One of the first and most important decisions for every writer is determining what to write about. Making this decision can feel overwhelming often because of long-held notions we have about what it means to be a writer. Many people believe that authors just have ideas that come to them or, worse yet, that authors are so intelligent that they are able to create something unique that has never been seen or thought of before.
In reality, neither scenario is entirely true. Most of the time, authors decide what to write about from examining their personal lives and interests or by examining the work of other authors and making parts of existing material into something new and different.
Writing about things you know and care about is important for several reasons. For one, it usually makes writing much easier: if you are writing from personal experiences, you can spend more energy on adding creative twists to a story that already exists.
Second, if you are writing about something you care about, you usually have a deeper sense of the subject and will have more information from which to write. Choosing topics or experiences that you care about will develop a sense of “you” which only you can create.
Here are some strategies for coming up with ideas for writing:
Make lists of topics or things that you are interested in—hobbies, issues, things, places
Draw a floor plan of your home and make a list of three memorable events that happened in each room
Make a list of problems that you have seen characters face in movies, TV shows, or books, and use one as the basis for your own story
Make a list of your most memorable experiences and determine which might be the basis for a piece of writing
Maintain a personal journal and collect thoughts and descriptions that might be used as the basis for a piece of writing
Think about “small moments” of life to expand and explore rather than creating large, involved stories Read and re-read the authors that you are fond of.
Look for places where you can pick up where they left off or think of how the story could be retold from a different character’s perspective
Take elements from an existing storyline from a book, movie, or play and work your own real-life or past experiences in to create a new story
Make a list of your favorite movies or books and look for patterns in the storylines or look for storylines that can be combined or changed
Read, read, read—all great authors are readers who constantly look for ideas from other authors For more information:
This past week I had the pleasure of attending an author appreciation and awards Gala at The Hopkins Club on John Hopkins University Campus. My husband and I had a blast. We were invited by the Focus on Women’s Magazine for my contribution of Dobyns Chronicles to their book store. Focus on Women, aid women all over the world who are used (sold) for sex, battered and abused. http://www.focusonwomenmagazine.net/
I wish to thank Josclyn Wolfe, Publisher of Focus on Women Magazine and Lisa Hurt the Chairwoman of the Gala for showing us authors a very nice time.
I actually received this blog this morning and wanted to share it with everyone. It has a lot of very good information. Have a blessed week.
Know That Most Good Fiction Follows A Succinct Formula
Read the most popular, best selling fiction and you’re bound to notice a pattern. It always follows a succession of logical steps that know exactly how to hook you emotionally. This was first observed in early Greek tragedies and later seen within the works of William Shakespeare. Since then, many authors follow this distinctive formula known as Freytag’s Pyramid. Although many other formula’s exist, this one is most often used. Why? Because it’s tried, tested and true. It’s been around for centuries. It goes something like this: Exposition
The writer sets up the story, with important background information, such as: Setting, prior events, and the back story of characters. Rising Action
The story sets up various related incidents for the reader, the reader then becomes ‘hooked’ into the story. Climax
The epicentre of conflict where action begins, also the turning point for the protagonist(s) or characters. Falling Action
The conflict between protagonist and antagonist unravels… Dénouement (resolution, revelation or catastrophe) Old French: untying of the knot.
Comprises the events from falling action into resolution, or the ending.
Do Your Research
Trying to sell your fiction and/or submit it? Find out what some of the hottest genres are and upcoming genres about to break. Currently vampires are a dying species. Shades Of Grey-esque fiction is on its deathbed while Dystopian, Tech thrillers (hackers, hacking, cybercrime, cyber espionage) are on the rise, think Mr. Robot and Blackhat. The Internet and technology are evolving faster than we are and this could be both a profitable and prolific niche to write about. Thrillers like, The Girl On The Train are hitting all the right notes with readers. As always, Romance, from the super-cheesy Harlequin novels to Nicholas Sparks are still tugging at readers heartstrings everywhere. I also foresee Weird and Bizarro fiction becoming more mainstream in the near future as both authors and readers expand their limits of creativity, with writers such as Christoph Paul and his alter ego Mandy De Sandra leading the pack.
Challenge Yourself: Write What’s Interesting Not Just What’s Familiar
Have a keen interest in a particular subject? Take a chance; explore, learn about it then write it. Keep things like familiarity for working through problems your characters may encounter, only. Often when you’re stuck with a piece of writing, this comes in handy. Have similar characters popping up in the same piece? Combine them and eliminate anything that doesn’t serve your story. Learn the skill of knowing what to keep and what to cut out. But always keep the cuts to refer back to later on or to use in other pieces.
Know Your Ending Before Your Beginning
You wouldn’t plan a vacation without knowing your destination, why would you write something without knowing how it will end? Although this hit and miss, laissez-faire attitude can work in life, it doesn’t necessarily translate well to the page. You have to know how it will end but your reader doesn’t need to know until that point. If plotting works for you, use it. If it doesn’t, don’t use it but always know your destination.
Know What POV Is And Stick To It!
Rookie mistakes found in fiction often center around issues with the writer not understanding Point Of View and writing it effectively. This confuses readers and you’ll have editors and agents relegating your work to the slush pile if they see you don’t understand POV. Spend time learning it and then applying it to every piece you write. Your readers, editors, agents and publishers will appreciate it. And it keeps you from looking like a newbie.
Write In A Strong Voice
Know the difference between the Active and Passive Voice in writing. Learn to moderate between them effectively. The majority of fiction nowadays demands that you use an Active Voice. Even within academic and research writing, scientists and researchers are now being encouraged to use it to convey their work better. A simple formula for using both voices is below:
In the Active Voice, the subject comes first.
In the Passive Voice, the object comes first.
Formula for Active Voice:
Subject + Verb + Object Formula for Passive Voice:
Object + To be + Past Participle [verb] + By + Subject.
Example: Active: Anne eats pizza. Passive: Pizza is eaten by Anne.
Active: Matt Haig wrote a book about Mental Illness. Passive: A book was written by Matt Haig about Mental Illness.
Deliberately Write Flawed Characters
There’s no conflict or interest if your characters aren’t flawed in some way. It’s boring to the reader. People in life aren’t perfect, your characters shouldn’t be either. If it doesn’t specifically suit a particular character to be flawless, don’t write them that way!
Write The Stories YOU Want To Read
Often the stories that need to be told are the ones that are unique to you and your life experiences. Why? Because undoubtedly on this revolving ball of dirt, you’re bound to find many others who are looking to read the exact same things you’re interested in. If you don’t enjoy reading it, chances are you won’t enjoy writing it either. Know what you like and what you’re interested in and write it. The world is waiting to hear your story.
Above All Else, “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”
Use simple words that pack the most meaningful punch. Your writing shouldn’t need dictionary, a thesaurus and Wikipedia just to digest it. It shouldn’t be about writing, it should about the story. Don’t fret about mistakes either. Everyone makes them. Anything on paper with enough good editing after can be easily fixed. Major on the major, Plot, POV etc., minor on the minor, spelling mistakes etc.. Don’t obsess about what others may think about you, your story or your writing, just write it. Often this is the main factor contributing to Writer’s Block. And the only way to get past it, is to stop worrying and just write.
SM CADMAN is a self-taught fiction writer from some godforsaken city that behaves more like a hick town in Ontario, Canada. She started writing fiction in 2012/13 and was published shortly thereafter in a small anthology. She’s currently working on a Sci-Fi/Tech/Thriller novel, and has a poem coming out in a literary review in October. A short story she wrote about Time Travel will be published in January/February along with a few other pieces that will be published in another anthology around the same time too.
Good Morning, I’ve been on vacation in North Carolina and had an absolutely wonderful time visiting with my girlfriend. Since it rained the entire time I was there, we stayed in the house, laughed, talked of old times, old friends and ate lots of good food. A better vacation couldn’t have been found anywhere.
This article is from “The Write Life” originally published in July. I liked the fact it gives step by step instructions which will help Newbies as well as Old Timers. Enjoy and have a blessed day. Shirley
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.”
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:
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 newsletterearlier,” 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.”
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 likePopupAlly.
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.
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?