Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Blogging’

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

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


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.

Platforms (and Blogging)

In Blogging, Platforms, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on April 27, 2014 at 11:00 am

The only reason I started my blog nearly three years ago was because I read in one of my writer’s magazines that writers need platforms, whether or not they’re published.

Within a few blogging sessions (I blog weekly), I realized I blog because I love it. I learn as I write about different topics that have to do with the writing process, elements of writing and the life of a writer.

Blogging serves as a discipline for regular writing; it’s a different format of writing than anything else I’ve done: news and feature articles, short stories, novels and poems.

And it’s a way to meet other writers.

To draw traffic to my two blogs, I created a website with links to this one and the one that my dog, Zoey the Cute Dachshund, writes called Zoey’s Paw, I don’t know if this works, but it is something to put on my business cards.

From my research on platforms, I’ve found some conflicting information.

Writers, whether published or not in fiction or nonfiction, need to create a platform, preferably one that includes blogging.

Or, according to a recent article in one of my writer’s magazines, blogs help writers connect with readers but don’t necessarily sell books. They are not useful for romance and young adult writers, because readers of these books don’t connect with the authors in this way.

What does that mean for writers who have yet to be published? Should they blog or not? Should they build a platform with a multimedia presence that includes blogs, photos, videos and snippets of their work?

I wish I knew.

In the meantime, I’ll keep blogging.

Platforms and blogs, in particular, are intended to communicate your expertise on a subject. They should focus on a specific topic and provide information, thought and ideas in a distinct niche.

I’ve also read that blogs:

• Need to have passion, voice and be creative and distinct from other blogs. Blogs by writers blogging about writing seem to be overdone. (I’m included in this category, apparently.)
• Should be about the subject of your book to build an audience of readers. They can be about the time period of your story, themes in your writing, character traits you’ve developed or anything else you’re writing about.
• Need to be updated often, such as once a week or three times a week.

Reflections on NaNoWriMo (and Writing in General)

In 52: A Writer's Life, Blogging, NaNoWriMo, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on December 8, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Every year, I come up with an excuse explaining why I don’t want to do NaNoWriMo, or participate in National Novel Writing Month in November.

The main hangar for me is I work and after work, I like to do a little writing, read and play. At the same time, I want to be with all the other writers meeting together to write like crazy or working alone, writing like crazy.

So this year, I told enough friends that I’m doing NaNoWriMo and put it on my Facebook account, so that I would be accountable. I didn’t want to tell people, “Oh, I quit after Day 2.”

First, I decided to write 50,000 words, cutting down my normal aim of 75,000 to 90,000 words for a full manuscript. However, I am back at the 70,000, maybe 80,000, words for my young adult novel, because I either write short – i.e. short stories – or long up to 100,000 words.

I usually don’t write with much of a draft either, but this time I planned ahead, mentally sketching out plot, character and setting. I wrote a 3,000-word short story for a 10-week Meetup class I took this fall that served as a starting point, so that I could fill in areas where I alluded to or glossed over possible action and character interaction.

I came up with a title, so that I already had a topic and an identity for my writing.

Add in that I didn’t have to find different subjects to blog about for a month, so I liked the idea of already having a template to use.

Now, I’ll return to blogging about writing and the writing life.

(Check out Zoey the Dachshund’s reponse to NaNoWriMo at

Blogging Honor

In 52: A Writer's Life, Blogging, Writing on October 27, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Here’s the blog I wrote that ran as a guest blog Oct. 24 on mystery writer Patricia Stoltey’s blog,

Each Thursday, Stoltey, who lives in Northern Colorado, features a guest author who writes about writing and the writing life. The rest of the week, she blogs about the same topics, as well as getting published or whatever is on her mind.

Her books include “The Desert Hedge Murders” and “The Prairie Grass Murders.”

My blog is “On Finding my Words.” Please check it out.

The Confident Blogger

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on September 1, 2013 at 11:30 am

I wanted to take a step back from blogging about the writing process to reflect on why I blog and what blogging has to offer a writer.

In June 2008, I started blogging to build a platform, taking the advice of my writers’ magazines that having a Website and blogging are important prior to and after publication.

Blogging and platform-building are part of branding yourself, establishing an identity for you as a writer. I write under the moniker, “Shell’s Ink,” while Zoey the Dachshund, my four-legged, furry co-blogger, writes as “Zoey’s Paw.”

Blogging every week about writing – from elements of writing to the life of a writer – has made me evaluate my own writing processes, putting into words what I normally take for granted, such as how I write, rewrite, edit, revise and come up with ideas. I no longer just do but analyze what I’m doing and why, adding depth to the process.

I increase and reconfirm my knowledge about writing by studying writing. I conduct online research and review my notes, magazine clippings and books about writing, taking notes to gather material for my blog of the week. I write on a variety of topics from the elements of writing, or plot, character and setting, to the steps of writing from rough draft to revision.
As a result, I’m clearer about what I need to do when I write, making sure I include all of the story elements, while also thinking about the plot and character arcs. I am more cognizant of every step of the process of writing, editing and revising.

Blogging has:

• Taught me a new style of writing that is different from writing novels and short stories, news and feature articles, and essays.
• Helped me search out ideas and subjects for my blogs, expanding my understanding of and knowledge about the concepts and vocabulary involved in writing, such as “word echo,” “heroic journey” and “pacing.”
• Made me a better writer, because I write every week, fine-tuning my skills.

Zoey’s blog can be found at

Next week’s post will be about “The Fearful Writer,” or the fear of not improving and succeeding as a writer.