My thoughts on writing tips found online and in published works (with some random thoughts thrown into the mix).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Improving your SEO

If you have your own website or blog, you have most likely heard of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. This is a tactic that helps boost your presence in search results. Why is this important? Because if you are low on the results totem pole, then no one is going to find you! If you are on the front page, however, people are more likely to click on your link, bringing in not only views but potential clients or buyers. It is up to you to keep them hooked with good content and/or products, but it is also up to you to make sure that they make it to your site in the first place.

While I have read several books and articles on this subject, they always seemed vague and never really helped me understand how to improve my SEO. I got the idea, but didn't know how to make or implement a plan. Keywords are great, but how do I insert them in my blog posts without making them awkward? If I write posts that aren't about writing, editing, and publishing, how do I still make sure that my blog shows up in search results for these topics? No one wants to beat their audience over the head in the interest of widening their audience, so it's important to maintain a balance. But how?

Today, I ran across a great post at the Writerland blog by Meghan Ward, called "9 SEO Tips for Authors" (click the link here: She really helps spell out the terms of SEO in a way that authors and others that might not delve so deeply into the world of technology and website searching. I really have no idea how search engines like Google actually work, so I didn't know where to begin. Meghan breaks it down into easy steps that help anyone improve their visibility in the World Wide Web.

One thing that I found interesting is that one way search engines decide what keywords to associate you with  is your bold text, headlines, and hyperlinks. I didn't know that the titles of my blog posts could really make that much of a difference. Simply by highlighting the words writing, editing, and publishing, I could be increasing my rank in search results for these topics. Pretty neat, huh?

I also found an intriguing tidbit in her point about contextual text. If you are writing about something off-topic, such as an author that writes sci-fi but is writing a post about the new Barbie doll, you can include a mini blurb for the end of each post that mentions what you really want the world to know about you. In this example, the writer could include a blurb that says "My book, ______, about _________, is due out on September 1st! To learn more about this book and my other works, check out my website, ______." It's that easy! You up your keywords, which increases your SEO potential, and it's really that simple.

For more helpful tips, please feel free to click the link about to Meghan Ward's blog post. She has many more useful insights into SEO to share!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Describing your Characters

During my daily blog-reading travels, I came across a post on The Bookshelf Muse blog by Angela Ackerman that I would like to share. The post, entitled "Physical Attribute Entry: Teeth", sparked my mind to think about the general idea presented at the beginning of the post. To find the full text, please visit:

Before talking about how to describe a character's teeth, the blogger points out how difficult it is to really nail down a good character description. In her own words, "too much will slow the pace or feel 'list-like', while too little will not allow readers to form a clear mental image." So, that begs the question, how do you find the balance?

When you are writing, you can picture your character as if they were physically standing before you. You could describe every feature, every hair, and every freckle. You could go on and on about how they dress, the way they walk, the particular accent they showcase when they speak, and how they hold their hands at their side. For you, the character is a real person that is unique and complex.

Some writers end up coming up with a list-like description because they want the reader to see the character the exact way they do, down to the very last detail. They want to recreate the person they see and force the reader to do the same. The fact is, however, that the reader will never see EXACTLY what you see, even if you draw a picture to put in the book or make an animated mini-movie. They will use their imagination to come up with their own version of the character. The best you can do is to describe the character in a way that will bring the two interpretations together.

To put it simply, you have to find a few key things that will bring out the essence of the character and his/her personality. For example, take Jack from the movie "Titanic." If you were to recreate him in a novel, your best chance of reaching synergy with the reader would be to pick out the things that make him "Jack." Instead of writing down a list describing every attribute of his hair, you must narrow it down. For instance, you could describe his love of having fun, his gorgeous smile, and his laid-back stance.

The best thing you can do for your character descriptions is to come to terms with the fact that your vision and that of the reader will never be the same. Accept that they will always be a little different, that the best you can do is get close to the image in your head, and your characterization will increase dramatically.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A New Journey

Tomorrow, I will be going out on a metaphorical road that I rarely travel. I will be temporarily abandoning the world of fiction, a world that I love, and delve into the world of technical writing. But, with a creative twist! I am helping out a friend, who also happens to be the head-of-it-all at Grit City Publications, by editing a handbook he is writing. Due to be roughly 150 pages, the first round of editing will be purely about the bigger picture. I'll need to read carefully for content and be prepared to ask a lot of questions. Because this handbook will be geared toward creative writers, I also have to make sure that the non-technical area of this world can easily follow it. Basically, I have to make sure that I would be able to use it myself. Sounds easy, right?

For me, this is going to be difficult. Even when I edit for content with Grit City, I tend to line edit at the same time. I could be classified as a nit-picker by some. Personally, I just think that I'm thorough. Even if the line I edit eventually gets cut, at least we knew it was a properly worded and grammatically correct line! For this one, because of the length of the piece and the short amount of time I have available to work on it, I can't do that. I have to remain focused on what the words are saying, not on the words themselves. At least for the first round. Round two will be correcting the little things. I might even go as far as to write on the back of my hand (where I can easily see it) BIGGER PICTURE to remind myself.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bad Days?

I was reading one of the blog posts that I subscribe to today, and I came across an interview on The Write Practice blog. The blogger, Joe Bunting, had interviewed author, professional speaker, and entrepreneur Joanna Penn (check it out here: As I was reading about how she avoids distractions and schedules her life to include writing, I came across this passage:

"What’s the worst writing day you’ve ever had?"
"I don’t really get this question as I don’t have bad writing days. There are days when I don’t write at all, but they are more like rest daysThere are days when I write a few thousand words and none of it goes into the book, but those are like practice days, and they definitely happen to everyone. There are days when writing is hard, but this is my living so I just get on with it!"
I was so shocked when I read this interview answer, my jaw dropped, quite literally. I have never heard anyone respond in such a way. I had never thought of anything like that, myself. And I most certainly had never heard a writer describe their 'bad' days like that. But, I knew as soon as I read these lines, that they were absolutely the best way to look at writing and at life. I find them inspirational, and I couldn't resist sharing them with you in order to pass that inspiration along.

Now, my question is, do you agree with this author? Or do you have another way to look at it? Please share your opinion!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Visiting Other Blogs: CAROLINE SMAILES

I have admitted it before and I have no shame in repeating it: I am addicted to blog subscriptions. I love being able to read many different posts from various blogs around the world in my email inbox.

Today, while scrolling through my subscription folder, I found a blog post from Caroline Smailes' blog, In Search of Me..., entitled "How Writers Engage on Twitter" (find it here: In this post, she addresses some things that have always bugged me about certain users on the social networking website.

The first quality that she points out is being "Consistent and Helpful/Funny/Open/Shouty." This means constantly giving your Tweeps something to enjoy about your posts, some reason for them to keep reading what you broadcast. Basically, you need to be interesting and be that way day after day. If you want to attract writers, you need to give them a reason to care about what you are posting. You can't just expect your viewers to visit your website, like your Facebook page, or subscribe to your blog if you don't allow them to get to know you as a valuable resource.

The second quality is being available. This means retweeting, replying, answer private messages, and reaching out to other users. The biggest reason for doing this is to start a conversation with your followers. You are building bridges and making connections that could lead to a mutually beneficial relationship. While your ultimate goal might be to promote your new book or guide more traffic to your blog, you won't succeed in any of these types of ventures if you don't make your Tweeps into friends. They need to know that you are a live person, not just a robot.

This all gives way to one of my biggest Twitter pet peeves: auto-promotion, as I call it. After adding someone, have you ever gotten a private message that asks you to view their website, buy their new product, or check out what service they are offering? Without ever talking to you, they pretend to immediately know you are interested in what they are pushing. I realize that automatic messages such as these might be a standard, but I loathe them. It all feels like spam to me and I delete every single one.

So, my point is to beg you, please, get to know your followers on Twitter (and other social media)! You don't have to make them your new best friend, just please acknowledge that they are a real person with real interests and make an effort before you try to promote yourself.