A welcome to Jacqui Murray to the blog sitting series with her first post for Smorgasbord. Most of us are on a learning curve when it comes to blogging, however long we might have been at the task. Jacqui shares some very important elements that are important to remember when posting.
A big thank-you to Sally for hosting me this week. This is my first time as a guest on her blog, Smorgasbord: Variety is the Spice of Life, and I’m so darn excited. I feel like I’ve made the big time! She asked me to blog on anything I wanted–what could be easier? Well, honestly, that isn’t as easy as it sounds for me. I wanted to pick something I’m passionate about but also would appeal to readers and maybe offer something I’ve learned over time.
Blogging. It had to be that.
When I started blogging, I thought it was journaling–writing about my life and times. It can be, and for some it is, but that didn’t work for me. I’m pretty boring. My life has all the charm of a car alarm. There is no hyperbole in my life and the posts reflected that. I sought insight by reading the blogs of other writers and realized I don’t have to talk about myself (big big sigh of happiness). What works better for me is sometimes sharing my experiences but more often sharing those of virtual friends who are working through the tedious process of writing/editing/publishing/marketing.
Then the next epiphany hit me: I couldn’t simply show up online, spout off, and slink away. It’s complicated (I see you-all nodding). I could have quit–it was getting to be a lot like work–but I enjoyed the blogging and the like-minded souls I met online. I learned a lot about writing by doing it often (writing novels takes years. Blogging is weekly. What a difference). So I honed my skill.
Now, years later, there are a few items I wished I’d known early rather than late. Let me share them with you:
- Only reblog 10% of someone else’s post. If you’re on WordPress and push the ‘reblog’ button, they take care of that for you. But if you copy someone’s post and give them attribution, you blew it. You have to get permission if you are reposting more than 10% of someone else’s work. I learned that the hard way.
- Hot links are bad. What’s a ‘hot link’ you say? That’s when you use a picture on your blog that’s posted on some other server. I don’t do that–I don’t even know how to do it. Let me posit a scenario. You find an image (in the public domain–you’re careful and always legal) that you like. You drag it to your blog post and drop it. It looks great. What a wonderful shortcut to save-insert-find media you usually have to do. But that’s hotlinking. Your picture is hosted on someone else’s site, using their internet resources. At some point in the future, you’ll bring up that beautiful picture and it will have disappeared because the people hosting it deleted it from their servers. This, like ‘reblog 10%’, I learned the hard way (thank you, Jack Reacher, for that term).
- It takes a long time to write a post. Most bloggers start out journaling–chatting about their life. When they get few readers, less comments, and realize they’re talking to an empty room, they give up blogging as another failed experiment on the pathway to success. Blogging is no longer journaling. These days, successful blogs (and I want the blog that promotes my books to be successful) focus on a theme, their popularity closely tied to the author’s voice and/or resources provided. Readers don’t want to see typos or grammar errors, or waste their time. When your brain starts throbbing like a hand slammed in a car door–that’s when you realize blogging is a lot like work.
- Be myself. Let my voice take over. Like with any author you love, it’s not so much the plot they choose (there really are only so many plots) as how the author delivers it. That’s voice and that’s why readers keep coming back to your blog.
- It’s easier than it sounds. So many of my fellow writers think blogging takes hours a day. It does, but only as you’re getting settled. Then, you get into a rhythm:
- Jot an idea down as a ‘draft post’
- Flesh it out when the muse hits. That’s the problem, you say. You don’t have time to let ‘the muse hit’. I’m going to respectfully disagree, even though I don’t know you that well. You are a writer. The muse always lurks in your subconscious, ready with her opinions, attitudes, annoyances. You have trained yourself to ignore her, but now it’s time for a new habit. Write when you want–whatever comes out. In this case, flesh out the blog post.
- Review and schedule the post.
- It’s harder than it sounds. You have to pay attention to proper writing skills, be careful to not plagiarize content, be a friend to ebuddies, be constantly and brilliantly inspired, and be a tech genius who can fix all those geeky things that make social media work. Yikes!
When I first posted this, readers shared their blogging experiences. Which ones resonate with you:
- I agonize over pushing the “publish” button.
- I needed more tools on how to blog. I wish I’d researched more.
- It’s a learning experience.
- Keep up a regular schedule of posts (at least one a week). This is the difference between 10 views and 100. Once a week minimally.
- I schedule my posts a week in advance, so it fits better with my life.
- The first time I blogged, I gave up because I did not know it took time to build a readership.This time, I’m ready.
- I like to think of blogging as using your non-dominant hand – it sharpens all facets of my writing brain.
- It is hard work, but anything worthwhile is.
- I wish I’d set up an email address just for my blog.
- Keep personal information private. It’s tempting to hang it all out there but don’t.
- Respond to comments. Read readers blogs. Engage with your community. I had no idea how much time I would spend connecting with other bloggers.
- Blogs cost money if done right. If you don’t use one of the all-in-one-free packages (like WordPress), you need hosting, a domain, problem-solving, maintenance help, not to mention SEO guidance.
- Your voice is your blog. Don’t be afraid to let it out.
- Give lots of credit to others in your posts–especially if you use their material. Linkbacks are easy. Trackbacks bring your blog to the attention of others who might come visit.
- Blogging is fun. Make time for it.
- Push your blog posts out to your social networks.
- Be careful with pictures. If they aren’t in the public domain, you can’t use them without permission. A linkback isn’t sufficient!
- Don’t compare yourself to other bloggers.
- You’ll want to quit a hundred times as you wait to build readers, gain traction, accomplish your goals. Remind yourself why you started. If that reason hasn’t changed, continue blogging.
- Don’t expect to make money blogging. It rarely happens. Do it for other reasons.
- Work smarter by using tools that are available: editorial calendars, Hootsuite, Twitterdeck, Google Analytics.
- I wish I would have done my homework upfront to research the different blogging platforms and educated myself on the pros and cons.
- I had no idea about the communities, linkups, sharing and connecting available to help new and experienced bloggers.
- Be proud of what you blog about. If you aren’t, change it.
What would you add to this list?
©Jacqui Murray 2018
My thanks to Jacqui for this reminder to us all that we need to treat our blogs and those within our community with care and respect.
About Jacqui Murray
Jacqui Murray is the webmaster for Worddreams, her blog about all things writing. She is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the upcoming prehistoric fiction, Born in a Treacherous Time. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for Ask a Tech Teacher an Amazon Vine Voice a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics.
A selection of books by Jacqui Murray
About To Hunt a Sub – Rowe-Delamagnente Thrillers
The USS Hampton SSN 767 quietly floated unseen one hundred fifty-two feet below the ocean’s surface. Its task for the past six months has been reconnaissance and surveillance. The biggest danger the crew faced was running out of olives for their pizza. That all changed one morning, four days before the end of the Hampton’s tour. Halfway through the Captain’s first morning coffee, every system on the submarine shut down. No navigation, no communication, and no defensive measures. Within minutes, the sub began a terrifying descent through the murky greys and blacks of the deep Atlantic and settled to the ocean floor off the coast of Cuba and perilously close to the sub’s crush depth. When it missed its mandated contact, an emergency call went out to retired Navy intel officer, Zeke Rowe, top of his field before a botched mission left him physically crippled and psychologically shaken. Rowe quickly determined that the sub was the victim of a cybervirus secreted inside the sub’s top secret operating systems. What Rowe couldn’t figure out was who did it or how to stop it sinking every other submarine in the American fleet.
Kali Delamagente is a struggling over-the-hill grad student who entered a DARPA cybersecurity competition as a desperate last hope to fund a sophisticated artificial intelligence she called Otto. Though her presentation imploded, she caught the attention of two people: a terrorist intent on destroying America and a rapt Dr. Zeke Rowe. An anonymous blank check to finish her research is quickly followed by multiple break-ins to her lab, a hack of her computer, the disappearance of her three-legged dog, and finally the kidnapping of her only son.
By all measures, Rowe and Delamagente are an unlikely duo. Rowe believes in brawn and Delamagente brains. To save the America they both love, they find a middle ground, guided with the wisdom of a formidable female who died two million years ago.
One of the recent reviews for the book
A fast-paced thriller steeped in intrigue and palaeoanthropology. on December 13, 2017
To hunt a sub by J. Murray mixes military intrigue, the world of academia and a burgeoning romance between an ex-SEAL come professor and an upcoming academic who developed an AI to track the evolution of humans. Oh, and there is a terrorist plot as well.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this book. From the cover of the book one would expect it would be solely based on the navy, but on reading the blurb, there was much more to this story. For me, I particularly enjoyed the scenes where the AI—Otto, a software program that was developed to locate and identify the evolution and migration of humans from Africa—I found interesting and captivating. The author has clearly done a lot of research into palaeoanthropology, which is evident in the story, as well as into the machinery and workings of US Defence.
The main plot was about a jihadi terrorist intent on destroying US submarines and in turn, the US Defence force. The intertwining sub-plots helped move the story at a brisk pace, there was always something happening, and I learnt a lot about submarines!
Overall, I really enjoyed this story and am about to start book 2 of the Rowe and Delamagente series. Readers who have taste for intrigue and military style stories, will be sweetly surprised by this book.
Read all the reviews and buy the books: Amazon Author Page UK
Connect to Jacqui Murray
Thank you for dropping in and Jacqui would love your feedback. I will catch up with comments on my return in a couple of days. Thanks Sally