How Responding to a Photo Challenge Focuses Your Writing and Increases Your Followers

How many pictures do you have that sit unused and unseen in your files? Hundreds, thousands? Be creative and put them to use where you and others can enjoy them time and again.

Allow me to introduce you to my friend Terri.  When I started this series on hosting challenges, the intent was to focus just on writing challenges. However, many bloggers do some of their best writing in response to photo challenges. 

If you host a writing or photo challenge, please contact me. I’d love to set up an interview/guest post with you.

Please, give Terri a huge Always Write welcome with tons of comments and likes. Don’t forget to participate in her challenge, Sunday Stills

SundayStills_blogbanner

Guest Post by Terri Webster Schrandt, Second Wind Leisure Perspective

Ⓒ 2020

My Blogging Journey 

I began blogging consistently in Fall 2014, as I neared retirement from my 32 years with a public parks and recreation organization. Like any blogger, I wanted to write interesting content and meet other bloggers. As I neared retirement, I thought I would start a consulting business and blogging seemed like a good fit for promoting it. Once I went back to university lecturing, teaching 15 units a year, I found I lacked the time to sustain a side business. 

I blog on the WordPress hosted platform which sponsored several blogging how-to’s and challenges. Some readers may remember the Blogging University which taught new bloggers about the basics of blogging (Blogging 101) and Photography 101. In 2014, not only did I meet and follow new bloggers, but I also grew a set of followers as a result of the community that developed around the challenges. 

It was during this time I realized I had a knack for photography and used my background in art and journalism to write posts about recreation and leisure using my original images. 

I learned quickly that including an image with a blog post created visual interest and attracted more readers. Over time I was inspired to write my first short book Better Blogging with Photography which continues to sell worldwide on Amazon. 

Better Blogging with Photography cover
Better Blogging with Photography

Like any blogger, I wanted to write interesting content and meet other bloggers.

What prompted you to begin to host a photo challenge?

Challenges bring new readers, interest, and engagement to any blog. Challenges fit well within the framework of hobby blogging. 

I always enjoyed the WordPress Weekly photo challenge early on in my blogging journey and I discovered other challenges and participated in link parties. This was during the time I was building my readership and meeting new bloggers. I enjoyed the Sunday Stills Photography Challenge, but the original host announced he was through with blogging and called it quits. 

My own blog morphed into photography with emphasis on fitness, leisure, and recreation. After a lengthy blogging break in early 2018, I woke up one night with the idea that I could reinstate and host Sunday Stills myself. The timing was rather interesting. I jumped back in with Sunday Stills in May 2018 just as WordPress announced the end of its ridiculously popular weekly photo challenge. 

What is your purpose in hosting the challenge? How does it help photographers?

The purpose is simple: to inspire others to create images related to a weekly theme. I am challenged, too, as I select each month’s themes in advance. Many photo challenges out there are very specific to photography techniques and their hosts are not only a wealth of information about photography techniques, but accomplished photographers in their own right. 

Photobloggers help each other in this way by sharing techniques, ideas and continuing support and enthusiasm for each other’s work. 

One photographer in northern California went so far as to recommend a camera to me. For that I am eternally grateful for his advice and support. 

I also believe that images help create the idea for the story when inspiration is lacking. 

Bloggers are not limited to posting only on Sundays, as they have all week to share their own post and images.

How much time does it take to create a blogging challenge?

It can take 5-10 hours a week. Just creating my own post and prepping my images for publication often takes me 3-5 hours. Being that this has a weekly theme, I first decide on each month’s set of themes. I publish this on my Sunday Stills page so the planners of the blogosphere can plan their images and posts in advance. Of course, I must find my own images for each theme, post-edit them, and write a post that not only showcases my images but provides examples for other participants. I comment and share each post on Twitter and Facebook when possible. Bloggers are not limited to posting only on Sundays, as they have all week to share their own post and images. Some of the time spent is checking daily for new pingbacks and approve, comment and share. 

What steps do you take to get your challenge ready? 

At the end of each month, I choose themes and post them one month advance on my Photography page. I choose photos that highlight the theme while writing a title and post that is general but inspiring to other bloggers.

How do you follow up with your participants? I post every Sunday at 7:00 am Pacific Time and bloggers read and many link to the challenge. I approve links, read and comment on each post and share on social media.

How did you attract people to participate? 

I have a good following and many folks seem to enjoy my photography. Sunday Stills had been popular, and many were excited to see it come back. As I join other challenges, other bloggers find my blog and participate in my challenge.

Is your challenge like a club where you put a widget on your website or embed something on your post? 

Not really, but I have a Sunday Stills image widget on my sidebar where bloggers can click to the page for more information.

Do you determine winners? If so, how? 

No, everyone is a winner! I share posts of new bloggers in the first day of the month’s post with links to their blogs. 

I also grew a set of followers as a result of the community that developed around the challenges. 

Do you post or promote the results or links anywhere? 

I share Sunday Stills posts to my Facebook Page or Twitter, sometimes on Pinterest.  When I began Sunday Stills, I hosted a link-up on INLinkz for a few months. Not as many linked to it, so I stopped after a few months.

For my favorite photos, you can see more at  https://secondwindleisure.com/2019/11/24/sunday-stills-your-favorite-photo/

Bio

Terri is a writer, self-published author and retired recreation and parks practitioner living in Northern California. As a university lecturer teaching various courses in the recreation and parks major, Terri takes leisure very seriously because it involves one-third of our lives…really!

Her active lifestyle involves stand-up paddling, camping, hiking, reading, writing, gardening, walking the dogs, traveling, and photography.

Second Wind Leisure Perspectives is her blog about leisure, fitness and photography.

Connect with Terri

Blog: https://secondwindleisure.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SecondWindLeisurePerspectives/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/windigenredhead
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/terri.websterschrandt/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/aquachica/

More about the images I chose:

I added five of my favorite images that represent milestones on my photography journey and some good luck!

This one titled Autumn in Quincy, taken with a point-and-shoot digital camera in 2010, was the first image where I received many compliments and suggestions for entering it into contests.

I captured the plumeria with my galaxy edge mobile phone. It was the first plumeria I grew in 2019.

The sunflower with the bee was also captured with the same mobile phone in 2019, truly a lucky shot!

The windsurfer and my dog Brodie were taken in July 2017, with my Lumix FZ300, my beloved bridge camera with a long travel lens. Both represent action shots that were taken in major zoom mode but details still stood up to the wind and action.

Thank you so much, for participating in this series on writing and photo challenges, Terri. It was great having you here.

Related Posts

What to Do When Your Muse Disappears 60,000 Words Into Your Book

You don’t give up when your muse leaves town. You start a new challenge. Join me in giving author Suzanne Burke a warm Always Write welcome!

Always Write Series: #Bloggers Hosting Writing Challenges

Writing Challenge hostess #1 Suzanne Burke AKA Soooz

Have you wanted to write fiction and struggled to get started? Or maybe you wrote a book, and your muse disappeared or you got snagged somewhere in the process of publication.

If this sounds like you, read on.

Author, Suzanne Burke hosts a flash fiction challenge and supports her participants with multiple social media shares. 

As I read her posts, it occurred to me how much goes into hosting a writing challenge of any kind. She responds graciously to every comment in her inbox. 

After exchanging a few comments and emails, I feel like I have known her forever. 

Suzanne agreed to write the first guest post/interview for Always Write to tell authors everywhere how she started and what it is like to host a writing challenge. 

Take it away Soooz.

Firstly, my grateful thanks to Marsha for inviting me here today. I hope I have given you a glimpse into my experience hosting a visual writing prompt. 

Q: What prompted you to begin to host a writing challenge? 

A: It all came down to the timing. I was already 60k into my latest WIP (work in progress) when my muse decided to grab a stagecoach and get out of Dodge. It’s happened before and the frustration and procrastination genies were warring with each other for dominance. I needed to commit to something creative, something I would also need to contribute to. That’s when the idea was born. 

Soooz

I can feel your pain. I have never made it to the end of a fiction publication. Grrrrrr.

Q: How long have you been doing this? 

A: It’s only been six weeks since the first prompt went up. It’s been a huge learning curve. But I’m having a marvelous time with it.

Soooz

Q: How much time does it take? Is it all-consuming so that you don’t blog about anything else?

 

A: I must admit that I underestimated just how time-consuming the process would be. I spend many hours scouring the internet for free to use images. Images engage the creative juices. We writers tend to be intensely visual creatures, taking mental snapshots of everything that catches our muse’s attention. 

Soooz

The marionette image evokes some strong emotions. Your 750-word example kept me on the edge of my seat. 

I heard recently in a class that a blog needs some type of image every 100 words. I use Canva.com and have tried Unsplash.com as well. They both have thousands of images you can sort through in the click of a search word.

Q: How did you determine the genre?

A: I chose not to impose a genre restriction. That tends to isolate some folks from participating. I’ve been lucky to have had some wonderfully diverse entries, yours included, Marsha.

Soooz

Thank you, Soooz, with three o’s.

Q: What steps do you take to get your challenge ready? 

A: Because it can take almost a week and sometimes just before the deadline before the entries start coming in. I write my own contribution during that time. 

Then I share all the entries over the course of the week. 

Soooz

That’s a benefit for your participants to build the traffic to their blogs. 

I check daily for comments on the Author’s blogs who have shared the challenge, respond to those. 

Another great benefit to those who submit, Soooz. I found my entry that you shared on Twitter. How fun! I also found a typo in my customized excerpt. I need a better proofreader.

I’ve had a great response doing that. Finally, I put up the next week’s prompt. I’m determined to still make time to write and post Book Reviews and support other authors on my blog. 

Soooz

Q: How did you attract people to participate? / How do people usually find out about your challenge? 

A: I have been so fortunate to have met some wonderfully talented and supportive writers since my first foray into writing. Many belong to an online book club I’m a member of, and still others I’ve met via Twitter, all have been amongst the most generous and supportive folks I’ve ever met. These folks share my posts via tweets and the word begins to spread. I find Twitter to be a very effective platform.

Soooz

Q: Do you have help reading all the entries?

A: No, I enjoy reading all of them.

Soooz

Q: What do you do with the entries – like do you ever publish anthologies, award widget certificates?

A: I’m keeping it as simple as possible at the moment. I may use some of my own entries in an anthology in the future.

Soooz

In Conclusion

Thank you, so much for this wonderful post, Suzanne, Soooz, S., Stacey. It’s been a super pleasure to have you as the first interview/guest post in the Always Write #Bloggers Hosting Writing Challenges Series.

I hope you will come back to write another guest post again.

Links

Contact Suzanne at …

Her author page on AMAZON.

On Twitter.

On Facebook

On Goodreads.

Biography

Suzanne Burke resides with her daughter and grandson in a small country town located hundreds of miles to the west of her previous home in Sydney Australia.

Life interrupted her routine and allowed her to begin her journey into the world of writing in her early fifties, a journey she’d wanted to start for many years.

You can find Suzanne’s memoirs under the pen name of Stacey Danson.  Search for her powerful thrillers Acts Beyond Redemption and Acts of Betrayal and her paranormal anthology Mind-Shaft under the name S. Burke. 

Both of Suzanne’s non-fiction books, Empty Chairs and Faint Echoes of Laughter, have ranked in the top one hundred paid in Kindle on Amazon and continue to earn wonderful reviews.

Welcome Suzanne with your comments and check out her #6 Challenge.

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How To Take The Step From Blogger To Author Without Losing Your Voice

Credit: Pexels

If you’ve been a blogger for a while now and you love writing, you might be thinking about becoming an author.

After all, that’s the dream, isn’t it? Anyone can blog — there are literally billions of blogs out there — but stepping your work up a level and penning a novel seems like pretty serious business.

Along the way, it can sometimes feel like you are losing your own voice. It’s easy enough to develop your own style, voice, interests, and values on your blog — it’s your baby, and you can write whatever you want, whenever you want.

But when you’re writing a book as an author, it can often feel like you are being pulled in a million different directions. You want one thing, your editor wants something else, your friends and family all have an opinion on what you’re writing, and heck knows what your readers are after. And it’s all too easy to lose your voice along the way.

If you’re planning on taking the step from blogger to author, and you’re worried about this, fear not! I’ve come up with some top tips to keep you focused on your writing voice throughout your journey. Read on for inspiration.

(Check out this article on 7 writer lessons you won’t want to learn the hard way for mistakes to avoid once you’ve started writing, too!)

Keep your readers at the heart of what you do

You’ve already got an audience of fans that love reading the work on your blog and visit it specifically to hear what you’ve got to say.

It’s the same with writing a book or becoming an author. You’re writing partially for yourself, but remember that you’re also writing for your fans — the people that have stuck by you for all these years. You want them to read it, enjoy it, and be transported to the world you’re describing in your novel.

What do they want to hear? What do they enjoy reading? Chances are, this will mesh up with your writing voice nicely. Of course, you may have to put some effort in when it comes to learning and speaking the language your demographic wants to hear, but that’s okay.

You can actually practice writing for your audience on your blog by writing a short story series over the course of a few blog posts. You could push them on social or share them with bloggers networks, like Bloglovin’. Not only will this get more traffic to your site as readers come back to delve into the next part of the story, but you will also get feedback on what works well and what doesn’t.

Write about what you know, in a style you know

While mimicking the style of great writers that you love is a way to learn how to write well and figure out what you really love stylistically as an author, you need to establish your own style.

This is greatly improved by finding your own area of expertise.

Write about the things you know. What you know a lot about may seem completely alien to someone else. It could be a totally obvious area that seems simple to you but not to others; remember, everyone is different.

You can build on this. After all, you’re a blogger. You’ve already got a style of writing that you can develop as an author. You’ve got a platform, an area of expertise which you’re passionate and confident writing on (whether it’s literature, fashion, travel or food). You’ve got a devoted audience.

You might feel like you don’t actually know that much (I know I do sometimes!), but you’d be surprised once you take a closer look. What comes naturally to you? Perhaps you have technical or scientific-based knowledge. Or perhaps you have emotional intelligence and you’re great at reading people and connecting with them emotionally? This in itself is a strength and can make for some powerful, emotive writing.

Seek expert advice from a book editing service

At some point on the journey from blogger to author, you’re going to seek advice and knowledge from someone more experienced — especially if you want to get published!

When penning your first book as a blogger, it can sometimes feel like you’re getting lost in the details, struggling to overcome writer’s block, or losing your unique voice as the novel progresses. Everything seems more complicated the more you try to simplify it, and often you can’t see the wood from the trees.

To find your unique voice again, and stay yourself, bring someone else on board; hiring an editor can help you to fix any issues and finetune your writing.

The experts can help with editing every aspect of your novel, or, in the words of the pros Jericho Writers: “The aim is to help you produce that final perfect draft.” Whether your entire manuscript needs an extensive assessment or just your opening section requires a review, editorial services can offer you specific direction and advice, to make your draft the best version possible.

Book editing services will improve your final draft and take you from blogger to author in a way that will help you to find your writing voice, rather than lose it.

Don’t be disheartened by criticism or negative feedback

It’s hard not to take criticism like a punch to the stomach. If you’ve been slaving away on a manuscript for weeks or months, and someone starts pointing out things that are wrong — whether it’s grammatical errors or character flaws or plot holes — it can feel like a personal attack.

It’s different when you’re blogging; if someone criticizes a point you’ve made in a blog post, you can chalk it down to a difference in opinion and hash it out in the comments section. It’s 1,000 words on one topic that a reader didn’t agree with; you can just move onto the next piece — easy peasy.

But when you’ve been pouring your heart and soul into writing the first draft of your novel, and a critic points out flaws in what you think is an integral stitch in your story, it can feel like the whole thing will begin to unravel. You start to question everything, including your voice.

Please don’t be disheartened when this happens — constructive criticism will keep you grounded, and improve both your writing and your book. As Virtual Speech puts it: it “enhances performance and assists with professional growth.” Ultimately, it’s a good thing! And you’ll become a better writer and a stronger person as a result.

Address the feedback, make the required changes to your manuscript, and treat your book as an ever-evolving beast. If you’re worried about losing sight of the book you were planning to write, then draw a mental moral line about what you’re willing to change. This will help you to keep your voice while allowing your book to progress in a positive manner.

Writing your first book is an exciting opportunity. If you’re thinking about going from blogger to author but you’re worried about losing your voice, then you can follow these steps to keep you walking in a straight line toward your goal.

About Kaleigh Alexandra


Kayleigh Alexandra is a primarily UK-based Nordic writer who originally specialized in Shakespeare, but who now spends more time solving small business problems than penning sonnets! Her favorite Shakespeare play is the witty Much Ado About Nothing and the feisty Beatrice. She’s an advocate of micro-entrepreneurship (She has personal experience of as a frequent blogger and e-commerce entrepreneur).

Her passion for helping people find their dream business idea led to the founding of MicroStartups.org— a site dedicated to giving through growth hacking. She’s passionate about building brands for startups and charities and more often than not, you can find her penning advice on these topics, getting exciting about grammar or working on a side hustle.

Find Kayleigh on social media.

https://www.kayleighalexandra.co.uk/ https://www.kayleighalexandra.co.uk/about-kayleigh@BristolKayleighhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/kayleighsteadman/

Have you recently gone from blogger to author? Let us know how you found the process and any advice you’d share in the comments below!

readilearn: Writing in the lower primary classroom – a guest post

My Blogging friend, Norah Colvin invited me to write a guest post for her two education blogs.  What a thrill. Thanks, Norah. via readilearn: Writing in the lower primary classroom – a guest post by Marsha Ingrao – Readilearn

readilearn: Writing in the lower primary classroom – a guest post by Marsha Ingrao – Readilearn

My Blogging friend, Norah Colvin invited me to write a guest post for her two education blogs.  What a thrill. Thanks, Norah. via readilearn: Writing in the lower primary classroom – a guest post by Marsha Ingrao – Readilearn