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Sunday, 12 January 2014

VERY BASIC BLOGGING FOR AUTHORS: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

Canadian author Karen Woodward once sold me magic beans in exchange for a cow. She doesn't live on a farm with Andrew Ridgeley. Karen's in Vancouver. Ridgeley Farm is in California. Keren Woodward is someone else entirely.
   Anyway, I planted magic blogging beans. After a few hours, a scrawny leaf appeared. That was then. This is not an S.E. Hinton reference.
   My blog changes. I review. Consider. Tinker. Alter. Adjust. The blog grows. Not in the same way as a carnivorous plant.
   This blog is a steam-powered clockwork constraption with pipes leading into the darkness. A sparking darkness.
   You are a writer. Published. Unpublished. Certain. Unsure. Tall. Short. You want to blog. And you have no clue. What to do? Give it a go. That's the advice.
   Anything else I say amounts to little more than electronic waffle. But bear a few points in mind, based on all that tinkering I did.

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If you want to be published, start that blog. You can always redecorate later. Unless you have extreme technical difficulties, nothing bad on your blog stays there.
   Indelible stains do not feature. Simple mistakes, complicated errors, can all be fixed. Almost always. I use Blogger. There are other ways of spelling that.

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What to blog? Blog about your fiction. If you want to be a writer, put a short story on the blog. Non-fictioneers should concoct articles they'll come to hate later.
   When to blog? At some point in human history. Blogging at some point in duck history may not serve you well.
   How often should you blog? That's up to me. No it isn't! It's your choice. This blog is usually a weekly blog. Occasionally something comes up and I throw an extra blog on the fire.
   When the blogging bean first sprouted, I blogged weekly. I wrote a minimum of 1,500 words per blog and decided those posts would be collected for publication on Amazon Kindle.
   Monday was the day of release, week in, week out, week up, week down.
   The first blog batch was released with my INCOMPLETE UNCOLLECTED SHORT WORKS. After that, I set up a series of books called REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE - for blogs bundled with fiction on a 30,000/75,000 split.
   Then the blog loosened up. Mainly as I had the internet installed at home. Until then, I blogged out of a (VERY) public library. Once or twice I blogged from my phone.
   I no longer use the phone for publishing or blogging. But I still blog weekly, over the weekend - usually on a Sunday.

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What's important when creating a blog on writing? Your name might be your blog name too. Or you could run with a title.
   My banner image is made up of three book covers. I don't expect to change that concept - though I may shift the book covers around as the blog unfurls.
   Right now, the blog banner promotes WEREWOLVES, INSANITY, and VAMPIRES. You know what to expect in my fiction, based on that selection.
   No cookery books here.
   You'll have a priority if you aren't published - getting published. I have books out on Amazon Kindle. So I'm advertising my fiction as you land on the banner.
   If you feel you have nothing to throw onto a blog, ditch that feeling.

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Posting a photo of a cat on your blog is the last refuge of the desperate.

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Every author blog should have a contact point. I decided that wasn't enough for people who lack patience. So the contact e-mail appears at the top of the page, under the banner.
   What effect does this have? It makes me immediately contactable. As soon as I added the e-mail, there was a slight rise in spam over at the e-mail account. That spam was filtered into the junk section.
   I was surprised to be thought useful in the quest to liberate untold millions from Sani Abacha's secret Swiss accounts. No, I didn't open the junk messages - I could tell what was up, just by reading the subject lines.

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Salutations! I need your honesty. Rolex! Female Viagra. Confidential money matters. Money involved - tell no one. Regarding. (Never regarding anything.) Your account might be permanently suspended. I await your urgent communication. Here is the database. Confirm concert tickets. Hello from Princess...
   HERE'S A BLOG POST ABOUT THAT.

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This blog has a carousel. The Amazon gadget features a minimum of six items - I had three products on sale when I discovered the carousel. Instead of plugging random items (kibble, DEATH STARS), I decided I'd write another three stories and get that carousel up and running on my blog.
   The blog spurred an easily-attainable writing goal. Don't sit down to write a smash-hit. Write to achieve attainable goals.

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The post you are reading now? It starts public life on the blog's home page, and, after that, it's shunted down the archive.
   I have non-blogs out there. HERE'S AN EXAMPLE. Those blogs are landing pages. If you find your way to one, you are redirected to this blog or to Amazon. There's no archive on a landing page, shuffling down the blog.

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You might post fiction on your blog, and let it slide out of sight into the archives. This blog has a set-up for...checks setting while cursing and mumbling about Blogger...seven posts on the page at any given time in human history.
   Nothing for duck history.
   Decide what's worth archiving and what's worth giving a dedicated page to. I've altered the regular pages many times. Now, the first few page entries mention free fiction on my blog.

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At one time, I ran the free DOCTOR WHO story across four pages. I had a lot of dedicated pages running - this blog can take twenty. My blog looked too busy heading for a dozen, so I merged or altered pages.
   That story still runs across four pages. One page is here, on this blog. There's a link to the rest of the story at the end of part one, and that link carries through to pages on another blog.
   The other blog has the same background - books on shelves - so you don't really feel that you've strayed too far. That was a way of reducing the number of pages on my main blog.
   Let's have a count. Aside from the HOME page, I'm running eight pages. MY BOOKS/FUTURE PROJECTS and ABOUT ME/CONTACT ME take up two pages. They used to loll around on four.
   I don't let my archive do all the talking. Dedicated pages take care of business too. Right now I don't see the need for twenty pages.

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There's a gadget in the layout showing labels. You gain an idea of the waffle you'll find in the archives. There's a gadget for showing archives. From that, you'll see how long I've been blogging.
   Yes, there's a gadget showing books on goodreads. I didn't like all the books featured. If I had some way of featuring books I liked, culled from that user-friendly site, I'd bottle it and sell the formula far and wide.
   My employment of the term user-friendly in the preceding paragraph was a lie.

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Okay. There are things to read on my blog. And there are things to stare at. On the free audio page, there's stuff to listen to. How do you add all these gadgets and widgets and shiny baubles?
   You don't have to. What was on my blog at the start? A banner. Fiction. A contact page. The slimmest of archives. Basics. Don't cram everything into one session.
   There's a blogging rule - adding the simplest thing will take a session lasting hours.
   Build in stages, phases, stops and starts. Review your stuff behind the scenes in unpublished posts and pages.
   Check out your blogging platform's gadgets. Set a few up. See how they go. Or don't go. (Still working on that great slideshow widget. Sigh.)
   Stare in bewilderment at those HELP files. Try stuff.

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I'll say a few words about the unforgiving. Blogging involves the use of type. That's a technical thing. I employ black type on an off-white background. People will tell you that staring at a screen is easier with that sort of combination.
   Here's what's not cool.
   Lime green writing on a yellow page. Just don't go there. Lime green on black doesn't cut it either.
   Taking a poll of the blogs I've seen, so far I've never truly forgiven writers for blogging in white type on a black background.
   The closest I've come to accepting that was on seeing a few blogs by authors whose posts were short enough to read without fritzing eyeballs, despite the unusual combination.
   Somehow, it works for those people. Let's call them exceptions.

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Another point worth noting concerns the realm of non-fiction. This relates to political blogging. I just came off a political blog, after checking something.
   Comments.
   Page Up and Page Down are handy buttons on my keyboard.
   Try scrolling up and down now. See how long that takes you. If you've clicked on the isolated copy of this post, it won't take long.
   Even if you are in the main HOME page, with a string of posts, it won't take you long.
   I was amazed at the number of comments a political blogger received. So I hit Page Down and kept an eye on my watch. Scrolling down through the comments took exactly half a minute.
   That's a long time scrolling.
   If you want to write non-fiction, aiming at the political, you'll be scribbling articles that blend fact and opinion. Be prepared for comments from everywhere in the universe.
   Some bloggers leave comments off for that reason. Shouldn't affect you in the fictional world. I write fiction, but must be mindful that those looking for writing advice may end up writing non-fiction.

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No, this wasn't a technical post about blogging. You may not use the same blogging platform - I didn't want Wordpressers to turn away into the snowstorm.
   I just wanted would-be bloggers to consider atmosphere. You needn't wow your audience with animation, whistles, bells, a rampaging dinosaur...
   This blog is a mechanical beanstalk. Puffs of steam escape. The boiler is in no danger of exploding. Well, there's a one per cent chance. I wonder what Karen Woodward did with that moo-cow. She probably sold it on, in exchange for a lamp.

  

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