My Blogging Process

Scott is starting a blog. He wrote me for advice.

“I know you’ve been blogging for a long time, and you’ve done more than 1,000 posts. You also coach other people on improving their blog. I want to start strong. What’s the best process to produce quality posts regularly?”

There is no best process. There’s only the best process for you and your unique situation. Most bloggers develop their process slowly. Scott will probably start with one process and then make small changes. My experience is it will take him a year to a year and a half to find his voice and rhythm.

That said, here’s my process. It’s developed over more than a decade of blogging. As we used to say about rifles in the Marine Corps, “There are many others like it, but this one is mine.” It works for me.

Prework to Prepare the Ground

Many activities that help you produce great posts don’t directly involve the blog. You should read a lot. You’ll get ideas for possible posts. Capture the ideas, review them, and adapt them.

Review is usually the first step in creating a post. Sometimes you’ll read something that inspires you and start from there. Sometimes, like with this post, you’ll get an email with an interesting question to answer.

Pick A Topic and Noodle on It a While

Look through your ideas and your content for things that excite you. The best posts have emotional content. They are interesting or inspiring. If you’re not interested, excited, or inspired, your reader won’t be. Robert Frost was talking about poems but what he said applies to blog posts.

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”

Allow some time for ideas to percolate. Play with them a bit. Mind map or put them on index cards and spread them out on the floor. I get lots of good ideas when I walk the dog. Then my body is on autopilot and my mind is free to wander.

Capture ideas right away or they’ll flit away like butterflies on the wind. I either use index cards or a pocket digital recorder.

Put Your Stuff in Order

When ideas are in your mind, they’re connected to other ideas in a giant neural network. That’s great, but it’s not the way things work when you start to write. If you want a blog post that makes sense, you’ve got to select the points make and stories to tell and put them in order.

I use PowerPoint for that. I use the slides like I use index cards. It’s easy for me to highlight big ideas and move everything around. Sometimes I decide a post with lots of promise isn’t ready for prime time. I keep the outline but move on to another idea.

I start writing when I have a basic outline. At this point, I send the outline to my Fabulous Virtual Assistant, Brenda, who prepares the graphics we use with each post. Every post has a unique graphic that conveys the main idea.

Writing the Post

The first draft may not be “crap,” but it’s nowhere near good enough to publish. I dictate most of my first drafts. That lets me get a conversational tone from the beginning.

Rebecca at Transcription-Transformation transcribes my posts. I use a human transcriber instead of some form of artificial intelligence. Rebecca’s intelligence is not artificial. She catches things that no program will catch and makes suggestions no program could make. When I get the transcript of the first draft back, I send it to Brenda because sometimes the draft differs from the outline I sent previously.

Next, I revise the first draft. I do this sitting down. I’ve discovered that I write best when I stand up and I edit best when I’m seated. Don’t ask me why.

After I revise the draft, I read it out loud. It’s amazing what things my mouth trips over that my eyes thought were fine. I revise it again.

Next, I run my “checker” programs. I use a combination of the Microsoft grammar checker and Hemingway. It’s perfect for me at this stage of my writing career. Hemingway doesn’t give me a whole lot of extraneous and often erroneous recommendations. It also highlights the errors I’m prone to make.

There are lots of good checker programs out there, and you should find one that works for you. Beware, though. You need to understand the basics of grammar and usage. Checker programs often suggest things that make no sense. Sometimes, the program gets the grammar or usage wrong. Sometimes, the program makes a valid recommendation that you won’t want to use.

After I’ve run the draft through my checkers, it’s time for the final draft.

Final Steps

I take the graphic from Brenda and my “final” draft and put them together on WordPress. I put quotes around “final” because I often make changes once I see the post in WordPress.

After I’ve put everything into WordPress, I review the way it will work. I check every link. Then, I schedule it for the appropriate time. You might think that’s the final step, but it’s not.

After I publish the post, the final step is promoting it. I promote my leadership blog posts on Twitter. I promote my writing blog posts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You might believe that if you do quality work, the world will beat a path to your door. Don’t make that mistake. Take the extra 10 minutes to promote. Thank people who make comments and who share your posts with others.

Takeaways

General preparation is finding interesting stuff and capturing good ideas.

Pick a topic that interests or inspires you.

Take time to play with ideas before putting them in order.

Draft and revise in a way that works for you until you get it right.

If you use a graphic, make sure it fits the post.

Promote your post. Thank people who help you.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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