Left in the Dust by Social Media

Photo by Wynand Uys on Unsplash

I’ve blogged before about my love/hate relationship with social media. Most of the forms of social media take me out of my comfort zone. Actually, that is an understatement.

Blogging

I enjoy blogging and interacting with people who read my posts. I follow a lot of blogs and have benefited from them. I learn from them, I’m inspired by them, and I’m entertained by them. 

Facebook

Facebook comes in a distant second place. I really don’t need to see a picture of what you ate for breakfast. The most redeeming qualities of Facebook are that it gives me an easy way to stay in touch with friends in Europe and family around the United States, and it gives me a way to know the political leanings of some of my Facebook friends so I’ll know what I can or cannot say to them in order to keep them as friends.

The down side is that I’ve learned things I wish I hadn’t about some of my friends. Suffice it to say, if the topic of politics is going to come up at my next high school reunion or family gathering, I don’t want to be there.

Pinterest

I like Pinterest, but I haven’t put enough time into it to make it a productive platform for my writing. I spend more time on Pinterest than I should, but not necessarily to promote my writing. I pin many articles to my “The Writing Life” board, but I use it more for the hobbies I enjoy.

Twitter

I’m sure this sounds blasphemous to the young adults who might read this post, but I’m not much of a cell phone person. I could really do without it. I refuse to be ruled by a phone. I don’t want to be tied to a phone. I don’t want a phone to monopolize my time, energy, or attention. I want a phone available for emergencies – and I mean the old-timey understanding of what an emergency is.

Instagram

I set up an account a couple of years ago and never took the next step. Again, it’s related to my cell phone and its built-in camera. I’m sure it’s convenient for many people. I just don’t get it.

All the Social Media I’ve not heard of

I guess that’s self-explanatory.

Since my last blog post

I’ve had a net gain of 4,550 words to my The Doubloon manuscript, bringing my current word count to 55,400. I get to start on Chapter 14 today. I can’t wait!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. Nothing grabbed my attention last week. I had to return The Irishman’s Daughter, by V.S. Alexander to the public library without finishing it. I’m on the waitlist for it again so I can finish reading it on my Kindle. Part of the problem is how tired my eyes get reading regular size print. On my Kindle I can adjust the font size. This historical novel is set in Ireland during the potato famine.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­“Two Books that Encourage Change.” Thank you for providing the writing prompt, Rae, in “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog. Here’s a link to her April 1, 2019 blog post in which she listed all the #TwoForTuesday prompts for the month of April: https://educatednegra.blog/2019/04/. Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

In my blog on Monday, April 29, 2019 I’ll explain what triggered today’s rant.

Let’s continue the conversation

What’s your favorite of all the social media? What’s your least favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Janet

This blog’s for you!

Sometimes I get carried away and forget my blog is for you. It’s not for me. You have a limited amount of time to read, so I’m flattered that you read my blog posts.

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

If my blog doesn’t fill a need of yours, then reading it is a waste of your time. The pressure is on me every week to inspired you, make you laugh, give you something to think about, or at least put a smile on your face.

Although I’ve been blogging for almost nine years, I’m still learning. If there is something on my blog page that isn’t of benefit to my readers, I need to delete it.

Deleted national flags widget

In an effort to declutter my blog on February 4, I deleted the widget that showed the flags of all the countries in which my blog readers reside. I realized that showing those 93 flags was for my own edification, not yours. That widget was providing information that you probably didn’t care about. I’m a geography nerd, so I found it very interesting.

Actually, I found it shocking and a bit frightening to know that people in that many countries had looked at my blog at least once. The biggest surprise was when the flag of the People’s Republic of China first appeared.

My most popular posts

In place of the national flags widget, I added a widget that lists my 10 most popular blog posts. This should help my new reader find some of my best posts, and it will help me see at a glance the topics that garner the most interest.

An unexpected source

I knew my blog was for my readers, but it wasn’t until I started reading Building a StoryBrand:  Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen, by Donald Miller that I was prompted to try to view my website and my blog through the eyes of a first-time visitor.

Everywhere Building a StoryBrand says, “customer,” I mentally substitute “reader.” Sometimes it works better than others. Although Mr. Miller’s book targets business owners, it made me ask myself how my website and blog portray me as a writer. I’ll continue to make changes that help first-time visitors become loyal readers.

Mr. Miller says a person should be able to look at my blog or my website and know within five seconds what I’m about.

I’m reminded of Alan Alda’s book

If you read my February 11, 2019 blog post, https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/02/11/the-other-three-books-i-read-in-january-2019/ you know I read Alan Alda’s book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?

That book prompted me to ask myself, “What does my reader need?” and “What is my reader hoping to gain by reading my words?” Mr. Miller’s book dovetails into Mr. Alda’s book and reinforces what Mr. Alda said about communication.

The purpose of my website and blog

Mr. Miller’s book prompted me to state the purpose of my website and blog in one sentence. When I got to the heart of what I’m trying to accomplish, this is what I concluded: 

The purpose of my website and blog is to show you that I write with authority and skill and, therefore, you can trust that my writing is worthy of your time.

If it sounds like I’m boasting, that’s not my intent. I’m setting the bar high for myself, and will read that purpose every day when I sit down at the keyboard.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I just finished listening to The Midwife’s Confession, by Diane Chamberlain. (Audio books come in handy when a reader has vertigo.)

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Don’t forget to look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow when I’ll reveal two books that remind me of someone. (Writing prompt provided by “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog post on January 8, 2019 (https://educatednegra.blog/2019/01/08/two-for-tuesday-prompts/comment-page-1/#comment-1646)

Let’s start a conversation

What are you hoping to find in my blog? A smile? Humor? Something to ponder? Inspiration? My take on a book I’ve read? Samples of my fiction writing? A variety of these?

Janet

I Forgot to Blog!

I try to plan most of my blog posts in advance. My ideas for my blog post yesterday included my thoughts about finding time to write during the holidays and just taking the easy way out and posting a photograph. The caption was going to be optional.

Did you notice I said, “My ideas for my blog post yesterday….?” There was no blog post yesterday. Not only have I squandered time for writing in December, I forgot to post a blog yesterday. No rambling thoughts about writing. No photograph. No caption. No blog post.

Squirrel 4
Who, me?

For those of you who hang on my every word and look forward to Monday mornings just because you know you’ll have a Janet Morrison blog post to read, I apologize. To the rest of you (and you know who you are) I join you in asking, “Who knew Janet blogged on Mondays?”

I forgot to blog, and the world continued to turn on its axis and revolve around the sun. Time did not stand still.

Next Monday is another holiday, but I’ll try to get back on track. On January 1, 2018, I plan to blog about how successful I was in meeting my 2017 personal reading challenge. There are holes like in Swiss cheese in my reading accomplishments this year. I could fill some of those holes by reading the rest of this week. I want to read, but I also want to sew. I also want to get my dulcimer out of its case and see if I still know how to play it.

I decided to take a few minutes today to reflect on the pros and cons of participating in a reading challenge.

The pros:

(1)  A reading challenge can prompt you to read something you might not otherwise read. Hence, the word “challenge.” For instance, one item on my personal reading challenge this year was to read a science fiction book. I’m not a fan of sci-fi. Sorry, I’m just not. I thought putting it on my challenge would force me to read a sci-fi book. It did not. I procrastinated for 12 months. It didn’t happen.

(2) A reading challenge nudges you to read a variety of books.

The cons:

(1)  I can only think of one. You can get so wrapped up in meeting your reading challenge that you miss the chance to read books you’d rather be reading. If you are a competitive person, you might let the challenge become more important than the reading. If that happens, the purpose of the challenge has been hijacked.

Your thoughts

Where do you stand when it comes to participating in a reading challenge? Do you find them helpful? Do you think they’re fun? Do you find them to be freeing or restraining? I invite you to comment about your reading challenge experiences below.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

On this day after Christmas, I hope all my Christian readers had an Advent season filled with blessings and a Christmas day overflowing with joy as you remembered the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

May the love, compassion, and joy of the season continue in our lives in the coming year.

Janet

Where My Blog and Novel Stand

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

 

Janet’s Writing Blog

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.

Janet

Getting Blog Traffic in 2017

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!

 

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Happy 7th Blogaversary to Janet’s Writing Blog!

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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.

MostlyBlogging.com

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.

Janet

Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2017 Theme Reveal

What is the Blogging from A to Z Challenge?

The Blogging from A to Z Challenge is an annual challenge open to all bloggers during the month of April. The first challenge was issued in 2010 and has steadily grown in participants each year. It is open to bloggers who write about any topic. I just learned about the challenge a couple of week ago.

Theme Reveal Day: March 20, 2017

My Blogging from A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal

Each participating blogger selects a theme for the challenge. My theme is Janet’s Writing Journey. That’s the theme of my blog already, but this challenge will force me to delve into some aspects of reading and writing that I maybe wouldn’t have written about otherwise.

How does the Challenge Work?

The challenge is to blog 26 days during April. This is based on the fact that there are 26 letters in the English alphabet. Each blog post must have a connection to a letter in the alphabet in chronological order. Posts are made on Saturday, April 1, then Monday through Saturday of each week through the end of the month plus a post on Sunday, April 30.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge Badge 2017

My Thoughts about the Challenge

This will be a challenge for me in more than one way. As you know, I usually only blog on Tuesdays and Fridays, so blogging 26 times in April will be a stretch for me. Add to that the requirement to connect with a specific letter each day, and it will definitely be a challenge!

In case you don’t want to receive a blog post from me every day, I ask you to please bear with me in April. I plan to go back to my usual blogging routine in May.

Until my next blog tomorrow

I hope you have a good book to read. (I’m reading Right Behind You, by Lisa Gardner.) If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time. If you’re a blogger, I invite you to consider committing to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2017. Information about the challenge can be found at http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/p/what-is-blogging-from-to-z.html.

Janet

Save

Mark de Castrique’s Mystery Writing Workshop – Part 2

Today’s blog post is a continuation of my blog post on October 19, 2016, about Mark de Castrique’s Mystery Writing Workshop I attended last Saturday at Lanier Library in Tryon, North Carolina.

lanier-library-in-tryon-nc-001

Picking up where I left off on October 19, today I will start by talking about the first of two writing exercises we did during the workshop.

A Writing Exercise

The most challenging part of the three-hour workshop was the first writing exercise. Participants were instructed to do the following in 20 minutes:

  1. Create a character who was a police officer or detective
  2. Think of (or write, if we wished) a bio for that character
  3. Place that character in a single setting
  4. Write a narrative scene in first person
  5. End the scene just before a body is discovered.

Each of us read our work aloud. Mr. de Castrique gave everyone positive feedback. I was amazed at the talent in the room. Mr. de Castrique did a good job making us feel like we were in a safe, non-judgmental place. He put all of us at ease.

Carolyn Wheat’s Four Arcs of a Book

Mr. de Castrique recommended How to Write Killer Fiction, by Carolyn Wheat. Ms. Wheat says a book has the following four arcs:

  1. The beginning
  2. The middle
  3. The place where the detective in a murder mystery faces something that seem impossible to overcome
  4. The ending.

Mr. de Castrique described each arc. He talked about novel endings that work and endings that fail.

Amateur Sleuth

The next thing Mr. de Castrique addressed was putting an amateur sleuth in your book. He talked about the advantages and disadvantages of doing that.

Theme

Mr. de Castrique said the theme is “the thing in a book that will haunt you.” He cautioned us that a book can turn into a sermon if the author tries too hard to drive a point home. (He gave Stephen King credit for having said that, but I paraphrased it.)

Group Writing Exercise

The workshop ended with a group writing exercise. It was a great idea and should help me to think of future story ideas. We had to be in agreement on our choices throughout the exercise, but it would certainly work for a writer working alone. Here’s what we got to work through together:

  1. Select a closed setting, such as a shopping mall
  2. Select six individuals whose occupations would place them at that closed setting without other people being there
  3. Assign an age to each of the six characters
  4. Decide on a secret that each character has
  5. Which one gets murdered and which one is the killer?

Five Takeaways

Five points that I took away from the workshop are as follows:

  1. A good book is one where at the end you liked the world the writer created so much that you would read the book again.
  2. If you can take a scene out without hurting the story, it never should have been there to begin with.
  3. The reader should forget she or he is reading.
  4. Every reader brings his or her own life experiences to the reading of a book, so it’s no wonder that you might hate a book but someone else might say it is the best book they’ve ever read.
  5. When stumped on what to write about, I should refer to last Saturday’s group writing exercise.

After the workshop, Mr. de Castrique autographed my copy of his new book, The Singularity Race. It was an enjoyable afternoon and well worth the cost and time invested in attending the workshop.

Until my next blog post in a few days, I hope you have a good book to read and, if you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet