NaNoWriMo – I Did Not Expect This.

So, when I signed up to do this crazy NaNoWriMo thing, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. I just had this story idea in my head and it’s been there for a while now – I thought I should try getting it out. So I made the commitment to do it.

You know all that negative self talk you get in your head, like “You can’t write, what are you thinking, doing this” “You won’t be any good at this. You should give up before you start” etc. I thought I had done a lot of work in shutting those negative voices up but NaNoWriMo brought them out by the dozen.

The first day I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t installed any kind of word processing program on the computer. The Other Half had gone to work and I couldn’t seem to find an easy way of downloading the latest version of Open Office. It was torrent this, torrent that. I just wanted the darn file like a normal person. I’ve never understood torrent. By the time he got home I’d managed to find somewhere to download the file I needed and I got it installed, but I was tired from a long day. I thought – tomorrow is still November 1 in many parts of the world. I’ll get up in the morning and get a fresh start on it, and I’ll write 2 days worth. It’s 1667 words a day, apparently. I wrote it on my to do list.

The next morning I woke up, got the other half out the door fed and clothed, and arrived in here ready to write. And write I did. It all came spilling out, so easily. They tell you not to edit and I haven’t, I am just writing the story. 3398 words tumbled onto the page – and two hours vanished. I woke up at the end of it sort of like waking up from a daydream. Have you ever read the Stephen King book Misery? The writer in the story talks about falling into the hole in the page and that is exactly what happened.

I ended up being happy I missed day one, because it was easier to write that part of the story in one sitting. Now the basis is there. A beginning is made. The hardest part is over – the hardest part for me at least which was starting the story.

So I got up today and The Other Half is having a day off. I thought this would get in the way of my writing but I found out that the story has a life of its own. About an hour later there were suddenly 5176 words. And the story had made me emotional. And a character appeared who I had never imagined being a big part of the plot. Again I woke up like out of a daydream.

I have no idea whether it is any good or not, and when the month is over I will want to give it to someone like Cugat who can read it and tell me yeah it stinks, or actually this is quite good. I can trust him to tell me the truth. :) Unvarnished and unbiased.
I never thought I would enjoy writing anything more than a blog post, but I am loving it. I remember other bloggers who said they wanted to write but they didn’t think they’d be any good at it. All I can say to you is – you will never know unless you try. Give it a go – you might be surprised like I have been.

I have a vague idea of where the plot is going, but this thing seems to have other ideas. We’ll see. All I know is it feels ok. Better than ok, to be honest. It feels fantastic. Those negative voices have shut up for now. I’m sure they’ll be back, but I have news for them and it is all bad. I’m not listening. I’m giving this a go.

I am sure days will arrive when I don’t feel like writing. I have to push myself to sit down and do it anyway. I might not feel like writing but the story wants to be told. I am just the typist at this point.

challenges, writing tips

10 Easy Ways To Improve Your Blog Writing.

I hate it when I see good bloggers say “I’m not a good writer”. If you’re not a good writer, I wouldn’t be reading your blog. If I’m not reading your blog, do I know about your blog? Drop by and leave me a link to it in the comments.

Having said that, there are some things I do now that I never did previous to blogging, and here’s 10 of them all neatly typed up for ya’all.

Write a summary –

Tell your reader why they want to read this post you have written in the first few sentences. Since getting on the Bumpzee Community RSS feeds, I have found that the first 250 characters of your post have to grab the reader in order for them to click through and read the rest. Basically this applies to anything you write – people need to be almost *teased* into reading the rest of your article.

Use the Thesaurus –

Tired of using all the same old words? Put the word you’d usually (commonly, consistently, customarily, frequently, generally, habitually, mainly, most often, mostly, normally, occasionally, ordinarily, regularly, routinely, sometimes) use in at the online thesaurus.

You can then take your pick of new, exciting (animating, appealing, arousing, arresting, astonishing, bracing, breathtaking, dangerous, dramatic, electrifying, exhilarant, eye-popping, far out, fine, flashy, groovy, hair-raising, heady, hectic, impressive, interesting, intoxicating, intriguing, lively, mind-blowing, moving, neat, overpowering, overwhelming, provocative, racy, rip-roaring, rousing, sensational, spine-tingling, stimulating, stirring, thrilling, titillating, wild, zestful), unusual words you don’t normally use that mean virtually the same thing!

Write ideas down –

I go nowhere these days without paper and a pen. NOWHERE. I have paper and a pen next to my bed, next to my recliner in the lounge, in the kitchen, in the car, in my handbag. Yes, even in the bathroom!! A lot of my best blogging ideas come to me as a surprise in the shower. I turn off the shower, even mid shampoo, step out, dry my hands, write it down. I find that if you do not seize the moment, that thought will vanish.

Record it –

Want to blog hands free? Do you have one of those little tape recorders students use for recording lectures? I have a Sony recording Walkman which uses cassette tapes but you can get digital voice recorders quite cheaply these days. So you can verbally blog while doing your chores around the house and when you get a chance to sit at the computer and type it up, you know where you’re going.

Edit it –

Cugat helped me learn how to simplify my writing when we were working on a website together a few months ago. I use a lot of extra words. Really and Actually are two such examples. Just doing a quick word search of the blog front page before posting this, the word really appears 6 times and once in the sidebar. Actually appears 3 times. This is a major improvement for me. I’m still working on it.

Don’t edit it too much –

Editing can be a temporal vortex. Like when I go to the hardware store and two hours go by without me even noticing it. I have sometimes spent up to three hours doing it on some posts. It’s better to limit yourself to a certain amount of time. For a longer article it may be appropriate to spend an hour tweaking words and cutting words out. My advice is use a timer with an alarm, set the time you’re happy to spend editing (that could be anywhere from 2 minutes to an hour) and when the bell rings hit publish.

Use Headlines –

If you think readers of your blog read everything you’ve written in a post, I am sorry to tell you that you may be wrong – some readers skim, some readers scroll before deciding to read something in depth. So you’ll see some of my blog posts these days use headlines, in particular the ones which are intended to be helpful to fellow bloggers or the general public. The one you’re reading now is a good example. Doing this makes it easier for readers to focus on the parts of your post that are relevant to them.

Use Paragraphs –

The larger the chunk of text, the less chance some readers will delve into it. Breaking things down into smaller more palatable chunks increases the chance of those things being read.

Size Matters –

There is nothing wrong with a short post. Don’t be afraid to post something brief. Embrace the pithy. On the other hand, long posts can be scary to post because you think people will not read them. If your content is good, people will. Have faith in your readers. But for longer posts try to use small paragraphs and headlines if you can, to make it more accessible to all readers.

Invite Comments –

Your blog is where you can express your views. Ideally you will want your readers to express their views in return. Unless you think your bowel movements don’t stink and your opinions are right, perfect, and not to be discussed, in which case you will turn comments off. This will offend people. If you don’t have comments on your blog, chances are I’m going to unsubscribe from your RSS feed. Just so you know.

A final thought –

Don’t ever say you’re a bad writer. I don’t believe there is any such thing. You may not be writing novels that stun the public but blogging isn’t about that.

Writing is about communicating ideas and connecting with people through words. If you’re on my blog roll, I think you’re a good writer. Take the compliment with grace – say thank you, don’t try to tell me my opinion is incorrect.

If you’re not on my blog roll yet, chances are I just haven’t found your blog. Comment on this post with a link to it, I’ll drop by and check you out.

blogging tips, how to guides, writing tips

Blog Wrap Ups Made Simple And Easy..

For a while, every Sunday on the blog I did a “weekly wrap up” post. It became a firm favorite with my readers and people often emailed or left comments letting me know how much they enjoyed it. So, would you like to make a regular wrap up a part of your blog too? Here’s how to go about it. Note, this may get a little basic at times in order to help out the less technical of us. ;)

1. Decide what categories you want.

It’s a good idea to have a weekly wrap up follow a kind of “set format” or order. It makes it easier for the readers – they know what to expect each week. You can choose any kinds of categories you want – be creative. You could choose to wrap up what has been going on in your life, perhaps little things which didn’t rate a blog post of their own. You can break down some of the categories into smaller chunks, for example my Must Reads section has extra categories within it. My weekly wrap up includes –

Funny Search Terms This Week –
Must Reads – Post of the week – Funnies –
Great Stumbles this week –
Here On The Blog –
Blogs Added To The Sidebar –
Coming Up –

2. Never be afraid to add to your categories –

This week I am going to be adding a new section where I highlight an old blog post of mine each week. I’ve written some great blog posts in the past and newer readers to the blog may never have read those. If you think of something new don’t be afraid to try it out – and if it doesn’t work out that’s ok too. Some categories you might want to only use from time to time when something fits in them instead of weekly.

3. Create a weekly wrap up text file – with formatting included.

This is the key secret to writing the weekly wrap ups – the formatting part is a secret I only recently discovered. How do you do it? I do mine in blogger but what I’m about to say can be done with almost any blogging platform.

– create a new post
– put in your category titles
– format each category title as you want them to appear (larger text, bold, color etc) note you have to do each title separately because you’re going to add text in between the titles later.
– copy the HTML (in blogger just click edit html and copy that – wordpress users, how do you do this in wordpress?)
– paste the HTML into a text file

So now, you’ll have a text file which will look very strange to you because it has odd code in it, eg – (span style=”color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-weight: bold;”)

Save this text file as the BASE file. Then save it a second time as blogwrap(date) and use blogwrap(date) as the file you put your links in as the week goes by – this way once you’ve done a wrap up you can open the base file and then save it as blogwrap(next week’s date) and start putting links etc aside again without having to delete last week’s work. This saves you time and effort!

If you looked at the file, you’ll note I have html in there for the links to posts etc. That’s important when you get to number 4.

4. Have your weekly wrap up text file open when you’re online.

I’ve mentioned Editpad Lite here on the blog before as one of the best free things available on the net – a great little program that allows you to have text files in tabs so you can flick between them.

I always have Editpad running on my computer and I now always have blogwrap(date) open so when I find a great blog post or an article or anything I want to mention in the wrap up, I can add it – this is where the HTML comes in – (a href=”link”)text(/a)

– copy the link and paste that where it says link
– copy the title of the post as written by the author to where it says text.

Once you’ve done that, you have a link ready for posting in a weekly wrap up. Don’t forget to click save whenever you add in a new link – I lost a bunch of links one time when the power went out.

5. Write your thoughts as you go.

When you copy a link, make sure to put a little bit of text next to it on the spot, so you don’t have to spend time re-visiting the links when you’re writing the blogwrap post. An example from tomorrow’s upcoming blogwrap – with the html brackets changed to ( ) so you can see how it looks in the file –

(a href=””)Hubble Heritage Gallery Of Images(/a) Sites like this are why I love Stumbleupon.

6. Comment before you leave the link.

I usually like to let bloggers know I’m going to be linking to their post in my next weekly wrap up, sort of as a heads up. This is a polite, considerate and friendly thing to do and a very good habit to get into. Sometimes I forget due to lack of talent, organization or skill. Apologies in advance, I never claimed to be a perfect blogger! ;)

7. Communicate updates to your blog.

The weekly wrap up is a great time to mention new widgets and gadgets you’ve added to the sidebar, as well as any changes you’ve made to the “face” of your blog and any new blogs you’ve added to your sidebar links. When you make a change, note it in your wrap up text file on the spot, so you don’t forget about it.

8. What’s on the horizon?

The weekly wrap up is a good time to let your readers know what may come their way over the next week – however be careful. Blogging happens all on its own sometimes, and sometimes I’ve said things were coming up but those things still have not arrived. I’d generally advise not to say too much, just a brief overview of potential possibilities and topics. However do make sure to let them know if you’re going to be participating in things like the Hump Day Hmmm or various other weekly type things.

Blog wrap ups are good for many reasons but the most important could be helping you to build relationships with other bloggers by showing them you like their work enough to link to it – and generally you will find the link love comes back to you over time.

We all find ourselves amazed, happy, excited, possibly a little scared when we start blogging and get our first comment, and we begin to connect with people. It’s a great feeling. It is a great way of showing your blog readers blogs that you enjoy – and a great way of showing bloggers you love their work which is something bloggers enjoy and like.

10. Click on the links.

Once you have published your weekly update, my advice is to click on all the links in your post. This gets the words out to bloggers that they have been linked to because all bloggers tend to check where incoming links are coming from, and generally they will drop over to your blog and check it out, sometimes leaving a comment, sometimes adding *your* blog to their list of blogs to read.

Pick a day! Let people know.

You should choose a day of the week that you’re comfortable with. I chose Sunday because it was a slow day here at the blog – it’s not anymore. ;) People drop by just to read the wrap up. It’s also made Mondays busier, too.

So there you have it –

How to create the blog wrap up and make it easy. Are you inspired? If you’re going to add one to your blog, make sure to comment and let me know, and send me a link when you write your first one, I’ll drop over to check it out.

Work Smarter –

Until recently my weekly blog wrap up was taking up a fair bit of time at the end of the week to put it together. While I was putting links and search terms aside during the week, it was more of a mish mash of stuff I’d put aside rather than anything organised. I would leave it till Sunday to format the post and lay out the links in some kind of order and in general it would take over an hour to finish writing it.

Now that I’ve decided to work smarter instead of harder, the blog wrap post comes together over the course of a week, and is ready to post on Sunday with only five minutes of checking and editing.

In Conclusion –

How many of us take the time to encourage other bloggers on a regular basis, and let people know we enjoy their blogs and enjoy their work? A weekly wrap up gives you the chance to do that – if you don’t want to do it weekly, you might consider once every two weeks, or even once a month.

blogging tips, how to guides, internet, weekly wrap up, writing tips