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I like to think that I’m a good writer. Or, at least, I was. I’m a bit rusty now. But, after reading Sticky Readers, I am determined to clean my act up!

Sticky Readers: How to Attract a Loyal Blog Audience by Writing More Better by Margaret Andrews

• Ebook: 76 pages

• Publisher: CreateSpace, 2011

• ISBN: 1463636571

• Genre: Nonfiction; Writing; Blogging

• Recommended For: Bloggers looking to improve their writing; bloggers looking to increase traffic to their sites.

Quick Review: Despite all of my groaning at reading my own advice given back to me, I recommend this book to other book bloggers. It’s a quick read and sometimes we don’t recognize what we need to do until it’s staring back at us on the pages of a book. I know that was the case for me. I’m going to check with my list of writing rules before hitting PUBLISH every time I write.

How I Got Here: My blog is nearing the three-month mark (they grow up so fast!) and I’m no longer satisfied with just getting my writing out there. I want to write solid, top-notch copy! So, when Florinda, from The 3 R’s Blog, posted on Tuesday and Thursday about Sticky Readers, I had to download a copy of the book for myself. I read it in a few hours on Friday night.

The Book: Synopsis from Amazon.com:

Sticky Readers is a humorous, but helpful book about writing better blog posts. While the book is helpful for all writers, it was written with bloggers in mind.

Sticky Readers explains the various ways to make your writing more engaging (i.e. less boring) so that a reader will “stick” around for the whole thing, rather than read the first paragraph, get bored and leave.

Sticky Readers is not a book about English grammar, but a book about how to tell an engaging story.

It also includes a section about combating writer’s block and a list of Top Ten Mistakes that bloggers make to drive readers away.

My Analysis and Critique: Aaargh! I kept wanting to smack myself upside the head while I was reading Andrews’ writing tips. DUH! Here I am, an English teacher who teaches 7th graders the basics of writing, and I’m not using my own instructions for my own writing!

Andrews stresses the most basic of writing rules to add pizzazz to typically boring blog posts. Hooks, sensory details, the use of controversy, active vs. passive voice, quicker pacing–all are discussed in Sticky Readers. This is Writing 101, Mandy! Come on!

Here is a list of writing rules I have paraphrased from Sticky Readers:

• Proofread for spelling/grammar errors

• Check introduction. Does the title or first paragraph have a hook?

• Make sure all relationships to people, pets, etc. are identified!

• Paragraphs too long? Break them up into smaller pieces!

• Appeals to the senses? Sensory details!

• Passive verbs– get rid of them!

• Wordiness– chuck “very,” “due to,” and repeating phrases.

• Pictures!

• Add a metaphor somewhere?

• Get someone to read it first!

Along with the basic rules of writing reminders, Andrews offers up advice on “how to pull a blog post out of your ass”. This basically refers to finding ideas from the world around us, carrying a notebook at all times, and to pay attention to what other bloggers are writing.

To gain the interest of more readers, she urges bloggers to get personal on their blogs. I definitely agree with Andrews as I find that my favorite posts by other bloggers always seem to reveal something about his/her personal life. Descriptions of where we live, what we do for fun, and even what we look like are all of interest to potential readers.

Despite all of my groaning at reading my own advice given back to me, I recommend this book to other book bloggers. It’s a quick read and sometimes we don’t recognize what we need to do until it’s staring back at us on the pages of a book. I know that was the case for me. I’m going to check with my list of writing rules before hitting PUBLISH every time I write.

So, since reading Sticky Readers, I have changed my theme to make it easier on the eyes (the text seems bigger now). I also spent this morning practicing hook writing. I tried different types of hooks for the three types of writing most common on my blog: Reviews, Memes, and About Me posts. Further improvements to my blog will include better hooks, use of sensory details, regular check-ins at Grammar Girl, the use of a digital camera (as opposed to my smartphone), using Microsoft Word for drafting, and better outlining before writing. Hopefully, my readers will find these changes to be an improvement to my writing and my blog overall!

Links:

Sticky Readers on Amazon.com

– Margaret Andrews’ blog: Nanny Goats in Panties

– Reviews on The 3 R’s Blog: 11/08 and 11/10

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Forgive me, I’m a little late…

Book Blogger Hop is a weekend meme hosted by Crazy for Books in an effort to spur on connections between book bloggers. This week’s prompt asks:

“As a book blogger, how do you introduce yourself in your profile?”

I only started blogging a few weeks ago, but before I started I knew how important a blogger’s profile was. When planning out my blog, I realized that whenever I read a blog for the first time, if I liked the posts, I immediately wanted to know more about the blogger. Oftentimes, I was thrilled to find that the prolific writer wasn’t so different from me! It was from the profiles I read that I knew I, too, could write a blog. Obviously, profiles are very important!

From the profiles I read and liked, I noticed that the best About Me pages included information on who the blogger was outside of the blog, what their interests were, and some information on what the blog was about overall. I also enjoyed profiles that included some background info on the blog’s title and/or layout. This is what I set out to imitate on my About page.

Since I created my profile page even before I wrote my first post, I wasn’t entirely sure what my blog would be about–just a vague notion of my hopes. I’m still not sure; I’m trying on new things all the time and reflecting on it about once a week. Probably, in a month or two, I will edit my About page to reflect what my blog’s purpose is. Also, if my interests change, and if I move (probably in a year), I will edit it to further reflect who I am.

Overall, I love reading profile pages, and I hope other bloggers realize just how useful (and inspiring!) a profile page can be.

Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted at A Few More Pages every Friday. Bloggers are to copy the first lines from the current book that they are reading and reflect upon it.

My name is Kathy H. I’m thirty-one years old, and I’ve been a carer now for eleven years. That sounds long enough, I know, but actually they want me to go on for another eight months, until the end of this year.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is a nice in media res opening: It immediately introduces the reader to the first person narrative by protagonist Kathy H., and gives a bit of background information on her, but really establishes the Look Back style of narrative within this book. I’m about half-way through the novel and still have only the vaguest notion of what a carer does and what Kathy H.’s present life is like. So far, it’s intriguing, and the novel is slowly telling the story of Kathy H., from her childhood leading to the present time, which is hinted at in these opening lines. It’s very similar to the style Ishiguro used in The Remains of the Day, a “How did the character get here?” narrative. I am loving this book.


• Create Your Own Blog: 6 Easy Projects to Start Blogging Like a Pro
by Tris Hussey
• Ebook; 248 pages
• Publisher: Pearson Education (January 8, 2010)
• ISBN- 0672331616
• Genre: Non-Fiction, Writing, Computers
• Recommended for: New Bloggers, Experienced Bloggers, Timid Bloggers
 

How I Got Here: I have been toying with the idea of writing my own personal blog ever since I had to create an education blog for one of my Teacher Education classes at SDSU (blogging is a great medium for student journaling). So, I lurked on some blogs thinking “I could do this!”. Then, I would go down to the local library and check out some how-to books on creating a blog. I never went further than this. Finally, I found a book that forced me to take this goal
seriously! Tris Hussey’s Create Your Own Blog gave me the basic know-how on creating a blog, as well as the confidence in knowing that it’s ok to “suck”.

The Book: Hussey’s book is separated into 11 chapters, as well as a solid introduction. His  introduction explains his purpose for writing the book and provides his credentials (he’s been blogging since 2004 and teaches many courses on blogging) and how to use the book. In his words, it’s “like a blog cookbook.”

His chapters are:                                                                                                                  1. Welcome to the Blogosphere: Planning Your First  Blog (a history of blogging; brainstorming ideas for your blog; choosing a name for your blog; buying
a domain for your blog)                                                                                                      2. Installing and Setting Up Your First Blog (hosted vs. self-hosted blogs; how to sign up for a blog; touring the dashboard; tweaking your blog’s setup and design; tracking stats)                                                                                                 3. Writing and Creating a Conversation (how to come up with ideas for your posts; finding your “voice”; your first post; SEO writing)                                 4. Building Community (encouraging discussion; spam and trolls; finding other blogs; twitter/microblogging)

Then begins his 6 blog projects which all follow a similar outline:                           5. Creating a Personal Blog                                                                                               6. Creating a Business Blog                                                                                              7. Creating a Podcast Blog                                                                                                8. Video Blogging                                                                                                                9. Creating a Portfolio Blog                                                                                            10. Creating Your Online Lifestream                                                                           The discussion in these six chapters generally is: content; how to write/record/upload; your first post; tweaking/editing; how to use
multimedia; hosting and promoting your blog.

Then, his final chapter:                                                                                                      11. Making Money Through Your Blog (direct vs. indirect approaches to earning
money from blogs; how to make money directly from blogging; how to make money directly from blogging)

My Analysis and Critique: As you can see, his book is “like a blog cookbook,” albeit one you buy for a just a few of the chapters. However, many still buy Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking even though they’ll never even peek at the chapter on aspics. So, it should be with this book!

Obviously a newbie at blogging, I scrutinized and highlighted chapters 1-4 and slowed down at chapter 5. Once Hussey’s “Six Projects” began, a lot of the content from chapters 1-4 is regurgitated, although it is specific to the discussed type of blog. I only skimmed chapters 6-10, as I am not interested in any more than a personal blog at this time. However, after reading other reviews, I think anyone interested in creating another type of blog would find these chapters very useful.

What I found most useful in this book was the confidence Hussey inspired in me. I have always been too nervous to “put myself out there,” and Hussey continuously reminds his readers that it gets better with time and practice. Constantly read other blogs, connect with other bloggers, and most importantly, write for yourself!

One cautionary note: this book is mainly of use to bloggers using WordPress. Hussey repeatedly concedes that he is biased towards WordPress, and this is apparent as all of his step-by-step instructions seem to be WordPress-specific .

Overall, I think new bloggers and experienced bloggers alike would benefit from reading Tris Hussey’s Create Your Own Blog: 6 Easy Projects to Start Blogging Like a Pro. It’s an easy read and provides many useful tips on how to create and tweak a blog for maximum results.

Links: Visit Tris Hussey’s website