Blogging 101 & what’s it’s done for me …

Being new to the Blogosphere and not making too much progress on my own in terms of readers and comments garnered with each post, I decided to take Blogging 101, a free class offered by WordPress. I needed to discover what I was doing wrong, and how to do it right. Or if I was doing it right, how to do it BETTER. Here’s what I learned:

1.) A blog is like a book. I put my blog out there on a virtual shelf like it was a book I had published. And then I waited for readers to come and pick it up. I had subscribed to a few other blogs, but I hadn’t really joined in on the community.

Wait a minute! I wouldn’t have put my book out there without any support — why was I trying to do that with my blog? Who will know it’s there without at least a little bit of prompting from me? Community — that’s the ticket! And though I’m still a bit behind the curve in that respect, I now have the tools I need to catch up (whenever I complete my initial round of queries and the last round of edit on my second manuscript).

2.) Tags and categories. They’re both important, but they’re not the same thing: categories are broad and tags are more specific. And the WordPress system will ignore any post with more than 14 tags and categories combined.

Who knew? I had one only post with the “over 14” offense, but most of the other posts were suffering from cross-contamination in the category/tag fields. Time to clean it up!

3.) Widgets are wonderful! I didn’t even know they were called widgets, but I’d seen them on other bloggers’ pages and I knew I needed some.

I learned how to get them as well as how to make them work for me.

4.) I’m not sure this was covered per se, but in reading the creative ways people were coming up with titles for their blogs, I realized that the titles for my posts were pretty “blah”.

I published a new post on St Patrick’s Day (if you’ve been following, you know I’m part Irish). I was going to call it something like “St Patrick’s Legacy”. Blah, blah, blah. What I actually published was “St Patrick and the Slave Trade”, and the new title not only more directly described the post, but it garnered me more views than I ever had before.

I’m going to try to come up with some new titles for my previously published posts (and if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!)

5.) Restricting myself wasn’t working. More than one task on Blogging 101 recommends expanding the focus of your blog.

“But how?” was my first reaction. I’m blogging about a book, and a bit about the research I’ve done to create that book. I don’t want to talk about my sewing projects, arts and crafts, or how I trained my pig of a cat to wait for his sister to finish her dinner before he scarfed down the left-overs.

I want to talk about my books.

So I did some really serious thinking and decided to keep on posting about things I found during my research. Maybe to add a sample of my writing here and there. But that was really all I came up with.

Then I was cutting a scene from the manuscript I’m editing. It was a Welsh legend about Olwen, daughter of the giant Ysbaddaden, and Culwych, the cousin of King Arthur. It’s considered one of the earliest recorded Arthurian tales. As I cut it from the manuscript, I thought, “Why don’t you put that on your blog?”

So I says to meself: What else is in my books that I can use? Well, there’s a lot more Celtic lore, along with many rarely-heard traditional Irish songs, and other Irish songs that were adapted to America like “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”. Plus, there’s 19th century poetry; cowboy songs from the American West; Native American lore; herbology; etc., etc., etc. All included or referenced in my manuscripts.

By the time I had finished the list of inclusions, I’d come up with 10 additional subjects that I could write about — and all of them are related to my Donovan family saga! I can create new pages for some, find new examples of others — and all of a sudden I’m so excited about the blog that I now have to convince myself every day that writing the books comes first!

6.) Last but not least, I realized that I absolutely love photography blogs!

All of this from Blogging 101. So if you’re on WordPress and stuck on your blog in any way, shape or form, or even if you just want to make your successful blog better, let me HIGHLY recommend this course — tons of good info and bright ideas!

Slainte!

BTW, you can expect to see the legend of Culwych & Olwen some time next week. There’s this little matter of reformatting the blog that needs to come first.

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