Why Now is A Great Time to Start a Blog

Blogs are to the Internet as quills and ink are to writing. Blogs have been around for a long time, but with the introduction of new tools, plug-ins, and easier access to web hosts, they’re easier than ever before to build, maintain and analyze. Is that the only reason why I say now is the perfect time to start one? Absolutely not.

With many of us affected by current world events, more people than ever are searching for new content to divulge in. Blogs help us find like-minded hobbyists, or fellow fans of a favorite television show or musical group, and so on. Use this interesting time to connect with others and learn something new in the process. You don’t need to be an expert to start a blog.

There is a learning curve when it comes to building a great site, an audience, and a social platform. Don’t let the idea of learning something new dissuade you! And don’t worry – you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get started either. Are you feeling up to the challenge? Everyone has to start somewhere, so let’s take a look at five steps that can help you along your way.

Step 1: Search Out Other Blogs.
This is where the content creator proverbial rabbit hole begins. A specific topic search is the best way to find out what other creators are putting out. Do you knit, organize or read? How about cooking, drawing or baking? Is cross stitch your thing or do you adore fairy gardens?

While there’s quite a menagerie already lending voices to their respective communities, don’t be afraid to add your own! If, at this point you just want some new resources to glean from, then skip the rest of this article! What? What’s that? You still want to dip a toe in? Great!

It can be very easy, when creating online content, to copy or mimic someone else’s work. It’ll be tough, at first. Have patience. You’ll definitely find your own voice. That doesn’t mean you can’t be inspired by other creators. Give credit where credit is due and source your resources.

Step 2: Decide On Your Content.
What are you the most passionate about? What do you want to discuss or dive into the most? Lifestyle content is a growing, dare I say it, industry. There is, however, a Even more specialized content on platforms like YouTube is shifting to daily vlogs – or video blogs – in which viewers can see another way of life.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg; just an example of what you can do. Personally, I’ve never enjoyed being in front of a camera. I’m a writer, so the braod topic of writing was the most obvious route for me.

You will experience a lot of trial and error as you grow your platform. Don’t be discouraged if an idea doesn’t pan out. Example: I once tried maintaining a Korean pop music site. While I enjoy the genre, my passion for running the site quickly died. I still listen to kpop on a daily basis, but my true passion lies with writing.

Step 3: Pick Your Platform(s).
These days, many platforms are free-to-start to give users the chance to explore and decide if that host is right for them. The only host I use is WordPress, and I have a Premium Membership. It took a year of use to take the plunge, but I’m awfully glad I did. I just wish they had a plan between Premium and Business. I’d like to use plugins, but I don’t need eCommerce tools. That’s when user feedback becomes an important tool for the site host. Find one that works well with your ideas. There’s no harm in having multiple accounts. Remember: Don’t spread yourself too thin. Start slow and work your way from there.

Below are ten examples each of video and web site hosts for you to peruse.

Video Hosts

Web Hosts

*I’ve included parent companies in case you’d rather not be associated with them for any reason.
**If a parent company isn’t listed, that host is privately owned.

Unless you’ve gone to school or video editing and filmography, or you’re self-taught, you may want to begin with a web host blog instead of a vlog. I only mention that form for those who are better speaking words rather than writing them.

Okay. Have you chosen your host? Let’s move on to the next!

Feeling overwhelmed at the start of something new is natural
and completely normal.

Step 4: Utilize Social Media.
Admit it. You groaned reading this step. However, social media’s grown to become an integral part of daily life. Let’s face it – there isn’t a single social media site that’s clean as a whistle when it comes to reputation. You have to choose what’s right for you. I use Twitter on the daily; Facebook isn’t in my vocabulary; MySpace who?; Snapchat and TikTok? I’ve no idea how to use those.

Picking what social media to use can be more overwhelming than finding your home base platform. Of course, you don’t have to use it at all. But it’s much easier to connect and share your creativity with potential readers through shared links and tailored updates. If you found this blog, you probably did so through Twitter, or WordPress’ Reader.

The point of the matter is, you don’t need an account with every offering. In fact, having more than two or three typically cuts productivity and increases procrastination if not utilized properly. My perfect storm is Twitter and Pinterest, with minimal involvement on Instagram.

Social media can be an incredibly effective tool.
Don’t let it distract you from accomplishing your life goals.

Step 5: Learn to Use Graphics to Your Advantage.
Humanity is a very visually influenced species. Last year I stumbled upon the Yes, I’m a Designer website in search of ideas for my own creations. As with anything, protect your work, and be cautious in what sources you pull your graphics for posts from. (I’ll leave the subject of copyright up to the experts). Since 2012, I’ve created graphics for church, my own fan fictions (when I wrote them), and, eventually, this site.

I use BeFunky. It’s $6.99 a month (cheaper than a Netflix subscription), and includes large libraries of stock images, design elements, filters, and other design tools. If you want to go this route, here are some great web based graphic design programs you don’t even need a degree to use. Some are more advanced than others.

All these sites offer different skill levels from novice to advanced. As with anything, choose what course is right for you.

Well, now. After all that, are you still interested in blogging?

I’m not going to lie – keeping a blog is a lot of work. With creativity, persistence and a little luck, you can hone your little corner of the Internet into a cozy place you love.

Hapy blogging!

How To Maintain a Writer’s Website

After building up anotherhartmanauthor.com since 2016, there’s a few things I’d like to share about what’s worked for my site’s style, or even “brand.” That’s exactly what your website is – a visual representation of who you are as a writer.

The only prior experience I had with such things is my church’s website. For two years I built it up, made sure the public knew about upcoming events, and let them know what we were all about. While I still attend services there, I couldn’t do three sites (I also help with a local nonprofit website). Each one takes loads of time, and not everyone has it to maintain a site.

The truth is, a lot of agents and publishers are looking to see if you have an online presence. And, while it absolutely isn’t a necessity, they do want to see if you have an outlet to, eventually (if you haven’t already) market your work. That’s exactly why I referred to your site as being your brand. It all comes full circle.

I’ve maintained this site for three whole years. I tried to be clever enough to name this article “Three Tips On Maintaining a Writer’s Website,” but I thought of a few more items as things progressed. So here are, ahem, four tips on how to maintain a writer’s website:

Look for a Platform YOU Understand and WANT to Use
You don’t have to understand how things work right away. You know about “author envy,” right? Where you get jealous of folks who’re already further along in their publishing journey than you are? The same can be said for “website envy” as well.

I’ve tried MySpace, Blogger (fair warning, Blogger makes it INCREDIBLY difficult to delete one’s account), and several others. WordPress works the best for my current needs, with ample opportunities and outlets to expand later on. That’s a key – being willing to grow as you grow. Your website grows as you add more content.

Be willing to learn. Be willing to grow.

Let’s face facts, shall we? You can spend an entire day on one social media site and not get any actual work done. All those cute cat gifs can wait. They’ll always be there. You also don’t need to have an account with every single outlet either. If you like Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads, use that combo. If Facebook and NetGalley and Wattpad are your thing, run with them.

Here’s the first take away: The great thing with *most* of the aforementioned sites is they offer ways of connecting you from one platform to the next. Some keep up with the “trends” more than others, but at least they give users the opportunity to showcase their chosen networks.

Read Other Blogs
Creating content, building an online presence, and doing any of the following tips isn’t everyone’s forte. Much of it I learned through trial and error – what works and what doesn’t, what takes up TOO much time and what’s just right. Okay, that last sentence sounds like I paraphrased Goldilocks and the Three Bears. But trust me, you’ll know when you’ve discovered your niche, and that it’ll be just right for you.

Admission: I’m not as good with this as I’d like to be. Just as I’m terrible in not keeping up with my NetGalley book review list. One way I’m attempting to remedy this is including a Blog Round Up section in my new monthly eNewsletter called The Bulletin. Five seemed like a good choice, and coincides with the Five Question Interview series. The similarity being with the number five.

The take away is my next point:

Be Consistent and Follow Through
Updates, short stories, blog posts, online series…the list of content you can include on your site goes on and on. and the like, readers appreciate at least some consistency

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

I tried writing oodles of short stories just so I’d have some content. What did I find? That my focus was torn between concepts, worlds and characters that had nothing to do with each other. It drove my OCD crazy, so I stopped. I may post something here and there, but short stories really aren’t necessary.

Honesty. I think most folks appreciate it. Those who don’t usually have ulterior motives. This past Spring I hosted The Five Question Interview series. To be completely transparent, I almost quit halfway through. Did I bite off more than I could chew? Perhaps. Am I glad that I followed through? You betcha.

Here’s the next take away: If you start a series or a project, and you know folks are following your progress, let them know if you decide to scrap it. Or if you’re taking a break to reset.

Stick with an aesthetic
This logically follows the previous tip in consistency. You know those image collages folks make for their works in progress? I think one of the more popular ones is called #WedWIPAesthetic, or something along those lines. Here’s a tip-within-a-tip:

Think of your website as a template for how you want your future book covers to look. What era are your stories set in? Are they modern or more historical? Are they light in theme or urban and gritty?

The great thing about photo editing sites like PicMonkey, BeFunky, Ribbet and Pixlr (just to name a few), is their versatility. Many of them offer a free version you can practice on. Can you layer things? Add filters, text and specify dimensions (many sites have different graphic requirements).

Make friends with your web host’s tech team (if they have one), because they KNOW things (or should know things) like CSS coding, widgets, and tweaks you might not think of.

Make friends with your web host’s tech team (if they have one)

Here’s the last take away: You don’t have to use the same graphics everyone else is, or pay someone else to develop a website for you. The great thing about having control is that you can grow it at your own pace, without depending on anyone else to do the legwork for you.

After all that was said here, I’ll leave you with one final tip: you don’t need a fancy SEO, a team of developers or even a paid account with a web host. What matters most is how comfortable you feel putting yourself out there so visibly through a website. And give yourself time to learn, develop and gain a sense of identity in this online world.

I’m not gonna lie. I had loads of help with this thing that you see before you. Don’t forget, however, the most important thing – your writing.

Everything else is secondary.

Even a website.