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Forced, Kicking and Screaming, To a New Blog Design

Drawing-sketch-doodles-339634-lYou may have noticed something slightly different upon landing here today.  Yeah, that's right, I've got a new blog design.

This was not entirely my choice.  I've known for quite some time that my old design looked dated and it is one of my goals for this year to update it and redesign it.  But 2015 has been a whirlwind, and I'm now working on rewrite #2 for my agent, and THAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER. So in my thinking, the blog re-design could wait.  

But the Google Gods had other plans for me.  Apparently, by the end of this month, if you have a blog or website that is not responsive (i.e., not configured to be easily read on a tablet or smartphone), you are going to the bottom of the Google search engine heap.  And Google has always been good to me, so I didn't want that to happen.

In truth, I would have been blissfully unaware of all of this, were it not for my most amazing and wonderful VA, Elizabeth Jackson.  (VA stands for Virtual Assistant.  Its the best invention ever. Elizabeth lives in Spain and I live in Portland, but we work together nearly every day.) Somehow, she knows this stuff.  And then she figures out how to deal with it and save me from the wrath of Google.

So here we are with a new design.  I will tell you straight out that it is not my favorite, but it will do for now. Once I have a chance to sort things out in my brain and figure out what I really want, it will change again.  But that won't be for awhile.  

What do you think? Like it or hate it?  Are you changing your blog design to be responsive?

Image by Dan4th.

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Social Media for (Clueless) Writers

AxobIjdCAAAogDx.png-largeI don’t write a lot about social media, but I’m on it all the time and I’m a big believer in its importance to us as writers.  It is good for your platform, good for networking, and it is also a lot of fun, too.  I can hear you all groaning, but stop, I’m serious–it is fun.  The reason people (i.e. writers) shy away from it is because they over think it.  They take it way too seriously and think it takes way too much time.  

But, guess what?  Social media is a fact of life and it is not going anywhere so one way or another you need to make your peace with it. And the time to do it is now–no matter where you are in your writing career, just starting out, almost published, or published.  

Here’s my best advice on social media: do what you love.  For instance, you won’t find me on Facebook much, because, well, I don’t like it.  But I’m on Twitter and other sites all day long.  Over and over again I hear that everyone needs a Facebook presence and I make another lame go at it and then I give up.  

I think the best way to approach social media is to find one channel you enjoy, get comfortable with it, and then choose another one.  To that end, I’ve listed the sites I like best below, along with what I like about them and how you can connect with me there.  

Blog.  You must have a presence on the web, and a blog is far and away the easiest way to do that. The average person surfing the internet doesn’t understand the difference between a blog and a website, and honestly, these days there isn’t a lot.  The standard advice you’ll hear is to get thyself a WordPress blog, but I started blogging before WordPress was even a thing, so I went with Typepad and I remain loyal because I like it.  The site is easy to use, looks great ( a lot of designer types use it) and best of all, if you get stuck, you can ask them for help and they respond quickly. So I’m staying here.  

One of the things I always tell people who are afraid to start blogging is to just dive in. It’s good to remember that the genesis of what we now know as blogs started as web logs, i.e., online journals.  A blog is, by its nature, an ongoing record of what’s going on.  And so here me now: it does not have to be perfect.  I have over 1,000 posts on this site, and some of them quite frankly, are crap.  But a lot of them are pretty good.  If I worried about perfection none of the posts would exist.

Twitter.  My favorite.  I’ve been on it since a short time after it debuted, and I love it. Twitter is easy, direct, and fun.  If you tweet something, it stays up and all your followers will see it (unlike Facebook), although the Twitter stream does move fast. You can easily connect with other writers, authors, agents, editors, indie publishing folks–you name it. You can search with hashtags (#amwriting is a great one) and find like-minded people.  I’ve made some great friends through the site–I love my Twitter peeps!  Again, don’t over think it, don’t worry about it, just jump in and see what happens.  You really can’t do it wrong, unless you spam people. And one piece of advice: put an icon up right away or people will shy away from following you, thinking you’re a bot.

Connect with me on Twitter here.

Google +.  I’ve been fooling around with the Google’s social media site for a simple reason which I will share with you: because its crazy good for your search engine rankings.  The more you’re on Google +, the higher you’re going to show up on searches.  I experimented with this myself, with astounding results–my own posts or Google + posts rising to the top of very popular searches.  (Let me also point out that Google likes me a lot already, thanks to the afore-mentioned 1,000 posts. Nothing the Goog likes better than fresh content.) I’ve also heard that Google is getting quite overt about Google+, and that it would behoove you to at least go fill out a profile there–or you won’t show up on searches at all.  Google+ is good for when you want to write something longer than Twitter, or share a link with a bit more supporting information.  I’ve not yet found a lot of traction in terms of community, but I think that will change the more I’m on it.

You can connect with on Google+ here. 

Pinterest.  Oh, let me count the ways I can get obsessed with Pinterest.  Like, losing two hours on a Sunday afternoon to it.  Which is why I stopped using it much for about a year.  Pretty and fun as it was, I never saw much traffic from it, or felt like I engaged with others there.  Until a couple of weeks ago, when I started noticing that I was getting a lot of traffic from the site.  Consistently.  So I decided to update my presence.  And, yeah.  Spent an hour on it yesterday when I should have been doing something else.  But there is a lot of good stuff for writers on it–and a ton of beautiful images as well. It is probably the easiest of all the sites to figure out–just create a board and start adding pictures to it.  (Yesterday I also discovered the Pinterest mobile app.  Talk about something to do while you’re sitting in a bar at the airport lounge alone–you can pin to your heart’s content.)

You can connect with me on Pinterest here.

Instagram.  No, I take that back–Instagram is may be the most user friendly.  Just open an account, start taking pictures and post them.  You can add all kinds of fun effects to your photos as well. Apparently, hashtags are the thing on Instagram–the more the merrier.  But I don’t generally worry about that too much.  I hate seeing a post with a bunch of hashtags cluttering it up and I get bored feeding the in.  So I do a couple and then skip it.  I’m a sporadic Instagram user, tending to take a lot of photos when I’m traveling (I initially downloaded it when I went to France last year), the daily life of a writer not being all that photogenic (unless you like images of me in my jammies).  It’s also a great time waster when you find yourself waiting for someone or something.  (I do so miss the days when we used to read, or knit when we had spare moments.)

You can connect with me on Instagram here.

So that’s my take on social media for writers.  Oh, and by the way, speaking of blogs, next week is the seven year anniversary of this one.  I’m planning something special.  Don’t know what yet, but something.  So stay tuned. 

And comment, please–what social media sites do you use?  Feel free to share your handles for each site, too and we’ll all come follow you if we don’t already.

 

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