Shelley’s technology manifesto … from a non-techie

Commenter Ewan had a great question about aspiring writers entering the tech world: how do you start? What options should you consider?

The truth? I still feel like an aspiring writer. I still feel like an aspiring techie. But I’m happy to share my experience and lessons learned. Other writers – aspiring or otherwise – may completely disagree. So find yourself a grain of salt. And let’s begin.

Web stuff

Until you’ve got a contract or some cash, use a free platform. WordPress is great because it works beautifully as a blended web site and blog. And it’s free unless you upgrade. Be careful about spending a lot of money on technology until you’re getting writing contracts or paychecks. Instead, I’d spend my money on conferences and classes and books. Keep all those receipts for tax time.

I tried GoDaddy, the company that takes care of my domain name, but I felt like a crop duster on the space shuttle. Hours of frustration. The company’s sites are wonderful, but trying to construct one made me want to toss my precious laptop through a window. I also have a private Google blog with my writing group, but overall, Google blogs have limited functionality.

I guess Tumblr is the latest web toy. It synthesizes the microblog, web site, macroblog; and it’s easy to use and follow. Check out my friend and author Rachael Hanel’s Tumblr site.

I wouldn’t do a full web site unless you’ve got creative endeavors to showcase.

Blogging

If you’re trying to build an audience, a pre-book audience, blogging is a great way to go.

Content is everything. Fresh content. I’ve Googled subjects, clicked on blogs, and see the last post was 2012. I won’t be going back there. My goal for this site is blogging every weekday with weekends off. I consider blogging part of my writing job, so it’s actually more than a goal. It’s an assigned task.

That said, the first thing a potential blogger should do is open a Word document. Trying writing (mostly) meaningful posts three times a week for a month. Can you do it? Or do you feel dry after week three? If you can’t keep up the practice run, you probably will struggle to post fresh content. (Remember, if your practice posts are good, you’ve got 12 posts in the vault.)

Know you’re audience and write mostly for them. I narrowed my subjects, and I suspect my audience is primarily book industry people, including librarians, teachers, and other writers. I have wonderful friends who follow me. I hope adult readers will find this blog, too. Yours might be the life of an aspiring writer. Research other blogs and see what you like.

I’m not trying to attract teens and tweens. I don’t think they’re interested in reading about the writing life, unless they love to write. I do plan, however, to make parts of my blog interesting to tweens and teens – book trailers, for example.

Bloggers build their Google position, and therefore audience, with “search engine optimization.” Google that phrase because I haven’t figured it out.

See? My own dirty dishes!

See? My own dirty dishes!

The bigger tech world

You probably already have a Facebook page. You’ll need a separate author page on Facebook when you publish, plus a Twitter account. It’s pretty easy to connect subjects on all three.

I’ve neglected Twitter. I’ve spent blog space making fun of Twitter. I don’t completely understand it, but I’m back to my Twitter account and giving it a good try.

See? My own lamp!

See? My own lamp!

Take lots of photos and keep them in a separate folder. Pictures you think you’d never use, pictures of yourself, pictures of books. Tons of pictures. I’ve managed to use photos of my overflowing stack of dirty dishes and even my living room lamp. You need art on your blog, especially if your posts get long. Copyright on Internet photos is something you have to consider.

That’s my tech advice. If anyone has time to add to it, or disagree, please comment.

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