I enjoy doing the research for and writing southern historical fiction. The novel I'm writing is set in the Carolinas in the 1760s. I also wrote a vintage postcard book for Arcadia Publishing titled The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. This blog chronicles my journey as a writer. Come along!
Since writing Friday’s blog post (Getting Blog Traffic in 2017,) I’ve decided to change my routine and just blog on Mondays. When I read that blogging once-a-week was ideal for someone trying to establish their brand, I thought, “That’s not for me. I like blogging twice-a-week.” I couldn’t get the theory out of my head. By late Friday night I had decided to start blogging just once-a-week.
I’ve chosen Mondays. I wanted to choose Tuesdays, but for those of us who manage the WordPress.com blogs we read by getting them in a weekly format, they arrive on Monday. If I wait until Tuesday to blog, some readers won’t receive my post until the following Monday. That’s not good. I’ll try early Mondays (right after midnight on Sundays) for a while and see how that works. The great thing about a blog is that the blogger makes up her own rules. My kind of activity!
The Spanish Coin
Something happened on Saturday that told me I’d made the right decision about my blog. Or, perhaps what happened on Saturday came about as the result of the stress relief Friday night’s decision gave me. Follow?
If you’ve been following my blog for very long, you know I’ve been working on a novel manuscript with the working title of The Spanish Coin for more than a decade. (I’m not only a slow reader, I’m a slow writer!) Several months ago I discovered some facts that made it clear that I needed to make major changes in my historical novel. Another name for that is REWRITE, as in START OVER! After 10 years of work, this realization knocked the wind out of my sails. I have struggled over this for about three months – maybe longer. (It feels like three years.)
I knew I had to change the names and location of my novel. I believed I could keep the working title, The Spanish Coin, but many of the details of the story and perhaps most importantly, the climax, had to change. After kicking around ideas for weeks, on Saturday I finally settled on a new location for the story. I changed the names of most of the characters, and I changed the year it happened. Those decisions freed me up to start writing the new outline. By the time I turned off the computer at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 25, I had written 300 words of backstory, more than 2,500 words of outline, and 250 words of character sketches. I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders!
Saturday was just the beginning, but I can’t tell you how invigorated I feel knowing that I have started the rewrite. I’m optimistic about what I will get accomplished this week!
Until my next blog post on July 3
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Secret Speech, by Tom Rob Smith.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time and feel as optimistic about your work in progress as I do mine.
Tomorrow is my blog’s 7th blogaversary. My first blog post was on June 24, 2010. It doesn’t seem like I’ve been blogging for seven years. There’s a good reason for that. In 2010 I only blogged four times. I blogged once in 2011. In 2011 I blogged only seven times. It wasn’t until July 7, 2014 that I started blogging on a regular basis. That was the month before the publication of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I finally felt like I had something to write about!
I am constantly learning more about blogging. You may have noticed that I’ve started trying to write catchier blog post titles. I’m also trying to limit my post titles to five words. I read somewhere that’s ideal, but now I don’t remember why. Seems like it has something to do with showing up in a Google search.
Janice Wald’s blog post on June 10, 2017 (http://www.mostlyblogging.com/generate-better-traffic) said something that made me stop in my tracks and reread a couple of paragraphs. The post was written by Raymond Crain, who works for E2M, a social media marketing agency based in San Diego.
In a nutshell, Mr. Crain said that blogging daily is out and blogging good content is in. Yay! I don’t have to feel guilty for only blogging twice-a-week!
He said Google now puts more emphasis on the “intent” of the searcher and the “quality” of the blog post. If you’re blogging for your own enjoyment, posting daily is fine, but if you’re trying to get your brand out there and drive more traffic to your blog you might want to read Mr. Crain’s article. This was just one of his five recommendations.
A Writer’s Path blog
Guest post contributor Shelley Widhalm said on Ryan Lanz’s A Writer’s Path blog on June 13, 2017 (https://ryanlanz.com/2017/06/13/why-blogging-is-important-for-writers/) that blogs are here to stay, but that it is quality and not quantity that’s important when establishing your brand and your credentials as a blogger worth reading. Therefore, there is more to blogging than attaining high search engine optimization (SEO.)
Ms. Widhalm stated, “Research shows that blogs should be posted once a week on the same day of the week . . . .”
She did not cite that specific research, but I will take the statement under consideration and continue to watch to see what becomes standard practice. Blogging is a creative outlet for me, so I won’t promise to conform to recommended schedules.
What do you think?
Would you prefer that I only blog once-a-week? I might give that some thought.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have good book to read. I’ve just finished reading Camino Island, by John Grisham and Put the Cat in the Oven Before You Describe the Kitchen, by Jake Vander Ark. (More on that in July when I blog about the books I read in June.)
If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.
I read a guest blog post by storyteller E.M. Welsh on May 8, 2017. It was posted on Kristen Kieffer’s Well-Storied.com blog [https://www.well-storied.com] and addressed writer’s ego. I was interested in the topic, so I read the entire blog post. The post prompted me to go to Ms. Welsh’s website. I signed up for her weekly e-mails because what she had written gave me a different perspective on storytelling.
Quoting from an e-mail I received from E.M. Welsh a few minutes later:
“You might think you know what a “storyteller” is, but over at emwelsh.com we have a different idea about the definition, and that idea is the core of my website.
“A storyteller is someone who loves storytelling in all forms. This means not just novel writing, like what Kristen [Kieffer] teaches, but screenwriting, playwriting, and even video game writing as well.
Ms. Welsh continued, “Because of this love of all mediums, the storyteller always thinks in terms of what they can do to tell the best story possible, not to do what is considered comfortable. So, if that means writing a screenplay instead of a novel, even though they’re more familiar with prose, they’ll do it if it means telling a better story.”
I must admit that, although I wrote two historical plays for my church’s 250th anniversary in 2001, since then I have thought of myself as an aspiring novelist. Ms. Welsh’s e-mail statements and additional information on her website and in her free downloadables made me stop and consider how limiting that mindset (the “aspiring novelist” one) can be.
In a nutshell
Ms. Welsh’s theory is that the story dictates the format. I had never looked at it that way, so it is interesting and enlightening to consider. What this boils down to is the fact that the story is the important thing. Not the writer, but the story.
The story tells the writer whether it is a novel, a screenplay, a play, or a video game.
Looking at a story from this perspective is both challenging and freeing for a writer.
Am I writing because I want to be a writer, or am I writing because I am a writer?
In other words, am I in love with the dream of what it would be like to see my name as author of a book, or am I compelled to write because that is what I am driven to do?
Kristen Kieffer and E.M. Welsh warn us not to let ego get in the way of writing.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. I finished reading The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah (excellent!) and am currently reading Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.
Today I’m giving you a glimpse of what I deal with on a daily basis while I attempt to be a writer. No one told me I would have days like this back in 2001 when I took that fiction writing course.
I received an e-mail from LinkedIn. It mentioned “productivity bots.” I Googled that, since I didn’t know what it was. In addition to being the larva of the botfly, a bot can be an app that performs an automated task. I even heard bots mentioned in a recent U.S. Senate hearing. They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere!
On May 9 I received an e-mail from Hootsuite’s Global Webinar Team. The headline was, “Prove the ROI of Your Social Strategy Tuesday, May 23, 2017 11am PT/2pm ET.” Nowhere did the e-mail explain what ROI is, so I “Googled” it and learned that ROI is Return on Investment.
I suppose anyone who didn’t already know that didn’t need to register for the webinar. Or perhaps I should register. Maybe I would learn how my minimal financial investment in social media is translating into readers and followers. Or maybe not.
Lead Gen Tips
Someone followed me on Twitter. His profile said he offers “lead gen tips.” I had to Google that, too, because I didn’t have clue what it meant. Since my search brought up 10,800,000 results, I must be the last person on Earth to know that “lead gen tips” is short for “lead generation tips.” With that knowledge, I knew a little more than I had before, but not much.
The “lead gen tips” Google results had titles that contained words and phrases such as “The Best,” “A Complete Guide,” “30 Actionable,” and “63 Lead Generation Strategies.”
That last one came from a person or company called Marketing Wizdom. I don’t know about you, but I’m leery of people who deliberately misspell words in a company’s name or elsewhere. I became aware of the dangers in this years ago when my sister was a literacy tutor. It’s inconsiderate to people who are struggling to learn English or who are learning to read to misspell words. But I digress.
Other search results included the following: “30 … Tips & Tricks,” “32 Clever,” “Best… Tips and Tricks,” “4 Tips,” “5 … Tips,” and “10 Tips.”
That was just on the first screen. I stopped there.
I couldn’t help but notice that all the websites listed above got the memo but the last one. That was the memo saying you’ll get more hits if you don’t put “10” in your blog post title.
When I got to the bottom of the screen, I noticed that one of the “Searches related to lead gen tips” was “lead generation definition.” Now we’re getting somewhere! I clicked on that and the definition that appeared in the little box on the screen stated, “the action or process of identifying and cultivating potential customers for a business’s products or services.” Okay. Now I understand “lead gen tips.”
Something else I understand is that I will never be able to keep up with today’s business and computer jargon. I’ll keep trying, though. Just like taking shorthand in high school (yes, I’m that old!) ruined my handwriting, I’m afraid texting has resulted in extreme abbreviation in all forms of communication. (Is “extreme abbreviation” a term, or did I just coin it?)
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah, for Monday’s book club meeting while I’m trying to finish reading Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees. I’m also reading World of Toil and Strife, by Peter N. Moore, for research purposes. I’m also still reading The Source, by James A. Michener, when I have time. At this rate, it will take me a year to read the entire book!
If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time and don’t have to spend as much time as I do using search engines to translate abbreviations and jargon.
P.S. I think all the images I’ve included in my blog posts until today were photographs I had taken. I discovered a free stock photo website, Unsplash.com, a couple of days ago. Today’s image is from that site and was taken by Pim Chu of Thailand.
I received an e-mail on May 4 from ProBlogger.com with a link to a blog post about conversion habits. I’m not a theology student. I didn’t have a clue what “conversion habits” were or if I needed to try to work them into my life. I didn’t know if a conversion habit was a good habit or a bad habit. ProBlogger.com is a trusted source, so I clicked on the link to learn more.
The blog was written by a guest blogger, John Stevens. Mr. Stevens, according to the blog, “is the CEO of Hosting Facts, a startup that helps consumers make data-backed decisions when choosing web hosts. He is also a frequent contributor to WebsiteSetup where he helps businesses set up their website.”
Used by the world’s greatest bloggers
The best I could tell, conversion habits are practices the world’s greatest bloggers use to convert a blog reader into a customer. Since I have nothing to sell at the moment, other than copies of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, three Morrison genealogies compiled by my sister and me, and several privately-printed-on-demand booklets I wrote about Rocky River Presbyterian Church history, I don’t think I need to expend my limited energy working on conversion habits. It’s not like I’m trying to get my books on the New York Times Bestseller List!
I didn’t really need anything to add to my “to-do” list, so I was relieved that I don’t need to be bothered with conversion habits – at least for now.
(Warning: shameless plug — Incidentally, if you’re interested in purchasing one of my books, visit https://www.janetmorrisonbooks.com or visit your favorite independent bookstore.)
That didn’t mean I didn’t keep reading the blog post, though. I am a curious person, and the post’s title promised me nine conversion habits. I got down to the ninth habit, thinking I was almost finished. I could delete the e-mail and go to bed. But no. The ninth conversion habit was, “They use prominent CTAs.”
What the heck is a prominent CTA?
Turn the light back on. There will be no sleeping tonight until I figure out what a prominent CTA is. I read on. The first sentence asked me what color my CTAs were. That sounded like a personal question to me, and I felt myself blush. Never fear! I surmised that you want your CTA to be a contrasting color to that of your logo.
The blog post went on to talk about the Von Restorff effect, which is also called the “isolation effect.” Not being a student of marketing, I wasn’t familiar with that effect. Mr. Stevens explained it as follows: “this principle states that when confronted with multiple stimuli (in our case, CTAs), the stimuli that stand out the most wins our attention.”
Regaining my composure, I kept reading. The next sentence informed me that “your CTAs have a big impact on your conversion rates.” Since I don’t feel the need for conversion rates, I’m once again tempted to delete the e-mail and call it a night. I keep reading, though, because I still don’t have a clue what a CTA is, and I try to learn something new every day – even if it appears to be useless information. I read on.
Mr. Stevens continued with, “Since your CTAs lead visitors to subscribe to your newsletter, download your eBooks or buy your courses, it makes sense to optimize it for higher CTR.” I don’t know what a CTR is, but it’s far too late in the evening to chase after that rabbit. After all, I need something to do tomorrow, right? (No – I’m too curious. Google search. CTR is currency transaction report. That’s all I need to know about that.)
I learned that a study revealed that changing the color of CTAs resulted in an increase of 21% in a blog’s conversion rate. That sounded impressive, so I looked at the illustrations. The best I could tell, a CTA is a clickable button that says something like, “Get started now!”
But what is a CTA?
A search on Google, “What is a CTA?” brought up the definition of a computed tomography angiography. I wasn’t just in the wrong pew, I was in the wrong church! Another search choice was “What is a CTA on a website?” Bingo!
The answer that popped up when I clicked on that option was, “In web design, a CTA may be a banner, button, or some type of graphic or text on a website meant to prompt a user to click it, and continue down a conversion funnel.”
My response to that explanation was, “That’s all?” (Peggy Lee should be singing, “Is That All There Is?” right about now! For those of you who don’t know who Peggy Lee was, that song was a big hit for her in 1969.) I just spent 10 minutes trying to learn what a CTA is and it’s just a button? I can see why they call it a CTA. That’s a lot more impressive than “button.”
I feel like I’ve been on a wild goose chase. Tomorrow will I still remember what conversion habits and CTAs are? It makes me wonder if universities now offer a Bachelor of Science degree in Blogging. Are such courses as Conversion Habits 101 and CTAs 101 included in the required curriculum? Can one minor in CTR?
This stuff gives me a headache. All I want to do is write my novel and finish reading my current library book so I can start reading the next one.
All jokes aside, Mr. Stevens received wonderful comments and praise for his blog post. It was well-written, well-illustrated, and apparently contained useful information for people who are in the business of selling a product through their blog. I’m just not there yet. I highly recommend the blog post to anyone who is marketing a tangible product or something intangible such as a writing course.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.
Zilch is what I’ve accomplished toward starting over to write my first historical novel. I have successfully completed the 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge by writing a post today that has something to do with the letter “Z.” I enjoyed parts of the challenge, but I’m glad English only has 26 letters! It was interesting and I picked up some new followers, but I don’t think I’ll do it again. Beginning on Tuesday, May 2, I plan to return to my former routine of blogging on Tuesdays and Fridays.
With this blog challenge finished
I look forward to having more time to delve back into the various resources available to me as I keep researching the facts surrounding the core event in The Spanish Coin manuscript. Several more books are coming from two public library systems, so you know what I’ll be doing next week.
What happened to The Spanish Coin?
I revealed in my “H is for Historical Fiction” blog post on April 10, 2017 (H is for Historical Fiction) that I had discovered some pertinent information about the core of my story that necessitated my starting over. Several years (actually a decade) and 96,000 words later, I’m back to having a blank page.
Since April 10 I have done a lot of thinking and reading. I’ll need to do a little more work on the research end of things and then determine how to rewrite The Spanish Coin. It might not survive with that working title. Or I might be able to salvage that title and change the circumstances of its importance. Or I might just take the spark of the true story as my inspiration and write a totally new story.
When I figure out which option to settle on, I’ll let you know.
With the A to Z Blog Challenge Finished
I look forward to having time to read more books. My current “Books I Want to Read” list is so long I fear I won’t live long enough to read all of them. With new books being released every month, the list just keeps growing.
Until my next blog (which should be on May 2)
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m enjoying Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult, World of Toil and Strife: Community Transformation in Backcountry South Carolina, 1750-1805, by Peter N. Moore, and The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction, by James Alexander Thom. I have to take note and reread parts of Mr. Thom’s book occasionally. The bibliography in Mr. Moore’s book has already led me to more books I need to read before I figure out the verdict for The Spanish Coin.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. I hope you’ve gotten past the blank page stage on your first novel.
I’m feeling my age today, after going up into the attic on Tuesday. Not a good idea for someone of my age with CFS/ME and fibromyalgia. That said, Wednesday wasn’t a good day for me to try to figure out something new on the computer. There’s really not a good day for me to do that. I should only attempt such tasks when I’m at the top of my game. With no such days on the horizon and needing to blog about something starting with the letter “W,” I forged ahead.
What starts with W?
On the 23rd day of the 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge, the featured letter is “W.” I’ve struggled over what to write about today. There are so many possibilities, including Why I Write, Writing, Webinars I’ve Attended, Wufoo.com, or the Where Writers Win website.
W is for Wufoo.com
Wednesday was the day I could finally sit down at the computer and try to figure out how Wufoo.com could integrate with MailChimp on WordPress.com so I could have a mailing list. In the event I ever want to announce something to my readers before or without making a public announcement, I need an e-mail mailing list.
Other bloggers have such lists, so how difficult can it be, right?
I spent a couple of hours on Wednesday afternoon working my way through the simple instructions on Wufoo.com trying to set up a way for me to add a sign-up form on my blog for a mailing list. As often happens, the list of “do this and you will see that” suckered me into thinking I could do. I improvised when I “did this and I didn’t see that.” I set up an account. I created a form. I filled in blanks. I wrote little notes to my readers telling them I would never share their information with anyone. I marked the parts of the form that are not optional. I went to WordPress.com and cut and pasted the Wufoo code so it would show up as the third widget down in my blog’s sidebar. I thought I had everything accomplished, but on Wednesday night as I schedule this blog post for 6:50 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, April 27, no such sign-up form has appeared on my blog.
It’s my fault
I in no way blame Wufoo.com for this. It is obviously an error on my part. It has been another frustrating day in the life of someone who is technologically-challenged and just wants to be a writer.
“I’d rather do it myself!”
One day I will have to give up on setting this mailing list up myself, but I will not give up on the mailing list. I’m trying not to bother my niece’s husband with this request. He set up my website, and I’m sure he can do this for me, too. I am reminded that as a very small child, one of my favorite things to say was, “I’d rather do it myself!” Apparently, that’s still true.
A to Z Blog Challenge
I’m delighted to note that there are only three days remaining in the A to Z Blog Challenge. Topics for “Y” and “Z” are still up for grabs, in case anyone has any suggestions for me. I’m looking for words starting with “Y” and “Z” that have something to do with writing for my blog on April 29 and 30, 2017.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.