Featured Blog: A Writer’s Path

Ryan Lanz, author of the blog, A Writer’s Path, has attracted an impressive 7,274 followers since July 2014. I am one of them. I like its simple organizational structure. He limited his categories to:

His menu is different, but still simple and to the point:

  • Home
  • About
  • Contact
  • Writer’s Toolbox
  • Advertise your book
  • Newsletter

If you write, this blog is a great place to learn.

 

Five Easy Tips for Creating Blogs Someone Besides Your Mom Will Read

Do you have enough readers?

This post is not for you, then.

Is your mom the only one reading your blog? Won’t your husband or best friend even read it?

OUCH!

Don’t give up on blogging yet!

Follow these FIVE TIPS to get you started.  

Planes are like blogs. You don't need the most complicated tools to get started. Even the simplest airplanes can get you off the ground.
Blogs are like planes. You don’t need the most complicated tools to get started. Even the simplest airplanes can get you off the ground.
  1. Keep the post to ABOUT 500 words. (This is HARD!!) That’s not too long to bore people, but it’s enough that people can get acquainted with you. People need to know what makes you interesting. People read your blog because they like something about YOU. Word of mouth sells blogs and books alike even if they cost nothing.
  2. Stick to what you know best. Include details that few people know that are unique about your piece. This is true no matter what you write. If you don’t know something, research it.
  3. Improve spelling and grammar. Proofread, edit, cut out adverbs, and unnecessary words, misplaced commas, and check spelling AGAIN. Sometimes the WP editor is NOT correct. Grammarly helps. A few minutes spent with Google or Yahoo checking information is better than publishing incorrect information or misspelled words. Remember to give credit where credit is due. If someone else finds an error, correct it!
  4. Spend time daily to read, like and comment on people’s posts. Care about what happens to those people in life. Make your comments positive and fairly short. If they inspire a post, create it and send them a link in their comment box.
  5. Pictures, videos, audio files add interest. YouTube videos helped me do more than I ever dreamed it would – from putting in a widget on a website to learning how to do a mail merge. If your blog is a teaching blog, videos are very helpful. Your phone takes videos good enough for online viewing, and it’s fun to capture the moment. I took the video below  when I ventured out of my hotel in San José to have dinner in the lobby. You never know what you might see. If you don’t snap it then, it’s gone!

More writing tips

What tips do you have for new bloggers? Share them in the comment section, or paste a link to one of your posts.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it!

How to Write Essays to a Prompt for Tests, Work, or School

Sample Prompt: Explain a complicated process that you can do well to someone who doesn’t know how to do it.

If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. Ernest Hemingway

Writing Is a Complicated Process                                         Do you struggle when you have to take a writing test, or write a report? As a teacher/consultant writing essays was my forté, yet writing to a prompt is a complicated task.  When I think about my professional life, I probably spent more time writing than almost any other single activity, either writing or grading essays for over 20 years.  Writing professionals have boiled essay writing down to a few steps which can be easily explained to someone who doesn’t write.  While most people THINK they know how to write if they can put words down on paper, they struggle to write even a simple five paragraph essay to answer a prompt.

Notice the blingy water.
Notice the blingy water.

Definition of an Essay

Commonly essays fall into four categories : expository, descriptive, narrative, and argumentative. Essays  convey information rather than tell a story, although they may use facts or short stories to persuade or convince readers to take action. An essay consists of three parts:  an opening paragraph, the body, and the conclusion.  Many teachers in our county use Step Up to Writing to teach this process to students and teachers alike.
  1. An opening paragraph restates the prompt stating three or more examples or facts.
  2. Body paragraphs expand on the three or four facts, one paragraph per main idea.
  3. The concluding paragraph points back to the opening paragraph and summarizes how the paragraph addressed the stated prompt.
PG and Pie
Ideas Matter: Brainstorm and Analyze  Before Writing 
Step Up to Writing  steps sound simple enough.  However, even though the process is simple, fuzzy ideas swim in the writer’s head and often come out jumbled.  Maybe the writer knows nothing about the prompt. Before I write anything I take a few minutes to ask myself questions about the prompt.  I usually jot down some notes in an informal list or outline.  If I can use the computer during the test or when writing for publication I search for a quotation and a definition or explanation of my topic. Most important: Make sure to answer the prompt.
  1. Analyze the prompt or break it into pieces.  Ask, “What DO I know about the prompt?  OR How can I relate it to something I know better and still answer the prompt?”
  2. Ask, “What can I write in a few paragraphs without repeating myself?”
  3. Consider, “Who is my audience?”
students-at-computers1
Research , Research, Research
Writing to a prompt is difficult for many reasons.  An author who does not know much about the topic may cut corners and merely copy the prompt word and repeat it multiple times throughout the essay. Unprofessional essays often start and end with the words, “Today I am going to write about (prompt words)”  This might be acceptable in first grade, but beyond that writers need to display more sophistication in their writing.
  1. Wikipedia is fine for quick bits of information partly because each entry has a bibliography which the writer can also check. It is good to have more sources than just Wikipedia. I use Google, but there are other ways of getting information quickly off the internet.
  2. Books and articles provide detailed information. Digitized books allow the writer to mark what he or she wants to remember and to sort out unnecessary information.
  3. If time is not an issue, articles and scanned documents can be processed into searchable PDF documents using inexpensive or free downloadable programs.
  4. When writers don’t have these options, note cards work well. I always note the title, author and page number, so I can go back and check my sketchy notes. I don’t take time to write detailed notes.
  5. Highlighting works well on printed material that the writer can keep.
  6. Post-it notes allow the writer to comment on materials and books he or she needs to return. Writers can color code these by book or article, topic, time period or any category they choose.
writing, blogging, book reviews, New_Office04
Weed Out All But the Most Important Information
Essayists can’t use it all.  According to the brain laboratory at UCLA, people have more than 70,000 thoughts per day. One short essay can’t utilize all these thoughts, so the first step is deciding which thoughts are keepers. When I write under pressure on a topic, use these techniques.
  1. Brainstorm on paper. Lists, webs, and tables all work well.
  2. Move to an outline. Find connections between the list of words. Sort them into categories. Writers may do this mentally, but it is more effective if they write it down. I use the old fashioned outline because it puts my thoughts into a hierarchy, most important first.Manny's Trip to Spain
Match Writing Style and Vocabulary to the Task
Prompt writing is a formal process.  Vocabulary, spelling, and style become issues.  My blogging style is informal, uses simple vocabulary and sentence structure, and I attempt humor. Formal writing style differs in several ways. 
  1. It uses a more academic lexicon or vocabulary.
  2. Sentence structure varies.
  3. The tone is generally, but not always, more serious.
  4. Each sentence starts with different words.  For example, after I have written this essay, I will go back over it and circle all the initial words.  If I have more than two or three of the same beginning word, I will change one of them.  I will look at how many of the same words I use within the sentence as well.  Word processing programs and the internet have dictionaries and a thesaurus at the writer’s fingertips, so there is no excuse for repeating the same word constantly. If the internet is not allowed during an essay, use the scratch paper to free-associate synonyms.
  5. Spelling is most difficult for me if the internet is not an option. When I can’t remember how to spell a word, I substitute a word I can spell.
  6. Punctuation errors show up, and even though there are differences about how to punctuate. Study Strunk and White before you take a test, or take it with you.
Ralph's remodel003
Keep the Conclusion Uncluttered
Students, test takers, or essayists who utilize these tips will have a passable essay for any project, exam, job application, or work-related report, and become an expert in writing to a prompt.
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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.  🙂