Not Knowing Where You’re Going

“At a moment of heightened awareness there is a confrontation of image and idea. Words come together in a flow, seeking out their own order, their own rhythm; lines measure themselves into a given form; words you didn’t think you knew or had long forgotten suddenly cojoin to tell you what you are feeling, seeking out insight and revelation. In that first flow, all you know is that you are in mid-air between elation and fear. “Keep going, just keep going!” you tell yourself, not knowing where that first line will lead.” – Shulamis Yelin.

That’s how I start writing. I’m not a planner. I don’t have a schedule, a format or any real idea of where I’m going once the idea has germinated from my brain onto the physical plane of my computer screen.

Sometimes the seeds never get past the germination stage. They become part of the cluster of ideas in a folder on my computer. The ‘Idea Folder’ is full of half planted ideas. Now and then I go back and rescue one, add some root hormone, whatever it takes. But, most of them just get kind of sad and pot bound. I forgive myself for letting them stagnate into infinity. You have to forgive yourself. Each idea is like a little soul and you are the only one who can give it the bloom of life. I do feel guilt for not taking those ideas into fruition.

Enough garden terminology?

I read the above quote in an article about writing poetry. As a writer of any style of wordage you should read about all kinds of writing. How to write or better still ‘how I write’ articles and books can be really inspirational. Not just for the art of writing but the craft too. The technique in putting a spin on your words. The ideas about the ideas. You can never have too many ideas. Well, except for those really weird ideas we keep in the closet or swept under some rug or other. I won’t tell if you don’t tell.

A Writer’s Website

Here are my ideas about making a writer’s site an asset to you and a resource for others to come to. It’s a bit scattered as I am leaving for Ottawa tomorrow and have some family stuff ongoing. But, I wanted to share the ideas while they were brewing around in my brain.

I think blogs are a great way to go. They take over a lot of the grunt work and are still fresh and creative. Avoid going the LiveJournal route though. Your blog should look like something you have done, not a clone from another site. Getting your own domain is a huge asset, if you can afford the cost. This will also give you an email address which does not include the words Yahoo, Hotmail or AOL.

The best thing about a blog on your website is keeping your site freshly updated and making it interactive without too much fuss on your part. You can update daily, or a few times a week. Just add an inspirational quote, a writing tip you’ve found that works, jot down a new publisher/ market you’ve found, scan a sketch or photograph you’ve come across and add it to your blog.

However, a blog doesn’t have to be the focus of your site. Make it a sidebar on your main site, a secondary page or a secondary site. It really does help to keep traffic to your site if they can expect to have something to read when they get there. Avoid link rot, stagnating pages and a bland site in general by adding a blog. Be creative, that’s what we do!

Also, blogs run on text mainly. If you are not a great graphic artist a few simple text graphics are really all you need. Look for a font you like and make a banner to head your blog. Keep the colours simple and easy to read. Add some smaller text graphics as navigation links if you have more than one page. Include a text graphic with your email address. This will foil spam bots as well as they can’t read graphics, only HTML. br /br /Check out other writer’s sites and see what they come up with. Avoid copying anything, instead make your own unique version of the idea. Turn it around to suit you and your own site.

Monitor your traffic cause it does give you a nice ego boost to see people actually coming to your site. Keep a guest book or some form of message boards available. People are more likely to leave a quickie note than send an email. Especially if they can leave a link to their own site behind, self promotion. When you get feedback, answer it as soon as possible.

You can boost your ratings/ rankings with Google by getting your site linked to on bigger sites. So email the webmasters and ask for a linkback. Explain who you are, what your site offers and always offer to link to them too.

If you go with the blog plan and turn your site into a resource of some kind (for writers, for hobbyists, or for the topic you write about) you will find it easier to get linkbacks as you are offering original content. Webmasters and directory editors want original content with simple navigation. If you create it, they will come.

Consider ways of going out to your readers, catching them at home. Send out an email to subscribers each time you update your site. Give a preview of what you ar updating with. Start a newsletter with your best content of the month/ week, depending on how much work you can put into it.

Work on the webring idea. Make yourself part of a chain of sites. When you submit your site to web directories suck as Dmoz send the listed editor an email. Be polite and courteous. Add your URL to your email signature and make a point of joining relevant email lists, forums and newsgroups. Post when you have something to add to the chat, not just to self promote. If you seem interesting people will click on your signature links. Leave comments in guestbooks too. Even if only the site owner sees your link he/ she could be a contact to cultivate. After all, you came to visit them.

Offer free content to ezines relevant to your genre. Set yourself up as an expert on your topic/ genre. Always include your byline with linkage (also known as a resource box) at the end of each article. Stage chats on your site and make sure you are there on time for however long you set the chat. Or moderate your message boards, don’t leave questions unanswered. Set up surveys, quizzes and personality test type things. People seem to be addicted to clicking those. It doesn’t have to be rocket science.

Give freebies of some sort. If you are graphically inclined offer desktop wallpaper. If you write books offer desktop wallpaper of the cover art from your latest book. Link to sites you have found useful. Either handy web gadgets for writers or something useful for people interested in your topic/ genre. Keep these links checked and eliminate/ fix link rot right away.

If you can, offer a coupon or discount on the purchase of your book. Better still, give them out to those who come to your webcasts (web chats) or subscribers of your newsletter.

If you make appearances or attend events keep a schedule available on your site too. Of course, keep it updated. You can also keep readers up to date with what you are working on. Let them know you are writing a fresh chapter, proofreading copy, mailing out an article, hearing back from that promising editor, etc. Also, write about professional organizations you are a part of, as they relate to your work. Let your site become a news portal for them. This is especially nice for hobbyists, crafty types and such. You can become their guide to what’s going on. Not so tough for you since you will already be keeping track for your writing.

Make sure you also include all your essentials for self promotion. Contact information, clips, the services you offer, and so on.

Writing is a business, not just an art. Happy webbing.