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Assessing Yourself as a Writer: Does Your Writing Make the Grade?

By Joyce Sweeney

Part of The Writer’s Life Series

JH: It’s not always clear to know what to focus on to improve our writing, but Joyce Sweeney has a formula to help writers grade their stories. Please give her a warm welcome.

Joyce Sweeney is the author of fourteen novels for young adults and two chapbooks of poetry. Her books have won many awards and honors. Joyce has recently switched to writing adult fiction and is represented by Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour agency.

Joyce has also been a writing teacher and coach for 25 years and offers online classes. In 2019, she, Jamie Morris and Tia Levings released Plotting Your Novel with The Plot Clock (Giantess Press). At this writing, 62 of Joyce’s students have successfully obtained traditional publishing contracts.

Joyce lives in Coral Springs with her husband, Jay and caffeine-addicted cat, Nitro.

Take it away Joyce…

Joyce Sweeney

Back when I was studying poetry, I discovered a formula for poetry assessment that caught my imagination. I may have it wrong now, but the idea was that you should assess a poem on four things: idea, music, story and structure. As a fiction teacher, my brain immediately went into overdrive wondering how this might translate and I came up with my similar list: concept, voice, plot and structure.

Then, of course, I asked myself how I measured up in these categories and I discovered something magical. I knew I was born with an A in structure and I knew I had a D in plotting. That discovery alone was gold to me on a personal level and it led to an intensive attempt to ‘raise my grade’ in plotting. Moreover, I knew that my concepts were 50-50 (as were my book sales from project to project) and that my voice was pretty bad on the first draft, but I could always polish it to a good level. In other words, my report card as a fiction writer was: Structure A, Voice B, Concept C, Plot D. And I knew just where and how to do my homework from that day forward.

Since I never have a problem with seeing one case as a scientific study, I decided maybe we were ALL like that. Born with one ‘free ticket’ and one ‘horror category’ with the other grades falling in between. I started assessing the manuscripts I edited on this basis and I realized it’s true. Which means identifying where we fall in these categories and working to ‘bring up our low grades’ was very possibly the Key to Everything in being ‘ready’ for publication. I continued to develop this idea into a workshop and also one of my online classes which is actually Lesson One in the upcoming Fiction Writing Essentials. I think it’s kind of a life-changing thing. So here it is in a very abbreviated version.

Let’s start with voice.

For a definition, voice is the whole way a writer uses language. So let’s say that’s the gift you are born with. In fact, I think a lot of people who choose writing have a fabulous voice and that is the easiest thing for teachers and friends to notice. I’ve discovered that people who have a real way with language, that is to say a beautiful voice, can become very frustrated, because they get standing ovations in their critique groups, they dazzle the crowd, and everyone tells them “you’re there!” when maybe they have not mastered the other elements listed above.

To my horror, I find these are people who might give up too soon. They feel, “I can’t make my writing any better so if it’s not good enough, I’ll quit.” They don’t realize they are polishing the wrong thing. Oddly, people who struggle with voice often succeed, even though they get the most picked on in critique group. Fixing voice is a slow process and these people often feel ‘behind’ the others. But they also stick around a long time, determined to crack the code, and if they are strong in plot and structure, they make it to an editor who will help them out.

Some of my voice tips are: use a narrative voice that works with your natural voice. A lot of MG writers have a YA voice and vice versa. Read poetry. It gives you voice by osmosis. And of course, study the elements of voice.

Plot.

That’s my D. I used to write poems and short stories. You don’t need a lot of plot for that. When I started writing novels, I felt if a character had some kind of epiphany near the end of the book, my work was done. Amazingly enough, I was strong enough in other ways to get published, but my sales were very up and down till I mastered plotting. I studied it so much, I’m now known more for plot writing and plot teaching then anything else.

If you’re weak in plot, you often make it beyond the pitch to a request. They may read beginning pages and keep requesting, because your voice is good. But when they get to the end of the manuscript it’s a no-sale. Plotting is easy to learn and easy to teach. Of all these skills, it’s the most mathematical and logical, so once you get the hang of it (unlike concept!) you’re in business. If you’re strong in plot, you may find that your agent, your editor and some critics are still finding flaws in your books, but they always tell you you gave them a darn good ride. That’s what a plot is. A darn good ride. Studying movies and plays is one great way to work on your plot grade.

So, if plot is the ride, structure is the type of vehicle that takes the ride.

It’s the hardest of these concepts to explain, but concretely, it plays out in things like point of view, length of scenes, story beats and swings. It’s an inner knowing of what the reader wants and needs at every turn of the story and delivering it. It’s often learned more by experience or trial and error and especially from feedback by others, so deliberate study doesn’t always work. If you read to a critique group and they say they didn’t understand something, the event went by too fast. If they’re bored, you went too slow.

Working with structure is like tasting and adjusting a recipe. Often writers who study their craft diligently find structure to be the last battle, the thing they work with agents on in R&R’s. Structure is vital because it delivers the emotion of the story. Like those lucky voice people, I was good at structure so even my first novel, which is VERY flawed, was emotionally powerful and that got me published, possibly too soon. If you’re poor in the category of structure, you hear ‘show don’t tell’ a lot and you very likely have more distant points of view than you should. You are a person who can actually benefit from taking colored markers to a powerful novel to see what the author did and when.

Then there’s concept.

Concept means your story has a clear hook, people can easily grasp ‘what it’s about’, and there’s almost always a visceral reaction when you pitch. People hear your concept and immediately want to read, or feel like that’s the story they’ve been waiting for. Your concept has interesting elements or a great twist on something classic. If you’re great at concept you usually have more ideas than time to write them, you excel at pitching but then find yourself frustrated because after you submit, you get rejected. It just means something else in your execution needs work, but the industry is driven by concept, so if you work hard, you will probably do well.

Now I really want to reach those of you who struggle with concept. Because I think this can really sideline you. Some people work on the same book for years, decades even, improving every element of that same book, but not realizing they are pouring energy into something that will never work. I find this heartbreaking. I know, often your first idea is so close to your heart (and maybe your life story or the story of someone you deeply love) but it just may not be the very best idea for launching into a competitive market.

Since I work with writers over the course of many years, I can tell you, the most successful are always starting a new book. Think about it. When you’re published, you’ll have to do that almost every year. And if you write many books, you eventually learn a lot about what makes a good concept. You refine and adjust so that the things that resonate with your heart also resonate with the collective heart. And then you can sell.

Problems with concept can be, it’s been done too many times before and you haven’t innovated enough, not enough drama or excitement, it’s so close to you, you can’t work with it (like a book that’s a tribute to someone you love). I am here to tell you. I won’t give numbers, but I’ve had some really great sales on some books and some really, well disappointing sales on others. The quality of my writing didn’t vary that much. I just sometimes picked concepts that didn’t excite readers. And this is another area where I’ve really tried to learn. I don’t want to waste all that work and energy anymore. If I shoot an arrow, I want to know there’s a target for it. If you have issues with concept, you may have heard the same criticism about your story many times but you keep saying, oh, that’s them. Or you get those rejections that praise you but say ultimately, they just can’t sell that. Do yourself a tremendous favor and move on.

So right now, just for fun, jot down your own scorecard.

I firmly believe that most writers start out with a clear A, B, C and D. And hopefully as they study craft, some of these grades start to rise. I also believe if you can get to an A in all four you can sell a book. Period. So it’s really worthwhile to look at this honestly, and if you find a category that is holding you back…well now you know just which courses to take and which books to read. Finding these categories and working with them honestly made a huge difference to me as a writer, as an editor and as a teacher. I hope they’ll be just as beneficial to you too!

Source: blog.janicehardy.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

The #1 Rule on How to Write Viral Content for Your Blog or Website

One of the things that surprised me the most when I started Positive Writer was that a lot of my content was going viral. I didn’t expect that to happen and, if I am being honest, I didn’t start writing articles with going-viral in mind. I created my blog to share my thoughts about writing and since I felt what I wanted to express wasn’t really being talked about at the time, I might as well give it a shot and see if anyone cared. They did, and how!

At first, when my posts started taking off, I thought it was just luck. And, to a degree it was, but after a while, I noticed a trend. I had stumbled on to one of the most important aspects of being a writer online – at least, a writer who writes stuff that gets not only noticed but also passionately shared.

Before we get into what the secret is and how you can do it too, let me tell you another little truth, you’re probably a much better writer than I was when I started out, and if we’re really being open and sincere about what it takes to get your work noticed, shared and, well, going viral, it has very little to do with being a “great writer.” If you don’t consider your writing skills to be as good as you want them to be, welcome to the club.

With that said, being a great writer doesn’t hurt, but it’s not the key to success online. Writers with something to say will always get noticed more than great writers just writing for the sake of writing.

The #1 rule to creating content online that goes viral is:

Write What People May Be Thinking But Aren’t Saying

You’ve heard the saying that “The first draft of anything is shit.” Right? Well, my first article on Positive Writer was an argument against this declaration. It was titled “The First Draft is Not Crap!” It was short and, what I considered, a simple post.

“The First Draft is Not Crap!” went on to become my first viral phenomenon. I’m still a bit stunned at how well received the post was and the life it took on for itself. I’d love to tell you, I knew it! But that was hardly the case.

Hemingway allegedly said the famous quote, “The first draft of anything is shit.” as claimed in a postmortem book, “With Hemingway: A Year in Key West and Cuba.”

Thousands, if not millions, of authors and aspiring authors (especially the aspiring ones), have repeated the quote with conviction, even going so far as to post it on vision boards and bathroom mirrors. However, I imagined many actually disagreed with it or felt it went too far. In fact, psychologically it IS a self-defeating statement, which has led more people to let-downs than to publishing contracts.

I’m not going to go into the debate about the quote itself in this article. I’ve already done that. We’re going to talk about how a topic, especially something people may be thinking about, but aren’t really talking about, can get people to react in some way, positive, or negative, in agreement or disagreement, thus sharing your articles.

The result to share and discuss the content is there because it’s different, it’s taboo, and at the same time, it’s meaningful and important.

How dare you contradict the great one! Hemingway was a master.

Or:

It’s about time someone said it! No one can prove Hemingway ever uttered those words.

And it’s not always so cut and dry, some may agree to a point, but not entirely, which opens up more debate, discussions, and ultimately, sharing of your content!

Now here’s the thing, I wasn’t merely trying to stir up the bees. Quite the contrary, I set out to help fellow writers with positive and motivational content. Part of that was to get writers to think more positively about their initial work and give it the credit it deserves. Calling your work crap isn’t exactly all that motivational. And, reverse psychology doesn’t usually work the way a lot of people think it does.

Studies have shown direct requests and suggestions work better than reverse suggestions, in fact, reverse suggestions often work as direct suggestions. So, if you’re one of those who is wired for direct and not “reverse psychology,” then guess what calling your work worthless means. Exactly, your efforts and your work are very likely F**k’d. If that’s you, now you know why you’re always stuck and borderline depressed. Stop that!

Since I hadn’t found any blogs out there expressing things the way I thought about them, I only had an inclination more people thought the way I did. It was a big risk and I figured there would be some push back because, frankly, a lot of the most common and repeated writing advice out there is capital BULLSHIT. I wanted to talk about that and provide other ways of thinking about said bull advice.

To create viral content you have to be willing to discuss topics your readers might not agree with and at the same time do your best to help them see your point of view.

To create viral content you have to be willing to discuss topics your readers might not agree with and at the same time do your best to help them see your point of view.

It’s not enough just to write about that which should not be said, there also has to be a point to it – or rather, a point you’re trying to make. If you’re successful at making your point, whether your readers agree or disagree, they will share your content, and if you’re lucky, it will go viral.

I noticed many new writers and bloggers like to rewrite old advice and popular content. Sure, they give a little of their own twist in the rewriting of it, but really, it’s the same we’ve all already read before. Great for a moment, but ultimately forgettable. Don’t be forgettable. I made that mistake with the first few blogs I started. I hadn’t found my own voice yet, or really, I wasn’t brave enough to let it sing freely. With that said…

Pro-tip: Don’t write content with the sole purpose of pissing people off. Because, rest assured, if you try that you WILL succeed and it won’t be pretty. If you’ve got a point to make – be sure it’s something you believe in and you feel needs to be said.

Your content needs to be valuable. Make your words make a difference. Because they can.

If you leave this article having gained something that will help you in some way, then I feel I have succeeded. I don’t need you to agree with me or disagree with me – I just want to get you thinking, considering, and coming up with your own solutions with what may be a new or fresh perspective. To me that is valuable. To me, that is a win.

You’ve got something you want to say. I know you do. It might not be mainstream, it might be a little edgy, and I am quite sure, whatever it is, it’s pretty damn scary. That’s the type of stuff people care about. Viral content goes viral because people care about it. You would never share anything you don’t care about.

Writing articles to give your opinion is the primary reason to create a blog so that you can share those opinions with the world. However, – this is going to hurt – your opinion doesn’t count for much. And frankly, neither does mine.

It’s the thoughts, the discussions, and the sharing of views that we generate which matters the most. If I could get one person to rethink the draft she’s about to throw in the trash because she thought it was “shit.” Then I’ve done my job. And if that draft becomes a second draft, then a third draft, and eventually turns into a published book – oh my!

And THAT is why I wrote the article without ever considering it would eventually be viewed and read over 2 million times, or that thousands of people around the world would share it with each other.

I’ve written many other articles which have had a similar effect, some have been shared far more, and some much-much less, and some have caused even greater ripples in the blogosphere. But get this, you’re a better writer than you realize and you have things to say you know are important too, so what are you waiting for?

Say what others are thinking, but aren’t saying. The scarier this idea is to you, the more likely you’re on to something.

Go create some ripples. I dare you.

By Bryan Hutchinson

Source: positivewriter.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

25 Ideas for Your Author Blog

By Bryn Donovan

Part of The Writer’s Life Series

JH: Writers hear it all the time—“Oh, you should start a blog.” Not a bad idea, but the hard part is knowing what to blog about. Bryn Donovan visits the lecture hall today to share some ideas on just what to do with our authors’ blog.

Bryn Donovan earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona, and in her day job, she’s the acquiring editor for Hallmark Publishing. She’s published novels both as Bryn Donovan and as Stacey Donovan, and she’s also the author of 5,000 Writing Prompts and Master Lists for Writers. She blogs about writing and positivity at bryndonovan.com.

Take it away Bryn…

When I first began my blog a few years ago, two friends of mine, my husband, and my sister-in-law were my only readers. Writing posts would sometimes feel pointless, but I told myself Well, you’ve got to start somewhere.

Now I have over 3,000 subscribers, and I get 4,000 to 5,000 people a day reading my posts because they found them in an online search or on Pinterest. It’s the main way people find out about me and my writing.

One thing that keeps some people from blogging is that they’re not sure they’ll be able to think of enough things to write about. In my book 5,000 Writing Prompts, I included 500 ideas for blog posts. Here are twenty-five ideas, most of which aren’t in the book, geared specifically for author blogs. I hope you like them!

25 Ideas for Blog Posts

1. Share ten weird facts about yourself. This is a classic for a reason. It’s a great first post…and it’s fun to do after people think they’ve gotten to know you, too.

2. If you’re trying to decide between a few different photos for the official author photo on your blog, ask people to weigh in. This is a great first or second post for a blog that gets people engaged and connected with you.

3. Can’t decide what story to write next? Share the ideas you’re considering and ask people to vote.

4. If you’re writing a horror story, write about haunted places or scary incidents. If you’re writing a mystery, write about a real-life unsolved mystery. If you’re writing a romance, share your favorite romantic scenes in movies.

5. Write about ten of your favorite books of all time.

6. Near the end of December, write about the best books you read in the past year.

7. Share your “dream casting” for your work in progress: choose an actor for each character in the story.

8. Share photos of your writing assistants—that is, your pets—and ask others to do the same. People love showing you pictures of their cats and dogs!

9. Post a roundup of your favorite public domain quotes about reading and writing.

10. Share your writing research! If you’re setting a novel in Chicago, post a list of movies set in Chicago. If you’ve learned something interesting about medieval weaponry or scientific breakthroughs, tell everyone about it.

11. Post a list of all the weird things you’ve Googled as a writer. It’s funny, and it may make people curious about what you’re up to.

12. Share a mood board of your work in progress: put together a grid of nine images that express the feeling of the story.

13. Invent and share a recipe for something easy, like a sandwich or a cocktail, inspired by your work in progress. Maybe you could create a few for various characters!

14. You can also create recipes, cocktails, or “mocktails” based on fictional characters you love from a TV show, book series, or movie…especially if you’re writing something in a similar vein.

15. Write about tropes or plot lines you love as a reader or a viewer. (For instance, I personally love any story that features strong bonds between brothers …and I love amnesia stories. We all have our favorites!)

16. If you’re a struggling writer, share your best dirt-cheap recipe or your best tips for being frugal.

17. Share the results of a personality test you took, and ask people what their type is!

18. Or share the zodiac signs, Myers-Briggs types, or enneagram types of the characters in your work in progress.

19. Write about a trip you’re planning or a goal you’re pursuing, and ask for advice.

20. Share your favorite writing tools: the best pens, journals, software, books about writing, and websites (like this one!)

21. Ask people what their three proudest accomplishments are…and share yours, too.

22. Post pictures of book covers you love.

23. If you ever happen to be in the very fortunate position of having two different choices for the cover of your next book, and you love both of them…ask people to vote. They’ll love it.

24. Share photos of the place where you do most of your writing. Maybe add photos of other writer’s spaces and studios. Ask their permission first, but if you’re linking to their blogs, they’ll probably love it.

25. Write about the top ten authors you admire in your genre. You don’t have to ask to link to their blogs or websites. They will definitely love it.

Whether you’ve just been thinking about starting a blog, or if you already have one, I hope you found something here to inspire you. If you’re a blogger, please share your advice for others in the comments—I’d like to learn from you, too! Thanks for reading, and happy writing!

Never have writer’s block again.

Source: janicehardy.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

How to Start a Blog: A Step-by-Step Guide for Writers

So you want to start a blog?

If you’re a writer, it makes perfect sense: You can use a blog to serve as your author platform, market your book or find new freelance writing clients.

But where do you begin? Though you’ve got the writing part down, the rest of the process can be overwhelming. Hosting, themes and all that other techy stuff can stand in your way for years.

Well, today is the day that ends. We’re here to help you navigate every step of starting a blog, from choosing your domain name to publishing your first post.

Here’s how to start a blog as a writer:

1. Pick a domain name

First things first: Where are people going to find you online? As a writer, you are your brand, so we recommend using some variation of your name. To check availability, simply visit Bluehost and click on “new domain.”

Or, search this handy domain-name checker!

https://www.bluehost.com/web-hosting/domaincheckapi/?affiliate=thewritelife/startablogURLbox

If none of the obvious options are available, try tacking a “writer” onto the end of your name, as in susanshainwriter.com. You could also use a “.net” or “.biz” domain, but keep in mind that most people automatically type in “.com” before thinking of other endings.

You can, of course, opt for a creative blog name, but remember that your interests and target audience may change as the years go by. When I started blogging in 2012, I focused solely on adventure travel and named my blog Travel Junkette. Since then, I’ve expanded my niche and recently switched to susanshain.com — because my name won’t change, no matter what I’m blogging about. I wish I’d started out using my name as the domain, and would advise you not to make the same mistake I did.

Once you’ve settled on your domain (or domains, if you’re like a lot of us writerpreneurs!), don’t wait to buy it. Even if you’re not ready to start a blog right now, you don’t want to risk losing the domain you want.

Before you actually click “purchase,” though, you might want to read the next step; we’re going to tell you how to get your domain name for free.

2. Purchase a hosting package

Now that you’ve picked out your domain name, it’s time to choose a web host. Your hosting company does all the technical magic to make sure your site actually appears when people type your newly anointed domain name into their browser. In other words, it’s pretty important.

We use MediaTemple to host this blog, but it’s typically better for blogs with lots of traffic, so you probably don’t need that if you’re just starting out. For a new blog, try Bluehost. It’s used by top bloggers around the world and is known for its customer service and reliability. Bluehost’s basic hosting plan costs $3.95 per month — and as a bonus, the company throws in your domain name for free when you sign up.

Be sure to put your purchase (and all the purchases listed in this post) on a business credit card and keep those receipts; they are investments in your business and are therefore tax deductible.

3. Install WordPress

We’re almost through with the techy stuff, we promise! You have several different choices for blogging platforms, but we like WordPress best. Not only is it totally free, but it’s easy to learn, offers a wide variety of themes, and has an online community and lots of plugins that make blogging accessible to everybody.

You can read comprehensive instructions for installing WordPress on your new blog here. Once you’ve completed that, you can officially log into your blog and start making it look pretty.

Still too techy for you? Try WordPress.com (as opposed to WordPress.org). It’s a cinch to set up, but won’t allow you as much control over your site’s design and functionality. If you choose to go this route, you can skip steps one and two of this post. Simply visit WordPress.com and click on “Create website.” Though the free default inserts wordpress.com into your domain (susanshain.wordpress.com), you can pay to use your own domain (susanshain.com).

4. Put up an “under construction” sign

While working on your blog’s appearance, you might want to put up an “under construction” or “coming soon” sign to greet visitors. You don’t want any potential clients or readers to Google your name and find a half-finished site. (And you may think you’re going to finish setting up your blog tomorrow — but we all know how badly writers procrastinate when there are no looming deadlines!)

To set up a little sign that says “under construction,” just download this plugin. You could even include a link to your Twitter or Facebook page so visitors have an alternate way of getting in touch with you. When you’re ready to share your blog with the world, simply deactivate and delete this plugin.

5. Choose a theme

Now we’re getting to the fun stuff! Your theme determines what your blog looks like, and you’ve got a lot of options to choose from. Yes, there’s a wide range of free themes, but if you’re serious about blogging, the customization and support offered by paid themes can’t be beat.

Here at The Write Life, we use Genesis, which is one of the most popular premium themes available. Another popular and flexible theme is Thesis. For my personal site, I use Elegant Themes, which has a wide selection of beautiful themes at a reasonable price. All of these themes come with unlimited support — essential when you’re starting a blog.

6. Create a header

If you truly want your blog to look professional, it’s worth getting a custom header. You can ask your favorite graphic designer or create something yourself with Canva.

My favorite option? Order one on Fiverr. I’ve had great luck getting headers and other graphics designed in this online marketplace, where thousands of people offer their services for $5 per gig.

7. Write your pages

Though you’re starting a blog and not a static website, you’ll still want a few pages that don’t change. (“Pages” are different from “posts,” which are the daily/weekly/monthly entries you publish on your blog.)

Here are some pages you may want to create:

About

The about page is frequently touted as one of the most-viewed pages on blogs, so don’t overlook it. Include a photo and brief bio, and explain why you’re blogging and why the reader should care. What makes you an expert? How can you help them?

Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through — blogging is a personal affair!

Contact

You want your readers to be able to get in touch with you, right? Then you’ll need a contact page.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; just tell your readers how best to reach you. Avoid putting your full email address on here, as spambots could get ahold of it. To work around that, you can use a plugin, which we’ll link to below, or simply write something like “yourname AT yoursite DOT com.”

Portfolio

It’s your blog, so flaunt what you’ve got! Show your prospective clients and readers that you deserve their time and attention with examples of your past and present work. You can see examples of great writer portfolios here; personally, I love Sara Frandina’s.

Resources

Do you have a list of favorite writing tools? Or maybe books that have inspired you? Readers love resources pages, and for bloggers, they can also be a way to earn income from affiliate sales. Check out The Write Life’s resources page for inspiration.

Start here

You probably won’t need this at first, but a “start here” page is smart once you have a decent amount of content. It’s a great opportunity to express your mission and highlight your best work, so your readers can see the value of your blog without wading through months or years worth of posts.

Joanna Penn does a good job with hers, encouraging readers to download her ebook and then choose a topic that interests them.

Work with me

If you’re using your new blog to sell your writing services, this page is crucial. Be clear about how you can help people and how they can get in touch with you. You could even list packages of different services, like Sarah Von Bargen does on her site.

Once you’ve set up all your pages, make sure they’re easily accessible from the home page. If they’re not showing up, you may have to adjust your menus.

8. Install plugins

Plugins are great for everybody, but they’re especially useful for those of us who are less comfortable with the technical side of things but who’ve managed to set up a self-hosted blog. Think of them as apps for your blog; they’re free tools you can install to do a variety of things.

Though having lots of plugins can undermine the functionality and security of your blog, there are several we recommend everyone look into:

Better Click-to-Tweet: Encourage readers to share your content by including a click-to-tweet box within your posts; this plugin makes it easy.

Contact Form 7: If you want to avoid putting your email address on your contact page, use this contact form plugin, which is frequently updated and receives good reviews.

QuickieBar: Want to get readers to sign up for your free newsletter? Or want to announce the release of your latest book? This plugin allows you to create a banner for the top of your blog.

Mashshare: These “Mashable-style” share buttons are like the ones you see here on The Write Life. Another popular option is Digg Digg. It doesn’t matter which plugin you choose; it’s just essential you make social sharing easy for your readers.

WP Google Analytics: This plugin tracks the visitors to your site so you can see what people are interested in and how they’re finding you.

WP Super Cache: Another plugin that’s not sexy, but is important. Caching allows your blog to load faster — pleasing both your readers and Google.

Yoast SEO: This all-in-one SEO plugin helps you optimize your posts so you can get organic traffic from search engines.

9. Install widgets

If your blog has a sidebar, you might want to spruce it up with a few widgets, which are small boxes with different functions.

Here are some ideas:

About box

You’ve probably seen this on a lot of blogs; it’s a box in the upper right hand corner welcoming you to the site. Check out Jessica Lawlor’s blog for a simple — yet excellent — example.

Social media icons

Make it easy for your readers to follow you on social media by including links to your profiles in the sidebar. Here’s a basic tutorial for adding custom social media icons.

Popular posts

Once you’ve been blogging for a while, you might want to highlight your most popular posts in the sidebar, which you can do with a basic text widget. We do this here on The Write Life so you can find our most popular content quickly and easily.

10. Purchase backup software

Don’t overlook this important step just because you don’t have content yet! It’s better to install this software early than to start blogging and not remember until it’s too late.

Free options exist, but I’ve never had good luck with them — and for something as important as my entire blog, I don’t mind paying a little extra. (It’s a business write-off, remember?!) Popular backup options include VaultPress, BackupBuddy and blogVault.

11. Start your email list

I know, I know — you haven’t even started blogging and I already want you to build an email list. Trust me; you’ll be so glad you did.

Alexis Grant, founder of The Write Life, agrees with me. “If I could go back and do one thing differently for my business, it would be starting a newsletter earlier,” she writes. “My email list is THAT important for my business, bringing traffic to my website, buys of my products and opportunities I never could’ve expected.”

Even if you don’t have anything to send, just start collecting email addresses. The best way to entice people to sign up is by offering a free ebook or resource. For great examples, check out The Write Life’s How to Land Your First Paying Client or Grant’s social media strategy checklist.

Our favorite email newsletter platform is Mailchimp. It’s intuitive, fun and free for up to 2,000 subscribers. There are lots of other tools you could choose, though; here are a few more options for building your email list.

Once you’ve created your list, entice your readers to subscribe by adding a subscription box to your sidebar, and maybe even installing a plugin like PopupAlly.

12. Write!

If you really want to start a blog, you’re going to need to… start blogging.

We recommend creating an editorial calendar — even if it’s just you blogging. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it can even be scribbled out in a notebook.

What’s important is that you plan your posts in advance, so you can keep track of your ideas and stick to a schedule. It’s also a chance to assess and tweak your content strategy. What do you want to write about? How will you draw the readers in?

Don’t forget you’re writing for the web, so your style should be different than if you were writing for print. Keep your tone conversational, use “you” phrases to speak to the reader and break up text with bullet points and sub-headers. Keep SEO in mind, but don’t make it the focus of your writing.

13. Promote, promote, promote

You’re almost there! Now that you’ve started writing, it’s time to get readers. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but for many writers, this is one of the most surprisingly time-consuming aspects of blogging. Though it’d be nice if we could just write (that’s what we love to do, right?), it’s nicer to have people actually reading your work.

One of the best ways to attract new readers is guest blogging on more popular blogs. To help you out, here are seven writing blogs that want your guest posts, plus seven more. (And don’t forget about guest posting for TWL!)

It’s also essential to interact with other bloggers. Share their content with your community, comment on their posts and support them when and where you can. Hopefully, they’ll return the favor!

Social media is another great way to get more traffic to your new blog. In addition to sharing your posts and networking with fellow bloggers, make sure you’re constantly trying to grow your author following on social media.

14. Get help if you need it

If you feel stuck at any point, don’t be afraid to invest in a course or ebook, like these ones:

Sometimes a little outside help is all the boost you need.

Other than that, creating a successful writing blog is about hard work and consistency. Keep posting helpful and engaging content, optimizing it for SEO and sharing it with your networks — and you’ll soon see your new blog start to blossom.

Congratulations, you’ve now officially started a blog as a writer. Guess it’s time to get writing!

Do you want to start a blog? What stood in your way until now?

By Susan Shain
Source: thewritelife.com

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30 Inspiring Blog Post Ideas For Writers

From Amanda Patterson over at  Writers Write 

Do you have blogger’s block?

Even creative people get stuck when they’re trying to come up with ideas for a blog post. I thought I would put together a list of possible topics to inspire you. These are based on some of our blog posts at Writers Write and others I’ve enjoyed reading on the Internet.
Whether you blog daily, three times a week, or once a week, I hope that one of these are just what you need to break your blogger’s block.

 

 

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