Tag Archives: improve

Tips for a Better Blog from Janine Russell


Re-posted from Janine Russell’s blog at http://sitdownatatypewriterandbleed.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/an-amateur-bloggers-tips-for-creating-a-better-than-amateur-blog/

Creating A Better-Than-Amateur Blog

When I surpassed 50 followers, I wrote a post thanking all my readers for listening, and got a lot of feedback. I got asked how I created a blog that 50 people thought was worth reading in just 2 months, so I decided to make this post. (Not that I think my blog is super great or anything. Cause I don’t. I just try to make something that I would want to read.) So here are some ideas that might help take your blog to the next level.

blogger Janine Russell

Actually, I liked that thing I just said. Let’s make that #1.

1. Make a blog you would want to read.

This is your space. You have freedom to make it something that is 100% uniquely you. So don’t be afraid to change things that aren’t working for you to make it better. I’ve redone my “About Me” page, which should be quite simple, about 10 times. And I will continue to do so until I’m happy with it. This step will also help you figure out who you are writing for. Knowing your audience will help you write posts that those people will find interesting.

2. Feel what you write.

When I’m creating a post, it usually takes no more than a few minutes to fully formulate it (and maybe you can tell? I hope not.). That’s because I write about things that are important to me, or that I’m passionate about, and it all flows out very naturally. Don’t be afraid to infuse your personality into your style of writing, either. This isn’t a grade 9 essay. If you’re trying to struggle through a post, why are you writing about that topic in particular? Is there something else that really spikes your interest instead?

3. What are you trying to accomplish here?

Come up with an overall theme. It doesn’t have to be too specific. If you are just writing about whatever comes to mind, and sometimes it’s really dull, your readers will be able to tell. Even a very general idea, like “travelling” or “food” or “parenting” will make your blog flow better and keep you focused.  And you don’t want your blog to seem bipolar or schizophrenic in its content. (Metaphorically, of course. I mean don’t try to do everything at once. You might have two very clear themes, which would make two awesome blogs. Putting them together, though, might make your blog seem confusing and overly broad. A blog about schizophrenia would probably be really cool.)

4. Look around for inspiration.

There are so many awesome blogs out there! Check some of them out! And don’t be afraid to like things and leave comments. It’s an easy way to possibly bring traffic into your site as well from people with similar interests. Notice how people are using titles, pictures, videos, menus, categories, etc. and how those things make the blog unique or easy to navigate.

5. Watch your tone.

I was reading one blog where the person was just bitching about things. And as good as it feels to get that stuff off your chest every once in a while, it isn’t too pleasant to read. Reading hate just spikes my blood pressure and gets me all worked up. I do that enough on my own, thanks. So think about how you want your work to come across, and speak accordingly. Swearing too much is also a no-no because it makes you sound rude and uneducated. (But like all rules, there is a time and a place for swearing, depending on what you blog about. If I see a cookie recipe riddled with curse words, I will flip a table.) AND TRY NOT TO YELL. IT IS ALSO VERY UNPLEASANT.

6. Not everything you write will be a goldmine.

I have done a lot of posts where no one liked it, and that whole day just became a big crevice in my stats report. That’s good, though, because now I know what people don’t care to read about, or maybe it was the style of writing that pushed people away. Making mistakes is a good thing because it gives you feedback you can learn from. Even the best writers write terrible things sometimes.

7. Post often.

I follow a lot of blogs, but some of them only get updated once a month or so. And now I’m questioning why I’m following them since they never say anything. Also, after a few hours your posts get pushed down the list and replaced by newer ones, so posting often increases your chances of bringing in new readers. You don’t need to post every day, but if you can make some sort of schedule where you’re posting at least once per week, your readers will hang on to hear what you have to say next.

8. Tag smartly.

I was definitely guilty of not doing this when I first started. Tags are a good thing to help people who would be interested in your blog discover it. Think about what you might search for, though, and use only those tags. For example, if last Wednesday your dog got sick and you had to take it to the hospital, don’t take it “Wednesday, dog, sick, hospital”, but instead using things like “dog lovers, family” etc. No one is looking for posts about Wednesdays.

9. Don’t be afraid to say what you mean.

Some of the best posts I’ve read are about things that people are hesitant to talk about. A little bit of controversy can be a good thing if you’re able to do it respectfully and not attacking people who have conflicting views. It will keep your blog interesting, and make people want to hear what you have to say next. Don’t be afraid to shake things up once in a while.

10. This is not a diary.

Well, actually some might be, but those are the exception. You don’t need to give all the details of everything you’ve ever done,

As a Writer, What If I Am Just Average?


On WordPress, I continue to be amazed by the collection of talent. Sometimes an author’s writing floors me with its power, cleverness, raw emotion or beautiful use of language.

I am none of those things. I am a nerd who can correctly string together a series of words. As a writer–as a word artist–I am average.

How then do I expect to compete in the commercial marketplace? The same way an average employee competes in the workplace. By showing up. By giving my best effort. And like a tidal wave, by sheer volume. A dose of self-promotion is important, too. If I don’t market, I won’t sell. (Please don’t stop reading here. The best of this post is yet to come.)

I’ve said this before and I will say it again: throw enough at a wall and something will stick.

Part of succeeding as an average writer is finding my audience. I do that by writing in all the ways that appeal to me–short stories, haiku, flash fiction and novels. (In 2013, I hope to add internet content to the list.) Then I analyze. Of those things I like to write, what are people reading?

I need to look at my statistics. What do statistics tell me about what readers like in my work? Is it my true confessions? Is it self-improvement or how-to articles? Pop culture? Or factual pieces? Humorous stories? The off-the-wall?

Success is finding the match of my abilities with a need in the marketplace.

Ask the reader.

So I am asking you right now. What do you like best about this blog? Why do you stop by? Is there something which you’d like to see more often? Any answer is a helpful one. Silence hurts. So tell me something, anything, that will make this blog a better experience for you. Even if it is what you don’t like. Say, “Fay, dump this. Keep that.” Bring it on. Help me get better.

For me, that’s what it is all about. The best part is serving, helping, pleasing you, the reader.

The next best part is getting good enough to earn a paycheck! But that’s another post for another day.  🙂

Writing Non-fiction with the Punch of Fiction


For today’s post, I borrowed a piece of writing that I thought did a good job of adding a bit of punch to a news item. The original article in its entirety can be seen at http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2012-07-12/preparing-inevitable. I’ve excerpted a section for educational purposes.

Hope you find this helpful when you write something like a magazine article. If you can add a bit of spice to your writing style, it may make your submission stand out to an editor. Be a good chef: know when to draw the line on the seasonings. Too much can spoil the dish.

Nuff said:

One thing we haven’t had to contend with much in the past is the impact of a computer glitch on our lives. My favorite example occurred right here in San Diego on July 4th.

The long awaited, highly anticipated, state-of-the-art fireworks tribute to American independence is an event so spectacular that people drove hundreds of miles just for the “oohing” and the “aahing”, and the gut punching of dozens of thunderous explosions spread out over forty-five minutes.

Billed as the Big Bay Boom it is a fireworks lover’s heaven. The show itself was produced by the venerable century old firm, Garden City Fireworks, all the way from Millington, New Jersey.

No amateurs flickin’ bics in a trench somewhere. Four separate locations, including three barges brought into the bay itself, would serve as launch pads.

Because of the uniqueness of the site, this would be one of company’s biggest shows of the year and they do hundreds of them from coast to coast.

As darkness set in, people positioned themselves for what was to come.

And, then it began.

Oh, and it was magnificent! No one could recall ever seeing anything bigger or hearing anything louder. One observer described it as looking “as though a flaming planet were roaring right at us.”

It was an apt description. It had that Steppenwolf song “Born to Be Wild” lyric quality to it, “Fire all of our guns at once, explode into space.”

And then…. it was over. Done, fine, the end.

They had indeed fired all of their guns at once and the show was done in 15 seconds, pretty much guaranteeing some kind of Guinness record I would imagine.

Officials referred to the event as “premature ignition.”

But hey, it happens to all of us at one time or another, right?

The Big Bay Boom was just that, one big boom. Only a computer could do that.

I NEVER KNEW THAT ABOUT YOU


I NEVER KNEW THAT ABOUT YOU.

Funny I should read this post on Stadler Style today. When my segment to the Story Circle gets published later today on http://camerondgarriepy.com/2012/06/28/the-story-circle-the-reunion-part-four/ , the twist in the story comes from exactly this kind of experience. A revelation between friends that was never expected.

A special thanks to Stadler Style for giving us a lesson in improving the depth of a character.

FEAR OF FAILURE


Reading the comments over the past few days, I realize that many writers share a common malady: fear of failure.

Lee Warren, D.D. writes ” The most powerful forces known to man are not nuclear weapons, nor nature’s awesome wonders, such as the might of an earthquake, the power of the sun, or mastery of a hurricane, but the thoughts and ideas of the mind. ”

If the thoughts of the mind are fear driven, the power of the thoughts can be negative. For example, professional sports teams pay psychological specialists to work with athletes who are choking in the game because of fear.

Performance anxiety is common across a multitude of professions. Singers and stage actors often describe “butterflies” before a performance. However, when the fear grows, it becomes stage fright. It can stop the presentation in its tracks.

Writers fear reader rejection or critical censure. Self-doubt stymies creative process. A manuscript collects dust because the author is afraid to finish it. Fear incapacitates.

Buckminster Fuller wrote, “Whatever humans have learned had to be learned as a consequence of trial and error experience. Humans learn through mistakes.”

It is possible to move past fear. It helps to put fear in perspective. Try saying these positive statements out loud to yourself:

  • I know that everyone feels fear of failing from time to time. I can learn to control my fear.
  • Failing at something doesn’t make me a failure. I learn from my mistakes. Learning from mistakes is the sign of a successful person.
  • I am courageous for expressing myself.
  • I am entitled to my opinion.
  • If what I tried the first time didn’t work, I can fix it. Or I can try something different.

“There is no failure. Only feedback.” –Robert Allen

Feedback is non-threatening. It helps us key in on how well we are communicating. It is the gauge of how we are doing in our growth process as writers.

When my daughter was a teenager, she talked about her career dreams. As is typical of a child’s mind, she believed she would start out at the CEO level of performance.  I explained that life is a learning curve. We have to start somewhere and then work our way up through skill development, practice and perseverance. We have to pay our dues.

As authors, we have to start somewhere. We write. We let others read it. We listen to the feedback from critical readers. We take the information provided to hone our skills. We dare and extend ourselves to practice, practice, practice. We write something. We let others read it. And the circle goes round and round. Eventually, we get more positive feedback than we did before. We keep pushing forward, paying our dues.

That’s the way it gets done. One written page at a time.

 

 

Building Friable Soil in Your Garden


Okay. So I am lazy today. I am going to cheat and use something I wrote elsewhere here.

I visited one of my reader’s blogs (he has several) about his raised bed garden. He described how he built it up and what is growing there. He is enjoying eating fresh produce.

As a gardener, I have opinions about creating good garden soil. I decided to express mine to him via a comment on his post. Then I thought I would share it here, in case another gardener out there is like me and looking for new ways to improve the garden dirt. So here goes:

Thanks for visiting my blog and introducing me to yours. Not sure how long you will be gardening where you are, but if you do the following through the winter, you’ll be amazed at the tilth improvement by spring — that is if you have the organisms (like worms) in your clay soil to break garbage into compost.

Anyway, here goes. Take all your PLANT matter kitchen scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds and dump it into 6-8″ deep holes in your raised beds. Cover the garbage back up with dirt. Mother nature turns it into a rich compost. If you do it for multiple years, your soil turns black and needs no tilling because the soil is friable. I have red clay. You’d never know it to look at the soil in my raised beds.

I also compost horse manure, used chicken coop bedding and spoiled hay in a pile for a couple of years. Once well broken down, I use that to start new raised beds, followed by the winter in-the-ground composting. I grow luscious vegetables with no added fertilizer.

As I re-read what I wrote above, I realize that my writing improves through a similar technique. I keep adding tidbits here and there, letting the matter percolate in my being. Over time, each bit of advice or new skill learned builds my skill set.

How about you? How do you improve either your garden or your writing?

3 Elements of Bad Beginnings


Today I found a slip of paper on which I scribbled notes during an author’s lecture. The notes contained helpful advice. The speaker said there are common mistakes writers make which editors and publishers hate. Starting a story badly is one of those mistakes.

The lecturer listed three elements that make a bad beginning to any story:

  • too much back story or narrative
  • too long getting to the action
  • too much promised, then not delivered

New writers would be wise to post the list at their work station. As you start a story, check your work against the list to keep yourself out of trouble.