My Blog Writing Process

Once you’ve been blogging for a while, you start to notice a process in the way you write each post; steps you take each time that at some point you realize, you wouldn’t know how to write a blog without. All writers develop a process at some point, something unique to them that helps them to get inspired and focused. With blogging though, some steps aren’t quite as unique as others.

blog writing process
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A Blank Screen

Of course, the first step to any new blog post is to open up a fresh post editor, and stare at the vast blank page in front of you. Somehow, whether it’s on a computer or in a notebook, a blank page has always been such an important part of writing for me – to the point that in my journal, I start each new entry on a new page, even if there’s plenty of space left on the last page I wrote on. Something about that empty space waiting to be filled gets me ready to create something, and inspires me in a way that nothing else does.

Scan Post Ideas

I’ve mentioned before that I keep blog post ideas written everywhere – in several notebooks that I carry around with me in every purse and leave sitting on my bedside table, in the Notebook App on my phone, in draft format on WordPress, and in Evernote on my computer.  So whenever I go to write a new blog post, I start by scrolling or flipping through each of those ideas, even though I remember what most of them are. Sometimes, I’ll use one of those ideas for the post that day, but most of the time I end up writing something completely different but that was inspired by one or more of those ideas.

False Start

I don’t know about you, but my blog-post writing process involves a lot of partially written first paragraphs and blog post drafts made entirely of lists.  Tonight, before getting around to this idea, I started three other blog posts that are now sitting in draft format.  A lot of times, those partially-written drafts come from the ideas I mentioned above.  Other times, they’re completely new ideas that don’t pan out right then.  But whatever the reason for each draft, there are several of them lying in my drafts on WordPress, and most of them will never manage to get published.

A Good Photo

Most of the time when I write a new post, one of the first things I do is “design” a photo for the post and get that set up and ready to go.  Somehow, having the labeled photo imbedded into my post draft encourages and inspires me to write the actual post.

So what about you? What does your blog post writing process look like?

3 Ways to be a Better Sponsor

I’ve talked before about how to find the right sponsorship for your blog, and what you should be expecting out of a blogger you sponsor.  But the responsibility isn’t all on the blogger offering the sponsorships – it’s on the blogger buying them, too!  Without your help, there’s not a whole lot that sponsee can do to help you grow, and over the last few months since I’ve started offering sponsorships myself, that’s something I’ve learned now more than ever.  So today, I want to share my tips to be a better sponsor.

be a better sponsor

Answer Your Emails

Because blogging isn’t a store you can walk into and say “I’d like the large sponsorship package, please,” a huge part of communication for sponsors and sponsees happens via e-mail.  It’s how we communicate information about what your sponsorship includes, what we need from you, what you expect from us, and how we answer any questions you might have.  It’s on the sponsee to initiate that conversation, but without you to keep it going, we can’t promote you or help you in the way you might be expecting.

When I sign on with a new sponsor, I immediately e-mail them a hello letting them know what their package includes, what I need from them to make it happen, and that I’m here if they have any blogging questions or needs at all.  Usually, I hear back within a day or two, but I’ve also had that sponsor who I never once receive a response from. Let me just tell you, it’s hugely frustrating to email someone seven times in a month, only to never hear back and never be able to follow through with the promises you made in your sponsorship package because of it.

Keep Blogging

Everyone has a different blogging schedule, whether it’s five days a week, or every Tuesday at noon.  Whatever your blogging schedule is, keep up with it when you’re sponsoring someone.  Most sponsorship packages include some kind of social media love, and that is really hard to do when the blogger sponsoring you isn’t posting any new content that I can share.  Plus, it makes me wonder why you spent the money if you don’t have anything for me to promote.

totally understand that life gets in the way, and that’s absolutely more important.  My advice?  If something comes up and you can’t blog the way you usually do, send me an email.  We can work something out so that you can still get what you paid for.

Tell us What You Want

My number one goal when I take on a new sponsor is to help you achieve your blogging goals, whether that’s more followers, more commenters, more page views, or whatever else.  If you have a blogging question, I’d love to help!  And if the way I’m sharing your blog isn’t what you want or were expecting, tell me and we can work together to fit it more to your needs and expectations.

I’ve definitely made this mistake where I’m too nervous or shy to tell a blogger what posts I’d like help promoting, or what I’d like to get out of my month on their sidebar.  And in the end, I was the only one hurt by it, because I’d paid for a sponsorship that I didn’t get what I wanted out of.  Most bloggers want to help you, and they’re going to love if you tell them what you need help with.  If it’s something they can’t or aren’t willing to do, they’ll tell you; otherwise, it’s something you’re getting now that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

So what about you? What are your tips for being a better sponsor?

Blog Photography : 3 Tips to Improve Your Photos

One of the things I don’t talk about much in terms of blogging advice is photography.  As much as I love it, I know that I’m far from being an expert in that particular field, and that’s before you add in all the editing that comes with professional blog photography.
But in the years since I’ve started carrying a camera around, and in the years since then when I started blogging, I’ve learned a few things to help me get by.  So, my tips today might not help you become a famous wedding photographer, but they will help you in terms of blog photography.
Blog Photography
Unsplash

Carry Your Camera Everywhere

Seriously.  This is something I’m constantly having to remind myself to do, but whether you’re spending the day in the city with some friends, going on an amazing vacation, or just taking your dog for a walk – you should bring your camera with you.  I think it must be an unwritten law of the universe that fantastic photo opportunities present themselves when you don’t have a camera available.  My solution? Make sure you always have your camera, and the results will show in your blog photography!

 

Take A LOT of Photos

I guarantee this will probably drive your friends nuts (it certainly makes my friends a bit crazy), but it just makes sense that if you take five photos you won’t have as many chances for a good one as if you take 100 photos.  A lot of photo opportunities may not present themselves again, so if you don’t get the shot now, you’re never going to.  It’s just easier to take way too many photos now, than to get home and realize they’re all out of focus, off center, or shot in the wrong setting.

 

Use PicMonkey

I mentioned that editing is NOT my forte when it comes to photography.  It’s my goal to have to do next to nothing to a photograph to make it look the way I want it to (refer to number two, wherein I take about 1,000 photos until one of them is perfect).  I haven’t used Photoshop since high-school, so it’s basically all Greek to me (much like HTML, now that I mention it).

One editing program I can use though is PicMonkey, and lucky for all of us it doesn’t come with the same hefty price tag as Photoshop.  If all you’re worried about is simple blog photography for your lifestyle blog, PicMonkey is perfect to change color, add text, resize, crop, and some other really helpful things!

Keep Stock Photos Handy

If I’ve learned nothing else about blog photography, it’s that every post should have at least one pin-worthy photo in it.  And if you want to avoid stealing someone else’s work – even unintentionally – it’s important to have a plan.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve started working on keeping a folder on my desktop of my blog photography.  Any photos I take, I edit to the correct size and then save in this folder so that when I need a post photo, I can check here first.  And if that fails, I keep a list of good sites for free stock photos, like Unsplash.

 

And now that we’re on the subject of blogging and photography, I’d like to not so gracefully introduce you to a lovely giveaway! Jana of Life Could Be a Dream, along with myself and some other lovely bloggers, have been loving these  Epiphanie camera bags, and would love to give you all the chance to win one in this great giveaway!

Blog Photography
The Fine Print:
The giveaway will run from 12:00 am EST on September 25th until 11:59 pm EST on October 1st. Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Entries will be verified, so please don’t be a stinker about your entries. Just be honest. The winner will be contacted by email and will have 48 hours to claim their prize before a new winner is selected. Lastly, good luck! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blogging Lessons: Things I Never Thought I’d Be Worried About

Five years ago, when I started blogging, I had no idea how deep it went or that there was so much to learn.  It was a fun project of sorts, a way to document my senior year of high-school with my best friend.  It never occurred to me that in five years, I’d still be finding new blogging lessons everywhere, that I’d be trying to make money here, or that there was an amazing community of other bloggers out there to connect with.

I could probably go on forever with all of the unexpected blogging lessons I’ve learned over the last five years, the pieces of the blogging world that I never anticipated.  All the different oddities that I never knew existed, let alone thought I’d be spending time worrying about one day.

Blogging Lessons: Things I Never Thought I'd Be Worried About

SEO

Until a few months ago, I would have had no idea what those three letters meant.  Now, search engine optimization not only means something to me, but is something I work on with each post I publish.  When I first heard about SEO, it was something I ignored – probably because it sounded impossible to understand, like HTML or the Greek language.  Something I’d never get even the slightest grasp on.

While I still don’t understand most things about SEO (even with amazing bloggers like Hudson & Emily to guide me through it step by step), the Yoast SEO plugin that I have downloaded now on WordPress makes everything about 1,000 times easier.

Blogger vs. WordPress

It was years of blogging before I realized that there really was another option for blogging platforms, and even then I stuck to Blogger because it was easy.  It was what I knew.  I finally made the switch to WordPress last week (with much needed help from Lisette) after reading more articles and blog posts than I can count on why it’s the better option if you’re serious about blogging.  But then, that’s something else that never occurred to me five years ago: “serious blogging.”

Social Media

One of the biggest blogging lessons these five years have taught me is the power of social media.  I’m pretty sure that when I started my first blog, I still used Myspace, and I’m pretty sure I might have considered Neopets a valid social network (guess I was a bit of a late bloomer…).  Facebook was new territory to me, and I regularly made fun of Twitter.  Google+ and Pinterest didn’t even exist, and Bloglovin‘? What was that?

When I finally did expand beyond group message boards, “top friends,” and Xanga, I had no idea there were rules and etiquette to being a part of this brave new world of the Internet.  I rarely logged into any of my accounts, and posting was even more of a special occasion.

Scheduling

Did anyone see this coming when they first started blogging, especially lifestyle blogging? I’ve gotten into scheduling posts the night before they go live, but now that I started my full-time job in the city this week, I don’t have as much free time during the week.  Which means that, along with every other post this week, this was written sometime between Friday and Sunday.  I see the benefits of and need for an editorial calendar in serious blogging, but at the same time, I see the downfalls of it.

I worry that scheduling posts ahead of time takes a lot out of them, especially for more honest, meaningful posts like yesterday’s.  Is it better to write a post and share it at the same time, or to schedule it ahead of time so that your readers know when to expect something?  That’s something I still haven’t figured out, and spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about.

So what about you? What are some things that blogging has made you start thinking about that never would have occurred to you before?

Friday Favorites: What I’m Loving this Week

Friday Favorites

It’s the end of the blogging week around here, and that means time for one of my favorite posts to write – Friday Favorites, where I tell you all the things and links I’ve been loving this week!

// The fact that I’m finally able to join (what seems like) the rest of blogland in using Plugins, now that I have WordPress.   If it’s a switch you’re considering making, I 110% suggest hiring Lisette to do it for you.  There is no way I could have made this transfer by myself without losing basically my entire blog in the process, and Lisette was amazing to work with.                         And speaking of Plugins…what are some of your favorites?

//I absolutely LOVED this post Whitney wrote on the type of friend she wants to be.  These are all qualities I’d hope that my friends could say I have, and which I look for in my friends.

// This really important reminder from Katie.  It’s so easy in blogging to get wrapped up in the success your favorite bloggers seem to be experiencing, especially if one of those bloggers is someone who started at the same time as you and seems to have SO many more followers.  But this isn’t a competition, and another blogger’s success is not your failure – instead, it is a chance to congratulate a friend who is doing great, and to set goals for yourself and your blog.

// Pumpkin spice hot chocolate.  I know you’re all probably so sick of hearing about pumpkin spice lattes, but that’s why I’m not bringing those up (well, that and I don’t drink coffee).  A couple of weeks ago, my roommate told me I could have the barista at Starbucks put pumpkin spice into whatever drink I wanted.  Cue my new love affair with pumpkin spice hot chocolate.

pumpkin spice
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// Today is my last day at my current (part-time) job, which means that starting Monday I’ll be working full-time in the city! This is something I’ve held off on sharing, because I didn’t want to talk about it online too much before I was finished with my current job.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I was so lucky to find a job that I loved right out of college, but unfortunately it was only part-time, and once I stopped waitressing about a month ago I knew it was time to find something with more hours.  I couldn’t be more excited about this new position – everyone I’ve met is so nice, and it’s a career (paralegal work) I’m really excited to be getting into!  Wish me luck?

 

So what about you? What are your Friday Favorites this week?

2014 Reader Survey Results

A couple of weeks ago, I asked you to let me know your thoughts on this space through a reader survey – what you like, what needs work, and a little bit about YOU.  Community is my favorite part of blogging, and in order for a community to thrive, I need to know a little bit about you and what makes you tick; and, at least I believe, you need to know a little bit about one another.

I’m amazed by the number of responses I received, and so so thankful that you were willing to take a few minutes to answer these questions for me!  So without further ado, I’d like to share a few things I learned with you.

Demographics   

To start, I learned a bit about who you all are.  For the most part, you’re between the ages of 19 and 30, have (or are pursuing) a Bachelors’ Degree or higher, female, and living in the Northeast United States.  And even better?  Almost all of you are bloggers!

You know what this tells me?  We have a lot in common, since I’m a 22-year-old college graduate living in Pennsylvania.  Pretty cool, right?

But better than that, there are also a ton of you with completely different experiences – living all over the United States, as well as in Europe and Asia, some of you are married, single, in a relationship; male; as young as 18 and as old as 70.  I loved learning that there’s such a wide range of us here, because it makes the conversations we’re able to have so much more dynamic and inspiring!

Interests

One of the things I was most excited to find out from this survey was what you’re interested in reading about: feminism, writing, blogging, inspiration…. What makes you tick?  And what I found out? You love reading about feminism, current events, blogging, my life, and my opinion, which is awesome – because most of these are my favorite topics to write about!
Over the past several months, I’ve worked on focusing primarily on feminism and blogging, so going forward, I’d like to incorporate more of my opinion, current events, and – as best I can without compromising what I want this blog to be – my life.

What Needs Work

Overwhelmingly, most of you pointed out the lack of my life being shared on this lifestyle blog.  This tells me a couple things: that I’ve been accomplishing what I want with this blog, but also that it’s not necessarily what you want.
I’ve always said that while She is Fierce is a lifestyle blog, it is so in the lightest form of the phrase.  I try to avoid turning this space into a diary, and instead work to share inspiring and enlightening content that will inspire you to go forward with your life differently, or to think about the world you’re living in more in-depth.
Unfortunately, that’s left a lot of you wanting for more.  So I’d like to compromise, going forward.  I want to share more of myself here because, after all, if what I want is community, that requires that we each know a bit about one another.  I’ve been thinking a lot about how best to do this without compromising what this space is and what it stands for, and I haven’t come up with a good middle ground yet.
So here’s where I need you just one more time: where do you think the middle ground is?  How can I share more of myself here, in a way that you’d enjoy reading?

A Tour through Blogland : The Edited Edition

Blogging Tour

I’ll be honest – when Jana asked me to be a part of the Blogland Tour Series, my first thought was “there’s nothing to really show…”

I love my apartment, but it’s a pretty small place in a college town – the furniture is mismatched, we keep our vacuum in the living room, and our fridge is covered in outdated magnets proclaiming the Phillies’ schedule from years past.  Oh, and there are two baby gates hanging out next to the staircase, which we use to keep Sherlock upstairs and away from my allergic roommate.  The carpets are of the outdoor variety, a precaution on my landlord’s part intended to avoid another situation similar to when the last tenants left a huge stain of unidentified origin (although we suspect bong water) right in the area between living room and kitchen.
So like I said – nothing to see here.
But then I had an idea: if I can’t give a tour of my house, why not give a tour of my blogging area? Since I moved in a couple of months ago, I’ve started to get my workspace set up in a way that I really like, and that seems like something at least somewhat worth sharing (at least until the interior design bloggers catch wind of it…).  So, welcome to my writing space!
(not pictured: my bed, and the living room couch where I also do a pretty fair amount of blogging.)

Before last year, believe it or not, I’d never owned a desk before.  It wasn’t until college that I had one to work on, and that was the dorm-issued kind that had survived many a generation of college freshman before me.

Last year, when one of my roommates moved out, she asked if I wanted her desk because she’d found a better one to use.  It’s small, but it does the job for me at least.

So now it’s your turn – whether you want to go the traditional route and give us a tour of your home, or take the lazy way out like I did and show us around your work-space.  I’m nominating Kenzie of Hello Neverland and Nadine of East &, two of my absolute favorite bloggers.

Building Your Blogging Community : Comment Etiquette

Build Your Blogging Community

 

I talk a lot about how important community is to this blog.  When I come here each day, it’s with something that I hope is going to make you think, and want to start a conversation.  Without community, I don’t know what this whole blogging thing would even be like.

There are plenty of ways to help build your blogging community, but one of the most important options is by commenting on posts you enjoy, and responding to comments on your own posts.  As important as this is though, there are some misconceptions out there about how you should go about commenting.

Only Comment if You Have Something to Say

It’s absolutely important to comment on blogs if you’re contributing to the conversation.  But you know the old adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?”  Well, I’m going to change that up a bit to say “if you don’t have anything meaningful to say, don’t say anything at all.”
As much as I love talking to my readers and responding to comments on this little space, it’s really hard to come up with a response to “I’m your newest follower! Follow me back?” or “Great post!”  So instead, try to say something like “I really love this post..” and then mentioning a relevant experience you’ve had, or how the post has been helpful for you.  There are all kinds of great things you can contribute to the conversation started by a blog post!

Don’t Ask for Followers

That’s just etiquette.  Seriously – please don’t be that spammy blogger, because you’re not contributing to anything; you’re just spamming people’s feeds, and making everything about you and your blog.

If You Don’t Agree, then Tell Us!

Remember that adage I just mentioned about not saying anything if you don’t have something nice to say?  Well, forget I said it because I don’t agree.  I’m not saying to be rude (please – be nice! We’re trying to make friends here, after all.), but if a blogger has posted something particularly controversial, you’re allowed to tell them if you disagree with their opinion.

After all, a difference of opinions is what fuels great conversations in the first place!

Respond

If you want your readers to leave you a little note, and you’re looking for ways to grow your blog and your community, responding to comments absolutely MUST be at the top of your list!  A conversation is a two-way street, and that can’t happen if you’re leaving your readers with unanswered questions after they comment.

Use Disqus

For a long time, I used the Blogger comment system on She is Fierce, which meant that I wasn’t able to respond to a lot of the lovely comments I got on my posts, because they were coming from no-reply-commenters.  That alone was the reason I finally made the switch to Disqus, and I cannot recommend it enough!

I had a little trouble installing the system on my blog, and the customer support team at Disqus was fantastic at helping me to resolve it, both via Twitter and Email! Since installing it, I’ve seen more of my readers interacting with one another in the comments, and I’ve been able to respond to everyone!

So what about you?  What would you tell a blogger looking to grow their community?

My Writing Process: A Tour Through Blogland

This series is one I’ve seen passing around the blogging community over the last couple months, and I was so so excited when Belle and Emily nominated me to discuss my writing process as part of the tour!  Writing is obviously a huge part of this hobby we all share, and it’s been so fun to see how my favorite bloggers come up with the words they write here every day.
writing process
Unsplash

The Rules

// Let everyone know the blogger who nominated you, so they can head over there and check out their writing process tour next.
// Answer the questions about your writing process.

// Nominate a few other bloggers whose writing process you’d love to learn more about.

About My Writing Process

What am I working on right now?

I’m super excited, because Marielle and I just posted our second F-Word Link-Up last week! This is a series we’d been working on for a while, and I was so happy when we finally went live with it in August.  
 
If you’re not familiar with the link-up yet, Marielle and I decided to put it together when we realized that there were a ton of feminist bloggers out there, and we wanted a way to bring them all together.  When I started blogging five years ago, I’d have had no idea how to find these types of posts, and it wasn’t until recently that I did start to find how many bloggers there are out there sharing their feminist opinions!
And on a more personal side, unrelated to my blog, I’m working on editing a personal non-fiction essay I started in March.  I took the piece to the Boldface Writers’ Conference in Texas with me back in May, and I’ve been dragging my feet on making “final” edits to it.

How does my work differ from others of the genre?

I always like to say that technically, She is Fierce is a Lifestyle Blog but that when I think about it, this blog isn’t about my life (and there’s certainly nothing resembling “style” on this little space).  I rarely talk about the specific details of my life just for the sake of talking about what’s going on with me lately.  Instead, I try to make myself come across to my readers by way of the things that are really important to me: feminism, current events, creative writing, blogging, and other things along those lines.  A big part of my writing process, and coming up with new content, is making sure it’s something that I feel strongly about and would want to have a conversation about, and that I think will inspire my readers in some way. 
 
Instead of an “If We Had Coffee” post around here, you’ll find personal essays, thoughts on my belief systems, feminism, and current events, and creative writing.  While I know that the lifestyle blogging community is full of different bloggers and different subjects, I like to think that mine isn’t something you’d find anywhere else – at least not when you put it all together.

Why do I write what I do? 

I write posts about the things that are important to me, about the topics I am passionate about.  The things I write about on She is Fierce are topics I want to have discussions about, and to get more information out there about.  As simply as I know how to put it, I blog about these topics because I think they’re important, and that someone needs to.  
 
My goal for this blog is for my readers to come here to learn, and to be inspired to think about their lives more deeply – about what they do, and why they do it.  I want readers to grow their opinions and knowledge about the world after leaving here.  

What is my writing process?

I don’t know if you can call what I have a process, but I do have some things I’ve started doing to help.  For years I’ve loved writing – I have notebooks full of crappy poems and one-page-short-stories from my high-school years, and I started blogging when I was 17-years-old.  But for some reason, I was never able to sit myself down and say “now write,” and come up with someone “good” and cohesive.

Blogging has really helped with that, and I’ve gotten to a point where all of my posts are written at night, around 5-10 p.m.  I’ve tried to get my blog onto a schedule, which means that I want my posts up and ready to read by 7 a.m. every day; so the night before, I know I need to write something.  And somehow, that’s worked.

But a lot of that is planning, and ideas.  I carry a small notebook around with me, and whenever I think of something worth writing, I put it in the notebook.  I also keep a running list of ideas in my Evernote on my computer, so that when it’s time to write a post, I have plenty of ideas.

And finally, my “process” involves a lot of procrastination (which you could guess from the fact that all posts are written the night before they go onto my blog).  I’ll sit down, pick out a photo and get that ready and into the post, but then it’s fair game for a million other things: watching Pretty Little Liars, getting a snack, scrolling through Tumblr and Twitter…You name it, and I’ll do it all before writing a single word of a post. 

Now It’s Your Turn

Now I want to hear from you – why do you blog, and how does your writing process work? Today, I’m nominating:
 
Kenzie from Hello Neverland
Kelly from The Lady Errant
Crystal from The Happy Type

Reader Survey

I’ve written before that community is a big part of blogging, and for me it’s one of the most important parts.  My goal for this space is for it to be one we all get something out of, and that we all contribute to in some way – through comments, feedback, and conversation.  I want what I write here each day to be just the beginning of a conversation we all talk part in, and want to see the results of.   

In order for that to happen, I need to know what you want from this place.  What you come here for, however often it is that you come here.  What it is that you’re hoping to take away, and what you want to hear more or less about.




So today, I’m taking a page out of Melyssa’s book and asking for your feedback on this space. She is Fierce has been growing a lot lately, and I want to hear from all of you – how did you get here, and what’s keeping you around?  Is there something you’d like me to change, or something you’d like to see more of?  Maybe there’s something you have to say, and the comment section on one of my posts didn’t seem like the best place.

Whatever you’ve got, I want to hear it : the good, the bad, and the ugly so that I can keep improving and making this blog the best it can be.  Because the most important part of this blog is you.  What you’re taking away from here, and what you want to read and talk about.  




I’m going to be keeping this survey live for two weeks, so you have plenty of time to fill it out!  Once I’ve got all the responses in, I’ll be sharing what I figured out :)