Shelley Widhalm

Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Why Blogging is Important for Writers

In Blogging, Why Blog?, Writing, Writing Tips on May 21, 2017 at 11:00 am

Are blogs like legwarmers that are trendy and fashionable, popular in the ’80s and back in style again?

Or are they like the necessary boots and thick socks that are the staple of any wardrobe in a climate with seasons?

With more than 150 million blogs in existence, it seems like everyone should be blogging from writers to business owners to anyone who wants to get their writing to readers, customers and clients.

But are blogs here to stay, necessary for your marketing wardrobe?

Google certainly likes blogs and other written content for Search Engine Optimization to give individuals and businesses higher online rankings, especially for recent content.

Beyond SEO

But blogging goes beyond simple SEO. It’s part of branding. It’s an aspect of creating a platform. And it’s a form of marketing.

Consistent, quality blogging creates an image. It demonstrates expertise and authority in a niche. And it gets readers to turn to you, because, over time, they begin to value your knowledge and how you relay that knowledge, your values and what you see as important.

“Writing creates a perceived leadership position and is a value positioning statement at the same time. It also allows those who agree with your ideas or philosophy to connect with you,” said Jeffrey Gitomer in “Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness.”

Blogs should educate and entertain and not be space fillers vying for that SEO. Content-mill produced blogs are written only to get clicks—what’s created is SEO-stuffed with little meaning and value. They only are about quantity.

Quality Blogs

Alternatively, quality blogs create relationships, build audiences and convert readers to customers. They result in engagement and a following.

Research shows that blogs should be posted once a week on the same day of the week, and not randomly, especially with big gaps of time and a mishmash of topics. To create quality blogs, think about your target market. Who are you writing to? What is it you want to say?

Blogs are a way to talk about your latest book or project. It’s a way to show your process of creation. It’s a way to show what attracts readers specifically to your writing style and voice. And it shows why you are the best to offer what you offer.

Blogging Advantages

Here are some advantages of blogging. Blogs can:

  • Put you in front of your readers, serving a similar purpose as an ad or marketing materials.
  • Bring traffic to your website.
  • Nurture and build a relationship with readers through regular connection.

Blogs also can be used to tell your story and to make your writing look personal and inviting. They’re not just about what’s on the bookshelf.

Blogging to be Personable

In Writing, Blogging, The Writing Life, Writing Advice on May 21, 2017 at 11:00 am

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I like to blog about my dog, Zoey, who is an inspiration for my writing. That’s because she’s so cute!

Blogging is a form of storytelling that, like a book, brings in readers who want to find out what happens next.

Readers look to your blog to find out the latest news about your books and projects in progress, publications and readings. What you write can topical, showing what’s going on, trending and new. Or it can be about your processes, specifically how you write, edit and revise, or what strikes you about the writing, marketing and publishing worlds.

The blog posts don’t need to be long—a few hundred words will do—but research shows 500 to 700 words to be ideal. A blog that is 300 to 400 words is considered short, while a blog reaching 1,000 words is on the long side.

Blogs help writers become personal and inviting. The writers demonstrate they care enough to connect with their audiences. They want to share bits of knowledge and their expertise about what they have to offer.

To make blogs more personable:

  • First, narrow down to your target audience, avoiding writing to everybody, therefore to nobody.
  • Communicate your expertise on a subject related to your writing or the topics you cover in your books.
  • Write about your writing processes to give readers a glimpse of what you do to create the finished book or short story.
  • Write about the elements of writing, like dialog, character and setting, to show your personal take on the processes, while also providing readers and writers with valuable information.
  • Be yourself and show your personality as you talk about the topics you enjoy or that are important to your writing

Make sure to update your blogs often, preferably once a week, and post them on the same day. Sporadic blogging, especially every few months, shows a lack of commitment or a loss of interest in the blog.

My Blogging Experiences:

From my own experience blogging, I found several benefits to routine, consistent blogging. I blogged for years about writing and editing, and by regularly writing about the two subjects, I deepened my knowledge and detailed understanding of the elements of the craft. I increased my “expert” status though regular research and study.

I blogged once a week on a variety of topics, including character and plot development, storytelling, story structure, story and character arc, dialog and setting, as well as approaches to the craft that included writing prompts, writing spaces and habits, and inspiration and motivation.

To be able to write about the craft in an informed manner, I had to look up information online, review my notes and article clippings, and organize everything into my own take on the information.

This made me a stronger writer by thinking about writing, writing about writing and analyzing the process of writing. I methodically covered every element I could think of, gaining a better understanding of the material and how to apply it to my own work.

Basically, I taught myself to be a better writer by teaching through the form of writing. I improved my ability to tell a story.

Comparing Blogging with Poetry Readings

In Blogging, National Poetry Month, Poetry Readings, Writing, Writing Poetry on April 16, 2017 at 11:00 am

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I am reading some of my poems during a previous poetry reading at the Loveland Museum/Gallery.

Listening to and writing poetry doesn’t seem to fit into the fast-paced business world of SEO, key words and tracking analytics.

A poem has rhythm, pacing and structure, while blogs and business writing aim for a certain voice, objective and spin, all to capture attention. A poem exists on the page, the lines and spacing giving it shape, while blogs use optimized headlines, bullet points and short written content to provide the structure.

Another way to put it is a poem is quiet, existing in a book or chapbook or even on a piece of paper. A blog is loud and out there trying to get clicks.

Capturing the Audience

Both capture audiences, but in different ways.

A poem wants readers and to give expression to the internal, to memory and to observation.

A blog wants followers and to increase numbers to build toward marketing a business or attracting advertising to further promote the blog.

Like blogs, poems can become loud when they are given physical voice, such as in a poetry reading or poetry slam.

I’ll be reading two of my poems this week in two separate readings, both a part of National Poetry Month in April. National Poetry Month is an annual celebration of poetry started by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 as a literary celebration of poetry and its place in society.

Two Poetry Readings

The first reading is “For Spacious Skies, celebrating early American poetry,” on Thursday, April 20, at the Loveland Museum/Gallery. I will read a poem in the style of Edward Taylor, colonial America’s foremost poet and a minister and physician. I wrote two poems after studying Taylor’s biography, a few of his poems and his approach to writing, including his tone, voice and word usage.

I’m trying to decide which of the two poems to pick for the invited poetry reading, where local poets selected an American colonist and wrote a response, such as in the same style or using similar subjects. One of my poems is more fun in tone and takes place in the kitchen, while the other is serious and reflective.

The second reading I plan to attend is Poudre River Public Library District’s Fifth Annual Battle of the Bards on Friday, April 21. The 10 finalists of the poetry contest will be reading their poems at the Harmony Library, and the first- to third-place winners will be announced. My poem that was selected, “Flower Centers,” compares various emotional states to different types of flowers.

A Final Thought

To further compare poems with blogs, I wanted to add a couple of notes:

Poems have titles on top (sometimes) and lines of text that aren’t necessarily aligned with the right margin.

Blogs have headlines scattered throughout and lots of the previously mentioned bullet points.

I’ve yet to see a poem with a bullet point:

Roses are red

  • Violets are blue.
  • Sugar is sweet …

I hope to see you at the readings.

Finding Subject Matter for Weekly Blogging

In Blogging, Writing, Writing Discipline, Writing Tips on March 12, 2017 at 11:00 am

SHELLEYWIDHALMpicI have the honor of being a guest blogger this week on the Loveland Business Development Center’s website. To see the blog, visit https://lovelandbusiness.com/finding-subject-matter-for-weekly-blogging/.

Or check it out here:

Blogging about the same subject for years is reaching into a bottomless well.

That’s because content is continuously being generated with different approaches. But how do you, as a blogger and writer, create content that is interesting for you to write and compelling enough to get followers and clicks?

I began blogging on a weekly basis in 2012 at WordPress as Shell’s Ink about the writing and editing process and the writer’s life. When I first started, I methodically explained the elements of a fiction manuscript, such as plot, character, setting, dialog and storytelling. I blogged about finding ideas to write about, the inspiration and motivation to do the work and the habits of successful writers from setting aside time each week to write to making sure to revise the work—a rough draft is not a final, readable draft.

To generate ideas for the blogs:

  • I keep a running list of ideas by browsing through articles clipped from writing magazines and thumbing through my books on writing.
  • I ask other writers what they want to learn about writing and editing and respond with a blog.
  • I pay attention to the topics brought up in my writers group and book club, such as how to combine different point of views in the same scene.
  • I consider what I need to learn about writing and editing to improve my own work and write about it.
  • I look on bookseller websites to see what’s trending in literature and write about the topic—such as why young adult fiction is gaining ground in the publishing industry.
  • I review old blogs and recycle some of the content to come up with another blog from a different angle.
  • I guest blog on my friends’ and co-writers’ blogs and post those blogs on my site.

Here’s how else to find subject matter:

  • Read other blogs about the same topics you’re writing about and put your own spin on the material.
  • Carry a notebook with you and write down ideas as they come to you, because they will once you state that you want to write.
  • Read a snippet of a news article or a dictionary definition and apply it to your blog topic.
  • Eavesdrop and use the bits of conversation for a blog, first doing a little more research (this is very entertaining, but be sure to pretend you’re busy and into your own stuff, head down, fingers on the laptop).
  • Take another blogging topic and use that angle to write about your topic.

Also realize:

  • Blogging is best done once a week with content at 500 to 700 words about the same subject matter, but veering off topic every few blogs can bring in other readers, too.
  • Breaks from blogging are acceptable; feel confident your followers won’t give up on you.

For example, I blogged regularly over the past five years, but took a break during a surgery to my hand in early 2016 and again in early 2017. I didn’t lose any followers but seemed to get more clicks in February and March when I came back on line.

I took the break this year to launch my writing and editing business, Shell’s Ink Services, and also have a blog on that website. That blog is more business-oriented with advice on writing and editing for those who may not love writing but want to give it a try and to explain what I do as a professional.

I started with my top 10 tips for writing and then for editing. To continue generating the content, I’ll keep digging into that well of ideas to make sure I have content that is fresh, engaging and interesting.

Happy New (Writing) Year

In Blogging, Reflections on Writing, Writing on January 1, 2017 at 11:00 am

2017planner

I still keep a paper planner!

What I love about a new year first and foremost is getting a new (paper) planner. Yep, I’m old-fashioned. I still use paper to keep track of my life.

A new year presents a time to make resolutions and set goals and a time to review the past year’s accomplishments and not-quite-there-yets.

To review my writing life, I’d like to point to a few highlights:

  • I’ve written a couple of novels, a few short stories and dozens of poems, and I’m in the process of looking for a literary agent.
  • I’m launching a freelance writing and editing business, Shell’s Ink Services, on a more serious level, going after work instead of doing my day job and putting it on the back burner.
  • I blogged nearly every week through the year and have been blogging since 2011. My focus is on dispensing advice on all aspects of writing from structure to the elements of fiction, like plot, character, setting and dialog, and the editing and revision process. I also write about my life as a writer and what inspires and motivates me to write, along with some of my disappointments and frustrations.

I love my blog, but I feel like I may need to change direction. I’m not getting very many Likes—blogging is very competitive, and I don’t market my blog. I simply write to see what happens, but that’s not a very good business plan.

The result: I don’t win any popularity contests.

Despite this, there is a ROI: I learn about writing on a deeper level by explaining the elements from several vantage points. “Teach to learn” is the motto, and that definitely works in the case of keeping a regular blog. I also love the discipline of feeling obligated to write about writing every week. It keeps writing on my mind.

I want to continue my blog but will take it in a new direction in 2017. What that direction is I still haven’t decided, though I’m a big planner and like to be disciplined and organized. That’s why I have to have my paper planner with me wherever I go.

I may take a month off—January—as I figure this out.

In the meantime, I would love feedback from my readers! What would you like to see? What should stay? What should go?

Happy New 2017!

Sick blogger (but committed)

In Blogging, Pacing, Writing on October 23, 2016 at 11:00 am

I’ve taken the blog commitment to blog every week about something writing related.

I post my blogs on Sundays.

I get a few readers, but not too many, and I’m grateful to everyone who reads my blog. But I do know I’m not marketing my blog in the right way. If I were, I’d have fans and more fans and awards and all that.

I skipped blogging last week, because I got behind with the work-life balance and spent my free time on editing my novel. Again. It’s the young adult one I’ve edited a million times. This time I’m editing for pacing and a few other elements, which is quite revealing because now I better understand the concept that, before, seemed too complicated.

Basically, pacing, or the speed at which a novel unfolds, is how boring or interesting the read is, and what kind of action versus description occurs. If the storyline is full of action with short dialog exchanges and short scenic descriptions, the pace is fast. If there is little action and more description, the pace is slow.

Lately, the pace of my life has been slow, very slow. That’s because I’ve been in bed for the past two days. And in that state, I considered skipping blogging this week, because I just didn’t feel like it. I either had the flu or food poisoning, resulting in my being unable to move (day 1 and part of day 2) and calling in sick for two days. My father informed me I likely had food poisoning, because the flu lasts for about a week, and today, Sunday, I’m in a coffee shop, out and about, blogging.

I have to admit I must be a bit lazy, because I thought being in bed, reading and listening to audio books for hours on end, alternated with sleeping, was absolute heaven. I have been going at such a fast pace that sometimes my heart goes out of whack and my brain buzzes, and I wonder, what the heck?

Anyway, I’ve returned to real life and to my blog, albeit not in my usual tone or voice, another concept I’ve blogged about. My voice is a bit British (it’s the book I’m reading) and my tone is relaxed—I’ve been sleeping after all. So there you go.

I’ve kept my blog commitment. Or at least mostly.

 

Return to blogging (next week)

In Blogging, Why Blog? on June 19, 2016 at 11:00 am

I will return to blogging on Sunday, June 26. I took a couple of week’s leave to work on a large editing project.

I admit I’ve thought about my blog. I missed my blog. And I missed my readers and the comments I occasionally get.

I find blogging about the writing process as a way to deepen the understanding of what happens before and as the pen hits the paper. I like reflecting on the writing life, and I like sharing my work.

I also like knowing that I’m contributing a small piece to the large body of work out in the blogosphere.

 

A blogger’s 2015 reflections

In Blogging, The Writing Life, Why Blog?, Why I Write on December 27, 2015 at 11:00 am

Surgery-Cast3The end of the year is a time for reflection about the past year and setting goals for what’s next.

The goals don’t have to be the intimidating New Year’s resolutions that initially generate excitement, but may fizzle out after a month or two when the change requires just that: change.

When it comes to writing, adding a resolution or a new goal to your writing schedule can liven things up, generate excitement and offer up some inspiration. This can provide a fresh start and a way to redo those things that aren’t working, such as trying to write three days a week but only getting to it once or writing so many words a session and facing writer’s block.

My writing goals for 2016 include doing National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, again in November with the aim to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I did NaNoWriMo in 2013 and again in 2015.

I plan to edit the novel I nearly finished, “The Heat of Trouble.”

And I plan to write more short stories and look for an agent for a couple of my completed manuscripts.

Over the past year, I wrote a novel and edited a couple of others, plus I blogged nearly every week about the writing process. I’ve been blogging for four years about the different elements of writing, types of writing and the writer’s life. I wrote about writing inspiration and motivation, the habits of successful writers and the revision process, explaining about what I love (and sometimes don’t love so much) about writing.

As I blogged, I found I haven’t generated much of an audience for my writing about writing, but I did gain a better understanding of what’s involved and how to apply it to my own writing. That’s because I could review and see things slightly differently than before by putting my thoughts into a weekly format.

In 2016, I will continue to blog about writing but may take a different approach or introduce new topics. At this point, I’m not sure.

It’s likely I won’t be blogging in January during my recovery from a surgery to my left hand. The surgery was Dec. 11, and I wrote ahead for the remainder of the year and posted the blogs to align with each Sunday, my regular blogging day.

I will return in February—after about two months of single-hand activities limited to my right hand—with a fresh perspective and hopefully some goals in how I want to approach my blog and my writing life

Why I keep blogging

In Blogging, Shelley Widhalm, Why Blog? on August 23, 2015 at 11:00 am

Sometimes, I wonder why I blog when I have just a few Likes and even fewer comments. There are so many bloggers out there, it’s grown into a highly competitive type of writing with search engine optimization, blogging contests and platform building.

I started blogging four years ago, because I thought I needed to blog to build a platform and because I wanted to be published. I thought it would help me get to the big world of Successful Writer Who is Published and on the Best Seller Lists.

Last month, I attended a Northern Colorado Writer’s class featuring a literary agent who works with the big presses, and she said writers should focus on writing and do social media if they want to. They should blog if they want to. But it doesn’t matter for book promotion.

In nonfiction, blogging is important, she said, to building that platform and promoting the written work.

In a few of my writers’ magazine articles, I read, too, that blogging builds platform for fiction and nonfiction writers, generating interest from the audiences you build.

I saw the messages varied depending on the source and, likely, your goals as a writer.

If getting Likes is the goal, I didn’t do so well.

But if it’s teaching and re-teaching myself about the elements of writing, such as character and plot development, storytelling, story and character arc and setting, I did quite well. I had to look up information for my blog posts, review my notes and article clippings, and organize everything into my own take on the information. Plus, I used examples from my writing.

I made myself a stronger writing by thinking about writing, writing about writing and analyzing the process of writing. I also became reflective on that process, considering what occurs while I write and digging into my writer’s mind, something I don’t do as I engage in the physical part of writing.

In essence, I use my blog to think about writing and about being a writer. I use it to improve myself into a better writer. And as I do this, I hope there are other writers who get something out of all of my ruminations.

Writing and Love (and the Connection to Valentine’s Day)

In Blogging, Writing, Writing Processes on February 8, 2015 at 11:00 am

DowntownFlower

One or two aisles in the grocery store during Valentine’s Day are filled with pink and red.

Valentine’s cards, heart-shaped candy and teddy bears holding stuffed hearts crowd the shelves to mark the day of giving candy, flowers and a dinner out.

This gift giving and exchange of cards developed out of Saint Valentine(s). A number of Saints called Valentine are honored on Feb. 14, a day that became associated with romantic love in the Middle Ages in England. Traditionally, lovers exchanged handwritten notes and later commercial cards when they became available in the mid-19th century.

But what does Valentine’s Day and love have to do with writing (what I write about in this blog)?

On the surface, greeting cards and the notes in valentines all involve the quick correspondence about friendship and romance. Communicating through writing has a universal appeal (think notes passed around at school before texting, texting, Facebook messages, emails, letters and cards). What’s written can be reread, saved and kept as a memento (even texts, if you copy them into a notebook or journal) and serves as physical proof that someone is thinking about you.

Writers do the same thing, compiling poems, short stories, manuscripts, ideas for writing and processes for doing the writing. They become collectors of the written word, saving their work toward the day they will be published. Or they simply write out of a passion and because it’s their hobby.

They do it because of love.

What do you love about writing?

With blogging, I love that I am learning and re-learning elements of the writing process. I pick a subject and make discoveries and connections as I write. I improve my understanding of words and how to be concise with them and how to get my message across effectively in an interesting way.

With all types of writing, I become a better writer each time I write, particularly when I work in different genres from short stories to blogs to news writing, cross pollinating the techniques of each. Not only do I love the result but I love the process, putting words down to see what I come up with: a new idea, a new approach to dialog interchange or a different way of describing a character or a plot point that hadn’t occurred to me until I was actually doing the writing.

As I write, I love that I am creating, turning taps on the keypad into detail, description and story.