Tag Archives: blogging

10 Ways to Make Your Blog Post Stand Out

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How to write a great blog post

With the thousands of blog posts written each day, we need an edge to get readers to notice. Here are 10 ways to make your blog post stand out.

1. Title

Numbers are a great way to grab readers’ attention like 10 Choices…7 Mistakes…3 Funny…5 Ways to Avoid… Use phrases that make readers curious: What Every Writer Needs to Know, Lessons My Babysitter Never Told Me, How to Not Be Her, etc.

2. Pictures

Pictures grab attention. A good picture will make you curious, laugh, or at least trust the author. It can add to the story, complete the story, or compel people to read your post. If you include a description in the Alt Text box, it can enhance the discoverability of your post through image searches. Whenever possible, use your own pictures or purchase the license for the photo through stock photography sites like Canstockphoto, iStockphoto, or Shutterstock. Many images found on the web belong to someone and using them can be problematic.

3. Numbers or bullets

Using numbers and/or bullets make reading easier and breaks down our ideas into bite sized chunks. In our ADD world, lists make a post easy to read and digest.

4. Headings

Headings serve a similar purpose by allowing readers to scan your post for the most valuable info then read a deeper explanation, if desired. Instead of just using bold for the heading, use the Heading tags for greater impact.

5. Links to other resources

You can’t tell the whole story in one blog post. If readers are passionate about the topic, give them more! You can link to other posts on your site or send them to another blog or website. Readers reward bloggers who give valuable information and are a trusted resource. You don’t need to know everything. If you know someone who can elaborate, link to their site. Check the box to open in a new window so your reader can easily get back to your post.

6. Questions

Readers respond better when they are asked a question. Ask if they experienced your topic, had problems with X, have a better way to do Y, or how they feel about Z. Encourage feedback and join the conversation when they do. Thank them for their comments and ask more questions to keep the conversation going, if it seems appropriate. It’s a great opportunity to check out the blogs of your readers and consider following them.

7. Polls

Like questions, polls give your readers a reason to get involved. Use polls for research, for engagement, or just for fun. You can use yes or no questions like “Would you ever…” or multiple choice questions like “Chocolate or Vanilla.” Click on the link for more information about using WordPress polls.

8. Tags

Like a tree falling in the forest with no one around, a blog with no tags is hard to discover. Use tags and categories starting with general topic then list details in the post. To find out what readers are looking for, check out the Topics page and make sure one of your tags or categories include one of these main headings. Check out more information about WordPress categories and tags. ManageWP maybe says it best, “if categories are the table of contents for your blog, tags represent the index.”

9. Examples

Examples put the words into context. “Use a catchy title” has little meaning to someone learning how to create one. Read your blog post, or better yet, let someone else read your post and see if they understand what you are explaining. Use pictures, screen shots, or written examples to get your point across. If readers don’t understand what you are saying or how to ultimately do what you are teaching, they won’t come back for more.

10. Original Content

With all of the information on the internet, you might ask if it’s even possible to have something original to say. Fortunately, you have your own perspective on things. Even though people have written about blogging before, no one sits at your desk, looks out your window, and watches that one squirrel interact with that other squirrel. Your perspective on how to motivate people, inspire people, or entertain people is different. Turn a topic on its head and view it from a different angle. Be authentic. Care about the readers who take the time to read your posts and those readers will reward you with likes, follows, and shares.

Look at your most popular posts. What made them more popular? Was it the topic, how you delivered the content, or how it was tagged? I would love to hear from you!

Pardon Me While I Hyperventilate

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We all know that dirty little 6-letter word…change.  Whether it occurs through our own conscious decision or is thrust harshly upon us, change carries with it varying amounts of anticipation and consternation. Often, we have to endure the hard part before we get to the reason we get out of bed every morning.

In the past 2 weeks, my son turned 18 and graduated from high school.  It’s truly a celebratory time in our family, but also a time of reflection.  He’ll be off to the College of William and Mary in the fall leaving his childhood behind him. More importantly, he’s leaving us behind him. It’s everything that I could have ever dreamed for him yet it may take a crane to dislodge that lump in my throat.  There it is. Change.

This post isn’t really about him or me (although I could go on).  It’s more about using change as an opportunity.  The Comic Toolbox equates comedy with pain. The emotional upheaval that comes with change is an opportunity to make your writing deeper, richer and perhaps funnier.  Your characters will come alive with real emotions once you have experienced them for yourself. The results of change may not only shake you out of your box, but send you into a different orbit altogether.  You may be seated behind your keyboard with from a totally different perspective.

Of course, the changes may be more subtle.  For me, after the initial sadness (and subsequent bottle(s) of Chardonnay) with sending my eldest off to college, there will be a time of joy and pride for a job well done. The long term difference will be the time I have that used to be used for soccer games, band concerts, and the art of constantly feeding a hungry teenager. So, what do you do if you have more time?

Maybe that time is best used writing your manuscript or blog or a letter to your mother.  Maybe it is taking the time to get inspired. Take a walk in nature. Take a few pictures. Take yourself to a museum.  Maybe it is spending some time with those you love and meeting some people you don’t yet know.  The one thing that you can control in an uncertain time of change is you.  You will change, too.  How and how much is up to you.

What changes have occurred in your life that have affected your writing or writing life?

Recommended Reading:  Who Moved My Cheese? By Spencer Johnson

What’s in a Name?

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NameYesterday, I changed the title of my blog. I also changed the domain name of my blog. And lastly, but most importantly, I changed my name. Why, you ask?  Age bias.

My given name is Lois. My mom just always liked that name. Since I started writing seriously, I set up a Google Alert and receive an email every time Lois Hoffman is mentioned on the web. The problem lies in the fact that nearly every week I get an email with an obituary for Lois Hoffman. Lois is an old fashioned name and I’m not old.

Publishers and agents are looking for writers that have their careers ahead of them. If you are not famous now when writing your first book, the people in charge of your fate as an author want to make sure you have the time and the energy to promote your book and write that next one. When they open up my manuscript, do they look at the name Lois Hoffman and trash it? Has a judgement already been handed down before my work has ever been read?

So, as a person who looks at life as a glass half full, I have made a choice. It’s an experiment really. While I can’t erase all existence of Lois without starting from scratch, my writer self can become someone else. I thought about J.K. Hoffman, but ultimately decided against it. Instead, I’ve become Emily (my middle name) – the younger, more vibrant, most definitely alive Emily Hoffman.

It’s going to take some work. I still have to change my bio, my twitter account, and who knows what else. Will it be worth it? Only time will tell. Look for me soon @emilyhoffmanDE on Twitter.

What does your name say about you? Do you think you are prejudged by your name in this fiercely competitive business?

World’s Bravest Bloggers

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“You can live 4 months without food, 4 days without water, 4 minutes without air, but you can’t live 4 seconds without hope”

This quote was made by blogger and activist Dalia Ziada. Dalia was named one of the 17 Bravest Bloggers by the Daily Beast. She writes from and about Egypt during turbulent times in her home country.  She stood opposed to the ruling dictatorship and spoke openly to the people of Egypt and the world.   With so much to lose, she used her blog to illuminate the corruption and point to a different way of leading the country. She put herself on the line for the greater good.  Would you?

Dalia’s situation, along with the circumstances of all of the bloggers they highlighted, put them selves in danger. Real danger. Most of us do not. A majority of bloggers used their words to entertain, educate, or enlighten their readers. Some just rant on about mundane issues and use their blog space as a public diary. But all of us use our skills as writers to communicate…something.

While some bloggers have a large following, others are more modest. Would you risk losing your followers to stand up and really voice your opinion, even if it is not popular? Would you stand on the side of conscience even if it meant losing friends? Business? An election?

I find myself in such a situation. While the violence I might encounter would be equivalent to eggs being thrown at my house, the real damage might be more emotional. Speaking truth to power is a daunting task. Perhaps, in this case, a losing task.  In the next few weeks, I’ll stand on the side of conscience against powerful self-interest. I’ll stand up for the voiceless. And I’ll stand against my fear of losing friends and business. Because if I don’t speak, I’ll risk losing so much more: self respect.

I won’t be one of the world’s bravest blogger at the end of all of this. I won’t even be Delaware’s bravest blogger. But, I will use my voice as a writer to stand up for what I feel is right. And if all goes well, maybe my kids will vote for me as their bravest mother.

I Guess I Always Knew

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Yesterday, I read a great post on Freshly Pressed by Susan on her blog Three Cats on a Sofa.  It is called Letter to My Past Self.  I contemplated her idea.  What would I write to give the younger me more insight and more direction?

While I like the idea, it struck me that the younger me didn’t want to hear it.  As a young adult, a time for me of selfish indulgence, I needed to break free and make it in the world…or not.  I needed to fall flat, make mistakes, and get dirty.  I needed to be inefficient and poor, impulsive and stupid.  There wasn’t anything a “real” adult could have said to make me a better decision maker.  I just needed time to grow up.

Ironically, I grew up when I listened to me, the child. The youngest me remembers skipping to Kindergarten on a beautiful sunny spring day wearing the dress covered with lavender flowers and pale green leaves that my mom made for me.  I remember the unmasked and unfiltered joy that I felt just being in that moment.

When I was about 10 years old, my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I said, “I don’t know.  I just want to make people happy.”

He said, “Awww, that’s no kind of job.”

Little did either he or I know at the time, but I grew up to be a professional juggler and children’s entertainer. My career is to make people happy.

And now, I write.  I write for the joy of expressing what I see and hear and feel.  And I write children’s stories to share that joy.  I not only get to tell a story that I hope will be fabled or funny, inspiring or adventurous, but to facilitate a relationship between a child and a someone who loves them enough to share that moment.  How cool is that?

So what will you do?  Write a letter to your younger self or let your younger self write to you?

10 Great Blogs for Children’s Writers

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Here is a list of a few of my go-to blogs when I’m looking for fresh and interesting information, news, and tips for writing and blogging. If your looking for even more, check out the blogger’s blog roll and see who they like to follow.  Leave a comment and make some friends.  Who knows the path it may take?

In no particular order….

Writers First Aid Blog – From the Institute of Children’s Literature

Write4Kids! – Home of Children’s Book Insider

Jennifer Represents – Jennifer Laughran, Literary Agent.  Code name literaticat

SCBWI MD/DE/WV Regional Blog -Edie Hemingway and Laura Bowers, tag team bloggers

Writers and Illustrators – Kathy Temean’s Blog with NJ SCBWI info and more

Nathan Bransford – Literary agent turned author

Anita Nolan’s Blog – packed with good stuff

Guide to Literary Agents – Chuck Sambuchino, editor of the book by the same name

The Urban Muse – Susan Johnston, named Top 10 blogs for writers

Think Traffic – Increase traffic to your blog

Do you have some favorites?  Let me know.  I would love to check them out.

The Power of Words

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This weekend, I watched the movie Gandhi. Although I could expound on the geopolitical implications of his non-violent resistance in both South Africa and India.  I’ll focus instead on the impact of his words on his country and the world community.

Words have the power to express love or hate, make us laugh or cry, drive us toward injustice or inspire us to be more than we ever thought possible.  Gandhi’s words were so powerful that it caused a whole nation of people to rise up when voices were needed and stand down when violence was not.

Be the change you want to see in the world is among his most famous quotes.  It’s a statement so simple, yet drives a person into action and self-discovery.

So, how are you, as writers of mystery and fantasy, children’s stories, and poetry, using your words?  You have the power to shed the light on the darkest part of us or make us laugh at our own stupidity.  You have the power to put a mirror up and force us to look at our own flawed selves or tilt it just a little and invite us to see our best side.

What do the words you put on paper say about you?