30 Writing Blog Post Ideas

by Deidre Dykes 

(OR a list of topics which I will probably need to refer back to as the year goes on and/or when inspiration flags)

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Best Of Collections

  1. Writers, editors, publishers, bloggers, or other industry representatives who inspire you
  2. Tools or apps that you rely on or that you find interesting
  3. Who to follow on twitter, blogs, pinterest, facebook, etc.
  4. Links to articles about a topic/related topics
  5. The best blog posts, tweets, or articles that you’ve read recently

Personal Essays

  1. An influential person in your life or childhood who shaped you
  2. A difficult decision that you made
  3. A vacation, trip, or event that you will never forget
  4. A sensory tour of a place, food, or item that is important to you
  5. Give up something for a week/month and write about how it influenced you

How-To Posts

  1. How to make a drink or food item that you love to share
  2. How to create graphics using free software
  3. How to use a social media platform (wordpresstwitterfacebookpinterest)
  4. Any step-by-step guide for something you’re familiar with
  5. How to research or fact-check a particular topic

Media 

  1. Embedded videos from YouTube that made you laugh or smile
  2. Photos that you took of some event or place you went that inspired you
  3. Links to articles or blog posts that made you think
  4. Infographics that relate to what you write or read
  5. Photos or screenshots that aid a tutorial you’re writing

General Interest

  1. Cute or funny animal posts
  2. Memes or humorous photos with fun captions
  3. Use your authorial expertise to write about non-fiction topics that come up in your fictional work (cars, guns, food, fashion, shopping, drinks, technology)
  4. True stories that are stranger than fiction
  5. Posts asking “What if” something was different – anything from politics to celebrities to history to geography

Lists

  1. A list of writing prompts (or even blog topics!)
  2. A list of things that inspire you or make you happy
  3. A list of your favorite books and how they influenced you
  4. A check-list that helps you
  5. A list of productivity tricks and tips
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Introverts Unite! Networking for Writers

By Caroline Noonan

Definition: noun net·work·ing: Connecting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts; the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.

Hmmm, you say. Doesn’t apply to writers. Writing is about me, my laptop and my awesome manuscript. Well you’re right. To a point. But nowadays we are expected to self-promote, self-market and be our own editors. We are asked to speak, maintain websites and have a presence on social media. And if that’s not bad enough, a great many of us are introverts. Introverts prefer to listen and observe. We are reflective and focused and speak through our art. Networking goes against our very nature and can feel disingenuous.

But consider the potential benefits of a little networking:

  • Are you looking for feedback on your manuscript before querying?
  • Would you like to find critique partners whose opinion you trust?
  • Would you like support and encouragement from like-minded individuals?
  • Are you actively seeking an agent or an editor?
  • Do you want to make writing your career?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should seriously consider networking. Okay, so maybe I’ve piqued your interest. The next step is How? Here are a four practical ways that have helped me personally:

  1. Meetup. Meetup.com is the world’s largest network of local groups, making it easy to organize or find an existing group in your area. I found my local writer’s group and my regular critique partners through Meetup. Yes, I was biting my nails and psyching myself out before that first meeting, but it was smooth sailing after that. Remember, give the same courtesy and consideration in critiquing other’s work that you would like given to yours.
  2. Join a Professional Writer’s Organization. There are many organizations who connect you with other writers and organize local events, such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). These organizations have strong on-line communities, as well as terrific regional and national conferences that are well attended by other writers, agents and editors (some of whom give preferential consideration to organization members).
  3. Go to a Writer’s Conference. I suggest starting with a local or regional conference. Get there early and introduce yourself to the folks sitting around you. Ask them what genre they write and what they are working on. Ask them for a business card. Maybe even follow them on Twitter. (Follow Caroline@carolinehnoonan)
  4. Social Media. There is a huge on-line community of writers, especially on Twitter. Many literary agents run contests on Twitter, and I know individuals who have found their critique partners there. Social Media is a great place to share ideas, connect with others and give someone a nod of encouragement when they need it. Next time, it might be you needing the nod!

I hope you find these ideas as helpful and practical as I did. Just remember, writers are basically all nice people, and nearly everyone is in the same boat as you!

Five Reasons Writers Say They Don’t Need a Website …

And Why They’re Wrong

by Christie Speich

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All writers need a website these days. Okay, I’ll qualify that to almost all writers. If you’re just writing for yourself, and maybe for a few people that you’ll personally hand your writing, you might not need a website. But if you want people to find your work, become a fan, and keep coming back for more, having your own author website is the way to go.

Writers have several reasons justifying why they don’t want or need a website, but are they good reasons?

Reason #1: “I’m Not Published Yet.”

Building a website is one step of building your (yes, I’m going to say it…) platform. Platform has become such a big buzzword in the writing world, but what does it really mean? At a basic level, your platform is your group of fans.

Reason #1a: “Fans? I Don’t Have Any Fans Yet!”

Hey, everyone starts somewhere. The “overnight success” is usually a myth and comes from all the hard work done before the breakout — sometimes years before. E.L. James built her fan base in fan fiction, bit by bit as she posted her story online chapter by chapter. When she published her fan fic as Fifty Shades of Gray, she had a built-in platform — people who went out and bought her books right away because they already “knew” her. And then they told all their friends about the books, too.

Consider this: two unpublished writers query the same editor. Writer A already has a website and has even started a blog where readers are starting to interact with her. Writer B has no online presence. Both stories are superbly written and a great fit for the publisher. The editor would love to accept both, but due to scheduling or budget constraints, must pass on one of them.

Publishing is a business — never forget that! — so given the choice between a first-time writer who has already started gathering a following and one starting from zero, who is the editor more likely to choose?

A website is just one piece of building your platform, but it’s an important one. And you can start now, no matter where you are in the book-publishing cycle.

Reason #2: “Won’t My Publisher Do That For Me?”

Um, no.

These days, publishers expect authors to do a fair amount of marketing themselves, especially when it comes to an online presence and social media. If you thought you could get out of marketing because you’re not self-publishing, think again. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Would you really want your publisher to be in charge of building, designing, and maintaining your website? What if you sign with multiple publishers? What if your publisher goes out of business or is acquired by another publisher?

Your website should sell you. Not a particular book. Not your publisher. You are the brand, not your book. Not convinced? Check out any of Kristen Lamb’s numerous articles or her books. While we’re talking about branding, let’s take a quick moment to discuss your website’s address:

it should be your name. Not your book’s title. Not a character’s name. Your author name.

Yes, yes, I know, J.K. Rowling has Pottermore. When your book breaks out like Harry Potter did, then you can have a website dedicated to one book/series/character. But that’s in addition to your author website. (Notice J.K. Rowling has jkrowling.com also.)

Reason #3: “I Already Have a Blog.”

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Awesome! You’ve already started building your platform.

But blogs can’t stand alone as you author website. By their very nature, blogs aren’t static. Every time you write a new post, your website changes. This is a good thing for building your fan base, networking with readers and other writers, establishing authority, and showing up in search engines.

But it’s bad news for the readers who want to find out information about you or your book. They want pages on your website that are easy to find. They don’t want to have to scroll through three months of blog posts to find the one where you describe your book.

You need a static website in addition to your blog. The best method is to integrate the static pages of your website with your blog and host them under one website address. (And that address should be…? Right. Your name.)

If you’ve used WordPress to build your blog, you are a step ahead. WordPress makes it super, super easy to have an integrated website and blog.

Reason #4: “I’ve Got a Facebook/Twitter/Google+ Already.”

You’re rocking your platform! Excellent!

How about MySpace? Got an account there?

Social media can be great for building your platform, no doubt about that. But you still need your own website. Remember all the artists who built their following on MySpace? They had to start over after MySpace went belly up.

It’s hard to imagine a world without Facebook or Twitter, but you never know when the next shiny new thing will come along. Social media sites also suffer from the same problem as a blog: new updates are pushed to the top and information is hard to find. Social media is great for interacting with readers, not so much for providing readers with the information they are looking for.

You want to be in control of your website. What are you going to do when Facebook changes their algorithms again and your posts are even less visible than they were before?

Your readers are your most valuable assets. You need to be in control of maintaining that list. You do that by setting up a mailing list subscription form on your website. Do you really want to trust your list to companies whose focus is curating and using your data for their own purposes?

Reason #5: “I Can’t Afford to Hire Someone to Build My Website.”

Here’s the great thing: you don’t have to! You can do it yourself.

Reason #5a: “I’m a Writer, Not a Web Developer!”

I promise you don’t have to be. If you are comfortable enough with the web to fill out forms on websites, shop online, pay your bills online, or any of the other tasks you do online every single day, you can build your own author website. No programming experience necessary.

How? WordPress(*). With WordPress, building a website is as simple as filling out forms. And it can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be. Just want a few simple pages to talk about your books and yourself? Easy! Need an e-commerce site so you can sell your books directly to your readers? Yes, WordPress can do that too.

Reason #5b: “I’m Not a Designer, Either!”

WordPress has you covered there, too.

All the design work is done for you; you just choose a theme to install. With hundreds of free themes to choose from, there’s sure to be one that you like. Later, when you can afford it, you can purchase a premium theme or hire a designer to make a custom one for you. Either of those options is much, much cheaper than hiring someone to create your entire website.

Reason #5c: “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!”

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You’re right that building your own website takes time, even using WordPress. But you’ll only need to set it up once, and from then on maintenance becomes small tasks like adding your newest release to your website, or information about your upcoming book signing, and other news.

As with most business decisions, it comes down to time vs. money. Which one can you afford to spend? And which one will pay off in the future? If you hire a web designer to build you a custom website for a couple of thousand dollars, will you be able to update it later? Or will you have to pay someone every time you need something changed or added? What happens two years down the road when you realize your brand isn’t what you thought it would be, and that beautiful website doesn’t match it? If you build your website in WordPress, you can update it yourself and change the theme whenever you want a new look.

Convinced Yet?

A website dedicated to your writing will help readers find you and might even convince someone to pay you to write. A little time invested upfront can pay off down the road, whether you’re writing the next great American novel, your fiftieth genre fiction novel, a technical reference book, your autobiography, an article, or fan fiction you post for free online. It’s never too early or too late in your career to build your website.

Do you have another reason why you don’t think you need an author website? Tell us in the comments and let’s discuss!

(*) NOTE: WordPress comes in two flavors: the host-it-yourself wordpress.org and the they-host-it-for-you wordpress.com. The main difference is with wordpress.ORG, you can have your own address (http://www.yourname.com/) and you can install plugins which means you can do more with WordPress (like the e-commerce site I mentioned). With wordpress.COM, your site runs on their servers (http://yourname.wordpress.com/) and you can’t install any plugins. Plugins are what make WordPress so powerful.

WordPress.COM has limitations, but it can be used completely for free. My recommendation is wordpress.ORG, but you do need to sign up for a web hosting company and register your address, which costs money. Websites don’t have to be expensive. At the time of this writing, the web hosting company I use, Dreamhost(**), charges as low as $8.95/month and you get your website address for free.

For more about the differences between wordpress.COM and wordpress.ORG, see WordPress.com and WordPress.org, WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: A Definitive Guide For 2014, and Self Hosted WordPress.org vs. Free WordPress.com (Infograph).

Still not sure? You can start with the free wordpress.COM and switch to wordpress.ORG later following How to Properly Move Your Blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.

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Grammar Goofs

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by Jennifer Michael/DeviantFeather

Most of us start writing because we have ideas, thoughts or insights that we’d want to share, we hope to effect our world in some way, to change other’s opinions to match our own.

For most readers, I’ve already lost them. Why on earth would you listen to anything I have to say if I can’t keep my grammar straight? Affect vs. effect. Other’s vs. others’. Oxford commas. It’s vs. its. Run-on sentences. Good vs. well. They’re, their, or there? The list is endless, and these simple goofs are a quick way to lose your reader.

Don’t get me wrong, we all make mistakes. Even the most educated writer will miss a comma or switch up their tenses. Misspellings are like cockroaches—there are always more hiding under the surface, populating despite our best efforts. There are also plenty of old-school rules that are now acceptably broken, such as ending a sentence in a preposition, starting a sentence with a conjunction, or using ellipses in the middle of a sentence…those aren’t the issue.

The issue is losing your reader’s interest or trust because you don’t proofread. A reader has an expectation: that you will entertain and/or inform them. When they open a book, blog, or even a Twitter feed, they are extending trust that the writer will deliver on that expectation. They trust that we won’t waste their time—they can do that well enough on their own.

Grammar can quickly break that trust, and once it’s broken, it’s nearly impossible to recover. After all, if you (the writer) can’t produce a polished finished product, why would they (the reader) trust your content? First impressions matter, especially in writing! In person you have a multitude of mediums with which to express yourself: body language, voice inflection, your clothes, your attitude, etc. Writing has none of that—you’ve got your words and a blank page, so you’d better make those words count.

Think about it this way: if you find spelling errors on a restaurant menu, do you wonder about the staff’s education? Do they know basic principles of safe food handling? What if you’re an investor and checking out a new business? Grammar errors on their website might call into question the business’ commitment to quality and attention to detail. If you find typos in a magazine, are you likely to subscribe to it?

Bottom line? If your writing is presented to the public, it’s a product and you are the manufacturer. If you expect to keep a reader’s interest long enough to share your message, clean up your product. Take some time to educate yourself. Take a class. Buy Grammar for Dummies. Ask your ex-English-teacher mom to give it a final read.

A little effort up front will pay off in the end. And if it doesn’t, at the very least you’ll avoid crucifixion by the grammar nazis.

Looking to avoid grammar goofs? Try these resources:

http://englishgrammar101.com/

http://www.dailygrammar.com/

http://www.perfect-english-grammar.com/

http://www.englishgrammarsecrets.com/

Trapped Tales – An Anthology by the Columbia Writers

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Columbia Writers is pleased to announce our second anthology of short fiction: Trapped Tales.

The book features 10 short stories, all from very different genres and in differing styles, so it keeps you turning pages! It’s an easy afternoon’s casual read, so check it out. You’ll find great pieces by our writers: Jennifer Michael, Michelle Nicolls Drumheller, Deidre Dykes, Jamie Nash, Brigitte Winter, Dustin Blottenberger, Jennifer Yates Tebben, Loren Scolaro, Karen Garvin, and Priya Ramachandran.

You can purchase Trapped Tales through Amazon.

Wrangling Writers: Keeping Your Accountability Group Accountable

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by Brigitte Winter/bwinterose

Early this fall, my writing accountability group had a crisis. The band almost broke up. Fragile egos were rattled, sacred truths questioned.

The goal of the group: meet regularly in a supportive environment and hold one another accountable to finishing a draft of our current novels in six months.

The crisis: almost a year had gone by, and we weren’t doing much writing. Instead, we were talking a lot about writing, drinking too much wine, and holding one another’s hands through creative blocks and moments of doubt. And while these cathartic conversations wrought deep bonds of friendship, they were (surprise) not resulting in words on pages.

This fall, we decided to take action. If we really believed in one another and loved these darn stories so much, we had to do something to keep our accountability group accountable. So we gave ourselves some homework. Each of the four writers in the group answered the following questions in preparation for a big come-to-Jesus conversation:

  1. In a perfect world, where will you be with your book six months from now? Who will you be as a writer?
  2. Why haven’t you achieved your goals? What obstacles are standing in your way?
  3. What are the aspects of this group that we should never change? What are the aspects that aren’t working as well?
  4. Imagine that you have the time and resources to design and lead a new writing group that will obliterate every obstacle preventing you from achieving your writing goals. How is it structured? Who’s a member? How often does it meet? What activities and resources does it offer?

This soul-searching led to some uncomfortable epiphanies. We clearly viewed one another as a kind of writer-family. We’d successfully built a community of trust and support. But we were all struggling with discipline, motivation, and routine. It was obvious that we had lost our collective fire.

So we practiced some creative destruction. We dismantled the comfortable framework of our little support group and rebuilt it from the ground up, focusing on piloting accountability strategies to help us finish our bloody novels already.

Here’s where we landed:

  1. We now meet as a group every week for two hours. No exceptions. Every other week we critique twenty pages for two writers. On off weeks, we alternate between “write-ins” where we bang out new words and “play dates” where one member of the group leads the others in a workshop focused on writing skills relevant to our current projects.
  2. We practice cold hard math. We determined how many words each of us needs to write per week to finish our novels within six months, and that’s how many words we write. Hard to argue with a calculator.
  3. We use Google Drive as a free online tool to track progress. We maintain a shared Google file containing a spreadsheet where we “weigh in” our daily and weekly word counts, and we each have individual folders where we upload our working manuscripts every Sunday.
  4. We are committed to our collective success. If one of us fails, we all fail. We devote the first fifteen minutes of each meeting to celebrating accomplishments and problem solving.

We’re now halfway through our six-month journey, and these strategies are (mostly) working. We don’t meet our word count goals every week, but we’re all writing. We’ve rekindled that collective fire of ours, and, come January, I’m confident we’ll have forged four new novels in that heat.

Any other writers out there struggling to finish your current projects? What strategies help you stay on task? What works and what doesn’t? Keeping one another accountable to our stories is one of the greatest gifts we can give other writers.