Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Blogging’

Finding Time & Space to Write/Blog

In Writing Advice, Writing Spaces on June 11, 2017 at 11:00 am

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Zoey the Cute Dachshund, a lapdog, offers a great companion for writing on the laptop!

What if you don’t have enough time for writing or blogging?

Part of writing process deals with the “what” and the “where.”

The “what” is doing the actual writing and the “where” is the physical place you, the blogger, feel most comfortable sitting down and creating the content. But this comfort shouldn’t limit you to writing only when you can show up to do the work.

Make writing more entertaining by sneaking it in and knowing where to find a few good spots. Don’t let the excuse of not having the space or a short amount of time prevent you from starting. Realize where you write doesn’t have to be perfect and that you can make do just so you can write, even if it’s not at a desk or table.

Start by carrying a notebook wherever you go, except maybe the gym or the swimming pool. Inspiration can hit at unplanned or even awkward moments, such as when you’re out with friends or in a public, non-coffee shop place where pulling out a napkin or scrap of paper isn’t the norm. But do it anyway.

Finding a Writing Spot

To find a good writing spot, ask yourself a few questions, making sure you’re ready to write. For instance:

  • Do you need quiet or activity around you?
  • Do you need background noise—such as conversations, music, doors opening and closing and the sounds of food or drinks being made?
  • Do you want an area that’s open or cozy? Do you like working outside or in a small room, such as a closet converted into an office?
  • Do you need bright lights or sunshine, or do you need cloudy weather and low lighting?
  • Do you want to write alone or be around other people?
  • Do you want your things around you set up in a special way?
  • Do you want to go somewhere away from home and the excuses of chores and whatever else can distract you?
  • Do you have a time of day when you do your best writing? Do you need a routine, or a schedule?

Other Ideas for Writing Spots

Here are a few places you can try: a desk in the bedroom or living room, the library, coffee shops, restaurants, the mall or a porch, deck or patio as long as the weather is warm and the wind isn’t blowing.

Once you find a spot you consider inspiring, yet comfortable, make that your go-to, your office, your special place to engage in and do your blogging writing. It will then become that room of your own.

Creating an Attention-Grabbing Blogging Voice

In Blogging, Blogging Advice, Voice, Writing, Writing Advice on June 4, 2017 at 11:00 am

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My dog Zoey employs multiple ways to get my attention and the attention of everyone else!

To get noticed in the crowded blogosphere, how can bloggers get attention and keep that attention?

One way is through their voice, or how they use language and display their written personality. Readers become fans of a particular blog when they know what to expect—the voice is consistent and recognizable and the content has a clear purpose, such as providing information, entertainment or motivation.

Bloggers set themselves apart by having something original to say and a unique way of saying it. They’re not just blogging to grow their audiences, get clicks and drive traffic to their websites. Instead, their content is authentic and real and doesn’t read like a mishmash of sentences saturated in SEO-heavy language.

The Sound and Appearance of Writing

Voice, at the simplest level, is how bloggers or writers sound and appear on the page. It’s their style, or the way they use words to describe things. It’s how they handle language, the words they choose and their techniques for putting together sentences and paragraphs. It’s a matter of their word choice, syntax and phrasing and options for structuring sentences and paragraphs.

Alternatively, the way the writing sounds can be thought of in physical speaking styles. Is the writing conversational or formal, or is it humorous or academic? Is it fun and trendy? Or cute and quirky? Is it snarky, condescending or longwinded? Or is it accessible and helpful?

Another way to look at it is does the writer sound like a computer manual, a thesaurus or a grammar book? Or does the writer offer up jargon or slang? Does the writer sound like an instrument, harsh or melodious?

Voice goes beyond sound to the appearance on the page. Is there a lot of white space or dense paragraphs with few breaks? Are caps or ellipses used to show casualness, or is there a heavy use of long words and scientific terms? Is there variation of sentence length and structure, such as subject, verb and noun interspersed with questions and partial thoughts?

Other Components of Voice

Voice also can be about story. Do the writers start in the middle and get sidetracked, or are they clear and concise, getting to the main point with just the right amount of detail not to bore the listener or induce interruption?

Voice can be about worldviews. It’s the way writers see the world and interpret events. It involves the feeling and tone or mood of what they write.

Overall, voice is:

  • The writer’s attitude toward the subject.
  • The writer’s way of telling a story.
  • The writer’s use of language.
  • The words and phrases the writer uses frequently.
  • The writer’s ways of engaging with the audience.

From the reader’s side, it’s:

  • The adjectives used to describe the voice.
  • The incentive to read in the first place.
  • The reason to continue to read down the page.
  • The connection with the writer.

Voice is the writer on the page. It is the reason they write. It’s what they choose to write about, revealing what they notice, what they care about, what matters in the world they’ve created.

And it’s what makes readers care and want to read more.

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 Blogging, The Writing Life, Writing, 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.

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

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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.

 

Missing my blog

In Uncategorized on June 5, 2016 at 11:00 am

Hello my dear readers,

I will be back at blogging next week after a two-week hiatus. I am working on a big editing/revision project that is taking all of my extra time and most of my focus. I hope to finish it next week!

And then it’s back to writing.

I much prefer writing to revising, but revising is an interesting/self-teaching process that does improve the writing process.

See you next Sunday.

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.