Blogger Recognition Award

I would like to thank Colleen Chesebro of Word Craft for nominating me for this award/game. If you’d like to read her very sweet and awesome responses, you can do so here! I really do enjoy these sorts of games, so anyone who wants to tag me in this sort of thing can do so.

If I nominate/tag you and you want to participate in the game, here’s the rules:

  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Write a post to show your award.
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  • Select up to fifteen bloggers you want to give this award to. (No response required).
  • Comment (or pingback) on each blog to let them know that you’ve nominated them and provide a link to the post you’ve created.

It won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t want to participate! If you’re here reading, though, it’d be great if you could choose one or two blog posts tagged at the end of this.

How Did I Start My Blog?

I actually started the blog in 2013 with the short story Waiting for Company. It was a Southern Gothic horror based strongly on my grandmother, and it’s so bad. So, so bad. You can read it if you want to know how far I’ve come. I then published several more shorts, then the short novels Evolution of the Predator and If I Only Had No Heart, both of which you can download as a PDF by clicking on the links. All during this time, though, I wasn’t very serious; the blog was mostly a place where I could leave stories, have a link, and email that link to my mom so she could read them.

Then, in January 2018, she told me she’d never clicked on a single link I’d sent. She’d never read a single story and didn’t have plans to, no matter how many I sent.

That was about the time If I Only Had No Heart went up. I was pretty depressed after my mom said that, so I decided to see what blogging was really about and start connecting with other people.

Speaking of Connecting…

My first piece of advice to new bloggers is to connect with other bloggers. You never know who is going to come up with something so creative and helpful that you must love it.

What’s hard about getting into that mode is the time it takes to build these connections. Yes, it will entail reading and commenting on other blogs. Yes, it will mean paying attention to other people. But the payoff in friendship and camaraderie was worth it for me.

Decide What is “Worth It”

So it was worth it for me.

But it might not be worth it for you.

You can only do so much social media before your ability to function explodes. Blogging, while my favorite social media, does take up quite a bit of time. So, if you decide to blog, come up with a goal for it. Is it to have 5,000 followers in a month (lol, good luck)? Is it to sell your books? Is it to meet other people and learn about your craft? It doesn’t matter what you want out of it so much as understanding what is possible and understanding if the effort you need to put in is worth the reward.

If it’s not worth it? Don’t be afraid to quit. Your blog will be here if you want to come back later.

Some Excellent Posts to Read

I’m behind on my reading, but here’s a few posts you’ll want to see by authors you’ll want to follow. Technically, this is the “nomination/tag” section, but once again I’d like to say that no one I’ve tagged has to continue this, no do they have to like or comment or any of that jazz.

  • Kevin Parish’s Daddy – An absolutely heartbreaking poem. I’ve long had a terrible relationship with my dad, and this one got to me because of the goodness and strength of the titular father.
  • Chelsea Owens’s A Starving Writing Muse – A clever piece about writing, recent motherhood, and toilet humor, I enjoyed reading this piece quite a lot. Chelsea’s hilarious and fun to follow.
  • Joanne Fisher’s Gnome Help – Cute as fuck flash fiction that made me feel cozy to read. She often has great poetry and flash, and many of her love stories are lesbian, which can offer you a fresh perspective to read about.
  • Charli Mills’s Carrot Ranch Writing Prompts – In addition to Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday prompts (Colleen nominated me), the Carrot Ranch is a great community to join. Check out the most recent prompt and consider joining yourself!
  • Aak Fictionspawn’s Crystal Clear – Honestly you guys, I need more people to read this and solve the riddle. I think I was close.
  • Crispina Kemp’s Raised Against Us – This was such a poignant story. I thought the twist was really good. As well, check out her Crimson’s Creative Challenge writing prompt!
  • Lorraine Ambers’s Blogging, Social Media, and Marketing Tips – Lorraine is one of those great bloggers who gives out good advice articles. I always look forward to her tips and tricks.
  • Alexander Eliot’s Dragon Series – A long ongoing series with a great Mid-Grade or YA feel. Tackles some more difficult subjects along the way and has great monster building.
  • Violet Lentz’s Stories of the Forgotten – Violet’s stories always have an intensity to them that you just don’t get with other blogs. This one will hit you in the feels like a bus.
  • Ari Meghlen’s Should You Plan Out Your Whole Year? – Ari Meghlen’s blog is great because she makes her life story and brand so exciting. I love watching how she chooses to do things and trying to figure out how she makes it look so cool.
  • Jules’s Gnawing Chills – A great poem about squirrels that I think will give you some good feelings.
  • Hannah Russell’s Reading Games – I love following this blog because it keeps me inspired to read more. I think it’s done more to make me want to read than any other set of reviews.
  • tnkerr’s Midriff Culture – I thought this one was pretty funny, if a bit risque and a wee bit old-school. A great blog to follow for occasional flashes and fun times!
  • D. Wallace Peach’s blog – I can’t pick out a post, but I love Peach’s work. Everything she writes is fantastic, and you should follow her. Also has great indie book reviews. Didn’t link to a post because they’ve probably been nominated.
  • Sue Vincent’s blog – another blog with a ton of great posts. I especially like her Midnight Haiku series. Didn’t link to a post because they’ve probably been nominated before.
  • Roberta Cheadle’s blog – Fantastic reviews and responses to prompts. I know for certain they’ve been tagged in this game, so I didn’t link to a post.

So, there you have it! Please check out some of the suggested content and start conversations with someone new!

Also, sorry for forgetting the title, for those of you who get the email updates… 😦

People Who Don’t Read

Recently on Twitter, I’ve been seeing a few tweets where people complain about their fellow humans failing to read. The complaints indicate a frustration with people’s continued decrepity and closedness of mind. While this was the sort of reasoning people gave, I think complaint is about something different.

I think people want other people to read the books they worked so hard to write. I think authors want to get that jazz from making someone happy. I think authors want to see any possibility of making money from their product. One way to make money and gain reviews is to solicit people who read a lot; another is to expand the market base.

Anyway, it got me to thinking, and here’s my two cents: I don’t think people should be forced to read.

Let me blow your mind.

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Kids Shouldn’t Be Forced to Read

I made that the title of the section to rile you up. I do think children should be taught to read as early as possible, and I do think they should be encouraged – however, I don’t think they should be expected to read an assigned book of the teacher’s, school’s, or state’s choice quite so early.

Children who learn to read earlier have the opportunity to read what they want while the teachers beat the other kids into understanding the symbols. This gives them the time to realize what a gift reading is, how fun it can be. I was one of those kids, and it took me a long time to understand why other kids didn’t like reading.

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The other kids? As soon as they’re able to trudge through some words, they’re forced to begin analyzing crap they didn’t choose. There is no fun involved, no encouragement to own the skill. Rather than having the time to increase reading comprehension with enjoyable stories, they’re thrown into doing more work. When reading becomes work, it becomes less fun.

I saw this with my younger brother. I think he’s probably about as smart as me, but he’s always found it hard to sit still. Reading was hard for him because he didn’t see the point and just wanted to go play. When he did learn to read, he was immediately forced to read books he wasn’t interested in. To him, reading seemed a chore.

And it has ever since.

That Crap Carries Over to Adulthood

If you find reading to be hard and unenjoyable when you’re in school, what happens when you graduate and realize you’re not going to be tested on it later?

As my brother said upon receiving his high-school diploma, “Mom, I’ll never have to read again!”

And can I really blame him? He was miserable doing homework. He hated every second of school. I wouldn’t want him to have to essentially get triggered by being forced to do something he associates with anguish.

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So if people don’t want to read, I can’t fault them. Just like you might not have enjoyed PE, some people can’t stand other subjects.

I’m not a fan of forcing adults to read, or even shaming them for not reading. You don’t know why they choose not to read.

Get Your Head Out of Your Wallet

Squidward Life Goals

Or out of your reviews, if that’s what you’re more concerned about.

I do understand that apprehensions about overall literacy are real. I understand that a broader or deeper education in the arts is important to appreciating the cultural and human conditions around you. But these are problems not solved by complaining about “people who don’t read.” These are problems we solve by a combination of efforts to make reading enjoyable.

And making reading enjoyable is a huge burden that authors are suited to help fix.

Write what you want to read. Make it enjoyable for you, if no one else. Write such that someone who may not have picked up a book in ten years would kindle or rekindle that creative spark. Don’t convince yourself that your target audience doesn’t read. Convince yourself that your target audience has just never read something they’d want to read.

And about the money – sure, it’s an issue. Authors don’t make enough of it. But don’t let that get you mad at people who won’t buy your product. Don’t let being a salesperson ruin your desire to express.

The Big Blog Question: Quantity vs. Quality

Choose Two: Quantity of posts, Quality of posts, or Your Non-Blogging Life.

Well, one of those is probably going to take priority (unless you’ve gotten past that ‘needing food’ conundrum), so the rest of blogging is just figuring out how to deal with balancing the other two.  Here’s some hints and tips I’ve learned to help with that balance.

Schedule Posts Ahead of Time

By scheduling your posts ahead of time, you can bank up time for when you need to be busy.  If Saturdays are your blog days, you can make all your blog posts then and not worry throughout the week.

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As well, many people can work faster when they’re on a roll.  If you write all your blog posts at once, you won’t have to get into or out of the mood as much.

Keep Most Posts Below 1,000 Words

The longer your post, the more likely people will get bored somewhere in the middle.

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By limiting the size of your posts, you reduce the chances for boredom and, thus, reduce the chances that your reader will leave before finishing.

As well, limiting the size of your post will help you decide the scope.  If you don’t have a scope, you might end up with enormous articles that take too much of your valuable time.  Remember – you can do a lot of work, but that will eat away at the time you could be writing your books or other publishable goods.  Keep scope creep down and cut your posts off when they need to be.

Decide On A Pattern

Do you post weekly?  Daily?  Something else?  Once you’ve figured out your routine, decide on what kind of posts you’ll make.

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I post daily, and right now I follow a week-by-week schedule as follows:

Monday – Book Review
Tuesday – Tanka Tuesday (Poetry practice!)
Wednesday – Prompt Showcase
Thursday – Blogging/Writing tips or Longer Stories
Friday – Carrot Ranch Prompt (Flash fiction!)
Saturday – Sammi Scribbles Prompt
Sunday – #CountVlad Guest Posts from Dracula

Because I follow this schedule, I know which posts I can write ahead of time.  I know what formats and types of information needs to be written.  This can almost act as a prompt, helping to give me a start on each of the posts.  That takes care of the hardest part – just starting.

Don’t Waste Your Readers’ Time

If you wouldn’t want to read the article, you can bet your bottom dollar that other people wouldn’t want to.  If you start an article or story and can’t stand it, think about if it’s worth your time to finish it.

If it’s a very short article, like a prompted flash fiction, you might as well finish it.  But if you’re prepping your major articles, stop before you think it’s going to fall apart.  Save what you’ve written and try to repurpose it – WordPress let’s you have plenty of drafts, so make use of them!

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How do you save time?  Are there methods you use to ensure quality?  I’d love to hear about some of your tips in the comments!

5 Ways Getting Personal Can Affect Your Blog

Now before you think this post is going to get raunchy, settle down.  Get your mind out of the gutter.

This is about when your Real Life intersects with your blog (and perhaps business, depending on the importance of your blog) life.

5. Posts About Your Life Let People Connect with You

It’s all over the ‘how to blog’ or ‘how to market’ world – you, yourself, are a major part of what needs to be sold.  If people like you, they might be more likely to buy your stuff.  They might just want to hang out with you ’cause you’re cool.

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Cool as f*ck.

By depicting your journey, whether it be in writing or video gaming or even mommy-blogging, you can also elicit help and advice from people who know what to do.

Or, if you get famous like J.K. Rowling, people will flock to those posts and think they know you.  It’ll give superfans something to focus on without mobbing you, y’know?

One of my online heroes is MRE reviewer Steve1989.  He’s one of those people so invested in his hobby that he’ll probably die of it.  And, surprisingly, he’s one of the few internet famous people we know very little about beyond the fact that he didn’t have health insurance in 2016.  You could use this as proof that you don’t need to be personal to get famous, but then again you’re comparing yourself to a guy who’ll eat a 150 year old cracker on Youtube.

If you don’t want to be extreme, consider letting people into your life a little more!

4. Your Memoir Stories Are Great!

This is probably the benefit of being personal that I take advantage of most.  If you’ve had an interesting life or are basically cursed to live through unlikely circumstances, you can write something that people don’t even realize is real.

Your connection to your own life allows you to tap deeply into the emotions.  You can play off relationships, events, and knowledge from your own life.  You can make that time your great-aunt challenged your mom to a pudding contest seem much more intense than if you wrote about some vague, unreal people.

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Not only that, you don’t have to come up with a plot for a memoir-esque tale.  On a day where you just can’t put something together, drawing from your own life can give your writing that extra ‘boost’ so you can finish it.

3. Make use of “Stay Tuned!” Moments In Your Life

Do you follow people and root for their success?  Do you look forward to posts about “I published my book” or “I published a short story”?  I do.

A lot of people want to watch you to see how you might succeed.  There’s this secret hope that you’ll crack into the published and/or famous world, then it’ll all seem possible.  And, as long as you don’t give up, people will want to check in and see how you’re doing.

Unless you give up on a goal or die, your life story is basically constant episodes of a soap.

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Every episode leaves a reader at a cliffhanger, and every post gives this need to keep following up.

2. Heckin’ Cathartic

Life sucks hard sometimes.

And, sometimes, it can feel pretty good to just get something off your shoulders.  In 2018, Hurricane Florence had my house clearly in her sights, and I was feeling pretty wary what with all the intense forecasts.  I wrote a lot of frantic, overly-zealous articles about getting ready for the storm (which last-minute zipped around me).

Even so, people online are usually nice and can help you out.  Sometimes they can be a bag of awful, but that’s when you can bring down the ban-hammer and know they won’t be back in that guise, at least.

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So write about your life.  Put what you need to say in order to move on.  Accept what comfort randos give you.

1. Sometimes, It’s Easy

I hinted to this one earlier in #4, but it’s true.  Writing about yourself can be easy.

Copying is terrible, since it’s basically cheating if you don’t cite (and sometimes if you do). However, you can copy your own life and no one will give a crap.  No one’s going to ban you from art school for writing about yourself and taking credit for it.  And, yet, it’s kind of like copying a story from a known source!

So use your life as a cheat sheet.  Write what you know doesn’t just improve your quality – it can also just give you an easy time.

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Have you shared personal stories or updates on your website?  Have you found any additional bonuses or – perhaps – downsides to sharing your own life story?  Tell me about it in the comments!

Don’t Quit – You Didn’t Mess Up Your Blog!

I’ve blogged seriously for long enough to have done several dirty deeds, yet somehow I’m at what I find to be a satisfying position regarding growth and participation.  So how did I come back from blog-killing mistakes?  There’s a key lie in that question:

There are almost no blog-killing mistakes.*

you right about that sugar

Here’s some hints to handle some of the boo-boo’s and uh-oh’s that come around.

I Accidentally Turned My Comments Off for Like A Week!  How Do I Survive?

I just got through this mess – and Lord knows it ain’t fun.

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If you’re lucky, you’ll have friends who’ll take the time to make the way over to your contact page (MAKE ONE IF YOU HAVEN’T) and submit something on that little form.

If you’re just starting out or your readers are on the new/untested side, you might want to schedule a check to make sure your comments are on your new posts.

Right now, you can check each article by clicking on ‘more options’ on the post maker and finding the “Allow Comments” checkbox.

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Unless you’re really neck deep in trolls and hackers, do a double check before you post.  It’s way easier to comment if the comments are on!

Oh Snap – My Post Didn’t Make the Reader!

Sometimes this happens, and I’m not even sure why.  Most of the time it’s because you accidentally backdated your post so that it appears on the reader last year or something silly.  Sometimes blogging software is like, “Screw it, just not going to work.”

But that SUCKS.  Having your post not make the reader is about the same as missing a post entirely – and if you’ve been looking at any how to blog help articles, you know that consistency is important.

But don’t panic.

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There are some silver linings to this. First, a post not making the reader doesn’t mean your post was bad.  You can try to rescue it.

If you want to rescue it now, make a copy of the post, check all the settings, and publish it.  Take down the old post so people don’t think you’re spamming (and so comments don’t get strewn around), then leave a note explaining potential email shenanigans to your readers.  You should still get most of the benefits of the original post with only a trifle more effort.

Something else you can do?  You can easily mark that post to reblog again on a later date.  With so few people seeing the post, you should be able to publicize it again without seeming lazy.

And those people who still read your blog post anyway?  Well, it means someone loves you.

Why Are Other People Politically Idiots!?

Tip one: stay out of politics if it’s not your professed thing (oops, I suck at that).  But, you know, sometimes you just gotta get some dip and speak the truth:

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And those fools out there just don’t understand!  Still, the best thing to do is to ignore it or block them.  Here’s how you can do that: Go to Settings, then click the Discussion tab.  Scroll down to Comment Moderation.

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You can also block annoying people without political aspirations like I have (I reserve the rights to moderate anyone with the words ‘sexy,’ ‘id,’ ‘.website,’ and ‘.ru’ in their names, comments, or URLs – this has blocked quite a few annoying spammers, actually).

The bigger problem is if someone is being real mean to you.  Do you ban them?  Try to ignore it?  Or do you spread dirt around about them?

Just ban them like an ordinary spammer.  There’s nothing you can do to make yourself look like the winner of an argument like that.  Who knows – that person may even be popular or influential, and you don’t want to tick off your mutual friends.

But, you know, what if you’re the person spouting stuff and getting banned?

Well… you’re gonna have to get off that high horse.

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There are a couple things you can do to save yourself if you say something obtuse:

  1. Ignore it and DON’T KEEP STOKING THE FIRE.  Wait and see if the blog author thought it was funny too, or if it’ll slide away unnoticed…
  2. Apologize privately if you can, publicly if you can’t.  This will let the person know you recognize the mistake.  As long as you’ve not been mean in the past, they’ll probably understand the limitations of written word and forgive you.
  3. If you can’t stand letting them win, write up the argument in a document you’ll save on your computer and NEVER POST.  Once you take the bait, you run the risk of becoming a target.

As far as I’m aware, the goal of most writing bloggers isn’t to win arguments – it’s to meet people, improve our craft, and create a community.

But I guess if your goal is to put the smackdown on as many people as possible, go for it?

Have You Nearly Killed Your Blog?

What’s happened on your blog that made you want to quit?  Is there anything frustrating that you wish could be done better?  Let me know in the comments – maybe I or someone will know some work arounds!

*You may be able to kill your blog if you do something illegal or so distasteful that you get permabanned.  Be reasonable, folks.

Are You Polyamorous With Your WIPs?

It happens to the best of us.  We’re booking it through writing a book, then – WHAM! – it hits you like a box truck going under 11-foot-8.

You have another book you want to write even more.

Strategy One: STAY THE COURSE

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You’re so close to finishing that book.  You’ve got to stay on track, got to get that done so you can start editing, submitting, publishing, etc. etc…

In this case, you decide to keep working on that book.  It hurts – your mind feels the pain of trudging through a story you don’t want to write.  You must simply hope the story doesn’t suffer like you are.

If you’re close enough to the end, this strategy works out.  You’ll reach the end triumphant.  But, if you’ve got a little longer to go, each day causes you consternation.  That other book’s still lingering, dying to be written.

Strategy Two: IF I CAN DO JUST THE TIP…

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Finally, you must give in.  It was just too much, and you felt like continuing the original story was going to fail anyway.  Sure, first drafts all need editing, but you wouldn’t want to look forward to what you’d have to edit…

Just a couple chapters, just enough to get that new idea down, and you’re back to your old story.  If you can write just a little on this ‘other story,’ then you’re much more likely to come back to it and remember what a great idea it had been.

But there’s a risk with doing this.  Sometimes, those chapters are like a gateway drug.  This new book is so enticing, so fun, and offers new challenges and plots.

Strategy Three: ASK FOR A THREESOME

Ok.  You can handle two books at once.  You were so far ahead with the first one, anyway, that they’ll end up finished at about the same time.

You’ve got the skills.  You’ve got the will.  Now all you need is a little more leeway with that timeline you’d originally had to get that book finished.

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Strategy Four: FULL ON INFIDELITY

That first book was never what you wanted anyway.  That book was predictable garbage.

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So don’t feel bad for leaving it for something new.  Sometimes you just need a break, and sometimes it’s simply good for you.  It’s better to write something new, something less likely to be published/finished/loved, than to write nothing at all.

…Right?

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I recently went through this full cycle.  I was almost done with American Chimera, my latest novel-length project, when I got completely distracted by something that doesn’t deserve to see the light of day.

Have you ever cheated on your novel?  Do any of these steps resonate with you?  Let me know in the comments!

5 Easy Ways to Get the Most out of Blog Writing Prompts

A lot of people enjoyed the resources on my post about writing prompts on blogs, so I decided to make this follow-up post in case you decide to take the plunge and join in any of those adventures.  Here’s a few hints and tips for making the most of prompts on your blog!

5. Follow the Prompt Rules

If you’re new, it’s understandable if you don’t get prompt rules, but to everyone else reading those entries can still feel like getting a CV when you asked for a resume.

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A lot of prompts have complicated rules (I think the Terrible Poetry Contest is probably one of the most complex), but most prompts have rules to do with 1) word counts and 2) word usage.

Following prompt rules can help other people know what to expect and not be disappointed when they click on your work.  Like I tell people: there’s nothing like drinking from a glass expecting Mountain Dew and getting milk.  It’s not fun to click on a link thinking you’re getting a nice, quick, 100-word story and finding a 1000-word story.

Moreover, some curators won’t post your contribution on their round-up if you didn’t follow the rules.  If you want your work to be showcased at the end of the submission period, it’s safest and best to fit in the expected form.

4. Leave a Comment on the Prompt Page

You can leave a pingback (let me know if you want a post on pingbacks).  You can also post a comment that is just a link to your posted story.  But I suggest a little more – comment on other people’s work, perhaps say something about the prompt or something encouraging.  Show sympathy when you should, excitement or praise when you think it right.

Comments show you’re interested.  Be interested.

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Even if you’re just in blogging for your own self-interest, this interest can get people looking at your own site.

3. Respond Quickly

This is the one I’m saddest to put up here, but it’s true.

Even if a prompt gives you a week to respond and be included in the roundup, the sad fact is that a lot of people will respond, look at the comments currently in play, and not use the roundup to see what they missed.  The earlier you comment, the more likely people will see it.

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If a prompt goes live on Sunday, you’ll probably have until Monday to get full effect and Tuesday for most effect.  Don’t feel afraid to respond if it’s later – it’s definitely worth it to post later rather than not at all – but you’ll get a bigger bang for your buck if you post and comment quickly.

2. Don’t Impress, Express

So, I just said to post quickly in order to drum up views.  There’s a little problem with that…

If you post too quickly, you may not post your best work.

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It’s the ol’ fiend of blogging – quantity vs. quality.   Blogging for the sake of blogging, for the sake of ‘impressing’ other people, might not keep people coming to your site.  If you aren’t able to come up with something good on a quick timeline, it’s probably still better to hold off.  If it’s not meaningful to you, your work probably won’t be meaningful to other people.

1. Ignore Most of My Advice

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Sometimes, it’s just hard to follow ALL this mess.  You’re tired, it’s been a crap day, and you just want to do something on your blog so you don’t fall off the edge of the earth.

On those days, you can do none of the above.

In some cases, you might not be able to come up with something meaningful, no matter how much effort you put in (for example, Tenderloin was a post I think was terrible on my part, but I wasn’t going to come up with a better response for ‘travel’ at the time).  In these cases, do something.  Just something.  Show your prompt-giver that you want to try, that you’re still there to support and encourage.

Sometimes, you might not want to read others’ posts or leave comments.  Don’t do it – don’t burn yourself out.  Let yourself have that leisure if you need it.

There are times when you read a prompt and get inspired to do something outside the confines of the contest rules.  Write that – let your inspiration guide you, and only fit in the rules if you can.

All these tips are so malleable, and meeting your goals, having fun, and meeting other people is truly the main goal.

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Are there any blogging questions you have?  Little tidbits you’ve learned from responding to prompts?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

5 Tips on How to Use WordPress Tags, Categories, and the Reader

WordPress has a lot in common with other social media outlets in that you use things like tags, but there’s also categories, which seem so similar!  If you’re new to WP, it becomes pretty obvious that the help pages don’t really give you much to work with.  That’s why I decided to write this, even though many people will think these tips old hat.

In this series on how to get the most out of your WordPress writing blog (for beginners!), I’ve already shown you some ways to get yourself motivated and find communities.  In this post, I’m getting a little more nitty-gritty with a few technical details concerning how WordPress works.  So strap in and put your thinking caps on!

5. Use The BEST Tags First

Take a gander at your WordPress reader.  (If you’re super new, you can find your reader by scrolling to the top of almost any WordPress site and clicking ‘Reader’ or the newspaper icon.) Here’s a pretty typical Reader entry with the tags circled:

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This person may have used more than three tags, but three is what will show up on the reader.  Because these are the ones that will show up, you should choose the best ones first.

If you’re into writing, here’s some hints:

  1. Choose a wide-reaching tag: Writing, #amwriting, creative writing, poetry, poem, and fiction are good ones to include.
  2. Show  your reader a little more about specifics: Get down into genre!  Use things like science fiction, memoir, fantasy, literary, tanka, or haiku to show a more detailed description of your post.
  3. Link to Others’ Blogs: If you are participating in a prompt or tag game, it can often be good to look at what people use to denote that.  For instance, I often participate in the Carrot Ranch prompt and so put the tag “Carrot Ranch” on those posts.  Look at your prompt and some of the other responses to the prompt to see if there’s a way to connect with that tag.
  4. Get Really Specific: If you aren’t participating in a prompt, your third tag should be something very specific so your story can look unique.  For instance, this post has ‘how to’ as its third tag, which lets you know that this is intended to help.  I’ve used things like ‘Steampunk’ before or ‘#CountVlad,’ which includes the hashtag for the rare and unlikely case that I can start a Twitter fad.

To get an idea which tags you might want to use, click on some of the tags from posts you’ve liked.  The point of tags, in WordPress’s viewpoint, is to help show useful blogs and posts to other people. It’s like hashtags on Twitter that help organize and collate similar information.

4. Use Categories for Self-Organization

Categories are shown on your post, but they’re not the same thing as tags.  Whereas tags help WordPress show your blog post to others, categories help you build pages.  You can link to your categories, like this one to my Flash Science Fiction in category:

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You can also add your categories to a menu using the ‘menus’ option in your dashboard (yourblog.wordpress.com/wp-admin/).  Here’s a picture of how you do this in January 2019:

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If you decide to use a category as a part of your menu, that part of your blog will automatically update when you add a new blog entry with that category.  So, if you want to have a category ‘short stories,’ the category will add to that page, like a blogroll, anything that includes the category.  It’s super handy if you don’t want to be always updating a page.

3. Decide on Categories Early!

When you first start out, decide well what categories you want.  It gets really hard to perform this organization after the fact – adding categories to 300 posts isn’t fun!  Keep up with it from the beginning and it’ll be so much easier.

While it’s true that you can always add new categories, you’ll have to go through and manually add categories later.  For instance, it would have helped me a lot to have the categories ‘Short Story,’ ‘Flash Fiction,’ and ‘Poetry’ a lot earlier.  As it stands, I’d have to do a lot of work to go back and organize some of those into my posts (soon I’ll be announcing that the work is done… mwahaha).

So think well about your categories.  Make more than you think you’ll need – it’s easier to just ignore a category than it is to make one and implement it retroactively!

2. Use More Tags Than Three

So, we said above to put your best tags first.  But what about those other tags?

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Those other tags can be super useful, too.  Let’s say you choose ‘writing’ for one of your first 3 tags, but you think ‘creative writing’ is also good.  Put ‘creative writing’ in your fourth or later slot – whenever people do searches in the reader, your post will come up in ‘creative writing.’

So if you use more tags, your post becomes more accessible in the search function.

1. Follow Yourself

I know what you’re thinking:

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It seems like cheating because you’re artificially inflating your follower numbers.  It seems weird because it’s not entirely easy to get to the page where you can follow yourself (the easiest way to find it the first time is to go to the bell in the upper right hand corner, find a link to one of your posts – like when it announces ‘Post is Live!’ – and click that.  You can then find the follow button under your site info on the left side of the page).  But trust me, it’s clutch.

If you follow yourself, the big benefit is you get to see what your post looks like to other people on the reader.  If you turn email-alerts on for your site, you get to see how your emails look (and, if you’re on the free plan, how bad that is).  If you made a mistake – like forgetting to name a post – it becomes obvious quickly and you can fix it.

Not only that, you’ll get to see your stuff right next to the things you read.  You’ll get to see if your categories are making sense, and you’ll be able to wonder, “Would I click on that if I didn’t write it?”

I did this simply because I wanted to know if it could be done.  Since then, though, I’ve definitely decided it was an awesome mistake.

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Do you have any hints for how to make your experience with the reader better?  Tips for how to choose which blogs to follow? Got some tags you think are pretty legit? Tell us in the comments!

How Writing Prompts Can Help Your Blog

When you start a writing blog, there’s only a couple ways to start interacting with other writers and readers:

  1. Depend on people you already know to follow links to your blog
  2. Start using your blog to interact with other bloggers

If you’ve got #1 set because you’re a Twitter star, congrats!  That’s awesome!

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Most of us, however, have to (or want to) deal with #2, and a great way to do that is through the use of prompts.

If you’re not convinced, keep reading – otherwise, scroll down to find a list of active prompts (curated by me and checked at least monthly for dead links).

Why Prompts?

“Aren’t prompts just limiting my creativity?” you may say.

To you, my fine friend, I must admit that it’s possible!  Sometimes I answer a prompt and feel like the sliver of garbage I spewed out would have been better left with my other thoughts that go completely forgotten.  You may, as well, be a person who isn’t blogging for interaction and, instead, want to just have a place to send your mom when you come up with something.

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Ah, mom.

But prompts can give you an in on something it’s hard to find otherwise – other great blogs.  Just reading some of the responses to the prompt – usually in the comments – can lead you to other blogs to follow.  You can comment on these blogs and start talking with people.  Most of the blogs I follow were found by sifting through prompts and finding some of the authors I enjoyed reading most.

As well, you can respond to the prompt.  If you leave a comment along with all the others, a permanent link to your blog will show up on another page – a page that probably has more viewers than a fresh, new blog does!  Other people may take a liking to your work if they click on it, and they may leave comments for you.

A lot of the prompt-followers are some of the most die-hard bloggers, and that’s something you’ll want in your back pocket to encourage you during the hard times when the blog isn’t growing and giving your brain those sweet, sweet dopamine hits.

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Select Prompts

Unfortunately, I cannot cover all the bases – if I could, I would probably be a computer!*  Anyway, here are some blogs that post prompts and a brief description of how those work. Prompts on hiatus and legacy prompts are listed at the bottom.

BlogBattle

1,000 word stories for this monthly challenge!  New challenges appear on the First Tuesday of every month.

Capture a Critter

A writing prompt based off animals! A very cute idea that deserves a bit of love. Thanks to Chelsea Owens for finding this one!

Carrot Ranch

99 words – no more no less – for this amazing Thursday flash fiction prompt based off a word or small group of words.  This blog gives you everything: a large community with a tight-knit feel, a round-up based on a submission form, and even a yearly competition.

Crimson’s Creative Challenge

A smaller writing challenge blog that’s just starting out (as of January 2019), join this if you want to grow with the site.  It’ll probably do great, since it’s attracting several microinfluencers.

dVerse Poets

A set of poetry prompts that comes out on a well-defined schedule.  Tons of people join in, so it’s a great place for poets to go for extra challenges.

Fandango’s One Word Challenge and Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge

#FOWC, well established, is a moderately popular challenge.  This one gives you a word that must be used in the post.  No word limits on this one!  Curation is done through tags.

Similarly, the Flash Fiction Challenge (#FFFC) has no word limits, but there is a photo to spur your creativity.  Thanks to MyForeverBlog for pointing this one out!

Flash Fiction Challenge

Joanne the Geek sponsors this monthly challenge.  Get in on it now and be one of the founding participants!

Foto Flash Fiction Challenge

An In-Linkz curated flash fiction challenge for stories of 500 words or less. Be inspired by the posted photo and give it a whirl! The blogger is mostly a photoblogger, so this is a great way to branch out and meet new people.

Frank J. Tassone’s Haikai Challenge

I’ve seen some fantastic entries for this syllabic poetry challenge that goes live every Monday. The current set of regular participants are some very high quality writers, so join in!

(You’ll need to follow Frank J. Tassone to easily find the challenge, or you’ll need to use this link to find the challenges. His blog isn’t organized for you to easily find the challenges – otherwise I’d have gotten this link up earlier!)

Friday Fictioneers

Limit your tales to 100 words as you respond to a photo prompt.  Uses an In-Linkz linkup to quickly show you who else has posted that week.

Imprompt Prompts

A daily  prompt site with very light curation. Participants and friends do comment, but it’s very low pressure. This is great for people who might not want a community to join so much as a challenge.

Just Start Writing (NO LONGER ON HIATUS as of 1/6/2020)

A prompt on most Mondays for 200-250 word works of any genre.

Kira’s Sunday Scribbles

A picture drawn by Kira for your inspiration!  Give a story or poem based off the art given.

Linda G. Hill Prompts

Linda G. Hill has the weekly Stream of Consciousness Saturday and One-Liner Wednesday.  There is the monthly Coloring challenge, and Just-Jot-It Januaries happen throughout the month of January each year.

Menage Monday

A contest for flash fiction between 100 and 250 words with a rotating judgeship. The prompts are a combination of picture, phrase, or words, depending on what the judge wants. Winners will be touted on Twitter or other social media. Contest only lasts one day, though – Monday – so get those writing engines revved!

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie

A different kind of prompt with different rules appear nearly every day on this site!  If you don’t know what kind of prompt you want to do, this is a good place to play around.

On-Line Writer’s Guild

A list of three prompts that you can mix and match between – try to get all three if you can! This prompt has been rather long-lived, so you can depend on the creator of the OLWG to keep you going.

Peter Wyn’s Writing Prompts

An ecclectic sort of writing prompt that’s just in its beginning stages – come along and see where this goes!

Putting My Feet in the Dirt

Putting My Feet in the Dirt gives a new prompt for every day by posting a monthly plan on the first of the month.  At the end of the month, Michelle Cook organizes your posts for a round-up.

Reena’s Exploration Challenge

A phrase or word prompt that has no word count or format rules.  Currently a smaller set of regular respondents – join this if you want to get into a tight community, and follow Reena regardless because of her raw talent!

Ronovan Writes Haiku Challenge

A Monday prompt for Haikus!  A rather popular prompt to follow, this one will get you started well on poetry prompting.

Six Sentence Story

A Thursday prompt word sparks a story measured in sentences – not words or characters – which gives this prompt a rather interesting feel.

Six Word Story

A six word story including 1 word as a prompt? Wowza! This is harder than you’d think!

Song Lyric Sunday

Everyone’s been wanting it, and now it’s finally here! A music-based inspiration prompt! Curated and invented by the reliable Fandango.

Speculative Writing Challenge (Not entirely sure it’s still called this – there’s some confusion about)

A monthly challenge with a wide variety of prompt types.

Sunday Muse

A photo-based prompt that comes out every Sunday. Curated using Mr. Linky links. This might be a good one for WordPressers to get into, as it’s a BlogSpot blog and can introduce you to another world of writing fun! Thanks to Joem18B for pointing this out to me!

Sunday Photo Fiction

A 200-word-or-less story based on a provided photo.  Popular around the town!

Tanka Tuesday

A form poetry prompt every Tuesday, this prompt is great for beginning poets.  The community is friendly, and it’s big enough that someone is sure to stumble upon your stuff too!  Excellent instructions are provided, especially since the prompt has gotten popular enough to require a submission form.

Teensy Writing Contest

A seasonal contest wherein authors write something aimed at children.  There tends to be prizes!  Thanks to Chelsea Owens for pointing this one out.

Terrible Poetry Contest

No, it’s not just about writing poetry poorly – it’s also about writing a poem with a terrible subject, like crappy bosses or other poopy things.  A weekly contest on Saturdays, the participants and winners are announced on Fridays.

Three Line Challenge

A 100-word flash challenge that must be completed in three lines – no more no less!  This is a photo challenge that posts on Thursdays.

Three Things Challenge (3TC)

A daily prompt that I see come on my feed quite often. Paula provides three words that may not seem related for you to weave into a quick tale.  (Previously run by The Haunted Wordsmith).

Tuesday Photo Challenge

A VERY popular prompt set, this would be a great place to jump in to generate hoopla quickly.  Run by a photographer, you’re sure to get great prompts.

Twiglets

A short phrase or smattering of words is given on Tuesdays.  Respond with something short and sweet.  Moderately well-followed, curated through comment sharing.

Twittering Tales

A picture prompt that requires a response so short that it’s Tweetable!  A really popular prompt, and one you can use to expand your presence on Twitter as well as WordPress.

Weekend Writing Prompt

Sammi Cox’s Saturday prompt is great because the word length always changes.  The community is still growing, but the prompts are solid.

Weekly Smile

A weekly challenge posted on Thursdays by Trent on Trent’s World.  Response posts must be dedicated to things that make you smile.  Well curated, and VERY positive. Thanks to Marsha Writes for pointing out this challenge.

What Pegman Saw

Unlike any other prompt I’ve come across!  This one chooses a location on Google Maps and encourages you to take tours and write about the place.

With Real Toads (NEW as of 11/17/2019)

A variety of writing prompts from a person with a bit of spunk. A blogspot blog, this prompt can get you into a new selection of readers and fellow participants. Thanks to Joem18B for showing me this one!

Word of the Day Challenge

A daily prompt that gives a single word as a thought provoker.  Also posts the Kira’s Sunday Scribbles (mentioned above).

Write Now

Though not yet very well followed (at least not on WP), the posters are regular and happen to sport a very nice-looking site.  The prompts come in the form of phrases.

Yeah Write Challenges

A set of true contests, one of which has a cash prize, winners of the various challenges are announced weekly.  Uses InLinkz software to collect submissions.

#writephoto

A popular Thursday photo prompt with excellent curation.  A ton of people participate, so you’ll be seen out and about on this fantastic blog.

50 Word Challenge

This page is hard to navigate; to find the most recent challenge, you’ll need to have some reading glasses on and scroll through the recent posts on the left side of the page.  However, every Thursday a new prompt from Kristian surfaces, and the participants seem to have fun!  The Haunted Wordsmith makes roundups.

On Hiatus

On Hiatus prompts are those that have missed 3 or more predicted prompt postings (or a month without a post, if it’s a monthly or biweekly posting) when I check up on them.  The dates are the dates I decided to move them into the Hiatus category, not the dates they went on Hiatus.

I Write Her Weekly Haiku/Senryu Challenge (On Hiatus, Promised return missed – Will be moved to Legacy as of 3/1/2020 if no change)

Using only a haiku or senryu, respond to an intriguing stock photo.  New challenges every Tuesday.  I think this one looks hard, so go here if you want to stretch your abilities!

Legacy

Legacy prompts are those prompts that have either been on hiatus for a couple months without indication of return, or those prompts which announced an end date.  They are saved here for posterity’s sake and may return to active use if the author chooses to update them. However, I won’t check these links as often – if your prompt is in here and you need it taken out, give me a comment.

Aether Prompts (Legacy as of 8/7/2019)

An weekly image prompt with a real (real!?) prize for the best speculative fiction story at the end of the year. These stories should be short enough (100 words) to fit on the image prompt – I suggest looking at past entries and winners!

Daily Inklings (Legacy as of 9/20/2019)

If you were to look at these prompts as a Wheel-of-Fortune category, you’d get something like ‘common phrases’ or ‘weird things.’  These prompts can be any form of writing – it just asks for a blog post, not necessarily a story or a poem.

Don Massenzio’s Stock Photo Challenge (Legacy as of 7/21/2019)

A sadly short-lived photo challenge. The photos are all royalty free, so you can feel good that research has been done to give you something you’re allowed to use.

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers (Legacy as of 1/2019)

Ending in January 2019, this epic, long-lived photo challenge series still exists in the form of a flash-fiction archive.  Even though it’s over, you can still comb it for inspiration.

Tell Tale Thursday (Legacy as of 8/21/2019)

In-Linkz curated prompt for fiction up to 250 words.

Time to Write (Legacy as of 11/17/2019)

Rachel Poli’s popular, and you’ll get prompts with a lot of variety from her site.  It’s a little more difficult to see comments and get involved, but they’re great prompts nonetheless.

Wacky Weekend Challenge (Legacy as of 4/6/2019)

This prompt was run by the Dark Netizen.  Check out his blog and follow in case he revamps the challenge!

What Do You See? (Link removed because it started taking me to weird places)

A weekly photo prompt where you can write anything you want (within reason, of course!) in response.  Curation is done through pingbacks/comments.

(5) Word Weekly Writing Challenge (Legacy as of 3/13/2019)

Challenge responses must contain all FIVE words given in the prompt, but you aren’t limited to poetry, prose, or (unless self-imposed) word count.  Prompts are posted on Mondays.

100 Word Wednesday (Legacy as of 11/17/2019)

A photo based prompt, 100 Word Wednesday is a mid-week prompt from Bikurgurl.  Use tags 100WW or #100WW to help people find your response.

See you around!

So come along, choose a prompt – or two! – and join in.  If you join one of the prompts I participate in, you’ll probably see my little icon slithering around the comments on your site!

*HRR is, sadly, not a computer as of 13 February 2020.  It’s not out of the realm of possibility that this fateful transformation has occurred prior to your current reading.

How To Start A Writing Blog and HAVE FUN

There’s plenty of ‘how to blog effectively’ articles out there, and you may be wondering, “Why should I take advice from someone who has ~300 followers?”

The reason I think you should care is that I feel those 300 followers is about average, perhaps a little more or less, to what you should expect after blogging in the writing community for about a year (which is where I am) with absolutely 0 online presence beforehand.

The main way to succeed at blogging is to not give up.  You may never get paid for it, and you may never get famous, but you will still gain from the experience.  Here’s how.

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What Blogging Can (Will) Get You

You can easily get articles about ‘how to direct traffic to your blog’ or stories about how people succeeded.  Some of that crap works, but in real life?  This Bo Burnham quote sums up my thoughts on most of that advice:

I would say don’t take advice from people like me who have gotten very lucky, we’re biased. You know, like Taylor Swift telling you to follow your dreams is like a lottery winner telling you, ‘Liquidize your assets, buy Powerball tickets, it works!’

— Bo Burnham on TBS’s Conan, 2016

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The same can apply to advice from successful bloggers or, gasp, authors.  Sure, they put in the effort, they had skill, and they did what was necessary to start the process, but an element of luck plays into all of it. None of us are failures when luck or zeitgeist didn’t fall our way.

What you can really expect is to contact a few other dedicated bloggers or, in my case, author-bloggers.  You can expect to see more of what other people do, recognize what choices you have and what steps you need to take if you do want to chase a dream like publishing – either traditional or self-published.

What You Must Pay

While I believe having more than the free plan would help me grow my blog, direct monetary loss isn’t what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about payments of effort.  Time is something even free bloggers have to spend.

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When it comes to your own posts, you’ll figure out your balance of quality vs. quantity.  I decided to post every day for 3 months in 2018, and that was definitely when I got through the beginning slump – but posting every day isn’t necessary.  What is necessary, if you want to keep growing, is to just not quit. Keep commenting and reading even if you post once a week or once every 2 weeks.

This leads me into the other ‘payment’ – comments.  Likes are penny candy after a while, and you can’t be sure some of those people even read your stuff.  Try using the wp reader for a while – it’s way easier to like than it is to go to the website, load it, read it, then like it.  So yes, like, but also comment – comment like you think the poster is about to quit and you’re the only one who can prevent it.  Even if they don’t care about you in return, you did a good thing.  Start a conversation, be the reader you want other people to be.  Don’t depend on getting secret readers or stuff like that.

Eventually, commenting won’t feel so nerve-wracking.  You’ll just do it.  Right now I have a hard time commenting on popular blogs because I feel like I can’t add to an already illustrious conversation – but that’s not true, and I can get over that psychological block.

Also, don’t be an asshat in the comments.

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Have a Good Time

Warning: atypical advice ahead!

If you don’t enjoy blogging, don’t do it. It’s that simple. The chances of getting internet fame or causing your book sales to skyrocket are low, especially after a short time online. If you don’t enjoy the platform, try posting less often.  Try finding a type of post you like better.  Maybe try Twitter (which makes me a nervous wreck, but you can find me @hrrgorman) or Tumblr or Instagram.

If you don’t like blogging, you’ll require more comments, likes, and traffic to feel worthwhile. You might get them – it is possible – but that’s still got a lot of luck basis. If you don’t like blogging, really consider what your ‘final straw’ is. Don’t let online bs drag you down in real life. Have reasonable (aka low) expectations if you are a stat dependent creature.

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Do you have any tips for beginning bloggers?  Any questions about startup, fears about where your blog is going?  I’d love to have a chat in the comments, so meet me there!

In 2 weeks, I hope you’ll enjoy my post about writing prompts and how they are super useful to worm yourself into the writing community on WordPress!  Give me a follow if you’re interested!