Three Easy Steps to Start Blogging for the New Year

Happy New Year!!! Are you celebrating yet or all done?

RR MuseumR Dining carA few days ago a new blogger asked me for information about blogging.  I remember life as a  neophyte blogger.  Blogging experts wrote in a foreign language, as did photographers.  My blogging friends still help me learn new techniques.

SFW History Ladies SD 1-5-2013141a
Blogging friends Marsha and Russel Ray

 

1. Decide the Purpose of Your Blog – Is it for you or for you AND readers?  Remember you can change it later.

  • Are you a vanity blogger or commercial blogger? Vanity bloggers DO NOT selling products.
  • If you want ANY traffic, you want to increase statistics. To build statistics quickly experts teach that specific blogs draw more readers. True! Readers click in and out rarely leaving a comment. If the information is good, blog statistics climb rapidly.
  • Random blogs get less traffic, but attract like-minded readers who chat and build friendships instead of statistics.
  • Most blog readers prefer positive blogs to negative ones. Complaining housed in humor works, but most venters need a private blog. Cause-venting attracts readers, but doesn’t necessarily build long-term relationships. If something bad has happened to you, but your overall blog is positive, sharing makes you more human, but folks DO NOT want a constant diet of it unless it is VERY humorous.
  • If feedback is important to you, short articles (500 words or less) work better than long ones. Edit, edit, edit!  Break long posts into chunks and publish them later.
  • If your blog teaches a skill, share what you learned AND what you thought about your learning, including your mistakes. People will get to know you, learn from you, and keep coming back.
  • Blogs NEED pictures even if you borrow images from Google. Daytime bloggers enjoy music, but songs and videos load slowly, and impatient blog surfers may give up. Sleepless bloggers with families won’t listen to your music at night unless they have a blog cave, or their families are deaf.

kildeer 1

2.  Label Posts with Blogging Categories

  • Organized people may start with categories, and then write posts.
  • Random bloggers like me start rambling, then determine what categories fit.
  • WordPress will suggest tags. Tags differ from categories, and help WWW readers find information quickly.
  • Categories help readers who come to read you find what you write about. They also help you find articles you already wrote about specific topics.
On the Floor of Congress http://www.ushistory.org/us/19e.asp
This ia a battle in your brain. Is it History? Blogging Skills?, Famous Art? Best Lectures Ever?

3. Label Pictures with Blogging Categories – rainy or snowy day projects!

  • Most of my picture titles started with the letters IMG. Poor labels filled my blog with repeated pictures, and used up my storage capacity. Edit using the scale changer. (Later, no hurry on that!)
  • Click on a picture to edit it and change the title using category names.
  • Use the text feature as you process your photos to  write your name on the image.   If you don’t, some malicious person might Photoshop your image and re-purpose it.  I did not sign them at first as you can see with my killdeer, but who cares if she ends up protecting a lion in Africa and not her eggs in my driveway?
Blogging skills
Blogging skills See the copyright signature????  Its tiny.  I make them  more pronounced now!  

That’s enough for today because you need to go post your first post of the new  year.

 

 

Tips to Make the Difference Between “I’d Better Stop (Criticizing) Here and “I Want to Read More”

It is pretty scary to put your work out for the public to read and criticize.  Part of the reason is that, while you want to make changes to make it better, criticisms alert you to the problems, but don’t necessarily tell you how to fix them.

Fix this
“Sis, just tap it a little to the lift. Awww you missed. My turn!”

 

These tips from Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland helped me get out of my rut. (The links are from Amazonsmile, which makes a contribution to your favorite charity if you register for it – Mine is California Council for the Social Studies, of course!)

1.  Open with movement.  She means this literally.  Make the person get up, walk, run, sit – do something.  In my first -345th draft I had started with description.  I thought it was interesting, but then my husband is a realtor.  The rest of the world was not fascinated or captivated, by knob and tube wiring, so this was a huge tip.

driving off

2.  Open with conflict. Personally I hate conflict, but then I’m a little boring around the edges, AND I am not the protagonist – of course she has some parts of me, but the boring ones had better go by the wayside!  So she is huffing off in her Mustang convertible after a little tiff with her dad!  OH Yeah, I guess that’s not so different from my life – Dad’s just been gone so long I forgot.  Maybe I’m not boring after all!

Nancy Kress suggested several exercises in Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint that helped me refine my character after I got her moving.

  1.  Create a mini-bio.  I set up a table and added to it after reading each chapter in her book.  One assignment was to analyze another author’s characters.  Here is the table I set up, and my brief analysis of Macon Leary from the first few pages of Accidental Tourist.  
Name: Macon Leary
Age:
Birthplace:
Marital Status: Married then divorced
Children: Ethan – deceased
General appearance:
Living arrangements: Married to Sarah, then living alone
Occupation: Writer of tourist books
Degree of skill at occupation Very good,
Characters feeling about occupation hated traveling, loved writing
Family background Lost a child, buried his feelings in habits
Faults Routines for everything, rituals, depressing habits

For my own characters I added lines for:

  •  favorite book or magazine, (I Googled what kinds of books each type of woman might be reading.)
  • a full description of an outfit they would wear, and
  • what motivates their actions – what do they want from the story and why – the back story.

This activity allows you to mix up your characters more easily.  I made one of Vanessa’s conservative Christian friends bi-racial black/white and not white, whose mother was a dancer and singer in New York before she married.  I gave another friend potty mouth – and low-cut casual clothes – totally unlike how I originally pictured either woman.

sexy Sarah

2.  The final exercise prompted the writer (me or you) to insert body language descriptions between the lines of conflict dialogue.  The main character may be honest or dishonest in his dialogue, but the body language has to be genuine.  First I looked up body language for someone who is irritated on the internet.  Then I rewrote the brief conflict between Sheena and Vanessa and inserted some honest irritation body language.  It didn’t add many words, but I think it added some believability.  It was so easy, I did the same thing for her scuffle with her dad.

So there you have it, my best tips for editing Chapter 1.  Next,  I’ll share Chapter 2 and then in a following post I’ll share  additional tips I’ve learned as I read more.  🙂  For you that are more into photography and non-fiction, thanks for hanging in there while I dabble in fiction.  🙂  Happy holidays!  🙂

Happy Holidays and A Parade of Thanks

Here it is Christmas Eve, and I’ve hardly mentioned Christmas this year or wished you all Happy Holidays.  I hope you all have wonderful plans with friends and family for the holidays.  Our celebration is going to be quiet this year, getting together with neighbors, and being lazy like Mr. Snowman who doesn’t move a muscle while he guards the piano.  He likes his job, though, or hides his feelings behind his broad smile.  I’m not sure which.  He’s not much of a conversationalist!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays.  :)
Merry Christmas and happy holidays. 🙂

I want to thank you all of your for your comments yesterday.  They were very helpful.  I agreed with them, and have struggled with Chapter One from the beginning of the first writing of Chapter One, which is soooooo discouraging!

I read today that writers need to wear three hats as they write:  the writer, the editor and the reader.  The last one is the hardest to develop.  The problem is that the writer already knows things that the reader isn’t privileged  to know.  Since I know so much about Vanessa, it’s been hard to weed out just what all I should share in the first chapter.   Some of it I’m not sure I even want to tell you because it’s so private boring  hard to put into words!  Another problem I have is that Vanessa keeps morphing.  Sometimes she is so fluid, that I can’t even keep track of who she is!  I thought I knew her pretty well as Trixie, but as Vanessa, she’s not quite the same person.  It’s like changing the person who played Darren in Bewitched in the middle of the series.  He was sort of the same, but not really!

So what you all said to me made a lot of sense.  Making sense of advice, and being able to fix it, though are two different skills!  It’s interesting to me, that teaching and writing all most of my life hasn’t been nearly enough preparation to write a simple best-selling fiction novel.  My husband says I’m expecting it to come to easily, and I guess I have to agree with him, although I don’t consider what I’ve done as “coming too easily.”  It’s pretty humbling, really.  But… I will keep plugging along.

Thanks again, enjoy the holidays, and God bless.  🙂

Images of America: Four Simple Steps to Edit a Pictorial History

Editing a picture book with 50 -70 word captions for each of 200+ pictures requires more effort than you would think, and grammar is not the hardest part to correct.

1.  Ask experts to read your manuscript.

McKay Point 2

I might have made the mistake of calling this a cement dam at one time.  But not after writing Images of America:  Woodlake.  Robert Edmiston corrected one entry explaining that cement is a part of concrete, but dams are made of concrete, an aggregate of cement and rocks.  No company in Woodlake makes cement.  In a million years I would not have corrected that mistake on my own.

This is the four room school built in 1912 or 1913, not 1923.
This is the four room school built in 1912 or 1913, and not in 1923.

2.  Ask experts to help you check pictures for historical accuracy.  This can be more difficult than you think.  Sources of pictures don’t always label their pictures.  Even libraries rely on the picture donors to date and label the pictures correctly.  Sometimes you can check facts using newspapers, but they are not always accurate either.  I used two or three references when possible to make sure I had names and dates correct.  Even then, my readers questioned me on several items.  Marcy Miller and I sleuthed through dates of the school buildings.  She had a picture of a building built in 1913, but several dates were attached to it.  I had thought it was the same building that is now the district office, but I had a date of 1923 on that building from an obscure reference in a book.  As we dug, we found that there were actually two different buildings.  We looked at the brickwork at the bottom of the building and compared it to another building picture we had from a newspaper.

Edmiston-29

3.  Ask experts to check names, double check them. If you are like me, you were not alive in 1860.  When a relative tells you that one family’s children were too young to attend school in 1860, you have to question the historian’s information, if possible.  In this case it was not possible because the historian passed away in 1971, and she did not have anything footnoted.  The mystery might have been solved because the woman from the family in question had children from a previous marriage that could have attended school in 1860.  Even though the children had a different last name than was listed in the book, the historian might not have realized that because the woman had remarried, and the children might have gone by the new husband’s name to make things more simple.  Some things never change!  But it is surprising how important it is even 150 years after the fact, to get the names correct.

 

Notice the search box at the top, and the name is highlighted.  The page number is also listed in the sidebar not pictured.
Notice the search box at the top, and the name is highlighted. The page number is also listed in the sidebar not pictured.

4.  Document your sources so that you can find where you got your information.  One fact in question came up about the name of one of the participant in the 1926 Pageant named in the picture. One elderly resident had seen the picture and told Marcy Miller that it was one person,  when in fact it was his brother.  The evidence was in the newspaper, and when I showed her the article, she said, “Well his memory isn’t always perfect.”  Expect people to question your facts, and do your best to keep track of them.  When publishing with  Arcadia books, the template doesn’t allow for footnotes or an extensive bibliography, but you almost need to include one in your own copy.  I spent a lot of time looking for the information source to prove my writing.  Sometimes I had it listed in the caption, but when I approached 70 words in the caption, I couldn’t include the information credit for publication.  As I neared the end of my research, I purchased a product, Wondershare PDF Editor Pro to make my PDFs searchable.  This helped me to find information faster.

Can you guess the year of this picture?  Clue:  Experts are alive today who can name most of those pictured.
Can you guess the year of this picture? Clue: Experts are alive today who can name most of those pictured.

In their author’s guidelines the publisher suggested that writers allow 2 weeks for editing using an expert reader.  They moved my deadline up a month, so I didn’t have that luxury, but they have been wonderful about accepting changes, and once I get the proof back, I will have another opportunity to proof read it once again.

I hope this has been a helpful process for you in your own writing.  🙂

Find me on Facebook under TC History Gal Productions.

 

WP Photo Challenge: Yellow

Yellow seems to creep into every picture even when I don’t focus on it.  I looked for a folder that might show a lot of yellow where one might not expect it.  I first opened “Market Research.”  In this photo trip, I explored what sold books.  Compare the picture with more yellow.  What do you think?

Yellow 1RT
With

 

with less
with less

I actually could not find a bookcase with NO yellow.  Yellow makes the other colors pop.  Which book in the next bookcase draws your attention?  Which ones would you choose to read looking at the cover?  What about if you just looked at the spine?

Yellow 3

Yellow needs another color to offset it, but a bit of yellow goes a long way, wouldn’t you say?  The book I remember reading from this entire post – 9 months later is The Dark.

For more choices click the WP icon

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