Buck-ups for Writing, and Eating Outside

This week I’m…

Getting on with things. A book I finished in January has sat mouldering in my hard drive ever since. This will not do, Emma B, I tell myself. I’ve sent it out to a proof-reader. I’ve exchanged emails with Caron Allan where I bombarded her with questions about her publishing process seeing as she excels at writing AND selling books.

I’d like to publish Artists Town, a coming of age tale set in the 1990s, in the next few months.

Eating outside. I’ve been able to do so for the ninth, I’ll say it again, ninth evening in a row. This is a slaw-type recipe (below) with turkey mince, cabbage, spices and a cheeky bit of cheddar.a picture of turkey slaw at Emma Baird

Testing out new trainers. These beauties turn up in a lot of reviews of great running shoes for women. I put them on and felt myself bounce delightedly. That’s what a good shoe does, right? It makes you want to move. I’ve got ten weeks to bed them in before I use them to pound Glasgow’s pavements for the Great Scottish Run.

Emma BairdContributing to the CO2 shortage. This week would have been the ideal time to tackle that diet coke addiction seeing as the UK is currently experiencing a CO2 shortage. Plants have stopped making the stuff. Muffins are at an all-time low* and (whisper it) beers in Wetherspoon’s might run out. Quelle horreur!

But no. I’m thinking of asking everyone I know to stockpile diet coke on my behalf so that when supplies run low, I will be okay.

Yes, folks. I’m that citizen-minded. In my defence, this is thirsty weather.

a cat rolling in the grass at Emma BairdWittering on about the heat. Perhaps the time has come for we Scots to stop exclaiming in wonder at the weather. We walk the sun-soaked streets in a daze, unsure if we exist in reality or if we’ve been transported to a parallel universe where the skies are always blue, and you can wear just a tee shirt** at eight o’clock in the morning.

The forecasters say it’s to continue for another two weeks. I’m loath to say, then it’ll be back to business as usual, rain-drenched instead of sun-soaked streets, kind of things as that fatalism drives me mad. But I should make the most of it. It’s amazing to be able to spend so much time in the sun out with a week abroad. I want to store up lots of sun-filled memories to shore me through winter when it comes.

 

*Used in the packaging, not the actual muffin. Weird, hmm?

**Unless your tee shirt is a long one, please also wear shorts, trousers or a skirt. 

Six Years of Blogging

Emma Baird picture of a laptop with the words 'back blogging'Congratulations me. This month marks my six-year blog anniversary. Six years of thinking up topics to write about, sometimes coming up with great ideas but most often opting for the lazy option, something I wrote for another platform.

I don’t have a huge following—just shy of 400—but I get good engagement, especially these days. It’s easy enough to like a blog post. You can do it without reading the article. People taking the time to read and then add their thoughts feels much more flattering.

And because I have such a small following, I don’t get negativity. Most of the comments people post are encouraging. Which is good. I’m your typical writer and my skin is wafer-thin.

My following increases steadily. At the moment, I appear to be getting one sign up a day. I’m a smarter blogger than I was when I first started up and I use some of the dark arts. I put my name into the alt text for the pictures I use. I set featured images and I craft my own excerpt. Liking and commenting on other blogs helps as does the intelligent use of tags.

I’ve got my posts automatically linked to most of my other social media platforms, so they appear on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter as soon as they come out.

The life of a blogger can be great fun. I started my working life in journalism and what former journalist wouldn’t want to be their own publisher and editor?

You also get to read amazing content from others. There are plenty of doozies out there and I often wonder what on earth bloggers are doing to get hundreds of likes and comments for badly written guff. On the whole, though, if you keep your own blog following small, you can afford to follow only the good ‘uns back.

This is a friendly community for the most part. I’m hugely grateful to all the folks who’ve read, liked and commented on my articles over the last six years. Thank YOU.

Writing and Editing Software

picture at Emma Baird of a piece of text with red editing marksI use writing software—ProWritingAid, which works out at $50 a year (about £37). Is it worth the price? Absolutely.

Like any automated system, ProWritingAid doesn’t work perfectly. To take full advantage, you need some background in English grammar so you know what to accept and what to reject. Before using ProWritingAid, I subscribed to Grammarly previously, which is more expensive and not that great.

Grammarly suggested peculiar things and the only lesson I ever learned was the comma splice. (Guilty, a lot of the time—and for those of you who’ve never heard of it, a comma splice is where you use a comma to connect two independent clauses. You should use either a semi-colon, split the sentence into two or use a conjunction.) Grammarly also wanted to put commas everywhere.

ProWritingAid runs lots of reports on your writing—a grammar check, a writing style check, clichés and redundancies, corporate wording, sticky sentences and more. My favourite one is the overused words check, which is when you realise how repetitive your writing is. The writing style report is useful because it highlights adverbs so you can cut down their use and picks up every time you start three sentences in a row with the same word.

What ProWritingAid doesn’t have, unlike Grammarly, is the option to add your own words to the dictionary. This means that if you keep using slang in dialogue, for instance, it keeps picking it up. And it works best if you only check small amounts of text at a time rather than running your whole novel through it.

Other than that, ProWritingAid has improved my writing. The software picks up my bad habits and drums them out of me. When you rethink and rewrite sentences it’s terrific writing practice.

*Please note—this post isn’t sponsored by ProWritingAid.

High Quality Content in the Blogging World

Most bloggers will have experienced this – out of the blue, you get a sales pitch from some SEO company, telling you your blog is pretty much invisible, so why not employ them to make it not so?

I got one this week, which is sort of reassuring. If I’m getting spammed by such companies, I must have some kind of online presence. The company listed the things that were wrong with the website, which included “doesn’t have high-quality content”.

What counts as high-quality content in SEO/marketing world isn’t the same as what counts for quality in other worlds. It often depends on links, keyword placement, pictures, videos, text length, coding and other things marketers promise inch us up the search rankings.

Y’know, so that when people type in ‘writing services’, or ‘great chick lit’, I’m their number one find…

So, I didn’t take the lack of high-quality content remark too personally. “Nothing to do with my marvellous writing,” I muttered to myself. “You can shove your offer where the sun don’t shine.”

Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. I did fire off an email to the company, pointing out that as sales pitches go, telling someone their content is basically rubbish won’t endear you to them.

I’ve had no reply, which almost disappoints me. I thought sales folks were supposed to have a come-back for every knockback? That could have been their opportunity to point out that because my copy doesn’t mention ‘writing services’ every hundred or so words (proper keyword density, apparently), it counts as keek*.

Anyway, what I also get on a regular basis are sponsored content suggestions. They bemuse me as they are often from companies that produce goods or services totally unrelated to anything I do or write about. I’ve received propositions from menswear and financial services companies, promising we’ll be a good fit for my audience.

Another person offered me a standing desk review, which was sort of relevant seeing as I use one myself. But reviews of desks… I couldn’t inflict that on anyone and sleep at night.

I’m in some media directory somewhere as a blogger/influencer, which is flattering. But not true. Now, if Cadbury’s/Dairy Milk/Freixenet/Reedsy wish to collaborate, I’m entirely open to a 400-word piece that mentions ‘Dairy Milk/Freixenet etc.,’ every hundred words. Free products and services would be welcomed too.

Either or, is fine.

 

 

*For those unfamiliar with this marvellous Scottish word, it means shit.

 

Re-ordering Blog Posts and Getting Rid of Pingbacks

Power of WordsI’ve been tidying up book number three (working title: Parallel) as it appears on this blog.

I’d had feedback that it was confusing – which is understandable in that my book juggles the stories of three women so it can be hard to keep track of when it’s appearing in serial form on a blog. I added in some times and days for the start of each chapter and I also added in links to all the chapters on the blogs and on one page, here.

Incidentally, adding links in your own blog usually leads to pingbacks. According to the very useful website, WordPress beginner, pingbacks give software the ability to communicate between websites and if you link to an article on your own blog, WordPress automatically sends a self-ping.

I’m not entirely sure I understand it yet, but I did want rid of the feature because I found it annoying and, as it turns out, it’s easy to remove.

  1. Go to the dashboard.
  2. Go to settings.
  3. Go to discussions.
  4. At the top is an option – Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article.
  5. Untick this.

Voila – no more annoying pingbacks!

And here’s my new page setting out the location of all the chapters of book number three that I’ve posted here.

The Many Adventures of Flash Fiction Writers

So, some weeks ago, I started writing flash fiction on a regular basis. Mainly, it gave me a regular topic to blog about it. Always a bonus, as when you start out on blogging you usually fire off blogs left, right and centre at the beginning of your online life. Two months down the line and you get to the stage where you can’t bear to switch on your computer, so racked with guilt are you over your failure to write, entertain or annoy the masses.

I hit on a regular topic idea and heaved a sigh of relief. Heaven, I thought to myself, I have at least one thing I can blog about once a week. Folks may read it, folks may not, fellow bloggers may like or comment… or they may not notice. But my conscience will be squared. Hey, I signed up to this blogging deal, which meant writing when there is theoretically nothing to write about, and doing something on a REGULAR BASIS.

LinkedIn Flash Fiction Challenge

Actually, those preceding two paragraphs friends? I wandered off on a tangent. My main point is – at the same time as starting a regular Friday flash fiction post, I also started a flash fiction challenge on LinkedIn, asking fellow writers and editors to contribute to a 100-word flash fiction piece on a Friday as a kind of relaxing way of switching off.

It proved to be incredibly popular – lots of people joined in, lots of people contributed on a regular basis and I really enjoyed everything that I read. It takes talent and skill to write a 100-word story, and people also made their contributions topical. One lady chose to plagarise existing stories in a really witty way, another person went for plays, whilst several people opted for seasonal themes such as Halloween.

Publish, Publish, Publish

Three weeks in and people on LinkedIn started suggesting I take it further. One person said a website, another dreamt up a book of flash fiction stories for charity, another individual gathered together most of the stories for me and in general people seemed willing to sign over their permission for stories to be published. (I thank you).

So watch this space. It looks as if a Friday Flash Fiction challenge website may well appear. Here is what I hope. We post up lots of stories, which people like and then hundreds, if not thousands, of people all over the world start to contribute…

And now for this week’s Friday Flash Fiction challenge:

The Glamour of Writing

In her youth, Jenny had imagined the life of a writer as glamorous.

As she scribbled out her endless short stories which detailed the adventures of a teenager not dissimilar to Jenny, she imagined a grown-up writer’s life to be more or less the same. She would wait for the muse to strike and she would write about whatever took her fancy.

And get paid for it.

Alas, reality had since bit. Writing jobs often involved creating thousands of words about display cabinets or toner cartridges. And getting paid more than a pittance was the exception and not the norm. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grateful Thanks and a Writing Plea

Gimme a 't', gimme a 'h' etc etc

Gimme a ‘t’, gimme an ‘h’ etc etc

Once upon a time, I worked for a company whose unofficial motto was: “Never Knowingly Original”.

I have tried to stick to this ethos throughout my blogging experiment, shamelessly ‘borrowing’ ideas from other much more experienced and knowledgeable folks and this evening is no exception.

I’ve recently signed up to follow a gent who blogs a 300-word piece of flash fiction EVERY SINGLE DAY. A marvellous idea certainly, but it is not this one I’m, er, nicking. (Though I do think it might be an interesting and educational exercise if I were to embark on such a process. For your sakes dear readers, I would keep such scribblings private.) No, said gent thanked the newbies who have recently started following him – c’est moi and others – and I thought to myself, “Aha! What a jolly good idea.*”

I THANK YOU

So to all those who have recently ticked the ‘follow’ bit on my blog, thank you ever so much. And to all those who have been following me for a while, thank you too ever so much. I am very grateful and I hope I bring a tiny bit of something to your life, even if it’s only a sigh of irritation as a ‘new blog alert from highheelsandpinkglitter’ hits your inboxes. (Does anyone know the correct plural of inbox, btw?)

As I have bored myself witless over the last few months with my own musings (the situation has been exacerbated by my work situation which means I spend a great deal of my time on my own speculating aloud on topics such as the weather and feeling hurt when the cat doesn’t want to be in the same room as me) I would welcome guest posts with OPEN ARMS.

RE-BLOG, RE-BLOG, RE-BLOG

Fellow bloggers may think to themselves, “Lordie, lady laziness, why don’t you just re-blog something??” I know, I know – but I’d really love some dear person to think up something which would fit with my very loose set of topics… Actually, scratch that, write about anything you like and just throw in the odd reference to anything I’ve written about – even if it’s just one word. ‘The’ will do, to be honest.

Best case scenario – I am flooded with enough guest posts to keep me in thrice-weekly blogs from now until Christmas. Worst case? No guest blogs at all… Reader, have mercy on me.

 

 

 

*For some strange reason, blogging brings out the Nancy Mitford in me.

Picture courtesy of nursingworldnigeria

Inspiration and Exasperation… Along with Teacups

What has this to do with today's post? Read on...

What has this to do with today’s post? Read on…

I think, I think in blog these days…

Bear with me. I find myself in the kitchen mindlessly drying dishes. My brain – I would say ever alert, but that’s not always the case – flits from subject to subject, hits on a few flights of fancy and goes: “Aha! Light bulb moment! Next blog post coming up!”

And then words sort of start coming, sentences, phrases and some urge to remember them and write them down appears from nowhere.

“Do you know what, insomnia – so interesting!”

“Procrastination – I can spin a tale or two out of that!”

Cakes – there’s TONNES of material in them.”

Dear reader, you are the unfortunate victim of such sorry witterings. I apologise. Good lord, what the internet has unleashed on human kind…

THE NAUGHTY STUFF

What I also do, which is kind of naughty [HUH – you at the back there! Were you hoping for full-blown blue stuff? Not a chance my friend.] I look at everything that goes on around me and I kind of suck it up, [Grr, you at the back – STILL looking for the naughty stuff??] chew it up and use it. So a phrase, a story, a recollection I heard years ago will often resurface in what I write. I keep my fingers crossed that the originator doesn’t recognise the gem they told me that I’m now regurgitating.

Recently, I used two phrases/ideas I’d heard. One was about shoes. I was doing freelance work, writing about Louboutins. I ‘borrowed’ an idea to create an amusing intro for the article, where a woman I once worked alongside used to describe how she visited department stores and talked to the shoes she wanted to buy. “Hey girls, mummy’s going to take you home very soon.” That kind of thing.

Next, I was writing my own book and I’d recently seen this fantastic phrase on Facebook – “Who shat on her cornflakes?” Said lovely wasn’t looking too cheery in a pic. I saw the phrase and said to myself, “I’ve got to use that. It’s sublime.” And I did.

MOUTHS WIDE SHUT

I shouldn’t confess to this. My family and friends may resort to zipping their mouths shut in front of me in fear of their every uttering being sucked out and used up. I promise, dear all, to use only the occasional piece and I will thank you extensively, should I ever be fortunate enough to be in the position of writing ‘Acknowledgements’.

And finally… Lovely Sharon who blogs at sunshineandcelandines ran a competition recently, offering one of her gorgeous creations as first prize. I entered and won! The picture illustrating today’s blog is that prize. Isn’t is absolutely beautiful?