Top 10 Writing Tips

These tips, from a writer more experienced than me, are well worth re logging. Note the use of a numbered list!

Lynette Noni

A few months ago I was asked by the Gold Coast Bulletin to come up with a list of writing tips that they could publish in their newspaper. I really wanted to include those tips in a blog post back then too, but the Bulletin asked me to wait until they’d published them first, which is fair enough. I’d pretty much forgotten about it, but this week my wonderful publicist tracked down the link for the whole article that they wrote up on me back in May in the aftermath of Supanova, which means I can now share my tips with you all!

Top 10 Tips (Portrait) JPEG

Feel free to share the above tips if you find them helpful at all. And if you want to read the whole article (it’s an entire page, which is so cool!), you can do so by clicking on this link to find a screenshot JPEG of it here: 

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How To Attract Readers to Your Blog… What I Must Be Doing Wrong

I must be doing this all wrong, because the ‘footfall’ on this blog is not good.  In fact, it’s hopeless.  So, a few weeks ago, I Googled how+attract+readers+blog and I read all the standard advice which I sort of knew already.

1.  Thou shalt optimise your content for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

SEO means get your website to the top of the hit list on Google when someone makes a particular search.  (Honestly, no other search engine matters.)  On a normal website, you implement SEO by using a relevant headings Green Tickand repeatedly using keywords within your text.  I’ve done all this, Dear Reader, and also, using WordPress, chosen and used relevant categories and tags to flag up my content to search engines (well… Google).

2.  Thou shalt provide, on thy blog, buttons to other social media

Buttons To Prompt Readers to Share Your Content.

Like the one at the side.  The idea is to make it easier for readers to share your content in other social media.X

No, I’ve never done anything like that, although I’m sure it’s easy to set up and I do use the WordPress link to publicize on Facebook and Twitter.  But, if no one’s reading the blog in the first place, they’re not likely to refer it on to Pinterest (or something else), are they?

Thou shalt write an interesting heading for each post

Something to draw the reader in.   A familiar concept for all writers.

I’ve tried, DR, although some of my headings have not been particularly special.  Three Reviews and Other Sort OfThings for instance.)  Could do better!

Thou Shalt Invite Other Bloggers To Make Guest Appearances

XThe idea is to create more interest, and they say it works, but,if I’m reading one person’s blog, I want to hear from him/her, not someone else.  I haven’t attempted this.

6.  Thou shalt network with those with similar interests

the blogs of other bloggers writing about the same sort of stuff as you.  To a writer, this is the Green Tickobvious one:   have a lot to learn from other writers, not least getting to know what goes and what doesn’t.

 7.  Thou shalt create a sense of belonging

I should make my blog a sort of open clique, with its own language and jokes.  I can see the appeal of this but I’ve never seen it done.  I keep referring to Dear Reader in my posts, because I like it, and it’s so CharloXtte Bronte, but I wonder if readers actually find it annoying.

8.  Thou shalt use numbered lists

Well, it says in the Bible that every hair on your head is numbered, so why not five or this and three of that?  The idea is to make your content feel more manageable.  Your reader should think to himself/herself “Well, at least Sort Ofthere are only five ways to attract more readers to your blog.  This shouldn’t take me long to read and act upon.”   I have tried to do this occasionally, but without good results.  I wonder if this isn’t this a bit of an urban myth?

9.  Thou shalt stay on topic

This is supposed to be a writing blog but I have to confess that I have gone off topic, several times, largely on to Xpersonal issues.  Bad girl!

On the other hand, thou shalt not patronise your readers

This, believe it or not, comes from an otherwise useful article on promoting your blog:

Ah yes. A familiar beginner’s problem for any new blogger: No readers.

Another thing writers must not do is boast about their successes.  Naively I supposed I could use my blog to say things like, ‘Oh, I’ve had this accepted and that accepted’, but – guess what – those posts attracted fewest hits of all.  We writers are a jealous lot.

There are all sorts of other things thou shalt and shalt not do but the more I read the less I liked the the quick fixes.   However, two thoughts from two consecutive issues of a printed magazine, ‘Christian Writer’ (the journal of the Association of Christian Writers), struck home with me.

First of all, Philip Davies (Chair of the ACW), who is about to publish a YA Fantasy novel, writes in the editorial of the Spring 2015 edition:

‘It’s much easier to promote something that’s well written.  Great stories, powerful testimonies, entertaining and life-transforming books almost recommend themselves to each reader through word of mouth.’

Then in the Summer 2015 edition, the incoming editor of the magazine, James Prescott, writes:

‘I began to write simply to gain an audience.  I wrote what I thought would appeal to most people, using the right language, the most attractive title, and, in hindsight, wrote not out of passion but out of a desire to impress and  gain a following.

And I lost my taste for writing.’

James goes on to say that only when he ‘wrote from deep within’ that he regained the joy of writing and produced better work.

There are bloggers whose blogs are more of a personal diary and who are genuinely not bothered about ratings, but I don’t think James was going down that road.  Many writers have said, in so many words, that you can sell anything on any topic if you write with emotion and interest, and how can you do that if you don’t write from the heart?  It’s very difficult writing from the heart about writing, when you’re not doing any other writing, with the result, I feel, that this blog has lost direction.  I therefore must find my direction, through my heart.

Hope you find this ruminative, and painfully honest, post just a little bit interesting.  We’re off on hols tomorrow, to Iceland then Canada (via Wonderful Daughter in Sussex first).

My sources for all the ideas above are

5 Ways to Attract More Readers To Your Blog

How to attract readers to your blog and make them stay

You’ve Got a Blog. Now, Get Readers

21 Ways to Attract New Readers and Keep Them Coming Back

5 Inexpensive Tips to Attract Readers to your Blog

(Note that three of the six articles above use the numbered lists method!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways to Attract More Readers to Your Blog

 

 

 

 

How Fit is the FitBit!

Fitbit_onwristMost writers walk, as a means of consolidating what they are going to write next, so why not monitor your fitness using an electronic device strapped to your wrist?

I bought my Fitbit Flex on recommendation of a colleague, online  through Amazon, for £64,   but it’s taken me quite a while to get around to using it properly.  The theory is that you take delivery of your Fitbit, in a box containing two black rubber straps (smaller and larger size), an electronic device the size of a – very slim – fingernail and a minute usb dongle (for synchronising with your computer).  You are then supposed to set it up, using online instructions, having been directed to them by the postage stamp leaflet inside the box.  Reader, I failed… on the first instruction, about inserting the device into the strap, so I left it standing idle for weeks, until another colleague showed me how to peel back the strap so the hole lengthened and widened, and in it went.   (Honestly, deflowering a virgin must be easier!)

Fitbit
Fitbit

For a while, everything was fine, me trotting around the countryside, checking on my phone to see how many steps I had walked, and waiting for the thing to buzz when I managed ten thousand steps in a day.  From a psychological point of view, of getting you off your bottom and moving about, the Fitbit hits the spot.  It is motivational.  Yes, I will walk into town at lunchtime.  Yes, I will go the long way around to the carpark.   It is also informative:  I was very  surprised to find out how many steps I took, not just from ‘going for a walk’, but during the ordinary course of the day, doing things like cooking, ironing and cleaning.  You can record other things, such as exercise, calories eaten and sleep, on the Fitbit Dashboard (online), but, as these have to be done manually, and much of what I might enter would be estimates, I haven’t bothered.

My Fitbit honeymoon was, unfortunately, short. First of all, the synchronisation with both computer and iPhone has stopped.  Having followed online instructions on how to restart the thing and found them useless, I reported the problem to the Fitbit Team who supplied with a new device and a new battery charger.  A few weeks later, I had to contact the Fitbit Team again, to tell them that tears had developed in the strap, right next to the hole where the device is housed;  they very kindly supplied me with another one, only for that to tear within 8 hours, in exactly the same place and to fall off my wrist on to the floor … in the Barbican Theatre, actually.  (I did tell you, that I went to see ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, didn’t I, Dear Reader?)  Another strap was required.  I did feel for the Fitbit Team at this point:  was this woman running a Fitbit parts racket, or what?  They required a photograph of the damaged straps on both occasions, but generally they accepted that the customer was being truthful.

Two broken Fitbits
Two broken Fitbits

So, do I recommend the Fitbit?  Yes, but with reservations:

  • Printed and meaningful instructions, with diagrams, inside the Fitbit box are definitely needed.  These should include advice about peeling the strap back to insert the device.  If I had done this correctly first time around, maybe the first strap would not have torn (although why the second strap tore within such a short time is a mystery).
  • Synchonising the device with the computer and the phone is problematic.  Once you get it working, the computer/phone remembers the settings and you’re away, but it takes several attempts.  Also, you cannot synch with one device while the other one is in the room, unless you turn off Bluetooth on the other device.  (This messed me up several times.)
  • The rubber straps are ugly.  (Mine is black.  Other colours are available but they are not beautiful either.)
  • The Fitbit does not count stairs.  At the college where I work (only for another two weeks – hurray!), I have been walking up and down four flights of stairs several times a day, but the Fitbit counts these as normal steps.  Pity!
  • Fitbit charging using Kindle Charger
    Fitbit charging using Kindle Charger

    Charging the Fitbit can also be a problem.  The charger fits into a usb port but it won’t charge from a computer which has been shut down – and when do you want to charge your Fitbit, at night, when you’ve shut down your computer?  What works better is to insert the charger into the usb port of, say, an iPhone or Kindle charger, and plug it into the mains (having taken the iPhone/Kindle lead out first, obviously).

Yes, really, I would recommend it.  The plus side is that, when it works, it works very well.  And the customer care I have received from the Fitbit Team has been second to none.

Postscript About the Fitbit

The Fitbit doesn’t go through the security arch at airports.  I got called over at Gatwick when I tried to walk through wearing it.  I got frisked, had to take it off and put it in a tray, then show the frisking lady my asthma inhaler AND the used tissues in my pocket.  Mind you, I do think that our UK airports are the strictest in the world – rightly so.

 

 

 

 

Three Reviews and Other Things

I’m shocked to realise that I wrote my last blog post over a month ago (2 June).  Advice to bloggers:  if you want people to visit your blog, post often – in other words, have something for punters to read.  The truth is, Dear Reader, that I have been overloaded with work.  Again, DR asks, rolling eyebrows and groaning.  Yes, again.  For the whole of this term, and particularly during June, I marked students’ work, chased students to finish work and internally verified (checked somebody else’s marking), not just throughout the working day but in the evenings and weekends as well.  No time for anything else at all.  Our sample of students’ work went to Edexcel on the last day of term and, suddenly, I no longer had three difficult things to do at once, with at least four people needing them urgently.  However, this will never happen again.  31 August and my retirement from teaching edges closer every day.

Book Reviews:  Spike Sanguinetti Mysteries

The books are available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble :  Sleeping Dogs and Shadow of the Rock

Barbary Ape, on Rock of Gibraltar
From Wikipedia

During my small windows of free time, generally late in the evening, I read.  Too exhausted to tackle anything literary and worthy, I chanced upon Thomas Mogford’s Sleeping Dogs, fourth in the Spike Sanguinetti series, about a tax lawyer, practising in Gibraltar .  More crime, I’m afraid, but it was just ticket.   In Sleeping Dogs, Spike takes himself off for a holiday in Corfu, and from there on to Albania, both of which are described in detail and with the authority of someone who has visited both countries.  The author is clearly fascinated by Albania, its people and way of life.  Although it takes a long time for the main storyline to get going, and for the reveal to be sufficient for the reader to make connections, once it starts, the plot has pace, lots of tension and excitement, majoring on cannabis production in a southern Albanian village called Lazarat (50% of Albania’s GNP).  At the time of writing, this was all true, btw, because I checked it on Wikipedia, although Wikipedia has been updated to report that – last month, June 2015 –  the government used military force to demolish this illegal industry.

Interwoven with the main storyline were well-drawn characters – Spike, his father, his legal partner Peter Galliano, their landlady and her family – together with a family of wealthy villains, one of whom has a passionate interest in Greek antiquity.  Thomas Mogford managed to bring the reader into a comfort zone with congenial characters, eating good food and wine and enjoying themselves – balm to the exhausted and hassled.  Readers don’t always need to be challenged and have their minds (or other parts) broadened.

On finishing Sleeping Dogs, I hastened back to Amazon and downloaded the first three books in the Spike Sanguinetti series, all of them about 99p each.  (The reader in me is whooping for joy, crying ‘Bargain’.  The writer  feels she ought to disapprove of such low prices for books, but can’t quite get round to it, having earned approximately £50 for her own efforts).  I then opened Shadow of the Rock, the first in the Spike Sanguinetti series, preparing to relax again.  This time, Spike rushes off to Morocco, visiting medinas and souks and also a Beduoin village in the desert, again all convincingly researched, and with great atmosphere, including a particularly nasty latrine in the desert and wide-eyed lambs being transported in lorries to be butchered for Eid.  However, some mistakes were evident:  for instance, the author refers to Spike’s client, a Sephardic Jew, eating halal food, when he meant kosher.  Although this novel contained some distinctive characters, such as Jean-Baptiste, who replicates DVDS – loudly – in his hotel room, Spike’s elderly father, Rufus (an asset in Sleeping Dogs), hardly features and the female lead, Zahra, is undeveloped.  Spike himself seems rougher around the edges, blundering into situations without finesse, including having sex (improbably) in a railway compartment a few hours after having been beaten up.  The storyline of Shadow of the Rock is very complicated, with twist after twist, and a football stadium of characters and, for much of the story, it was difficult to understand where Spike was going and why, and, when he got there, the significance of what he found out.

Theatre Review:  To Kill a Mockingbird, at the Barbican Theatre, London

Mockingbird
manjithkaini

In the middle of all this, I also saw the staged version of To Kill a Mockingbird at the Barbican Theatre, last Saturday.  This was a birthday treat, shared with close friends and family, and what a good choice it was.  Everyone knows Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, I’m sure, not least because it has, apparently, featured on more school syllabuses than any other book.  I always tend to shy away from books ‘done at school’  and, as a result, I read To Kill a Mockingbird as an adult and was wowed by it.  I believe that, by reading it when older, I appreciated  layers of meaning I wouldn’t have picked up as a teenager, but, in the staged performance last weekend, I picked up on many many more.

This performance is not so much a play but a play-reading, with a chorus reading from the text every few minutes, a good device for moving the story from scene to scene. The three (out of the nine) child actors we saw, playing Scout, Jem and Gil, had the largest roles and are totally amazing, every bit as professional as the adults around them.  If you live near London, do and see it.