If you’re a Buzz fanatic then you’ve probably read Melinda Harris’ post, “Three Reasons Writers Might Want A Blog” about the importance of keeping a blog. Here’s a recap in case you haven’t: a blog “keeps you writing,” “builds a readership,” and helps to develop an online “community.”
Sounds rather nice, right?
So we’ve established why having a blog is an awesome tool for any writer. Now it’s time to get technical. You want a blog, but what website builder should you be using?
I’ve provided a list of pros and cons for three popular and free website builders that anyone can use which are WordPress.com, Weebly.com, and Wix.com. I built my own unpublished blogging websites using these three builders so I could personally give you an account of what makes each different.
Before delving into the differences of these builders, let me mention a few features that they all have in common. All three builders are easy to learn, customizable, have search engine optimization (SEO), can be edited from mobile devices, and allow you customize your blog posts using HTML. When used correctly, each of these features will help you build and maintain a stellar blog.
So, without further ado, let me introduce my findings:
Most likely if you’ve ever looked into building a blog or you follow a blog, you’ve come across WordPress and there’s a reason for that. Not only does WordPress power 25% of the web, but it was built with blogging in mind!
Weebly allows you to build beautiful and simple websites with pre-made themes ranging from business to blogging. This builder has a unique drag and drop features that simplifies any website building. For those who aren’t tech savvy, Weebly allows you to contact support via emails regardless of if you’re using a free account or an upgraded one.
Wix is an amazing builder for those who love a little extra glam for their websites. Not only are their themes fun and interesting, but, without having to upgrade to a paid website, you can upload video clips to use as your background. Plus, they have animation features that will bring to life any piece of content you write.
These are, in my opinion, the best of the free website builders that you can use for your blog. Wordpress would be your best bet if you want a no frills website that is devoted to blogging and building a blogging community. Weebly is a wonderful option for both those who are and are not tech savvy due to the ability to customize templates with code and their customer support. Wix is a must for bloggers who really want to stick out by using their amazing video and animation features. Weebly’s and Wix’s easily enabled e-commerce options make them great options for anyone who wants to mix business with blogging. If you’re still not sure which builder to use, create websites using all three and publish your favorite one!
A lot of hullaballoo is made about the process of writing. What’s the best way to generate ideas? Should you free write or outline? How long should you write each day? Where should you write? What should you wear while you write? Writers are almost as superstitious as baseball players are. Famous writers are constantly being asked about their process, to share the keys to their success and offer any piece of advice, any rule to follow (see this, this, and this). Personally, I see the value in a routine—it keeps you on track, forces you to actually write something, prevents distraction—but I also see the value in breaking a routine—the thrill of inspiration, the little light bulb moment that comes when your world shifts away from normal and jostles you awake.
In my world, order and mess go hand in hand. Which is why I am forever caught up in the ultimate writing routine question: pen vs. keyboard, paper vs. screen, handwritten vs. typed. I have terrible handwriting and it gets worse the faster I think so the aesthetic beauty of a handwritten page, the grace of putting pen to paper, is lost on me and my loopy cursive/print hybrid. I find myself plunged into the computer writing world of online distractions and trains of thought interrupted by the immediate ease of editing as I go. The pro/cons lists in this debate are endless and so are the routines. Some writers write all first drafts by hand and only type things up during the editing process. Others type up first and then print and edit by hand. Computers are distracting; they come with internet and twitter and quizzes about which clone you are on Orphan Black (No? Just me?). Writing by hand is more pure, a flow of words from thoughts to page that breeds creativity and freedom of expression. On the other hand, computers are convenient, they allow you to organize and compile in a way that becomes tedious with papers and scratched out notes.
What I’m saying is this: using computers to write is a much-debated personal preference, the various sides of which I am well aware. This article is not meant to tell you how to write, or that you must use a computer. Only that, currently, we’ve come to a point where all writers must go digital at some point. Slowly, but surely, submissions processes are turning online only. Whether you wait to the last minute to type up a manuscript or use a computer through the entire process, in the end it must be typed. Which, let's be honest, can be scary and frustrating and time consuming.
So to ease the process, I’ve compiled a list of practical computer tips and tricks to help a writer out. I focused on tools in Microsoft Word, since that’s what most people use as a word processing program. Also, as I am a writer and not a computer genius, I’ve chosen to explain why these tools could be helpful to writers and leave it up to the whizzes at Microsoft Word to show you how to use them (links for everyone!).
You may know some of the obvious shortcuts like CTRL+x, CTRL+c, and CTRL+v for cut, copy, and paste. Those can make moving around sentences a lot faster and simpler. There are also a few others that can make life easier for speedy writers. CTRL+b, CTRL+i, and CTR+i allow you to make highlighted text bolded, underlined, or italicized. Another extremely useful shortcut is SHIFT+F5, which returns you to the last edit point in a document. That way, if you are working in a large document with several chapters and close the document for a lunch break, when you re-open the document later, you can hit SHIFT+F5 to return to the specific paragraph you were editing. Also, a good one to remember: CTRL+S to save your document. That’s definitely a good shortcut to turn into an obsessive habit.
See this for a complete list of shortcuts.
Find and Replace
Find and Replace can be helpful to writers in a lot of different ways. You can use the CTRL+F shortcut to search a document for a specific word or phrase. This is especially useful in large documents for finding a specific character description or fact. You can open the advanced Find and Replace dialogue box to not only search for a word or character name, but also replace every use of that word with another. This is great for when you decide Fred is a terrible character name and you want to change all instances of Fred to Roger. You can also use this to replace specific formatting like paragraph breaks or page breaks. If you are particularly concerned with efficiency, you can write character or place names or common phrases in shorthand and then use Find and Replace to change the shorthand to the full-length phrase. You can even use Find to search for bookmarks you’ve placed within a document (see below for more on bookmarks).
See this for more information on Find and Replace.
Custom Dictionary/ Spelling and Grammar Check
Hate those squiggly colorful lines that show up everywhere? Tired of all your character names being marked as misspelled? Then, it's time to customize your dictionary. You can add any word you want to your dictionary, especially character names, place names, and technological jargon.
Another great trick to make you look especially professional is to customize your Spelling and Grammar check in accordance with a specific style guide (AP, Chicago, MLA etc.). You can specify what changes should be auto-corrected as you type, allowing you to determine stylistic choices, such as whether to use curved or straight quotation marks.
See this for custom dictionaries and this for Spelling and Grammar check.
Split a Document
This magical tool allows you to view two copies of one document at the same time. It’s an excellent way to edit a paragraph while keeping a copy of the original one for comparison as you edit. Splitting the document is also a great way to keep things consistent in your writing; you can view a description of a character on page 12 while you write more about the same character on page 103. You can use the View menu to split the document or the shortcut ALT+CTRL+S to split and unsplit. When you split, just click inside one version of the document to make edits to that copy. When you undo the split, however, all changes will be merged so the original sentence or paragraph will not be saved, but the changes you made to each version will be saved.
See this for more information.
In the throes of writing and editing, I often end up with multiple versions of the same document: KickAssStory, KickAssStory2, KickAssStoryFinal, KickAssStory3good. Often, I save an older version in case I change my mind about deleting a whole page of dialogue or switching the point of view for the whole story. With this trick, you can compare these different documents and see exactly what makes them different via track changes. Great for returning to a story you haven’t worked on in a while, it allows you to revisit some of the changes you made, or just figure out which document really is the final one. After you compare the documents, you can also merge them into one document and choose which changes you want to make.
Formatting: Headings, Page Breaks, Tables of Content, Bookmarks
Using real grown-up formatting can make your document infinitely easier to navigate and your future editors will love you forever. No more hitting return over and over again to start a new page or chapter. Add a page break! Set up your title page and Chapter titles as headings. If you like to work with each chapter in a different document, you can make your own custom “style” of how the page is formatted to keep things uniform and make them a lot easier to combine later (style can include heading and texts, but also page numbers and header and footer information). If you do like to keep it all in one document, when you add a new chapter, you can also add a bookmark to that page, which can then be linked to your table of content so that it works like a real big-girl, clickable table of content. You can also view all the bookmarks you have in one document at once, which helps with navigating.
See all the links: this, this, this, this, and this.
Mail merge will soon become your dearest friend. I first learned of the glories of mail merge when I worked for a non-profit and now I will never go back to my pre-mail merge life. You can make customized envelopes! That’s classy as fuck. It’s also extremely useful for sending out query letters and manuscripts to a lot of different places. Plop the names and contact information for all your addressees into an excel spreadsheet and then mail merge away. You can make custom envelopes, labels, letters, and even emails. If you are as addicted to Gmail as I am, you can also get the Yet Another Mail Merge add on for Google docs, which will allow you to send custom emails with your manuscript attached without copying and pasting a million times.
See this for the whole mail merge process and this for how to get Yet Another Mail Merge.
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I struggle with a lot of things when it comes to writing. Finances, ideas, stamina. Should I quit my job at this coffee shop, or is it what motivates me to write? But I think one of the main things I struggle with is somewhat of an existential crisis, mainly, “What is the POINT?”
I recently started a job at a bookstore (which I love) and I quickly learned that everyone I work with is a writer, studying to be a writer, graduated undergrad with a degree in Creative Writing, etc. In these moments I struggle to be a writer because everyone's a writer and what's the difference, really? Is there a need for my writing? If everyone is a writer, is anyone REALLY a writer? I don't have a book deal, I've been published, but just in some smaller literary journals, overall my audience is very small. Who am I writing to? Am I shouting into a void only to have that void echo back that there are hundreds, if not thousands of others just like me?
In moments when my thoughts spiral downward this way I've realized that it's important to stop and reaffirm myself as an individual and a writer. I assume that others have this thought process at times—especially if you are a newer writer, definitely if you have yet to get published or have faced a particularly long stream of rejections. We all face doubts and sometimes it can be difficult to stop questioning yourself and the worth of your writing. So here are some of the things I tell myself when I start down that self-destructive road. I like to say them like a mantra, one right after another.
1. I am a writer.
2. No one else is me, and that's why my writing matters.
3. Everyone's voice is valid. The more writers there are the better.
4. Each person has a unique life and perspective and this is all we can offer each other, but it's important to share these life experiences in any way that you can.
5. If I stopped writing or stopped trying to share my writing I'd be considerably less happy.
6. If one person reads my stories and is moved, I have succeeded more than I ever thought possible.
It can be a battle to insist that your writing and persepectives on life are worth anyone else's time. Especially when it seems that there are enough people out there who share in your struggle to be a writer. But that's all it is—a shared struggle. It's not a reason to stop trying.
Writing a great blog post has more to do with planning and editing, and less to do with punching out a fantastic idea. When I began blogging several years ago, many of my pots fell flat -- bam, boom, dead. They had maybe one reader. Why? The idea was solid, but the execution was poor.
Writing a blog serves to inform and intrigue readers. At least, for me it is. Some blog posts are purely informative; others seek to twist the reader -- fuel passion, or insight creativity in my readers. A careful balance is required to succeed. Blog posts require several planning points to succeed:
At Unsolicited Press we value our books. We value our authors and the material that they put out into the world. But we value something else even more: reference and written craft books. Books that help us do our job better. Books that help our writers do an even better job writing fascinating stories.
Last week, we polled the office, our editors, writers, production team, IT folks...everybody...to see which books were the most important to them in editing, writing, and reference. Here were the three MOST popular books:
Does your work, whether large or small keep getting rejected? Sometimes it is the sheer fact that editors or their assistants aren't reading your work.
As a former freelance editor for (can't be named) a big-name publisher, I know this happens. Editors are "too busy" to read them all. And if you are a little-known writer, you can pretty much guarantee that your envelope never even got opened by anybody because it didn't have enough shiny money potential on the flap...
Honestly, we think that this discrepancy is bullshit. As though they are too big or too funded to actually care. Tangent complete.
With that out of the way, many authors/writers get rejected by all sorts of publishers for reasons that could have been avoided....outside of shitty writing. From experience as editors, as readers, and as interns of previous houses, here are seven reasons you may be getting rejected from publishers big and small:
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