Category Archives: Writing Tips

Top 3 Tips to Running Your (New) Website

Running a website is hard as sh*t.

Especially if you choose to post… oh, I don’t know, let’s say roughly five times a month.

Before I had started my website, every article I read basically said the exact same thing: posting once a month is more then enough. Once a month? How am I supposed to build a following if I only post once a month?

I can see now that… well, not that I was wrong, but I was pretty naïve to think that I knew better then other professionals. My thought process was something akin to, ‘a month is a long time, I can definitely post every week and be fine.’ So that’s what I did at the very beginning.

Posting every single week got old/infuriating real fast. I felt like I was losing my mind, having to constantly be preparing the next post, worrying about how was I going to tackle the vastly different topics that interested me, and perhaps the worst of all – it didn’t leave me any time for continuing with my books.

Needless to say, that was not a good way to run my website, nor a good way to keep my sanity in check. It took me probably the better half of 2017 to get into a groove and set myself a schedule for what was to be posted when. I still struggle with the system I’ve put into place sometimes – we all know how life likes to ruin our plans – so while I haven’t quite perfected the art of managing my website – and it’s not even close to being everything I want it to be – I’ve definitely learned a lot in the process.

This article is to share 3 tips I wish I’d known when I was starting out.

 

  1. Start with One Idea

This is probably one of the hardest things I had to learn when I was starting out. I had been ‘planning’ all the different elements/topics I wanted my website to have, so when I finally went for it, I was all over the place. One week I’d post a TAF (short story), the next I’d post a recipe, and still another would be a product review. There was absolutely no structure, and it was driving me crazy flipping back and forth each week between different ideas.

One thing I wish I had read/or heard, was this: Your website will expand. It takes time to establish a website from nothing. You have to pick things like layout, theme, how you want it to look, and that’s all before you start adding content. Your best bet when you’re just starting out is to focus your energy and time on one thing – preferably the main thing you’d want the website to be about – and only post that.

You may feel like you’re limiting yourself, since you’re bursting with ideas about this and that, but trust me – focus on one thing, and get yourself to fall into the pattern of posting that one thing. Remember, you can always add more once you’re more established. Give yourself time to get used to having a website before you try to go whole hog.

 

2. Pick a Posting Schedule (That You Can Realistically Keep Up With)

Give yourself a posting schedule that you think you’ll be able to stick to. It doesn’t have to be just once a month, it could be more, or less then that. When you’re just starting out, I’m sorry to say but no one is looking at your website yet. Now is the time to experiment and find what works for you. Before you begin to build a following, and especially before people start expecting you to post in the schedule you’ve set.

Give yourself enough time between posts that you’ll be able to do the following three things:

  • Write the post that needs to be posted
  • Write the next post (or at least, have the idea)
  • Have a personal life (hang out with friends, be able to go to family functions [like holidays], have a few ‘off’ days, etc.)

Let’s say you tell yourself you’ll be able to post each week. Will you have enough time in one week to come up with an idea for next weeks’ post, while simultaneously writing this weeks post, and still be able to go to grandma’s birthday/Christmas, etc.? Also, if you’re too stressed, feel like you never have a day off, and are constantly wracking your brain for the next idea? You need to dial back your scheduling.

Remember, you can always add more things to post later. You don’t have to come out of the gate doing everything all at once.

You gotta walk before you can run.

 

3. Plan Your Posts

It sounds simple, and yet… it can be one of the hardest things to do. You don’t want to wake up on your posting day with an ‘oh shit, I don’t have an idea for what to post today!’

True, you could always just skip that day, and get yourself ready for the next one, but, you’ll want to get yourself into the habit of not skipping posting days. Since your website is still new, and you’re still getting used to having it, you’ll want to be able to schedule your time so you’re able to do your work and still have fun. Think of it like you’re forming a new habit – you gotta find ways to incorporate it into your already established routine, without disrupting the rest of your life.

I’m assuming you didn’t quit your day-job while you’re starting this website, so let’s pretend you just got in from work, perhaps you have kids who need to be fed/put to bed, or a pet that needs to be taken care of – next thing you know it’s 11pm, you’re just about to collapse into bed when you suddenly remember: you were supposed to post something to your website today. You begrudgingly drag yourself to your website, and double-check and it’s just as you thought: no posts were scheduled, and you don’t have any finished/ready to post.

Now you have to spend your precious sleeping time thinking/writing/editing and finally posting an article to your website.

Enter: Planning.

You have a schedule you want to stick to – awesome! Now it’s time to put it to good use, and start planning out the posts you want to put up on those days. For simplicity sake, we’ll just use my posting schedule for this example. Which is every two weeks, and the 13th of every month.

This past Friday (Nov. 2nd) I posted what I call a Throw Away Fic, (which is just a short story), and today (Nov. 5th) I posted this, which internally I just call an Article. Next thing I need to post this month is a Product Review, which I do on the 13th of each month.

After that, my next two posts are:

Nov. 16th: Another TAF

Nov. 19th: Another article

I try to alternate my article content between writing tips and veganism, as these are the prime two other things I post, excluding the Throw Away Fics. Back when I was first starting my website, I had sat myself down and wrote out a list of all the possible article topics I wanted to post, and saved them to my computer. Now, I go to that list and plan out my next few articles, usually till the end of the month.

Organization is key here. I know it’s not fun, and is probably one of the least fun parts of having your website, but this saves me from having those last-minute freak outs of not having content, and not having an idea for content, too. I try to schedule out my articles at least one month in advance.

My TAFs are a bit of a different story. Last time I’d counted, I had roughly 60-something short stories that I could finish and post. I schedule those, but sometimes, plans change. For example, if a holiday is coming up, I will write a new TAF specific for the holiday, and leave the scheduled one to be posted at a later time. I don’t always know exactly which story idea I’ll be posting – sometimes it’s one of the ones from The Vault, and sometimes it’s new stories I write on my commute – but I try to get it done/scheduled at least the week before it’s supposed to go up.

Planning out your posts can put your mind to ease and not make you feel like you’re scrabbling each week (or month) to get a post to your website. This will also allow you to actually schedule the posts in your website.

In WordPress, when you make a new post, it enables you to Post Now, or you can schedule the post for a later date. This is extremely helpful when life decides to get in the way, and you’re not able to make it to a computer to manually post your article on your scheduled day – you can set it to go up automatically.

It may seem like a small thing, but it can be a life saver, especially around the holidays, when you’re pre-occupied with holiday-related worries. This gives you one less thing to try to remember after you finish cooking/hosting/buying presents, etc.

And there you have it. My top three tips of website running help I wish somebody had told me when I was starting out. It will take some time for you to adjust your schedule no matter how much of your time you commit to your website, so if you hit a few bumps along the way, don’t get discouraged – that’s just part of doing something new.


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Top 5 Pros/Cons of Working From Home

You don’t have to get up early every morning, deal with rush hour, you’re your own boss, you get to work on your schedule. What could be better, right?

Wrong.

It’s not all sunshine and good times. Working from home is actually a giant pain in the ass. It’s one of those things you love-hate. On the one hand it can get pretty stressful/hectic, especially because you’re trying to do everything, but on the other there is no way in hell you would trade the stress for a ‘regular’ 9-5. I’m not saying it can’t be great, but there is much more to it then what meets the eye.

Below are my Top 5 pro’s/con’s of working from home:

#1: You’re Your Own Boss

This is absolutely the number one best and worst thing about working from home. Being your own boss means you don’t have anybody to answer to. Sure, this means that if you forget a deadline you won’t get yelled at, and you have the freedom to move said deadline to whatever you want. But the flipside is: you have no one to answer to.

Nobody’s going to hold you accountable for missing a post, not writing an article, skipping a day because you’re bored/lazy/just don’t want to. There’s nobody else writing articles for you, scheduling your social media – basically nobody’s there to save your ass. If you aren’t doing it it’s not getting done. No matter how much you wish it would do it by itself, you have to dedicate a bit of time to everything in order to keep things running. And, trust me, when you really sit down and start trying to plan all the things you want to accomplish, things can get stressful very fast. I’m not saying it’ll all fall apart and all your readers will leave if you miss one post, but they’ll at least be disappointed if it doesn’t come.

Think that doesn’t apply because you’re just starting out and don’t have anyone looking at your stuff? Not quite. If you’re just starting out, sure it can be tempting to not post if you don’t feel like it because nobody’s watching, but if you want to grow and get people to start looking at your stuff, you’re gonna have to post at least somewhat consistently.

#2: It’s Hard To Detach

Another big con is that since you’re already home, it might take you longer to get out of Work Mode. Also, since you work from home, even when you do decide to relax/shut it down for the night/take a day off, the temptation is always there, and you might find yourself feeling guilty during your days off for ‘slacking off’. It’s tempting to say, ‘my laptop/notebook, etc is just upstairs/in the other room, I should be working, not wasting time doing nothing.’This is something I’m certainly guilty of.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a writer or what, but I always feel like I’m ‘on’ anyway, whether it’s scanning crowds of people for character descriptions, accidentally listening a bit too hard to that conversation on the subway for a funny line I could put in a story, or running over whatever plot-line I’ve been stuck on when I’m supposed to be not thinking about work – I feel like writers/singers/artists are in a weird state of limbo between working and not working that ‘regular people’ just don’t understand. Our jobs while amazing, make it hard to truly turn off Work Mode.

We’re constantly scanning our life for inspiration, which makes it hard to truly be done at 5pm like most other jobs. Most other jobs you go to the office, work on whatever and then punch out at a certain time. For artists that’s not really an option. It also makes it hard to find the line between ‘I’ve worked enough today’ and ‘I should be cramming as much work as I possibly can into each day because I work from home’.

Is there any fix for this? Not really. It’s always gonna be hard to detach from work, but one thing that might help is trying to put some sort of organization/structure to your work.

For example, I post on my website every two weeks, on Fridays and Mondays, so I try to break up my weeks like this:

Week 1 (Non-Post Week)

  • Search for/work on freelance work
  • Begin new articles/stories for next week
  • Finish at least 2 (other) short stories/articles (to throw in The Vault [so their ready for other weeks])
  • Work on upcoming novel/books
  • Think/Begin new designs for merch
  • Schedule posts for social media (usually done on weekends)

Week 2 (Post Week)

  • Make sure article/short story for this week are done
  • Schedule posts for respective days
  • Finish merch design/s from previous week and add to store
  • Keep working on/finish other short stories/articles from last week
  • Schedule social media posts

If you give yourself some sort of structure like this, it should help ease your guilt when you decide to call it a day, because then you can at least say you ticked off everything you wanted to get done. If you organize everything you need/want to get done, it can also help manage your stress, instead of trying to do everything at once, once you write it all out, you can sort it into whatever you feel are your top priorities and work on those first.

And, this of course you should make sure to schedule days off for yourself as well. I like to keep it simple, and stick with having the weekends ‘off’. (I do ‘easy’ stuff on these days, like photoshop) You can’t constantly be working all day every day – seriously, look it up, it’s bad for your health. Make sure to cut yourself a break every once in a while. You’re the boss, you’re allowed. (Just don’t give yourself too many days off)

#3: Ignoring The People Around You

In this same line of reasoning, with it being hard to detach, it’s not just hard on you. The people around you can feel jaded when you’re constantly blowing them off to work, or, if they work all day, come in and you’re still working. It can feel like you’re actively ignoring them in favour of work. While that might not be your intention, it can (and will) start to wear on those around you if you can’t find a dedicated ‘stopping time’.

I personally have had conversations with the people in my life about this issue. Now that it’s been brought to my attention, I try not to do that, but it’s not always that simple. Sometimes it’s hard to stick to my self-imposed ‘quitting time’, especially if I’m on a writing roll, or, if it’s someone’s day off. That’s when I feel really guilty.

Also, I feel like sometimes they assume since you work from home and you can do it whenever, (especially when you’re just starting out) and they might not see why it’s so important this thing gets done on a certain day. Stick to your guns on this. Sit them down and explain why this is important, and what you need from them first.

While it’s tempting to give in, it’s also important you talk to the people around you so they understand exactly why you have to do things the way you say, and why it’s important you don’t skip the work days.

#4: You Can Focus On What You Want

A giant plus of being your own boss? You get to push your blog/business in whatever direction you want. You want to write about why puppies aren’t really that cute? You can. Why ‘not all men’ say ___? Go for it. You don’t really like cake? Sure, that works too.

One of the biggest pro’s is that you don’t have to write/focus/dedicate your time to someone else’s vision/dream – it’s all you all the time. Whether or not you’re 100% sure of where you’re going doesn’t matter, as long as you’re pushing forward.

Nobody likes writing about a topic they don’t like (or worse, have the opposite view-point on) and working from home gives you the freedom to write what you want, how you want.

#5: You Can Work In Your PJ’s

Definitely one of my favourite things in life is getting to get up and not have to wear any uncomfortable ‘work’ clothes to get my sh*t done. Nobody sees me so if I don’t wanna get dressed? No problem, I can type in just about anything, pj’s included.

I don’t recommend doing this all the time, but every once in a while it’s nice to literally roll out of bed and then get to work. I usually do this once every few Fridays, since it’s the end of the week, it’s kind of like my version of Casual Fridays. It also helps to get some of the stress of the rest of the week out of my head. Pj’s are comfy, so they fit perfectly with the ‘do some work’ vibe I get on Fridays, instead of the ‘try to do everything in the universe’ of the rest of the week.


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Breaking A Writer’s Block

I’m gonna be honest, I had writer’s block trying to think of what to say in this article. (Ironic, I know)

It wasn’t even so much that I didn’t want to write this article, it was more of… well on one hand, it’s summer now, and I’ve been dying to get back on my bike, and the other hand, I wasn’t sure which direction to take this article.

As I was debating, I discovered (re-remembered?) something: there’s different kinds of writer’s block. They all suck, and are equally as annoying as each other too. But, they all have one thing in common: they can all be broken.

So, no matter which one you’re suffering from, whether it’s Too Many Plot-Lines writers block, Too Many Words, Not Enough Words or anything in between, below are tips I use no matter which type I’m experiencing that (so far) have helped get me out of my writing rut.

 

1. Switch Up Your Music

I don’t know how you normally write, but for me, I usually have music on. I like pulling the emotion from the songs and using it to help fuel my stories. Not every story has it’s own playlist, but a lot of them do. (Each book does, at least)

There’s only so many songs in the world you like, however, so sometimes, since you’ve got over 100 playlists, the song choices seem to twindle, and there’s usually different phases, where you listen to just the newer songs. While that’s great for your music tastes, it’s leaving your brain in the same set way of thinking. There’s only so many stories you can pull from a song, and even though it might be the perfect song for the emotional value, I bet you probably have an older song (one you no longer listen to) that evokes the same emotion.

I know, I know, “but I don’t wanna listen to an old song! I’ve heard it so many times!” Just… trust me. Sometimes you forget just how powerful your old favourites were. Also, since some time has passed since you’ve heard it, you’ve grown, experienced new things, and might take away different things this time around. You might connect to a different line in the song more then used to, or, you might discover the song has a whole new meaning. (Did you know Night Moves [Bob Seger] is about sex and not dancing?)

 

2. Stop Writing

If you’re super stuck on a section, take a step back. Go do something else. No, seriously. Have you ever been in the middle of writing and all of a sudden you just can’t… do… words?

Yeah, go take a break. You deserve it. No arguing, you do. Even if you have to get this done, and if you haven’t hit your word count yet, and blah, blah, blah… Stop beating yourself up, bro!

Look, I know it’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘I haven’t done enough writing today/this week/month/year, etc. but seriously? Take a step back. Now, breath. Look at how much you’ve accomplished so far. Count them, make a list if you have to. All the works you’ve finished/published.

Give yourself permission to take a break. You know who’s written less then you this year? Shakespeare. You know who else you’ve written more then?

  • Edgar Allen Poe
  • Virginia Wolf
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • P Lovecraft

That’s right – you’ve out-written some of the greats this year. Let that sink in.

You deserve a break. Go watch some T.V, go for a walk/run/dance break, eat, and for God’s sake, go to the bathroom! (Don’t worry, we’ve all been there)

You’re a smart cookie, but you won’t magically get past your writer’s block if you’re running in circles. Your brain can’t concentrate, especially if you’re super stressed. It’s one of the worst Catch 22’s there is. You start stressing because you’re not writing, and then you’re not writing because you’re stressed.

 

3. Write Something Else

You’re a stubborn one, aren’t ya? Alright, fine, if you must continue to write, write something else. Anything else. I’m sure you have some fifty-odd something other projects you could be working on. Blow the dust off that short story you gave up on four months ago when you got that light bulb for the novel you’re writing.

Don’t have any short stories on the go? Start and write one. Right now. Go find a random word generator online, pick 1 word and write a short story about it. In one shot. (Fun side fact, that’s where the Oneshot [term for a short fanfiction story] originated) Right now. Let’s say it should be under 5,000 words (10 Word pages). Short and sweet.

Can’t find any random story-starters? Or, don’t want to spend hours searching through the random generators?

No problem, here:

– Penguin

– Hot pocket

– Sand

– Ties

– Helium

There you go. Now you have no excuses. Stop over-thinking it and just do it.

Seriously, I’ll wait.

 

Okay, I know there aren’t very many tips on this list, but the most important thing in breaking a writer’s block is to get your brain out of the rut. Get up, dust yourself off, and go do something else for a while. Stop concentrating so hard on the thing you’re stuck on. Subconsciously, you’ll still be wrestiling with it.

Everybody knows you always think of the solution to everything in the shower anyway, so, y’know, relax a little. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. (But there will be more on that in another post)

Alright, that’s all for this article. 934 words. I don’t think that’s that bad, considering I started this with writer’s block. There you go, living proof, you can get through it.

Do you have any favourite writer’s block busters you use? Let me know in the comments below!


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The Problem With Fanfiction Writers

… Is that some people who look down their nose at them. We’ve all been there. ‘When are you gonna get a real job?’, ‘You’re not a real writer’, etc. Whoever told you to this is full of sh*t. I’m sorry, but since when is using someone else’s idea as a base/platform for your own creativity bad/wrong? Are you trying to tell me you never played with Barbie’s or G. I. Joes or Hot Wheels?

‘But those are just toys! It’s different!’ Is it now? How would you feel if your mom/dad/guardian told you to ‘go play’ but took all your toys away? Or, when you bad and they did take them – how sad did that make you? What did you end up doing without them? Sitting there feeling sorry for yourself and/or crying/bargaining saying you’d ‘do anything’ to get them back.

And now let me ask you: do you still have those toys you once thought were so precious? Do you still play with them when you get home from work? No, because you outgrew them, right? You don’t need them anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you always out grow it. You can still write it for fun, because it’s fun. It’s for you and makes you happy. I write fanfiction too, it’s all good.

But, shooting a writer down because they ‘write fanfiction’ is not cool or helpful. You know what you do each time you say that to someone? You chip away at their dreams. Yes, you do. Especially when they’re 12-14 year olds. ‘Oh, it’s not perfect grammar, there’s spelling mistakes, blah, blah, blah’, of course there is! Newsflash: they’re kids. They’re learning. They’re teaching themselves basics with characters they know. They’re taking the familiar and making it their own. Making it less daunting.

Look at the famous writers you (maybe) were taught or at least read in school: Robert Munch, Barbara Park (Junie B. Jones), Dav Pilky (Captain Underpants), Stephen King even Dr. Suess – notice what all these big authors have in common?

They all have a lot of books. Some of them even had whole dedicated sections in the library. Any child who is aspiring to become a writer is guarantee thinking ‘I could never do that.’ When you are just learning what a noun is, and the different parts of a sentence – of course you look at that giant library as Mount Everest.

It doesn’t help that ‘writer’ is never addressed as something you can grow up to be, (but that’s a whole other article) kids are literally stunted in pursuing a writing career at the same time they’re just learning what writing even is.

Is it really a wonder why some dip their toes into the profession using characters that are already established/developed/loved?

Fanfiction should not be scoffed at – there are some amazing works and writers that wouldn’t exist if they didn’t write fanfiction. So don’t you dare tell me fanfiction is somehow ‘polluting’ the writing genre.

Here’s just a few examples of famous works that are fanfiction:

  • The Lion King – Retelling of Hamlet
  • Romeo and Juliet – yep, even Shakespeare himself wrote fanfiction. He based it off of an Arthur Brooke poem, The Tragic History of Romeo and Juliet
  • Dante’s Inferno – Bible fic
  • The Three Musketeers – based on another book, Mémoires de Monsieur d’Artagnan
  • Lord of the Flies – some may argue this is more a parody than fic, but either way, it was based on The Coral Island

These are just 5 examples of famous works out of what I’m sure is hundreds, but look at how beloved the above works are. Not all fics are bad (like, say… Fifty Shades of Grey [which is a Twilight fic, FYI]) and they’re not all gonna be gold, either. Give kids the same encouragement to write fic that you’d give them if they wanted to be a doctor, or lawyer.

Do you really want to be responsible for telling the next Shakespeare they shouldn’t write?