Avoiding the Blog Snooze Factor

Snoozey blogs are a bore.  But keeping them interesting or appealing can prove difficult, regardless of your blog’s focus: to sell, advise/inform, promote, or entertain.

Nobody wants an eye-glazingly boring/bad blog, so let’s give some thought on how to maintain one that’s attention-grabbing.  (And, yes, even if your blog is about the Luna Moth, it could be super fascinating . . . with the right approach.)

When you’d first thought about starting a blog, what [should have] popped into your mind?  Ri-ight.  Your intended audience.  And?  Are you writing for—and attracting—that audience?  If not, consider using tools like Google Analytics to determine whether you’re succeeding.  If you’re not, you may want to rethink your approach.

The first thing I did when setting up a blog was create an “About Me” page.  It’s not a requirement, but if you decide to have one, make it interesting and/or funny, classy and/or silly, and ensure it reflects you.  In fact, why not write one as a tale—about you?

Blogs generally tend to be personal, so you may want to write in first-person.  I love first-person (can’t imagine writing any other way).  It’s an ideal way for readers to get into your head and understand the real you.  If you’re shy, suck it up—sell yourself.  You can do it.

Ensure your writing is clear and crisp.  Going off on tangents, rambling incessantly, adding too many descriptive words (those things called “adjectives”) probably won’t engage your readers much.  You want to embrace—uh, what’s the right word?  Yes!  Simplicity.

Simple = straightforward = uncomplicated = clear-cut.

On that note, also ensure your writing is to the point and not overly long (avoid run-on, mind-fogging sentences).  You want to engage readers, not bore the hell out of them.

Feel free to break up posts, too.  Visuals “pretty up” posts, make them appealing and easier to follow.  Use [judiciously] different fonts, colors, spacing, and bullets.  Too many words chockablock in one post can resemble a giant square or sticky note, and may prompt readers to move on.  Draw attention, pull them in, but don’t go overboard; too many visuals can be as detrimental as none at all.

Never be negative.  I have a tendency to express regret—like that damn mailing list I often mention, the one I just can’t find the time to do (or wrap my head around, if I’m totally honest).  See?  Did it again.  <LOL>  Don’t you do it.  Freely share ideas and feelings and thoughts (in context with your blog).  It’s fine to communicate opinions and emotions; simply take care as to how you sound (and what image you convey).

On the “never be negative” note, make certain not to insult or condemn people, gossip or berate.  Stay factual and objective.  Mind what you share and say.

Be original.  Don’t plagiarize or steal.  You have your focus: stay on point.

Being typo-free is good.  (I’ll readily admit that I’ve caught a few in mine, so slap on hand to me.)

Enough tips for now.  I don’t want to run on and un-interest you.  Next post: editing tips (which lend themselves to keeping our posts all of the above).

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The Further Adventures of The Triple Threat Investigation Agency . . . We Wish!

Okay, those “adventures” ain’t that much further, the three of us admit.  We’re kinda, uh, slightly stuck.

Rey here.  The boss asked us to write a post because she’s overloaded with that other job (the 9-to-5 one she’d love to see go bye-bye).   Since Linda’s surfing on the North Shore for a couple of days (she met a guy named Lindor who’s got her all googly-eyed) and JJ’s volunteering at the animal shelter for the next three days on account of employees being sick and/or on vacation, yours truly got the honor.

I’ve got an idea about writing posts from watching Linda.  Seems they have a purpose—to inform or instruct, or entertain.  I’m not gonna waste your time or mine by writing too much—coz I’m a doer and watcher, not an “author”.   So, here’s an update on where we’re at.

The gals–that’s us–at the Triple Threat Investigation Agency are wrapping up the fourth big case, “Forever Poi”.  Yeah, you heard this a wee while back.  Unfortunately, we hit a couple of brick walls—big time—but I’m sure (!) we’re gonna nab our villain(s) real soon.

We’ve got lots of “gut instincts”, some dead bodies, but no hard evidence, that’s the prob.  I’d share our thoughts as to who the killer is, but my fellow P.I.s would have my hide.  Besides, the killer might read this post and then where would we be?  Up Shit’s Creek without a paddle, or something like that.

Please, hang in there—like we’re doing—and all will be revealed soon.

And a super big thanks for your patience.

Yay.  One task done.  . . . Think I’ll hit the beach and have a Mai-Tai.  Cheers!

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When Life Gets in the Way

. . . of your writing/blogging dreams and desires, you can:

  • weep
  • have a meltdown or two (I’m particularly skilled at these)
  • curse and swear (too melodramatic, but for a few seconds, delightfully effectual)
  • blame it on bad energy or luck (and curse it to death).

Or you can:

  • suck it up, take a few dee-eeeeeep breaths, and work at what’s doable.

Life’s been challenging lately.  The stress level has been Shanghai-Tower high.  This isn’t good, so I’m gonna nip it in the bud—now.

Okay, so there’s no mailing list yet.  The truth is, currently there simply aren’t enough cycles (silly company jargon for “time”) to do all that’s required with one, like monitoring, analyzing and responding.  As you know, like many of you, there’s a full-time job and Mom to care for.  But that mailing list will [eventually] happen.

Okay, so the fourth Triple Threat Investigation Agency mystery isn’t completed.  It’s getting there, slowly but surely.  I’m taking those baby steps mentioned in past . . . and those are better than none at all.

Okay, so at the moment there are no ads.  Investment $ aside (I ain’t Trump rich), there’s the measuring/assessing that goes with them.  Then, if you attract followers, you’ve got to take action.  Action = time = not doable [yet].  But one day, ye-es, they will run—fast and furious like a gazelle pursued by lions.  [That’s good ol’ Rey’s melodramatic contribution.]

Okay, so followers are minimal at this time (thanks to the aforementioned).  Right now, it’s difficult to offer more than two weekly blog posts on A Writer’s Grab-Bag and the one on Typepad (and a weekly Wattpad installment for “Odd Woman Out”).  The awesome thing: they are being done.

If you’re in a similar situation, don’t despair.  It’s all good.  It may not seem like it (just ask colleagues about my huff-and-puff moments), but it will transpire.  I truly believe there are no coincidences, just as I avidly believe in—and trust—the Good Lord.  It’s all about faith and conviction.

Believe in yourself.  If you have to deviate from the course you’ve set, don’t beat yourself up (like I too often have, coz let me tell ya, it hurts!).  When Life gets in the way, just say, “Bring it on.  I can handle anything.  I’ll get through this . . . and I’ll grow as a result.”

Approach Life’s trials and tasks like a matador: challenge with passes, stand firm, demonstrate conviction and face your “opponent”, present the muleta . . . .

You’ve got it in you.  You know you do.  It’ll happen, my friends, it’ll happen.

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Mystery Writing 101 . . . or . . . What the do I Know about Writing a Mystery?

As a writer of mysteries (The Triple Threat Investigation Agency series), it’s no secret that I’m also a lover of the genre.  Which would go without saying, of course.  But I just did.  <ROTFL>

Nancy Drew, as often stated, was [still is] my heroine.  I first read her when I was eight and was hooked, big-time.  Solving mysteries with her and George and Bess was fun.

It’s still fun, although these days I keep company with more heavyweights.  Having that challenge—just who is the killer?—sends a shiver of anticipation along the spine with every novel cracked open (I like the feel of a real book, sorry Kindle).

So, you’re considering writing one?  That’s good, very good indeed.  But you’re uncertain where to start.  Well, acquainting yourself with the genre should come first, but I’m assuming you’ve got an idea of what the world of whodunits entails.

Let’s consider a few “musts”.

You must introduce your main character(s), the sleuth(s), as soon as possible.  The villain should be presented fairly early on, as well; readers must have an opportunity to pull the baddie(s) into their musings (as they endeavor to solve the mystery).

Make the major crime evident within a reasonable period, such as the first three or four chapters, as you want to create—and prolong—tension and suspense/excitement.  With mysteries, what’s that major crime?  Yup, you got it: murder.

Give the murder careful thought and plausibility.  Maybe there’s only one body, maybe a few.  If there are numerous ones, have the “surge” sound logical.  Sure, there could be a serial killer, a whacko, maybe even more than one killer.  Who doesn’t enjoy the roller-coaster ride of a thrilling serial killer case?  If you intend to write one, ensure that it’s compelling and believable, given the characters and circumstances.

Keep your story twisting and turning, but don’t drag it on forever.  And don’t make the killer(s) obvious.  You want readers to keep solving your challenging mystery, not yawning and heading off to do something more exciting, like garbage disposal or counter cleaning.

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As I always say, do your due diligence.  When you’re writing—creating—make sure to include facts.  This could include details about the murder (perhaps from a forensic or law enforcement angle), description about the state of the body (if you’re writing a cozy, you may want to sugar-coat it and keep intense details/facts to a minimum), states of mind, and so forth.  Present a sense of realism.

Consider writing a mystery like a paint-by-number kit.  You’re completing it in a painstaking manner: every little piece should uniformly connect (“bind”).

Now that you have some food for thought, I’ll let you digest.

We’ll look at how to develop your detective next post.  In the meanwhile, slap on that sleuthing cap and pursue that ever-winding writing/solving trail.

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The Continuity Conundrum

Continuity = Continuousness = Coherency

One of the more difficult things when writing a novel—especially the first time out—is ensuring that everything is consistent and correct.

There’s nothing more funny (and really kinda embarrassing) than having a female protagonist with raven-black eyes in the opening and then sparrow-brown a few chapters later.  Contacts?  Iris transplant?  Methinks not.  We-ell, maybe, if you’re writing sci-fi / fantasy.

It’s fine to write off the cuff.  Not so fine not to do a final edit or two, or three.  Editing helps find flaws and mistakes.  But you know that.  So kudos to you.

And yes (been there!), it’s tough recalling what happened to Susie Creamcheese on page 18, or what she wore.  It may not be even matter.  But if good ol’ Susie spoke with an Arkansan accent, replete with local expressions, and lost it later on, your integrity as a writer could come into question.  Errors happen, sure.  Small ones are usually forgivable.  Glaring ones, not so much.

So, what areas should you be consistent with?

  • characters’ appearances & traits
  • characters’ names (I confess I, too, have mixed them up and/or changed them halfway through, slap on hand to me)
  • facts
  • locations, settings & places
  • seasons & time/timing
  • plot & action, and
  • things (if Susie’s riding a bike in Chapter 5 due to a fear of driving, why is she steering a convertible down the I-90 in Chapter 19?).

If you’re not going to do an outline before you start, that’s fine (some do, some don’t, including yours truly).  What you should do, as advice from one fellow writer to another: keep a scene breakdown and a character rundownNeither need be lengthy.

As I write the Triple Threat Investigation Agency series, I tend to have quite the extensive character rundown.  I’m always adding/updating.  Having both really does help with continuity (trust me on that).  Here’s how you might want to approach them.

Scene breakdown:

  • list chapters and each scene within
  • record major events (Susie and Lee went sailing; Lee fell off the sailboat; a strange surfer rescued Lee)
  • note day, time, and weather
  • have a “to do (later)” box so you remember something needs fixing/adding.

Character rundown:

  • list names, ages, characteristics, traits, likes and dislikes
  • note people and events important in a character’s life that play a part in the plot
  • do up a family history (this doesn’t have to be long, but anything that influences or shapes your characters’ lives should be documented).

Yes, both take extra time, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

Remember:

Continuity = Continuousness = Coherency

= Credibility.

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The Beginnings of E-book Nirvana

Maybe first and foremost let’s decide how to spell that?  Ebook, e-book, or E-Book?  Methinks e-book (coz it works for l’il ol’ me.)

The two main types of publishing—e-book versus traditional—have been touched upon in previous posts.  Now, how about actually writing one?

It’s something you’ve thought and dreamed about, but haven’t yet done.  Check a reason:

  • lassoing time (it’s proven as difficult to snare as a rampaging bull)
  • picking a genre from a cornucopia of possibilities (mystery? romance? western? steampunk?!)
  • deciding between fiction or nonfiction (do I create exploits for crazy characters or advise others on how to construct cuckoo clocks?)
  • settling on a story, plot, and/or focus (huh? uh?)
  • getting <bleeping> started when you’re <bleeping> unsure what to do, and/or
  • other: ____________ (you fill in the blank).

Now that you’ve recognized why you haven’t written one, you can kiss off the reason(s) and move forward, and actually start writing.

Awesome. You’ve got an idea—a tale (or teachings) screaming to be shared!  Go for it.  Put the pedal to the metal, or fingers to the keyboard.  Pen to paper [still] works, too.

Before beginning your chef-d’œuvre, it might be best to determine:

  • where you’re going to write: distractions (pets, kids, partners, coworkers, outdoor views) should be at a minimum, unless you possess superhero skill at blocking out all
  • when you’re going to write; sticking to set schedules is about as easy leaping tall buildings, but figure out the best time of day/night to sit down and then do it.

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If the plan is to write fiction, check out authors writing in your genre.  If it’s nonfiction, research websites and blogs, and authors, centering on the same or similar topic.

Read some e-books in your given genre.  See what’s out there and what’s popular.

Do research before or while you write, or after the first draft (whatever works best for you).  Check facts and stats, settings and locales.  There’s nothing worse than glaring errors (like a famous institution located in the wrong part of town, or a misspelled product or place).

When working on your first draft, try not to worry too much about grammar or typos, logistics or continuity.  Just go with the flow.  Get it all down, then clean up (e-d-i-t).

You may want to do an outline before you start writing.  Some writers do, some (like me) don’t so, again, do what works for you.  You’ll figure it out.

Now, if you’ve got a blog going, consider engaging your viewers and visitors.  Let them know what you’re up to.  Maybe you’d like to request their input?

When that final edit is complete, take a deep breath, and pat yourself [profusely] on the back.  Find an e-publisher and show [off] your baby to the world!

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Aloooooooooooooooooooooo-hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhha

Some folks have asked why the three of us decided to set up shop on Oahu, considering the three of us had never even been to the Islands.

It was my idea.  Just like I thought up the name The Triple Threat Investigation Agency.  JJ never liked it and Linda wasn’t crazy about it, but they agreed to it regardless.  Gotta love those two.

Every state has different “rules” about how to set up private eye shingles.  Bearing that in mind—okay, okay, finding out the hard way—I sorta pointed a finger at a map and Hawaii it was.

I don’t think any one of us regrets the move: we love the Aloha State.  Agency and careers aside, there’s so much to embrace:

  • balmy trade winds that tickle all over (and keep the sweat at bay)
  • shopping outlets and malls that never disappoint
  • subtle lingering scents like sweet plumeria and briny ocean air that envelop like soft silk
  • positive energy and vibes that boost optimism and hope
  • vast and vibrant colors that seem surreal sometimes
  • amazing rainbows (galore!)
  • stunning landscapes and seascapes
  • food trucks and kiosks and restaurants in abundance
  • shopping outlets and malls that never disappoint . . . oh, I mentioned that already, didn’t I? . . . but they are awesome.

The list goes on.  And never mind the countless things to do, like sunrise runs and jogs (not this gal’s cup o’ tea), walks along the beach, festivals and parades, and nummy Mai-Tais and . . . yeah, we really love Hawaii.

Just as we love our P.I. lives.  If you’re ever in Chinatown, drop by the agency (we’re not shy).

˜ A haupia-sweet aloha from yours truly (Rey).  ˜

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Landing a Landing Page

Recently, we touched upon setting up a blog.  Now, what about a landing page?  (To be honest, I’d not much considered it until a few articles and “chats” fell into my lap last week.)

What’s a landing page, you may wonder.  It’s a single [unique] web page on your website.  Sometimes called a destination page or lead-capture page, that’s exactly what it does: it leads a visitor or viewer to you, it “captures” his/her attention.  It’s either aimed at the intended promotion of a company, product or service, or to inform a viewer of something.

There are actually two types: Click Through and Lead Generation (the aforementioned lead-capture page).

  • The former encourages a visitor to click through to another page . . . motivating him/her [hopefully] to make a decision about buying something, and then filling that shopping cart.
  • The latter is used to obtain user info, like names and email addresses. Usually, the signer-upper will get something in return—such as regular blog posts, vouchers, discounts, free trials, demos, and gifts (among many other things).

Is a landing page really necessary, you may also wonder.  Yeah, it is . . . if you want to increase your visitor-to-lead conversion rates.  Because, yeah, you want to capture leads!

Leads = data.  Data = insight.  Insight = progress.  Progress = success.

Apparently, they’re fun and easy to use.  I li-ike that, because those familiar with me know I can suck when it comes to anything technical—just ask me about that elusive [much dreamed of] mailing list.  <LMAO>

When you decide to design a landing page, write and create it with one business objective in mind.  What is it you’re trying to “market”?

As I always say, ad nauseam I know, do your due diligence.  There’s tons of information out there on landing pages.  And there are some awesome sites that offer great ideas.

Now, I’m not endorsing these, but if you’re interested in learning about landing pages, here are three sites you may want to visit.

Instapage has reviewed 100 landing pages, and offers pros and cons of why they work (or don’t).  Worth checking out!

https://instapage.com/blog/landing-page-examples

Unbounce has “The Landing Page Conversion Course”.  Find it at:

http://do.thelandingpagecourse.com.

One Page Love (“the ultimate showcase of One Page websites”) has some interesting deals and free templates.  For a nominal fee, you can also get a critique of your “one-pager”.  (I have to confess, I really like the comfy, easy-going feel of this site and may just—once I get my own landing page created—have them take a gander.)

https://onepagelove.com/gallery/landing-page

Happy landings!

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