Tag Archives: How to be a blogger

Why Authors Should Blog #amwriting

We authors, whether indie or traditionally published, are responsible for building our own brand. I have found most of this aspect of my career to be difficult. However, I have managed to succeed at one of the foundations of building my brand–I have a working author website and blog.

When I began, I used the free sites offered by both WordPress and Blogger, so cost should not hold anyone back. And the dashboards of both platforms are easy to learn with a little trial and error. If I can learn them, anyone can.

I often hear writers complain that they don’t update their author blog regularly because they have nothing to say. I disagree—they’re writers for heaven’s sake. Writers can wax poetic out the ends of their fingers, ranting for hours on the oddest subjects.

The trick is rambling on for 500 words or so and sticking to a schedule of sorts. Writers like to rant, but deadlines cause us to go into procrastination mode.

Still, although many will claim they aren’t able to write under pressure, that is when I do my best work.

NaNoWriMo has proven to me that nothing improves your writing chops more than writing every day.

Blogging offers me a mix of self-imposed goals and gives me the chance to riff on my favorite subject—the craft of writing. Much of what I have learned as a writer over the past decade has come about through researching topics for this blog.

I wasn’t always a confirmed blogger. In 2011, I signed up for a free Blogger (Google’s platform) website, taking that plunge only because my former publisher forced me to. He swore it would help get my name out there and give me a regular platform for my opinions.

The posts I wrote for that first attempt at blogging were pathetic attempts to write about current affairs and politics as a journalist, which is something that has never interested me. I was lucky if I managed to post one piece a month and had no readers or followers.

I soon realized I could not write on the subjects my publisher wanted and quit altogether.

After talking to some friends who were successful in marketing their work, it occurred to me there was one subject I could talk about for hours on end:

Books.

I went back to that old site and scrapped the awkward, unloved posts. I changed the site’s name and shifted to writing about something I loved—books. I wrote one book review post a week for the next five years.

While I haven’t had a lot of time lately to keep it updated, the site is the home of Best in Fantasy, my book review blog.

I hate to say this because we parted ways rather messily: despite my resistance, my former publisher was right about the importance of having an author’s website and writing the occasional blog post.

During the time I was first writing for Best in Fantasy, I began to realize that I was marketing everyone else’s work, but no one was promoting mine.

I needed a place to showcase my work.

That’s how this site came into existence.

It wasn’t until I stopped trying to fit into the mold someone else had designed for me that I discovered how much I love writing, and blogging is writing in its purest form.

You really are writing on the wing.

I write my posts, proofread them, and schedule them to publish on regular specific days.

That in itself is an adventure, opening you up to all sorts of embarrassing literary moments. As many of you know, despite my best efforts, my work sometimes posts “warts and all.”

Writing for this site has made me a thinking author, as well as a pantser, and has proven that I can write to a deadline. I can write using the “stream of consciousness” method, or I can write several days in advance by putting together a quick outline about whatever aspect of the craft occupies my thoughts at the time.

Usually, I do the research, and the post begins to write itself.

I’ve made many friends through blogging, people all over the world who I may never meet in person, but who I am fond of, nevertheless. This place, Life in the Realm of Fantasy, is where I develop seminars on the craft of writing. I find that talking about my obsession helps me organize my thoughts.

Blogging is only successful if you are passionate about what you are discussing. Usually, I talk about writing craft because I’m an obsessive nerd, but sometimes real life gets in the way of creativity.

When I need to, I talk about the difficulties of traveling while vegan. I’ve written about the challenges of having two children with epilepsy, the dysfunctionality of growing up with a father suffering battle-related PTSD and many other aspects of just trying to live a happy life in the real world.

Having a blog on your website and updating it at least twice a month is a way to connect with your readers on a human level. Fans will enjoy hearing what your writing goals are. They want to know where you will be signing books.

Also, they love to hear about the books you are reading.

Readers enjoy seeing little off-the-cuff pieces once in a while. Articles of less than 1000 words are fun to write and often find their way into your other work, as they are a great way to brainstorm ideas.

To my knowledge, I have never been plagiarized. I have a notice clearly in the sidebar on my website that the content is copyrighted. I also make sure all quoted material is credited to the original authors with links back to their websites.

So:

  • Keep it down to about 500 – 1000 words more or less.
  • Use the spellchecker tool to look for glaring 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 that you found elsewhere, quote it and credit the author
  • Use images that are either public domain or that you have the legal right to use
  • Put links to other informative sites in the text

Be Consistent.

Life in the Realm of Fantasy has evolved over the years because I have changed and matured as an author.

If you are wondering how to get started, please check out my post, Creating your Author Blog.  There, you can find detailed, step by step instructions for getting a free website, and getting started on either WordPress or Blogger. I use both platforms, and they are not too hard once you learn the ropes.

In the meantime, stay safe. One last thought: if you are finding writing difficult because of stress we all feel via the pandemic, riffing on a completely random subject might rest your mind and free your creativity. Give it a shot, and let us all know how it goes!

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Filed under writing

#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