Blogging: Getting Started

These notes, written for a workshop on blogging that I gave last spring, are being posted for the sake of folks who are interested in blogging, but don’t know where or how to start.

Remember: IT’S EASY ONCE YOU’VE DONE IT A FEW TIMES

If you are thinking of starting a blog, the first thing you have to do is pick a carrier such as Blogger.com or WordPress.com.

I’ve done both and find WordPress to be the easiest to work with and the most useful for circulating my writing, getting followers, etc. So I’m going to explain how to set up a WordPress blog.

NAME THE CRITTER

Before you even start, you need to decide on an address for your blog. CHOOSE WITH CARE – you’re stuck with it.  You can delete a blog but the address can never be used again.

You’ll need a User name and a blog address. For example, my blog addresses are:
Christine’s Collection at christineevelynvance.wordpress.com
Swallow in the Wind (poetry) at swallowinthewind.wordpress.com
Tree Top Haiku at treetophaiku.wordpress.com

Also, with my cousin I do the Vance – Turner Connect blog (genealogy) at vanceturnerconnect.com You can do a blog with two or several administrators, all with equal control.

NOTE:  If you choose to use your own name for your blog, you want to be sure everything you post on that blog reflects yourself as author, to showcase your style, also in case you have a book to promote someday. This is about building your writer’s platform.

For example, if you plan on writing murder mysteries or thrillers don’t post a lot of flowery poetry on your blog or people will come to know you that way. Down the road when you submit your manuscript the editor is likely to google your name to see what type of writing you do – and here you are, as whimsical poet rather than a mystery writer.

If you choose to use your own name, WordPress gives you the option – for $18 a year – of making it your domain name.  And if you become famous, you’ll probably want to do that anyway, to have a website address like melodylowes.com.

Sometimes you can use a variation of an already-taken name. twinkles.wp.com was taken, then discontinued; twinkletoes.wp.com was claimed back in 2006; a very unhappy dancer/ blogger made one post ranting at the world, then gave up. But twinklingtoes.wp.com is available.  ‘Milly’ is taken but ‘Magpie Milly’ is free, if you’re interested.

Whatever you choose, check out a few variations to be sure someone looking for your site isn’t going to land on someone else’s LIVE site with an almost identical name – like suesblog.wp.com instead of suemsblog.wp.com

Still dubious? Why don’t you start with a practice blog. You can choose a name no one’s apt to want,  blunderbussbean or turtlefordtourist, or use your preferred name. Then click “Private” when it asks who you want to view this blog.  Learn the ropes on this without having the world see your bloopers. (However, you can invite individual friends to come and see what you’re doing.) You can go public with it later. (First delete the “oops” posts.)

Note: if you ever OOPS big time, either hit that merciful little EDIT button and correct, or go to POSTS> All Posts and find the big OOPS post and trash it. As soon as possible.

 

PASSWORDS

Once you’ve decided on a name for your site, go to wordpress.com and register it.   If you don’t already have an account you’ll have to set one up, which means you’ll need a PASSWORD. Letters, numbers, some symbols: something you can remember like 1956Model&Seasoned.  WordPress will spin a bit to see if the name’s in use already, and if it is, they’ll suggest an alternative, like ‘twinklesblog.wordpress.com.’

NOTE: When you pick a name–i.e., snazz48, just type that in the space provided. They give you the .wordpress.com. Don’t type this in, too, or your blog address will come out as
snazz48.wordpressdotcom.wordpress.com. Been there; done that!

You can delete a blog address, but no one will ever be able to have it again, including you, so type carefully and CHECK TWICE before you hit the Continue button. ☺

They’ll ask you if you want a private blog or public – one that anyone can view. It’s possible to change later and open it up or make it private. There are a few more details to fill in like your e-mail address. Then your blog should appear in front of your eyes.

When you sign up for a blog, WordPress will assign a theme, probably “Twenty Twelve.’ To change this, click on dashboard. (Click on your blog name at upper left and Dashboard will be the first option. Or go to META on the side and hit “Site Admin.”)  This gets you to your control panel.

If you click on Appearance, then Themes, your next screen will show at the top the theme they’ve appointed and underneath the words Available Themes. You’ll find that you have a choice of about 250 themes to look through and you can pick any one to try or to activate.  Go to it.  Check them out.  A lot of the themes come with a “header” (the picture at the top) or even a choice of several, and if the theme says “custom header”, you can download and install another picture you like, as I’ve done for all three of my blogs.

The background colour is usually white, but you have the option of changing this, too, if you click on APPEARANCE, then Background.

ABOUT:
Decide what you want to tell the world about yourself, click on the ABOUT button, then on the word EDIT (usually at the bottom.) when a new screen comes up, write in what you want to say
about yourself and hit UPDATE on the right.

On your dashboard (bottom left corner) you’ll see the word SETTINGS.  If you hit General, the first box you see will say Site Title.  And there’s a blank space where you can write in the title of your blog. For example, I’ve chosen Christine’s Collection for christineevelynvance.wp.com.

Under this you’ll see Tagline.  The site usually comes with a tagline (appears under the blog name) like “Another great WordPress site” but here’s a box where you can write in your own.  Choose a tagline that best describes your site, such as “All the things I’ve thought of but never dared say” or “Musings of my muddled mind” or “Deeply spiritual thoughts from my pen” or “This guy is crazy and he’s letting everyone know it!”

Next will be your e-mail address where all your correspondence with WordPress will come.  Next you can pick a time zone. (I’ve chosen to be on the same time as the city of Regina.) When you’re done filling in this info, hit Save Changes.

On the upper right corner of this page you’ll see a box called Blog picture/Icon.  You can choose a photo of yourself or some other little image to be your blog icon.  This will show up whenever you comment on someone else’s blog. Click on browse, go through your stored pics or have one downloaded, OPEN that file, come back here and hit UPLOAD, then you’ll have to crop and Install this picture.

To write a post: Go to the Dashboard, then click on Posts, then choose the option of New Post. I usually write my stuff up in Word Perfect then cut and paste it into my blog, but you can type it ind directly.

First comes the Heading (in the top bar): What I did today, Pansies and Posies, or Mother Comes to Visit, or My Heart Throbs for You

Once you’ve typed in the heading, then the curser automatically goes down to the main box and you can type in whatever.  Like: I loafed around all day because all I see outside is white and I’m depressed.

Or you can do a poem:
Mary had a little lamb; (Shift/Enter*)
its fleece was white as snow…

*WordPress is set up to give you an automatic double space whenever you hit ‘Enter.’  This is a royal pain when you want to write poems, but there’s a way around it: if you don’t want that double space, hit the ‘Shift’ & ‘Enter’ keys together.

When you’re done writing, go over to the categories.  Hit “Add New Category” and type in journal or diary or poetry or opinions or article or history or whatever.  You can add as many as you like, but choose what most applies to this particular post. This will help you a lot when you’re doing searches someday.

Then go down to TAGS and type in as above. Most common tags include: home, family, children, English, blogs, blogging, writing, religion, faith, Christianity, God, Jesus, women, business.  There’s a whole long list at en.wordpress.com/tags; choose half a dozen most pertinent ones. (Time was when you could put twenty tags on a post, but I see WordPress is cracking down on this; six or so is enough.)

What the tags do is send your post title and first lines to a central list where people can go when they want to see what’s new on those topics. This is where you get your traffic. Your categories go there just like tags, too, so you needn’t type in Faith, Recipes, etc, as a category and as a tag.

This should get you set up and posting. WordPress offers a Using Your Blog guideline page and a Support button; there you can find a lot more answers. And if you want more help in using your blog, google it or contact me.

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