp 2015

image © cjjasp 2015

  1. If you are using Blogger, PICK YOUR LABELS NOW–Blogger doesn’t use categories, so your labels are very important. On the right hand side, click on ‘LABELS’ and simply type your key words into the BOX, separated by commas. In Blogger, LABELS are what TAGS are in WordPress, so use words that represent the core of what you are blogging about so that interested searcher will find your blog:

Blogger screen shot

Now that you have that out-of-the-way, it’s time to blog!

  1. Hook me with that catchy blog post title!  Today’s post is called “Blogging is writing too.” Pretty boring.
  2. Put that catchy title in the White box at the top of the page, and DO IT NOW so you don’t forget to give your post a title.

Now there are two paths for you.   You can wing it, keying directly into the post box as I sometimes do, or you can write it on a WORD document and copy and paste it into the body of the post. I have to do that for these posts, but don’t like to because word is rife with HINKY FORMATTING. Sometimes that screws up your blog posts for both Blogger and WordPress, and then you have to use the handy “REMOVE FORMATTING” button that is located in the ribbon (tool box) of both Blogger and WordPress:

WordPress new format screenshot remove formatting tool

Both Blogger and WordPress have spell check functions, and both will save at times as you go, but spell check only picks up misspelled worlds, not other errors.

Now we want to add a picture. In WordPress, place your cursor in the body of the blog post and click once at the spot where you will want the image. Then scroll up to the left side of the ribbon (tool box) and click on the little picture in the ribbon (when you hover your mouse over it, it will say ‘insert image’ This menu will appear:

WordPress new format screenshot insert images

 

WordPress new format screenshot insert images 2

If this is your first blog post, you won’t have anything in your media library yet, so click on “Upload Files.” Practice uploading images and inserting them, playing with it until you feel comfortable and know how to ensure the image will appear where you want it, and will be the size you want it to be. Then, once the image in the body of the post you click on the picture, and a new toolbox opens up. That is where you make your adjustments for positioning and size. You can even add captions:

WordPress new format screenshot insert images 3

In Blogger you also click on the little picture in the ribbon (when you hover your mouse over it, it will say ‘insert image’). A pop-up menu will appear, and then you will upload the image, decide the placement and the size.  This nearly foolproof simplicity is why most people who have “never done this before” like Blogger more than WordPress.

Blogger screen shot 2

All you have to do now is post your links to Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler and all other  social media you can think of. It is quite easy to set up, and you rarely have to refresh those connections. This is where WordPress really excels:

WordPress new format screenshot sharing

Voilà! You are a blogger. It will take a long time for you to build up good traffic. Posting regularly and frequently gets you more visits and likes, which raises your visibility. This is your opportunity to write a 300 to 1000 word riff on whatever you are doing or thinking about. In my case, it is writing, and all aspects of book culture.

I highly recommend blogging if you are serious about being a author, as it helps develops your writing craft, especially when you have to go in and edit out your mistakes (use the preview option). People expect blogs to be a little rougher than other work as it is usually written on the wing, but try to do your best work—you want people to buy your books, and they won’t if your blogposts seem illiterate.

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Filed under Blogger, blogging, writing