a picture of a cat sleeping at Emma Baird

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. 

Emma Baird picture of a laptop with the words 'back blogging'

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.

picture at Emma Baird of a piece of text with red editing marks

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.

Back Blogging!

back blogging

Oh hello! It’s been a while and I’ve sorely missed the company of you my fellow bloggers and those other dear people who once upon a time signed up here to keep up to date with moi…

I am back in the world of blogging for myself as well as others, which means lots of self-indulgent nonsense… And regular self-indulgent nonsense seeing as I make a living these days by writing regular blog posts and articles for other people and preaching the benefits of writing such items on a regular basis. You know the old saying of the cobbler whose children are always the worst shod, or that so many people teach what they want to learn…? Both sayings apply to me; time to start taking one’s own advice.

Anyway, for those who have managed to bear with me so far (muchos gracias), here is a quick re-cap of the last four months:

1. I have revised and edited my book numerous times – as per the advice of professional writing experts, and those kind people who have read the book for me. Despite snivelling and crying as I did it (awwww, I loved the bit where the teenagers got drunk and then changed themselves into cats to see what that would be like), I have cut out a lot of the dross.

2. I have met up with a publisher on a regular basis and taken on board all of his excellent advice.

3. I have written a synopsis several times (and there is excellent advice about how to write a synopsis here).

4. And I have approached agents. Here I would like to offer up lots of little-known help and advice – agent such and such, for example, really loves submissions which use the comic sans font, whilst agent other such and such goes wild for proposals which reach her in-box on a Tuesday at 11.16am precisely. If only! My only advice for writers approaching agents is – the first rejection stings, the subsequent ones, not so much.

5. I have had enormous fun contributing on a regular basis to Friday Flash Fiction (a website for 100-word stories), and also the Friday flash fiction blog site.  These websites welcomes regular contributions and I promise you writing 100-word stories is brilliant fun and brilliant discipline.

Anyway, a final development has been the creation of a proper professional website – jetcomms, a partnership with another professional blogger, and from this we are hoping to generate more writing and PR work. Here’s hoping…

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.