Blogs Interrupted

UK March 2020

Day 14 30 Day Blogging Challenge

Things have gone quiet round here. I’m still hoping to publish 30 blogs, but not in 30 days. The world seems to have gone mad: university students are being sent home, IT people are being told to work from home, schools are shutting and everyone is being told to stay home. I can’t think of anything to compare it to in my lifetime and I don’t think I will again.

The good news is that we have the internet to keep us sane. One of the consequences of the direction of non-essential gatherings is that churches are unable to meet. I was about to do an all-age service on Sunday. You know when I chickened out of doing a vlog post? Looks like I will be doing one after all – for my church!

So how do you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs?

Find the positive.

Thankfully, my children are old enough not to need supervision, although my son might if he is to do the work that the school sets. My daughter, the university student is coming home at the weekend and may not pay the third instalment of her accommodation. But what if your child is of the age where they are meant to be doing GCSEs? Or your children are too young to be able to be left?  Hopefully solutions can be found. Everyone’s situation is different and we will all have to find our own solutions. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people – everyone has got a similar problem.

Allow yourself to be overwhelmed

I know, it’s hard, but sometimes you just have to feel the emotions in order to get past them. Then you can pick yourself up and find a way through.

Social distancing, not social isolation

These two things are very different. We need social distancing – to stay 1-2m apart to prevent the coronavirus spreading. In China, there were lots of clusters where family members from the same household all caught it. Finding ways to be apart while being together is going to be a crucial part of this time. No one wants to be socially isolated. Those online communities are going to matter more than ever.

Money matters

If this time is going to leave you financially worse off, then reach out to the people who can help sooner rather than later. Contact your bank, talk to the people you owe money too and make sure you take full advantage of any help the Government is offering, even if it is a loan. Businesses that were profitable before this virus will be profitable again after it. Take all the help you can get and make sure that you have money coming in.

Mental health matters

Do look after yourself and your mental health. Stay healthy, get some exercise, eat your 5-a-day fresh fruit and vegetables. Find some hobbies to do that can help you – knitting and crochet, painting or even journalling. There are lots of companies about to offer deliveries online – take advantage.

How do you plan to sit out the current situation in the UK or where you are? Keep in touch via the comments below.

Share

Secrets of Stronger Fiction – more realistic bad guy/girl

Please note there are some spoilers in this blog post in the interest of creating stronger fiction.

Many adult stories do not contain a definitive bad guy.girl. In many children’s stories you will find a baddie character – someone who sees it as their life goal to thwart the main character and make their life difficult. Sometimes that evil character is just out-and-out bad, but sometimes, they are more morally ambiguous. This makes for stronger fiction.

Harry Potter series

For example, in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, the evil-doers are evident from the start. Even the reluctance to name him (he-who-should-not-be-named) points to the fact that Voldemort is not someone that you would like to be best friends with. Some of the other characters who support him are not so clear cut (and some are!). Draco Malfoy, for example, hates Harry with a loathing and the feeling is mutual. Draco tries to kill Dumbledore and this reinforces that he is evil. However at the end of the books, Draco is rather a pathetic figure who has been damaged by the evil that he has done. Dorothy Umbridge, however is definitely evil, but Professor Snape is eventually revealed to have been working for the good forces, for all he disliked Harry.

Of all the characters in Harry Potter that appear to be evil, Snape is the most interesting. At the start he is always there to catch Harry out, his allegiance as head of the house of Slytherin gives him a vested interest in taking points off Harry and therefore Gryffindor, his rival. But as more of Snape’s story is known: his closeness to Harry’s mother Lily at one point and how he felt when Janes and Lily got together gives the reader a sympathy for him by the time of his last scene.

Matilda

The best stories have a mix of characters including those who are borderline. Matilda by Roald Dahl has a very definite bad gal in Miss Trunchbull, the angry headmistress who hates children. Miss Trunchbull is tall and broad and uses her size to intimidate both the children and teachers. Everyone that is except for Matilda. Matilda is able to use her new powers to scare Miss Trunchbull and protect her friends. But while the headteacher is a very obvious evil person, less so are Matilda’s parents. These two people are self-centred and not above indulging in criminal activity. They don’t seem to care very much for their daughter and even less for her schooling. They are not as vicious as Miss Trunchbull, but because they ignore Matilda instead of chucking her in the chokey, does that make them any better?

Matilda knows her parents’ failings and they do not seem to affect her, but neglect could be a very serious thing for her. Thankfully she has met Miss Honey who is prepared to take her on and love her.

Artemis Fowl

The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer introduces a character who self-identifies as a criminal mastermind, or at the very least an anti-hero. He aims to steal to further his own ends, but finds himself in trouble when stealing from fairies, more specifically a police fairy known as Holly Short. Artemis may have started out as evil (how can you help it after being named Artemis), but he fairly quickly finds himself being forced to do the right thing. Throughout the series of books, he finds himself involved in a number of scary escapades, but usually on the right side of the fairy police. Incidentally, the books introduce Opal Koboi, a narcissistic pixie who is capable of far more evil actions than Artemis, himself.

Which characters are your favourite bad guys/gals and why?

Share

Is there ever a time when a freelancer should work for free?

I came across a job website tonight and read their information on becoming a freelancer. I was shocked to see that they advocated taking a first job and doing the work for free. I am a firm believer that at no point should a freelancer ever work for free. Nor do I believe that they should sell their skills cheaply.

When you are just starting out, it is tempting to take any offer of work that is going, so that you can add to your portfolio and have something to show other prospective clients, but I still think that you should expect to charge for your work.

There is a process of thought that suggests that early-stage freelancers should take work in order to prove themselves. They should take low-paying or free work until they can work themselves up to a more reasonable level of compensation. There are several reasons why this is unacceptable:

Freelancers have to pay bills like everyone else

Taking low-paying work can make you feel as though it is all you are good for

You have to have a certain level of competency to even consider going freelance. Why should you sell it cheaply?

I’m a start-up, will you work for free?

Then there are the people who advertise jobs who usually suggest that as they are a start-up, they cannot currently afford to pay someone to do the work. They usually dangle the offer of more, paid work down the line. But there are some problems with that:

If they can’t afford to pay someone, then why are they starting up a business? Surely if they have no money for it, it will be doomed to fail.

The promised paid-for work rarely materialises or when it does, the pay is not worth the effort

Consider this:

The time that you spend working on something for free, is time that you can never get back.

Does that make it more valuable?

Or

The time that you have offered for free, could be used to market yourself to find a paying customer

Or

Will the product that you have created for free be used to bring this client money?

Then you deserve some compensation for it.

When you start up as a freelancer, it is advisable to work out how many billable hours you can find for your job. That is, the amount of time that you have available to work for clients. Once you have that number, you can use it to do a number of things.

You will need to set aside some time to market your business. This includes writing for your own website, creating products for your own website and running your own social media (without getting sidetracked on Facebook).

You will need some time to do the administration of your business – invoicing and chasing payments.

You will need time for clients.

If you give up some of your time for free, then you are taking some time away from your business. Even if you are a brand new freelancer, you have chosen this path because you believe that you are good at what you do and that you can bring some skills to the table. Your skills deserve a decent reward.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Have you ever worked for free? If so, then do comment below. Did more work materialise? Do you agree with me that freelancers should not work for free? Please comment below.

Share

Freelancer Friday – What makes a readable blog post?

30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 5

Blog post visitors are tricky beasts! We are told that we have a very short time in which to grab their attention and persuade them to stay on the blog. How can you ensure that your blog visitors might be tempted to stay? When you are a freelancer, it can be even more important – you rely on your blog to showcase your talents and your business.

Aim the subject towards your readership. It’s no good blogging about upholstery if your audience is here to learn about freelancing. Freelancer, make the subject relevant to your intended audience and even more important, use relevant images too.

 

Images

Pick your images for the impact that they will make, as well as their relevance to the blog post. I look for either bright colourful images that are not too distant or too fuzzy for the size that I need them, or distinctive black and white images can work well too. Either way, the subject needs to be clear and the background works with the picture rather than against it. I always think that the pictures you choose are individual to you and really enhance your post.

Paragraphs

Break your blog post into smaller chunks or paragraphs. When you change the subject, change the paragraph. Keep the paragraphs short and don’t use too many connectives – better to have short clear sentences. You can also divide your blog post up, using subheadings which help your reader to have a clearer idea of what the blog post is about.

Don’t worry too much about a ‘tidy’ blog post at the point of first draft. It is more important to get your thoughts and feelings on the page and shape the post. Once you have said what you want to say, then you can go back over it and polish it.

How long should your blog post be?

Blog posts are tending towards the longer end at the moment: lengths of 1,000 words or more are not uncommon. This is due to the super power of a long blog post to keep you on the page for longer (which is a Good Thing according to Google). This is wonderful for the more wordy among us, but I’ve always found that my blog posts find their own length – they just seem right when they’re done.

By the way, if you can tie blog posts together and do a series, so much the better. Hopefully you can keep bringing back your visitors for more.

Finding your voice

The most interesting blog posts for me are ones where you can hear the author’s voice. For example, I can usually hear Sarah Arrow’s voice reading her blog posts and anyone who knows her would probably do the same. My voice is not so well known, but when I use anecdotes from my life, I am at my most real. I would also say that this can be quite scary to do. Don’t be afraid to change names and make people unrecognisable to themselves, but a little storytelling can help a blog to change from a so-so blog to a post that people will remember and may come back to read again.

Finally, find time to post! You are a fine one to talk, I hear you say to me and you are right. I have been guilty of not finding time to post to my blog. I am making up for it with 30 days of blog penance and I am enjoying it – so far. Finding a rhythm and time to post ensures that when that client comes across your blog, it doesn’t look like a ghost town. You want to be present in your blog and that can only happen when you post.

So enjoy your time on the blogging challenge and keep going!

What tips do you have for making your blog readable? Please share in the comments below.

Share

Freelance Writing: 12 Ways to Promote Your Blog Post

Producing a piece of writing for a client who has commissioned freelance services from you, or for  your own website should be a regular job because of the information and interest it offers to potential customers. However it is not enough to just write articles and web content, you also need to promote it, so that you will attract attention, readers and therefore possible clients or customers to your website. Offering blog and website promotion alongside blog and article writing enables the writer to offer a whole new set of skills to attract clients.

Here are 12 ways that you can promote a new blog post:

  1. Post to social media. Rewrite the headline of your blog post to your followers on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In and any other social media that you have for your business. You can also promote your content on Pinterest and Instagram. Sum up your headline and add a link and a picture for the most interest. Schedule your blog post promotion to run regularly alongside other interesting relevant content.
  2. Share on your personal social media profiles and tag anyone who you think might be interested
  3. Share your blog post on relevant #hours on Twitter. A useful tool is to know when your local #hour is on. Examples might include #Brumhour, #Worcestershirehour and #Malvernhour. These time slots offer the chance to promote your business, which if you include the tag, will then be retweeted to other followers of the tag. These are particularly good for freelance businesses.
  4. Tag possible infested parties when using social media
  5. Leave an interesting and relevant comment on blogs that link to your business. Some blogs allow links back to your website in your name. Blogs that have a high ranking in search engines can return on keyword results for a long time after you left the comment. Make sure that the subject of the blog post you are commenting on is linked to the one that you are promoting.
  6. Answer relevant questions on business forums, Linked-In groups or Facebook groups
  7. Add a relevant post to Linked-In for people to like and comment on
  8. Join Sarah Arrow’s 30 day blog writing challenge – there are normally a number of people doing it at once and it brings a number of blog readers with it. Of course you need to read and comment on other people’s blogs too. By the way, it costs just £1 to join!
  9. Find some groups on Facebook who might be interested in what you are writing about and promote your blog post to them
  10. When approaching potential freelance clients, include a link to your website and invite them to comment on the subject
  11. Include the blog post in a newsletter to your clients on your email list
  12. Include a link to your website on your CV, so that potential clients can check out your writing

Promoting your newly written blog post will help you to increase its readership and help to reach out to clients that you are hoping to freelance for.

What has worked for you?

Share

There’s no such thing as a free lunch – should you write for free?

Actually, there is such a thing as a free lunch! My church put on a free lunch on the first Saturday of every month. They offer soup, fresh crusty bread and cakes, and it is very popular. Some of the homeless people in the town are waiting eagerly outside, at 12 pm, ready to come and eat and stay until the end, at 2. I have known people who are struggling, who are down on their luck, or just not making ends meet that month, come and enjoy a free hot meal. Not even a collection is taken – it is completely free.

However, when you are setting out as a writer, where do you find opportunities to write, if not for free? There are job ads everywhere, offering internships, voluntary positions, or even, the old chestnut, more paid work will be along soon! How do you know whether this is a position that will give you good experience and bring along better things, or whether you are just being taken advantage of? Here are three opportunities, where you might consider offering your services for free, and three where you would be well-advised to stay clear.

Take it!

  1. A local charity is looking for someone to help with writing some articles for the magazine. It is a subject that you know something about, and you would like to write more about. Yes – especially if you are looking for some clips for a portfolio. This kind of thing is fine, especially for smaller, local charities. The only time I would be hesitant, would be if this were for a charity that could afford to pay. Also, make it clear that it would take second place to paid work, and limit how much you produce for them.
  2. A friend is starting up a business and wants to set up a website. They are looking for help to put content together. You agree to write some pages for them, if you can link to their website on your portfolio. Yes – but with provisos! Not everyone chooses to work with friends – it can be a fast way to lose a friendship! Decide on the scope of the work before you start – how many articles, and know how long it is going to take you. Again, free work should only be done after paid work is done.
  3. You decide to join an article-writing website. The article titles are chosen by you, so you can write about what you want, and the website puts advertising on your articles. You can collect the money for the advertising, once it reaches a certain amount. Your articles are passed by an editor before being published. Again – a qualified yes! This is something that I did, when just starting out. I liked the idea that the article had to be passed by an editor, so that meant it had to pass certain style guides. It taught me how to write a headline and how to write for the web. I made a little money out of it – but don’t expect to get seriously rich from this kind of set up! Also do some research before joining such a website – some are better regarded than others. It’s best to check out reviews first.

Don’t Touch it!

  1. A company posts on a job board, looking for writers. They suggest that the opportunity will be great exposure and experience for a writer – but they can’t afford to pay yet. They say that there may be payment somewhere down the line… no! The problem is, that you don’t know the person and you have no idea about their circumstances. They may be telling the truth, but they may not. Stay clear or be taken advantage of!
  2. You are emailed by a person you don’t know, out of the blue. They offer minimal compensation, but ask for a free trial of your writing to check whether you are up to the right standard. Not recommended! If they receive enough writers willing to do a free trial – will they need to pay at all? They may have emailed you, but you have no guarantee that this work is going to be worth your while. I have occasionally sent over a trial piece – but on the understanding that if they want to use it, I want to be paid for it!
  3. You offer an article to a publication that pay for print and online pieces. Their reply tells you that they won’t be paying you because your piece will published as a blog post. You are a new writer, looking for clips – what do you do? This happened to an experienced freelancer who pulled the piece rather than give this publication free work. They would not have offered the work if they had thought that they would not be paid. This feels like a scam – and you should value your work too much to be taken in by it. If something doesn’t feel right – then walk away. There will be other opportunities.
Share

7 retro blog posts you might like to check out

7 retro blog posts

When you’ve put a lot of effort into writing your blog posts, it can be difficult to lose them off the top page and awkward for visitors to your page to find and read them, unless of course, they found them through searching a specific topic in Google. So it is good to occasionally write a blog post review to search through your blog and find some of the highlights that may enjoy seeing the light of day again.

I have enjoyed searching through my blog and finding some of my highlights from recent years. Many of these were from a 30 day blogging challenge I undertook in 2016. Definitely think it’s time for another one!

  1. Great Hero Character Names

In this blog post, I wrote about some of my favourite character names in novels and why I liked them.

2. My Top 10 Fictional Villains

What is a hero without a villain to try to foil them? These are some of my favourite villains, but I know there are many more.

3. Writing Prompts, Story, part 1 and Story part 2, and Editing a Story

I’m cheating here – there are actually 4 blog posts in one go: writing prompts and parts 1 and 2 of a story. I had fun creating this. Then I wrote a further blog post, explaining how I might edit the story, having read it back and analysed what I had written.

4. Procrastination and the Writer

This blog post was one of the most popular on my blog at one point. I think it chimes with most people who want to be writers.

5. 30 Ways to find Blog Post Ideas

For those days when procrastination is at its highest…

6. Six Girl BFFs in Fiction

I love a story with a really good girl BFF in it and here are some of my favourites.

7. Ten of the Best Bromances in Fiction

You can’t leave the boys out! Here my top ten bromances in fiction too.

Share

7 Ways to Find that Next Blog Post

Blog post ideas can come from anywhere if you just look.

There are times when writing a blog comes so easily. Then there are times when it becomes more difficult. It seems that every subject that you want to write about, has been already covered many times before, by more esteemed writers, in such a better way than you could ever write.

What’s the point?

Surely, when it has been said before, there is no point in rehashing old ideas, old arguments, boring anecdotes and yawn-worthy lists. No one can possibly have any interest in what you have to say.

Well, possibly not, but do you really speak for the whole of the global population? In these days of the internet, absolutely anyone could come across your blog and read your next post. And this could never happen, if you hadn’t written it. You see, writing something, anything has to be better than writing nothing. At least then you have something to show for your time.

So, assuming that you are not going to give in to unworthy feelings, here are some ideas on where to start when all inspiration for the next blog post has left you.

  1. Read a couple of favourite blogs. Find out what other bloggers are talking about. This is not so that you can copy what they are doing, but one possible blog post is to acknowledge another author’s post and answer it, or give your own twist on it. It can be helpful to see what others are talking about. Read critically and an idea may pop into your own mind. If two or three ideas come along, then jot them down. It is always useful to have some ideas on the go.
  2. Look at news in the niche that you want to find a blog post for. You may find some inspiration in what others have been achieving. There is nothing stopping you contacting someone to ask for more information, or even an interview for your blog if you wish. Most people like the idea of some self-promotion.
  3. Are there any authors who have books coming out linked to the topic you blog about? Reach out to them and see if they would like to promote their book on your blog. You can email an interview if you prefer not to interview in person. This can also be a great way to network.
  4. Answer a question. This could be a question asked in a forum, a question that you have been asked, or even a question that you, yourself have asked in the past. If it is your own question, then research the answer and give the best two or three replies. Chances are that someone has answered it, somewhere.
  5. Write a book review. Is there a book that you have found really helpful, or that you enjoyed reading? Let others know your thoughts.
  6. Write about something controversial. Put forward your arguments, or even debate the rights and wrongs of the situation. However, be prepared that you may get some attention over this, possibly even the wrong kind of attention. It’s a good way to get yourself noticed, though!
  7. Write about a problem you are having. Explain how you solved it, including the steps you took to get there. It may strike a chord with other people.

These are just seven ideas for how to find a blog post to write when you feel as though you have written it all before. Hopefully you have found something there that will work for you.

How do you come up with new blog posts to write? Do you have periods of time where you find it difficult? Share your tips below.

Share

New Look Creative Writer – Spot the Change

My blog has changed its theme. I really liked the old Dynablue theme, but I felt it was time for a change for three reasons:

  1. I was looking for something more clean and up to date. I felt that the old blue theme was looking a bit dated. I needed a change
  2. Websites have moved on quite a bit since I set up Creative Writer and I Needed to move on too
  3. I was bored!

Changing the theme is reasonably easy in WordPress; you just find a theme you would like to use, check it out as a sample, then click and use. Some of themes can be customised to suit your tastes as needed.

Hope you enjoy the new look.

What have you done differently this week?

Share

Day 30 – 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Final Review

It’s here – my final blog post of my 30 day blogging challenge! It’s been quite a journey involving late nights, frantic Google searches and lots of cups of tea. Along the way, I’ve made some friends and my blog is definitely better for it.

sparkler by Markus Grossalber on Flickr CC
sparkler by Markus Grossalber on Flickr CC

I began my challenge, hoping that I would be able to find 30 different blogs to post, and I have ended it with so many more ideas on where I want to take my blog and the kinds of subjects I want to post on. I had posted sporadically for a couple of years, struggling to find topics to talk about, now hopefully I will be able to continue blogging once or twice a week. My blogging muscle has grown, just as Sarah predicted it would.

So here are some stats for my final review:

Fastest blog post to write:

Day 25 – 3 Quotes for writers

This took less than half an hour, and felt like a very lazy post, although I do know a website that just seems to create author quotes. I was very short of time that day, though

Most fun to research:

Day 23 – 7 More crazy business ideas

There’s another couple of blog posts in there some time…

My favourite blog post:

Day 21 – Infographics. I had so much fun creating those. I will definitely be making more in the future.

Most visited blog post:

Day 17 – Testimonials about my work (51 impressions)

Day 3 – Five qualities of a freelance writer came a close second with 48. It’s telling that the keywords ‘freelance writer’ are in the second post and I might have got some random traffic because that is a popular keyword.

Most commented on blog post:

Day 28 – Procrastination & the Writer really got a good reaction. People seemed to relate to it well and I got some comments on Facebook too.

Day 29 – 30 Ideas for Blog Posts came a close second. I reckon I’m going to go looking for another 30 ideas at some point! Just to stretch myself.

Most recommended blog post for other Challengers to do:

Day 27 – Five Retro Blog Posts. It was great fun to go through my old blog posts and pick five of the best. I tidied them up, and added new pictures in some cases, but it’s a great way to showcase yourself to people who are just discovering you.

I have had such fun with this challenge. Thanks go to Kevin and Sarah for all their encouragement, emails & stickers! I would hope to come back to this challenge again in about a year for another 30 blog posts because it has been a challenge well worth taking.

If you are reading this in the middle of your own challenge then I would encourage you to keep going, you will gain so much from it.

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

Share