BOOK REVIEW: “Blog Writing: The Content Creation Blueprint” by Anthony James

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How in the world some bloggers make money out of their blogs and gain thousands of followers? Meanwhile, your blog has five followers, and no money is coming out of it. Pretty lame, right?

If you want to know the secrets to ultimate blogging success, read Anthony James’ Blog Writing. Reading this guide is faster than reading hundreds of separate blog articles in the subject. Believe me, I’ve been there.

The author offers many excellent blogging tips for your blog to grow. All you need is to construct a long-term plan, persistence, and focus.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM BLOG WRITING

Are you blogging just for the heck out of it or you have bigger plans for it? Here are some of the blogging topics James will teach you in his book:

CONSISTENT BLOGGING

Should you post twice a week? Three times? Every day?

It’s all up to you how much you want to post. The more you post, the more people will notice and follow. Plus, you’ll gain higher rankings in search engines.

Sure, getting into the top ranks can be difficult. It’s better for you being on page three on Google than 33.

CREATE A CONTENT CALENDAR

Having a content calendar has helped me schedule my posts for this book blog. Honestly, I missed some days, but it beats having no plan at all.

I like to print out months ahead of time from Time and Date and place them on a wall in my room where I can see them every day. You can also use Google Calendar to help you sort out your posting schedule. Here’s a video how to use it:

James recommends having your posting schedule solid and ready up to three months in advance. Better to be ahead than behind!

IDEA GENERATORS

Idea generators are excellent whenever you catch yourself in writer’s block. James doesn’t mention many sites. Here are a few you can check out right now:

AWESOME HEADLINES

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” –David Ogilvy

Which title you’re more likely to click: “How to Build a House in Minecraft” or “11 Awesome Houses You Can Build in Minecraft Right Now”?

Of course, you would choose the latter. All over the web, you’ll notice the most shared articles have click-worthy headlines. James reveals a secret formula how you can attract readers with your winning titles. The key features often include a number, an adjective, and a promise of a solution.

Buzzfeed is an excellent site for captivating headlines. They may be wacky, but they work!

TYPES OF POSTS

Don’t know what you want to write for your next post? James offers plenty:

  • Interviews
  • Round-Ups
  • Reviews
  • Infographics
  • Lists
  • How-Tos

Every blog you create doesn’t have to be the same. I started out this blog mainly with reviews then I branched out with a couple of how-tos, author spotlights, and listicles. The more variety, the better!

You are the god of your blog. You can post whatever you want as it’s relevant to your brand and your long-term blogging strategy.

CONCLUSION

I’ve been reading endless blog posts about successful blogging. What’s right and what’s wrong? Different bloggers have different opinions on what works. It can be overwhelming!

Thankfully, James compiles all the blogging info you need to get started in Blog Writing. Blogging can be super fun! Once you get started, you won’t stop as the ideas keep coming in.

Like books like this? Read these reviews:

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BOOK REVIEW: “Writing Feature Stories”

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  • Title: Writing Feature Stories (Amazon) (Goodreads)
  • Authors: Matthew Ricketson, Caroline Graham
  • Publication: Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (Jan. 1, 2018)
  • Pages: 384
  • Genre: General Non-Fiction, Writing
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Library
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

Congratulations, you landed your first assignment as a journalist!

Oh crap, an interview?! You’re not ready for that!

Have a 2,000-word feature article as well? Where did that assignment come from?!

This situation sounds familiar? If you’ve ever suffered through such chaotic writing and deadline situations, pick up your very own copy of Writing Feature Stories by Matthew Ricketson and Caroline Graham.  You don’t have to be on the journalist’s path to read this book. This is valuable for all writers.

If you’re interested in composing great interview, column, and feature articles, this is for you.

I read this book because I wanted to write more longform articles including listicles. Listicles are all the rage these days especially with sites like Buzzfeed and Listverse.

WRITING LESSONS

In Writing Feature Stories, you’ll learn:

REVIEWS

The more you write reviews, the better. It may seem daunting at first. You’re only revealing your experiences with a product or an event to your readers.

EDITING

Editing can be your worst enemy or your best friend. You’d want it to be the latter. Sometimes with editing, you’ll have to add more relevant information to your article. This is a task impatient writers will have to get used to.

You’d want your readers to receive much value from your article as much as possible. Take your time, and edit with much information you see fit.

KEEPING AN IDEAS FILE

An ideas file, whether it be on your computer or a basic notebook, is an excellent way to stay out of writer’s block. I write 10-20 ideas a day in the mornings.

Find potential article ideas through Google News, Pinterest, your favorite sites related to your interests, and more. The amount of ideas is infinite!

CONCLUSION

Writing Feature Stories is a helpful book for writers. I appreciate the example feature stories, and infographics added. Overall, this book has a worthy spot in any writer’s bookshelf.

Have you read this book before? Comment below your favorite writing book!

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BOOK REVIEW: “2,000 to 10,000” by Rachel Aaron

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2,000 to 10,000 is a blessing.  Rachel Aaron is a gift from the writing gods.

I’ve decided to set a weekly goal of 3,000 words (consisting of blog posts/articles)  a few months ago. It’s challenging since I usually write around 900 to 1,000.

Writing more weekly will upgrade my writing skills.  The problem: I keep missing the mark, and I don’t know why. I’ve noticed I can write forever in my journals, but my mind’s blank when it comes to blogging (like wtf). Sometimes when I get a post done, it feels like I’ve dragged myself through it.

Writing’s supposed to be fun. I love it!

Why is it effortless for me to write in my journals opposed to online? Seriously, blogging is merely writing in an online journal.

To find some solutions to my problem, I found this cool guy, Nicholas Cole, who manages to write from 3,000 to 10,000 words a day. Yep, you read that right!

I’ve searched for more people and found an impressive triangle model on Rachel Aaron’s site. It presents three things you need to increase your daily word count: Time, Knowledge, and Enthusiasm.  

Time

time clock GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

To write more, you have to give yourself more time. For example, If you want to write 1,000 words in one sitting, give yourself at least 90 minutes (depending on your writing/typing speed).

For me, I’d give myself three hours minimum with small breaks in between. This time block includes researching and writing an outline.

Knowledge

How much do you know about your story? Your article? Your script?

I take this piece of Aaron’s advice to collect as much relevant data as possible for my writing project.  If you don’t know much, it’ll show in your final word count.

Back in college, my professors used to have these page requirements for research assignments. Depending on the instructor, they would be between 5-20 pages. Most of my classmates hated them.

I’d make sure I’ve written down a tremendous amount of notes and a massively detailed outline. With all of that work combined, I’ve reached the page requirements easily.

I didn’t receive a good grade for the page minimum, but for the knowledge presented in those pages.

Enthusiasm

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Make sure what you’re writing about excites you. I mean, like you’re going to Disney World excited.  The more fired up you are, the more you write. Simple as that.

Think about the topics and stories you can talk about all day to friends to the point where they beg you to chill out. Yeah, write those.

Conclusion

After reading 2,000 to 10,000, I knew what I must do.

I keep an inventory of topics to write for this book blog, script ideas, and more. I keep the exciting ones and scrap the rest.

I’m more empowered now to smash my weekly word count. I’m sure I’ll be writing 3,000 words and beyond in a day real soon.

hilarious kermit the frog GIF

Do you have a daily, weekly, or monthly word count?

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BOOK REVIEW: “Smarter Faster Better” by Charles Duhigg

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Have you ever been so excited for a new book from your favorite author only to be disappointed?

I felt this way while reading Smarter Better Faster at first. I was so excited to sink into this book after reading The Power of Habit a few years back.

Why was I slightly disappointed? I was impatient.

I wanted to know how to become smarter and better as the title entailed in the shortest time possible. In summary, I wanted to devour the information, instantly apply it to real life scenarios, and move on with life.

Charles Duhigg is not just any writer; he’s a journalist. Journalists are great storytellers. They tend to go down to the most specific details to make their stories more alive.

I’ve received the gist of Duhigg’s narrative style when I read The Power of Habit. For some reason with Smarter Faster Better, it felt like it took 20 million years for Duhigg to get straight to the information I wanted.

However, I’ve benefited from the narratives Duhigg picked up and their connection to the book’s main topic.

So while you’re reading Smarter Faster Better, you have to go through Duhigg’s jungle of narratives to take in his productivity tips.

This is not a bad thing. Honestly, it’s worth the read.

Think Like an Engineer

My favorite story was about Delia, a Cincinnati teen who faced odds using the Engineering Design Process,  a system created to observe problems and conclude with practical solutions.

The steps:

  1. Defining the dilemma
  2. Collecting the data
  3. Brainstorming solutions
  4. Debate approaches
  5. Experiment
  6. Repeat

Delia used this process to go through high school while living in an impoverished household. Using the engineering design process helped her find a way to take care of her family and graduated valedictorian from her school.

Indecisive with the choices laid out in front of you? See how the process works out for you.

For example, let’s say you’re done living on the East Coast, and you had your eyes on living in either California or Washington State.

Time to bring up the Engineering Design Process to help us out!

  1. Defining the Dilemma: “Should I move to California or Washington State?”
  2. Collecting data on these states
    • Employment
    • House prices
    • State taxes
    • Weather
    • Recreation
    • Healthcare
    • Social life
  3. Brainstorming Solutions
    • Visualizing what your life will be like in each state depending on the collected data
    • Talking to friends or read online reviews on their experiences living in these states
  4. Debate: “What are the pros and cons of living in ___ and why?”
  5. Experiment: Take a week or two visiting each state.

After going this process, you should come up with with a final solution.

Personally, I would choose California (specifically the Los Angeles area), but that’s just me.

For Readers Short On Time

In case you’re not looking forward to reading over 300 pages of Smarter Faster Better, check out the appendix. There you’ll gain the secrets of having a more productive, better life with focus and set goals without the 30+ page narratives.

Have you read this book? What is your favorite productivity book? 

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BOOK REVIEW: “The Little Book of Talent” by Daniel Coyle

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When I was in elementary school, I used to believe the TAG (talented & gifted) students were born super smart like Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory.

I never made it to the program even in high school despite my awesome grades (at least I thought they were awesome).

I thought I wasn’t accepted to TAG because I wasn’t born talented enough.

After reading Daniel Coyle’s The Little Book of Talent, my old beliefs were complete poppycock. Talent isn’t born, it’s built.

My Favorite Tips

Coyle lists 52 skill-building tips one can use to improve their performance. It’s all about practice and repetition. With great practice comes great results.

My ten favorite tips were:

1. Take off the watch

Instead of using my watch to determine how long I practice a skill, I depend on repetition.

2.  Practice alone

It’s better to practice in solitude for extra concentration. I tend to stay in my room for half of the day reading and writing. It has come to the point I feel like I’m doing something wrong if I’m not doing it.

3. Pay attention to your mistakes

Sometimes I tend to rush with my writing, desperate to hit the “submit” button after I’m done with a draft. Afterwards, I’ve noticed the spelling errors and format mistakes.  It’s best to take things slow.

Mistakes can be your friend. They’re a friendly tap on the shoulder telling you what you can do better.

4. Play games with your skills

I give myself points every time I read, write, and exercise. The points lead to prizes like lottery tickets or a bit of shopping.  This method is incredibly helpful with my writing habit. It has increased my relationship with it.

5. Take a nap

I love naps. Who doesn’t?

According to Coyle, a 90 minute nap can improve brain functions.  If you want to work your best, take a nap. Most workaholic employers should implement naps in their employees’ schedules. They have humans working for them after all.

Coffee shouldn’t be the only substitute for working longer efficiently.

6. Embrace repetition

Forming repetition builds the brain. I love it!

7. Work like a blue-collar worker

Blue-collar workers do their job every day. It’s best to work on your skills daily like them.

8. Practice after competition

Congratulations, you made it through the tournament! You won a medal! Now, go practice some more.

Olympians don’t rest on the laurels after they achieved their first gold medal. Michael Phelps didn’t retire until he had 28 medals.

9. Build new habits

Instead of avoiding all forms of sweets during your diet, only focus on the fruits and vegetables. Want to watch less TV? Read more books.

Creating new habits is more about building the new instead of breaking down the old.

10. Try the 3 x 10 technique

Practice a skill three times with 10-minute breaks in between.

Conclusion

I thank Daniel Coyle for writing The Little Book of Talent.  I’m excited to apply these tips in my life. Can’t wait to see the results in the next three months, whether it be improving my writing skills, exercising,  or playing Overwatch (that game can be tough).

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Have you read the Little Book of Talent? What skills do you want to improve?

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BOOK REVIEW: “The Writing Warrior” by Laraine Herring

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  • Title: The Writing Warrior: Discovering the Courage to Free Your Voice (Amazon) (Goodreads)
  • Author: Laraine Herring
  • Publisher: Shambhala (July 20, 2010)
  • Genre: General Non-Fiction, Writing
  • Pages: 208
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Library
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

I can write forever in my journals. However, my writing’s slower when it comes to writing for publication.  Why does this particular block keep showing up? I picked up Laraine Herring’s The Writing Warrior for answers.

Unclog the Writer’s Block

No writer gets excited about writer’s block.

Writer: “F*ck yes, I don’t know what to write after little Suzy falls into the unholy vortex of doom! Now I can sit back and stress!”

Seriously, no writer acts like this.

Writer’s block is like a stubborn toilet clog. No matter how long you use the plunger, the mess only gets worst. Thank goodness, The Writing Warrior points out the problems and solutions:

1. Writing with Expectations

Problem: You think you have everything written out in your perfect outline. In the middle of writing, you have new ideas. Now your story is all over the place.

Solution: Let the story unfold itself. Your outline can be a guide, but let the story take a few twists and turns. After that, see what you can do from there.

2. Blocking Yourself

Problem: One moment, you have your creative juices flowing then you stop to think about what you’ve written and edit it. Two hours later,  you’re stuck in the same paragraph.

Solution: It’s okay to use your first draft as your brain dump stage. Once that stage is over, you can finally let your editor side do its job.

3. Writing Dishonestly

Problem: You try to write like Stephen King or J.K Rowling. It’s not working. It doesn’t feel like your writing.

Solution: Write like you. Listen to your inner voice.

4. Waiting for the Muse

Problem: You don’t start writing until your muse arrives.

Solution: The muse doesn’t show up until you start writing. That’s it. You wouldn’t wait around for Domino’s to show up at your place with pizza out of the blue. You have to call them first.

Conclusion

The Writing Warrior has helped me release my old writing beliefs. Thanks to this book, I’ve written longer than before. I let myself become a free-flowing channel of words.

Got any writing issues? The Writing Warrior can help you.

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Which writing books have improved your writing? Have you read The Writing Warrior? 

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(Book pic source: Amazon)

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