Day 28: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Procrastination & the Writer

I would like to put my name forward for the title of ‘Writer Procrastinator Extraordinaire’ as I think that my talents for procrastination far exceed my talents for writing!

Time by John Morgan on Flickr CC

Time by John Morgan on Flickr CC

Today I have had little bits of time here and there, but no, it’s at 9.47 pm that I decide to start writing my blog post for today! I could have made a start earlier, except that I decided that I needed to ignore my Editorial Calendar and write something new and it would take a bit of time to decide what that theme should be. Now I have, and here we are.

I know that procrastination is not just my problem – as writers, who rely on the workings of our brain to tell us what to write – so often it can be really difficult to focus on what we have to do. There can be 100 other things that we need to get done – the washing up, the washing, the vacuuming – the beauty of working from home can also be its pitfall. We walk past these piles of dirty things and think that we’ll just do this or just do that – and before you know it, it’s time to pick the kids up from school and the time is gone.

Time is neither our friend nor our enemy – it’s just time. We all have the same amount of time and how we choose to use it is up to us. I am mostly finding time in the evenings to get some blogging done, but I am pleased with the way this has turned out. From finding about an hour to an hour and a half each night, I have gained 30 blog posts (well, nearly, but definitely hoping to achieve this) for my blog, I have found some different topics to write on and I have enjoyed checking out other people’s blogs and reading their comments on my own. This challenge has not been undertaken just under my own steam – I have had other people following, commenting and liking my Facebook announcements of my blog posts which has an effect of encouraging me to get my blog posts done and let others know that they are up.

When you start a blog, it is easy to feel that you are posting into a void, sending a message in a tiny bottle into a massive sea and that it is going to be a matter of luck whether anyone sees your message or not. Finding a group of people to join and share – that makes all the difference and it helps to put an end to procrastination. Knowing that there are people out there, willing you on, and that you can urge them on, helps to beat that little voice encouraging you to put things off, that no one will notice because no one is reading it anyway.

So, here I am, late on a Tuesday night, typing up my blog. The motivation has been strong to complete this challenge because I don’t want to fail. More importantly, knowing that the blog will be read and shared has been the motivation that has chased away the procrastination, so although sometimes I have not been able to get around to blogging until late, I have still managed (mostly) to get around to blogging.

If you have stuck with me thus far in my ramblings, here is what I have learned about the writer and procrastination during this blogging challenge:

  1. Find a reason to blog. Have a great book review, story to tell, interview or piece of advice to share. If it’s good enough then you will find the time to write it down even if it’s late at night.
  2. Promote your blog post. Read other relevant blogs and comment on them, tweet about them and share them on Facebook, Google + and anywhere else you want to share. I knew this, but I had learned to put it off until tomorrow – and tomorrow never came. How can anyone read your posts if they don’t know that you have written them? There is no worse thing than crafting a beautiful blog post that no one will read.
  3. Only allow so much procrastination. Find your motivation, the reason to write and do it.
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Day 27: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Five Retro Blog Posts to check out on this Blog

By the end of this blogging challenge, I will have written 30 blog posts in a little over a month. It ’s not been easy but it’s been worth it. For today’s blog post, I want to highlight some of the posts that have gone before. One thing I have noticed in checking over my previous posts: I am fond of the number 5!

Retro America by Peer Lawther on Flickr CC

Retro America by Peer Lawther on Flickr CC

Five good reasons to maintain your blog

Five Things to Consider before Networking for the First Time

How to Save Your Website

Organising Your Writing

Do you spam? There is another way to promote your website

I hope you enjoy some of these retro posts. Some of them were written in answer to questions while others were just topics that were on my mind at the time. I have to say that I enjoyed going back through my website and finding them again.

Share this blog post if you enjoyed it.

Share your favourite own retro blog post in the comments.

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Day 26: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Author Websites Worth Visiting

These days it is recommended that authors have a website. Some are almost purely bibliographies, lists of their published books, a brief ‘About’ page and some contact details for literary festivals.

Mah Bookshelf by kreezzalee on Flickr CC

Mah Bookshelf by kreezzalee on Flickr CC

Other authors clearly enjoy the process: they add extras like FAQs, podcasts of interviews and reprints of newspaper articles. I really enjoy checking out these websites: they offer the would-be writer so much more than just a book list.

When I find a new author I like, then I love to head over to their website and see what they will be doing next. Here are five author websites that I really like and would recommend that you visit and take a look around.

  1. Philippa Gregory is an historian who writes historical novels including The Other Boleyn Girl. Her website is great for those authors who are looking to write historical novels because she includes fascinating bits of history research on it. To access them, check out the purple tab: News & More.
  2. Michael Morpurgo has a fascinating website, full of tidbits to click on and interesting items. He has an amazing back catalogue of written books, including the now famous ‘War Horse’ and his website is well worth a look.
  3. Joanne Harris has long been one of my favourite writers – I love her books. Her website talks about her job and gives some useful information for someone looking to book an author for a visit.
  4. Julia Donaldson has written about the Gruffalo, the Gruffalo’s Child, Room on the Broom and many others. Her website is great for sheer amount of many different things that she writes. It’s also a very bright and colourful website.
  5. Anthony Horowitz has written the Alex Rider series, and more recently a couple of books based on Sherlock Holmes. His website has some good advice for writers and is very enjoyable to read through. Again, the amount of different projects that he gets involved in is breathtaking. He has written film scripts and TV scripts as well as novels for both teenagers and adults.
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Day 25: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – 3 Quotes for Writers

There are some really great quotes from writers and here are 3 of my favourites.

Notebook by Kelly Sikkema on Flickr CC

Notebook by Kelly Sikkema on Flickr CC

  1. There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. Ernest Hemingway

Great quote that hints at the toughness of writing.

2.  The secret of being a writer: not to expect others to value what you’ve done as you value it. Not to expect anyone else to perceive init the emotions you have invested in it. Once this is understood, all will be well. Joyce Carol Dates

Great advice for any writer.

3. You only learn to be a better writer by actually writing. Doris Lessing

So many people say that they want to be writers and yet they never write. Making time for writing can seem like a selfish thing but it’s the only way to become a writer. Write down your story ideas, interesting news headlines and real-life stories. Keep notes on your phone and always try and find time to write.

What is your favourite writer quote and what does it mean to you? Let me know in the comments.

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Day 24: 30 Day Blog Writing Challenge – am I Mobile-Friendly?

Just a short blog today as the challenge was to check whether my blog would cope with being accessed through a mobile device.

HTC Desire Eye smartphone by Maurizio Pesce on Flickr CC

HTC Desire Eye smartphone by Maurizio Pesce on Flickr CC

I was writing a series of articles for a web developer a few years ago, and this was one of the articles I had to research and write. The overwhelming consensus of opinion when I was researching was that it was important for a website to be mobile (or accessed through a mobile device) and so when I had written the article, I looked into making my own website mobile too.

I am pleased to say that my website is still able to be viewed through a mobile device and that I can leave comments too. Sometimes you can learn a great deal from writing for a client!

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Day 23: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – 7 More Crazy Business Ideas

When I was digging through my archives, I found my first blog post on Crazy Business Ideas. I thought it would be great to update this article and check out some more crazy business ideas. Who would have thought that some of these ideas would make you money.

Doggles for military working dog by U.S.Army

Doggles for military working dog by U.S.Army

  1. Rent the Chicken

This business is for those people who are not sure whether they are cut out to be farmers or not. They can rent the chickens, feed and coop for a specified time, with the chickens guaranteed to be laying eggs within two days of arriving. There is the option to adopt the chickens if the prospective farmer falls in love with them. This company operates in the US only, although I believe there is also an Australia version!

2.  My Friend smells.com

This company will send scented cologne wipes anonymously from as little as $1.99 to those friends who smell a little stinky. Personally, I still prefer a good old fashioned conversation!

3.  Zombie Experiences

If you have ever wanted to spend your day being chased by zombies, then this is the website for you! This one is based in the UK. Interesting way to make money…

4.  I Do, Now I Don’t

The founder of I Do, Now I Don’t was dumped after a three month engagement. The jeweller he bought the ring from offered him less than half the amount he’d paid for it, so he set up his own website which enables people to sell their jewellery to other users. Simple idea, but a great success.

5. Chewy Jewellery

While she was on maternity leave, Jenny & Steve Mclaughlan had the idea of making a necklace that would be dafe for babies to chew on while they were teething. The concept has now been extended for children with sensory issues such as autism who still need to chew. The product is made to be non-toxic although it comes with a warning that fully developed teeth will eventually bite through the product, so parent supervision is recommended.

6. Doggles

These strange-looking goggles for dogs do have a serious purpose – they can help dogs who have developed eye disease and protect dogs’ eyes from sun damage. The makers of Doggles recommend training your dog to wear them and that they do not wear them indoors. Cool name!

7. WTF Prank Candles

For the person who has everything – or someone you don’t like, these candles begin by smelling sweet and then turn to more foul smells. Would you like a candle that changes from apple pie to dirty fart? How about from fresh forrest pine to skunk? I can’t believe these are selling – but I found the website!

If you enjoyed this article, then please share to social media.

What crazy businesses have you found? Please share in the comments below.

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Day 22: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Third Week Review

Week 3 and I’m still here. I’m really glad that I took this challenge. Finding time to blog every day has not been easy, but I have managed to do it. Hopefully from here I can finish this challenge.

My public lands summer road trip by Bureau of Land Management Flickr CC

My public lands summer road trip by Bureau of Land Management Flickr CC

This week, I have:

  • continued to edit my story, looking at setting, plot, conflict and resolution, all of which are important parts of a story
  • Rewritten my ‘About’ page
  • Written up some of my testimonials which was quite nice to do
  • worked out how to use infographics and discovered a nice little free program to help me do it
  • finally set up that editorial calendar by adapting Sarah Arrow’s template
  • enjoyed reading and commenting on other blogs also taking part in the 30 day blogging challenge

This week, I am back into the full swing of school, college and work, so free time has been a little more limited. It is not always possible to post every day, but I am determined to have 30 blog posts by the time I have set myself.

This is what I have learned this week:

  • to keep chasing testimonials, because they are very nice to have. In the past, although I have asked for testimonials, clients sometimes forget to send them. I need to try and get them if I can.
  • I liked my ‘About’ page when I read it, but it did need some updating – apparently I last rewrote it about 3 years ago!
  • To keep finding time to blog – even small bits of time can be used productively if you are ready to go and know what you want to write.
  • initiating other calls to action rather than just inviting comments on the blog. I always try to ask a question for others to answer in the comments but asking for a social share was not something I had (embarrassingly) thought of!

Another week, another learning curve! Roll on Week 4!

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Day 21: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Infographics

This blog has been challenged to make some infographics so I decided to have a go. The infographics package that was recommended was not suitable for me as I don’t have Java, so I have taken a look round to see what other possibilities there are.

I found Daniel Soper who offers a small infographics generator. You just copy and paste some text into the box and click the button to generate the infographic – couldn’t be simpler! I have had fun playing with it and this has been the results.

Here is the infographic for my ‘About’ page:

Free Infographic from http://www.danielsoper.com/wordcloud/

Free Infographic from http://www.danielsoper.com/wordcloud/

I had so much fun that I decided to try another one! Buy one, get one free!

A few years ago, I wrote a post on Crazy Business Ideas so I put that through the word cloud generator too:

http://www.danielsoper.com/wordcloud/

http://www.danielsoper.com/wordcloud/

I think I’m hooked!

If you have enjoyed this post, then please share to social media.

If you have made some great infographics, then let me know about them in the comments below.

 

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Day 20: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Story Plot, Conflict & Resolution

On Day 11 and Day 12, I posted a short story for the purpose of showing you how I edit a story.  Here I finish my discussion of the story and will be talking about the plot, the conflict in the story and the resolution.

Paper and Pen by Orin Zebest on Flickr CC

Paper and Pen by Orin Zebest on Flickr CC

Plot

The plot is probably one of the most important parts of the story. The plot is all about what action actually takes place in the story. In the case of The House on the Hill, the answer is, “Not much!”

You could actually explain the story in a couple of sentences and everyone would understand what it was about, but it is the inner story – Joseph’s memories and the story of his friend that brings it to life. Short stories are often better if they contain some sort of ‘twist’ or surprise at the end that creeps up on the reader. This can be quite hard to do, as it can seem that pretty much every twist has been done to death.

As an example, I remember when the film, The Empire Strikes Back came out and that plot twist shocked audiences up and down the country – that Darth Vader was Luke’s father. It was pretty momentous and everyone was shocked. In those days, we didn’t have spoiler trailers like we do now. That was an absolutely amazing plot twist at the time which the makers of the film managed to keep secret until the film was actually released. However if a film was pitched today that had the villain turning out the be the hero’s father, it would be laughed at – what a cliche!

I’m not convinced that this plot holds up to scrutiny. I think it needs work to turn this into a good short story. I have to admit that I just sat down and wrote with the intention of pulling it apart so it’s not a problem. I know it needs more work. If it is going to have a twist, then it needs to be a better one that will surprise the reader.

Conflict

The story could not be considered by any stretch of the imagination to be exciting, but there is a certain tension created when Joseph starts feeling unwell. There is a sense that not all is well, but the estate agent is oblivious to anything but herself and the sale. The conflict could do with being built up more to bring a bit more action to the story. Joseph sees his memories of his lost childhood friend everywhere, in the faded photo, in his own memories of the incident that led to her death and even in the cry of the seagulls as he steps away from the house.

Resolution

Joseph has come with the intention of buying the house, but he finds too many memories and decides that the visit around his former friend’s house is enough. He will not be buying the house, but he does have a sense of closure as he leaves it.

Looking back through the story, I feel that it would need some rewriting to include more events happening to make the story more readable and interesting. The initial characters are good, but there needs to be more tension created between them and there needs to be a more definite conflict and resolution. At some point, I will rewrite the story and repost it, so you can see if it has improved at all.

If you have enjoyed this post, please comment below and share to your social media of choice. Thank you.

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Day 19: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Short Story Setting

My blog posts on Day 11 and Day 12 were two halves of a short story, written quickly to use as an example for editing. Here, I would like to discuss setting.

Sea Cliff 2 by Mary Penny on Flickr cc

Sea Cliff 2 by Mary Penny on Flickr cc

The setting of a story discusses where the story takes place. In The House on the Hill, the action all takes place around an old empty house.

The House on the Hill is a house for sale on a cliff side. The house has clearly been loved, but now it is empty of people, although furniture remains. There is a photo that clearly brings back memories for Joseph as he goes back to look for it.

The house is described as:

  • mail swept from the floor – unlived in
  • coloured window panels and tiled floor in the hall
  • double fronted – so a large house (double fronted is when the house has a room either side of the front door)
  • 3 bedrooms
  • sea-facing lounge with high ceiling and carved plaster
  • faded wallpaper
  • furniture covered with dust sheets
  • threadbare rugs
  • furniture not wanted – if buyer does not want then will be put in a skip
  • old-fashioned Quaker kitchen with quarry tiled floor
  • water still connected
  • patio doors from kitchen leading to an ‘unruly’ i.e. overgrown garden
  • smallest bedroom – a girl’s room with girl’s books

There is quite a lot of information about the house, and one thing as author I need to check – that it does not conflict. The house seems to evoke a number of different eras and perhaps it might be better if it were all tied to one era, the one where Peggy died.

Setting also includes atmosphere. The story tries to be mysterious. Does it succeed? I’m not sure it does. It needs to decide if it wants to be a ghost story, a memoir or something else. The setting of the house needs some minor tweaks, but I need to decide exactly what kind of story it is going to be and perhaps add some more clues to enable the reader to follow along.

If you have enjoyed this blog post, then please share it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you.

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