Life in the Slow Lane

Contemplating life, faith, words, and memories

WordPress Free vs. Self-hosted Site | A Comparison and Review — October 2, 2014

WordPress Free vs. Self-hosted Site | A Comparison and Review

As most of you are aware, I recently moved my blog from a free WordPress.com site to a self-hosted WordPress.org site. I have never reconsidered my decision to move from Blogger to WordPress a few years back, and so far I see no need to reconsider this most recent move either.

WordPress decision, free or self-hosted?
WordPress decision, free or self-hosted?

Many of you asked me to share how I reached my decision and about the benefits of one versus the other. I spent several days, maybe two weeks or more, researching and vetting the issues.

Today I’m sharing with you what I learned in the process and why I moved.

The most logical place to begin vetting blog moving issues was with WordPress support. On WordPress.com I found a helpful article setting out a chart listing the differences between the two platforms. This proved helpful to me in understanding not only the differences but how much I wanted to invest in time and money.

Here WordPress sums it all up pretty well:

WordPress is a publishing platform that makes it easy for anyone to publish online, and proudly powers millions of websites. It comes in two flavors: the fully hosted WordPress.com, and the self-hosted version available at WordPress.org.

A second article in my search is a post found at WP Beginner in the form of an infographic. The infographic summed up the WordPress article beautifully and in fewer words plus added a column for available upgrades for WordPress.com and each cost.

Despite the information found in these articles, the question I wanted answered was “Why should I pick one over the other?” I found this answer at Kimberley Grabas’s blog,  Your Writer Platform. Kimberley writes:

One of the biggest disadvantages of free-hosted sites is that you don’t really own your site; the provider does.  You could spend years building up your site, creating a great resource and substantial platform, but never fully own or control it.  With that much investment at the whim of the provider, “free” no longer seems like good value.

And there was my answer. The concept of ownership is important to me. To work hard day in and day out writing and posting on a blog, maintaining a site such as so many do, only to have someone else with the ability to exercise final control over it made no logical sense to me.

So, I decided to make the move to WordPress.org.

Next step was hiring a host. Thinking I knew what I was doing (never fall victim to this!), I contacted the host who maintains our small business site and has for several years. What I didn’t do was question fully the host’s knowledge and ability to work with the WordPress.org platform. Result = mess! Parts didn’t work, “we don’t do that” responses, and more confirmed my poor business sense.

Off to Bluehost, a WordPress.org, and an organization deserving of compliments on their support staff who are very responsive. However, remember the site mentioned earlier, WP Beginner? At the time I made my move, WP Beginner was offering free installation and transfer of files if I linked from its site to Bluehost to make my Bluehost purchase, and then emailed a copy of my receipt as proof of purchase. WP Beginner’s staff was priceless!

Not to lead you astray, there is some work to do on your part once your host has completed its work. Things like deciding which, if any, plugins you’d like to add to your site. For example, some widgets that come with WordPress.com are not standard with WordPress.org. But don’t distress! The number and availability of plugins is unbelievable, including colors, fonts, use of Java script, Disqus comment format, Yoast SEO, Tweet This, Akismet, Jetpack, and more. Installation of any of these is a snap.

There was only one bump in the road that has yet resolve itself. To migrate my list of followers from the WordPress.com site to WordPress.org, I was told to use Jetpack’s services. And it worked beautifully when it came to migrating followers who signed up to receive posts via email. Followers who had signed up on Facebook, Twitter, or other means would not migrate. Those followers must sign up to follow again, here on this site. This was the only thing I found a bit unpleasant in the process but I’m continuing to attempt to get the word out to my followers.

Now you know what I know. Like many decisions in life, this is one no one else can make for you. You have to decide!

Via Google Images
Via Google Images
5 People and 2 Sites You Should Follow — September 11, 2014

5 People and 2 Sites You Should Follow

Writers and bloggers need resources to aid in getting their ideas into context attractive to their followers. In order to find these resources, we could spend hours surfing the Internet to find those people most helpful to our brand, blog, or book. The following five individuals and two sites are resources I follow consistently. I hope you find something helpful among them.

1. Frances Caballo of Social Media Just for Writers

Frances Caballo
Frances Caballo

“Social Media Just for Writers was named as one of the top 30 websites for independently published authors by Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.”

“This website will help you to get your writing in front of more readers who would love to know about your books. You’ll learn how to use social media efficiently and effectively, and you’ll learn about new applications, best practices, and tips that will help you reach your marketing goals.”

(quoted from About page of Social Media Just for Writers)

2. Dan Blank of We Grow Media

Dan Blank
Dan Blank

“I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of writers, helping them share their stories and connect with readers. Some of these folks are bestselling authors, with millions of books sold, while others are first time authors, and many more are somewhere between those two points.”

“…I’ve worked with hundreds of authors, and some of the most amazing organizations that support writers.”

(quoted from About page of We Grow Media)

3. Gretchen Louise, Connoisseur of Words and Code

Gretchen is a treasure trove of tech tips, social media tips, suggestions for maintaining an easy-to-work-with inbox, and more. Read some endorsements I found on her site:

Gretchen Louise
Gretchen Louise

“I like to think I’m fairly computer savvy, but there are some aspects of WordPress that really freak me out! Gretchen took my vision and was able to make anything I wanted happen. All I had to do was ask!”
-Kalyn Brooke, Creative Savings

“I really can’t say enough good things about Gretchen…she is professional, helpful, kind, and a coding superstar! She customized a theme for my site and it looks amazing. I felt completely confident that she would make my site look beautiful and work flawlessly, and I was right! She is a wonder.”
-Kelly, The Pretty Bee

4. Angela Ackerman and Rebecca Puglisi at Writers Helping Writers

Writers Helping Writers, formerly known as The Bookshelf Muse, is hosted by co-authors and co-bloggers, Angela Ackerman and Rebecca Puglisi. Together they have written “bestselling triplets, The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, and The Negative Trait Thesaurus.”

From their About page, “Our mission is simple: offer help and support as much as we can. This site has many different tools and resources for writers, editors and teachers, so poke around and enjoy!”

5. Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer

Joel Friedlander
Joel Friedlander

Joel Friedlander, better known as The Book Designer, offers practical advice to help writers in producing better books. The following quote sums up Joel’s philosophy:

“Writers change the world one reader at a time.  But you can’t change the world with a book that’s still on your hard
drive or in a box under your bed.”

Joel’s blog is filled with resources and tools to help you decide how you want to publish your book and to teach you the ins and outs of self-publishing should you choose to follow that route. The author of many books on the subject of publishing and with a background in the field, Joel’s expertise is priceless.

6. Writer Unboxed

In 2006 aspiring novelists Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton collaborated to dissect complex books and movies. After their second rejection, they decided to create a site where they could state their opinions with no possibility of rejection, except possibly from readers. Writer Unboxed was born. With a list of contributors too long to share here, the articles posted in Writer Unboxed always bring something to the reader useful, educational, and resourceful. It is a site I recommend to all aspiring writers.

7. Writers Digest

writers digest
writers digest

Writers Digest, the site, is a one-stop shopping experience for the writer. With everything from books, magazines, downloads, conferences, workshops, classes, webinars, tutorials, blogs, competitions and resources, this site is like an online shopping and educational experience rolled into one. Writers of all genre will find something to suit their needs and competitive spirits. With a subscription to the newsletter, you’ll receive a list of 101 websites for writers, more than I’ll ever be able to list here. (That doesn’t mean you won’t need to continue to read my blog! Or subscribe to my newsletter.)

These are some of the folks I rely on for information and leads as I write my book. Of course, there are many others as well. However, I encourage you to take some time to visit each of these if you haven’t already. I think you’ll find something valuable.

What about you? Do you have favorite sources of information online you could share with us?

Tips for Juggling Multiple Writing Projects — August 19, 2014

Tips for Juggling Multiple Writing Projects

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel the need to switch off working on my memoir project. Currently, I am completing a second draft of my memoir.

However, despite nearing the end, there are times when I feel like I’ve lost my focus or have grown tired of this project.

Many writers and writing instructors assert that one should work on only one book or project at a time.

Henry Miller asserted such wisdom around 1932-1933:

1. Work on one thing at a time until finished. [Boring!] …

10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing. [Also a bit boring!]

But what about that guest post for your writing partner, or the contest you want to enter, or a short story you want to write?

As you can see, I’m not a committed fan of single projects. My Type A personality lends itself more to challenging myself with more than one thing going at a time.

How to balance, or juggle, multiple writing projects? Below are a few simple tips to help:

1. Make notes, copious notes to self! I may have a random thought or idea run through my mind while writing. I quickly reach for paper and pen, and I write it down! There isn’t any chance I’ll remember by the time I complete what I’m doing at that moment. I keep a small notebook with me for just this purpose.

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

2. Talk to another writer or good friend! If I have ideas for future projects or another ongoing one, I’ll talk it out with my husband (he’s my best friend and a great listener) or someone else to sort out the good stuff to keep and toss the bad out right away. Doing so keeps me from thinking about things I don’t need to think about now.

Via Jamie Raintree
Via Jamie Raintree

3. Set a daily word goal. I have a daily word goal, but not based on just one project. If I can write a total of 750-1000 words each day, combining all the writing I do that day, while also juggling my other hats of wife, co-owner of a small business, webmaster for that business, homemaker, committee member, and social media for my writing purposes, I feel I’ve been successful. Here’s an image of a spreadsheet (above) designed by Jamie Raintree, writer and Excel genius (free to download at Jamie’s site under her “For Writers tab).

Via Images Buddy
Via Images Buddy

4. Tell others when I’m writing and in DND mode. We have an open door policy at our house, and closed door one as well. When the door to my writing space is closed, it translates to DND (do not disturb). Otherwise, come on in! Everyone (my husband) but the cat (only one pet) honors my DND mode. The cat tries scratching or pushing against the door.

5. Before beginning a new project, map it out. I am not always a planner; I’m more of a pantser. Except when working on bigger projects, like a book. Then I sit down and using either Scrivener, my go-to writing software, or Mind Maple, my mind-mapping software, I create the equivalent of an outline, a very rough outline, so that I capture all my thoughts about the new project at the beginning. Of course, not everything comes to you at the beginning but time spent preparing some sort of plan is helpful. The image above is the mind map for my memoir resulting from writing a second draft.

Mark Hunter via Flickr
Mark Hunter via Flickr

6. Some days don’t go as planned, so here’s what to do. If I’m having a day where I feel I’ve lost my focus on everything in front of me or within reach, and the caffeine isn’t kicking in but the inner critic is, and the cat won’t go away, and nothing, nothing at all seems right, I stop everything and point myself in the direction of which project needs my attention most at the moment. Then I set everything else aside, including the cat and the inner critic, and mentally shift my focus to that project. But I have to clear my head and my desk in order to bring that project into clear focus. With practice, this will come more easily.

Not all creatives enjoy working on multiple tasks simultaneously, and there is no fault in this. It is the way our brains are wired. My husband can’t understand how I can watch NFL football games and knit or read at the same time. He can’t do that. His focus has to be on one thing and one thing only. We each have to adopt our own plan of writing and getting our projects completed.

My hope is that, if nothing else, you found one thing helpful here today.

Just for fun here’s a short poll you can take if you like about multiple projects: 

Question: Do you work on multiple projects or just one? If multiples, how do you handle juggling them? Share your process. I’d love to read about it.

August 14th Is the Day! — August 5, 2014

August 14th Is the Day!

Starting August 14th, I begin distributing bi-weekly my first-ever newsletter related to this blog. The purpose of today’s post is to remind you to sign up, if you haven’t already, using the link in the image below or in the right-hand sidebar.

This post also includes a small peek into what you can expect with each issue of my newsletter.

First, I’ll be providing tips and advice learned in the past seven years of drafting my own essays and memoir as well as writing advice provided by others well versed in the craft of writing.

Additionally, trending news tips related to the business of publishing and marketing your book may also be found.

teacher-clip-art-2 Miz Grammar
teacher-clip-art-2 Miz Grammar

And finally, allow me to introduce you to my newsletter partner, Miz Grammar. She will be assisting with making sure each issue includes a grammar tip or rule or two or three. I want to warn you Miz Grammar is strict with respect to using proper grammar so you want to stay on her good side.

In the near future, I will be offering to all my subscribers, free of charge, an e-book on the healing benefits of writing. So, don’t miss an issue if you want to know when that is available.

Miz Grammar and I look forward to seeing you on August 14th for our inaugural issue!

Something New Is Coming! — July 28, 2014

Something New Is Coming!

Via Google Images
For months, I have contemplated starting a bi-weekly newsletter. There are several newsletters I receive via email, and I enjoy each one for its uniqueness and informational worth.

Over the last couple of days, I convinced myself that if I never try, I will never know what the experience of being a newspaper woman is like. My father began his career in publishing as a newspaper man. Perhaps that’s where the itch originated.

Starting in August, I will email a newsletter of writing news and tips on a bi-weekly basis on Thursdays to my mailing list. The first edition will come out on Thursday, August 14th.

If you would like to be on my mailing list, click on the image below, or on the same image in my right sidebar, and you’ll be taken to a signup form. I promise never to share your email address with anyone else, and at any time you have the option to unsubscribe.

Newsletter sign widget 2I hope you will take a chance on my experiment in newsletter journalism, and come along on this journey with me.

My goal is to offer only newsworthy, helpful information on writing and topics related to writing and its final transformation into worthy reading material.

Remember, you might hear it first in my newsletter!

 

How to Increase Your Writing Productivity — May 14, 2014

How to Increase Your Writing Productivity

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

In a perfect world, our days would be filled with limitless hours of writing time. However, ours is not a perfect world. At least mine isn’t.

Despite living in retirement, my days are still filled with what seem to be unending household chores, yard and gardening chores, errands, maintaining a small business other than my writing, and more.

I am not an expert on increasing writing productivity. Perhaps like you, I struggle every day trying to find the time to write.

If you look around–in books, on the Internet, magazine articles, there is a plethora of advice on how to increase your writing productivity.

Here’s a sampling of what I’ve found:

1. Eliminate Distractions.

Via Facebook
Via Facebook

As difficult as it may seem, sitting down to write means limiting distractions and interruptions. One easy tip is to close all open tabs on your computer and have only your manuscript or working document open. If you are still tempted to hop over to Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, perhaps an app like StayFocusd to limit the time you allow yourself to visit social media sites would help. StayFocusd is free to Google Chrome users. Other such apps include: Freedom, Anti-Social, RescueTime (my choice), and ColdTurkey. A search for “social media blocking apps” will offer a longer list.

2. What is Your Process?

Do you have a process for writing? Or do you sit down and just start writing? Are you enjoying the process of writing? Or have you started something that doesn’t please you or feel right?

Remember, you don’t have to be what everyone else is–historical novelist, memoirist, chick lit writer, biographer. You don’t have to write the same way every other writer does. You can be whomever you want to be as a writer.

Look around your space. What books do you see that you’ve kept after reading them? What fills your shelves? If those are the books you’ve enjoyed as a reader, maybe they fall into the genre you will enjoy writing. Take a good look at the process these writers chose. Discover the writer you want to be. Know yourself, and try to forget the critics.

3. Set a Daily Goal

Via LifeHacker
Via LifeHacker

Determine a daily goal, either by number of words or pages or choose a time increment, such as an hour or maybe two. If you choose to follow a time increment system for daily writing, set a timer for the amount of time. Then write until the timer goes off. A handy app for accomplishing this is Pomodairo, a Pomodoro time-based timer and task management app.

4. Give Yourself Breaks

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

After you’ve accomplished what you sat down to do, give yourself a break. Take a 10-15 minute walk or stretch, have a cup of tea or coffee, do something to move out of your chair and breathe fresh air. Perhaps you have a note or personal card to mail–write it and get it ready to go in the mail. If that load of laundry is ready to be folded, that will only take a few minutes. Do that. Just do something to refresh your mind and body.

5. Devise a Method to Follow Productivity

I did not realize how important this could be until I signed on to Jeff Goins’ Facebook group, My 500 Words. The goal in this group is to write 500 words each day on something you’re working on or using the provided prompt. It provides accountability, support and encouragement. The accountability is what I was searching for when I signed up. In the process of organizing the group, Jeff mentioned the importance of accountability, including following your own productivity. Not long after, I came across a link to a writing progress tracker developed by author Jamie Raintree. Simple to use and handy in an Excel document on my computer, I can easily log in the number of words I’ve written each day and on which blog or project. Jamie has entered all the formulas to calculate the daily, weekly and monthly word count. Thanks, Jamie!

6. Read Less, Write More

This is an area I need to improve on. I lose writing time each day because I think I should ready everything I find on becoming a better writer, how to write memoir, and more. I can’t resist the idea that someone has a better idea about how to write. Slowly I’m learning that I must stop reading what others think and get on with the writing. As I look around my writing space, there are dozens of books and articles on writing that I have yet to read and in that state they aren’t supporting my writing efforts. I’m finding I tend to learn more by doing than reading about how to do it. If I encounter a problem in my writing, then I’ll go look it up and see what I’ve missed in the doing.

7. Read Your Genre

There is one area you’ll want to read, and that is books in the genre you’ve chosen to write. From these writers, you will learn more about your chosen craft. Watch how they open and close chapters. See how they have developed their characters. How do they use dialogue? Then see if you can apply them to your work. This is not plagiarism as you’re not copying what they wrote–you are modeling the principles of writing they used.

8. Set Goals

Some of us are goal setters, and some are not. If you are so inclined, set large goals first. Then work backward from the deadline established for that goal and set smaller goals along the way to help in accomplishing the larger goal on time. For instance, if you want to publish your book after the first of the year, you will need to have it edited and revised in October or November to leave time for edits and rewrites. What this means is that the book needs to be finished in late summer. This is an example of how you need to set your goals in order to timely complete your project.

Accountability needs to be worked into goal setting. Perhaps there is someone you can tell about your goal(s). A critiquing partner, a writing group member, or a close friend or family member. You’ll note on the right sidebar I have a countdown set. Believe me, I see that more often than is comfortable these days. You can also set the dates on your calendar and set up pop-up reminders for each one.

9. Work When No One Else Is and/or When You Feel “On”

How do we know the best time of our 24 hours each day to write? Some writers wake early in the morning before their family members wake up, and they get in an hour or more of quiet writing. Young mothers who are writers wait eagerly for nap time. I read a post recently by Ellis Shurman on how he found an extra hour in his daily schedule of commuting, working fulltime, parenting and more. Others establish blocks of time on a calendar and then tell their family members they are off to write and are not to be bothered. (Sometimes that works; sometimes it doesn’t!). Actually, for you it might be looking at what you have to carry out and doing that during the part of the day when feel your best, really “on.” Suit yourself. You are the writer.

10. Write Now, Edit Later

You have all heard it. Write until the first draft is completed. No stopping for edits, errors, corrections, rewrites–just write. The temptation for some of us who are Type A personalities to make that first draft perfect is overwhelming. I have finally taught myself to write, write, write–don’t stop. It hasn’t been easy but it does go faster when you’re not continuously stopping to make corrections. Once you’re finished with the draft, then you can sit down with a copy, or maybe you like to do your editing on the screen, and make the necessary corrections, perhaps a little rewriting here and there. I think we may all be familiar with Anne Lamott’s quote on this subject.

11. Bottom Line–Write Your Story and No Harpies Allowed

In your writing, be yourself. Be honest. Tell your story. It is after all your story. Yours to tell, and only you know it and can tell it. If you don’t write it down, how will anyone remember it after you’re gone? How will anyone ever read it and gain any perspective from your life experiences?

We mustn’t let the harpies get in our way. When one settles on your shoulder, close your ears to what you hear: “You can’t write.” “Who is going to read this garbage?” “What makes you think anyone wants to now what you think or feel?” “Get over yourself–you’re not a writer.” remember you are the writer, you own the story, and you can write it without any outside help.


This is not an exhaustive list. If you search the Internet, there are so many ideas about what we writers should do or not do in order to be productively producing our books and essays, our poetry and rhyme. Yet it all boils down to how it works best for each of us individually, doesn’t it?

Do you have a process that works for you? Are you willing to share ideas with the rest of us? Leave comments, ideas, questions, criticisms, etc. in the comments below. Let’s discuss!