Monday, May 25, 2015

Writing prompt: A Memorial Day Misremembrance

Write a short story in which a key element of either the conflict or the resolution is a character misremembering an important fact.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Writing prompt: The Writer's Manifesto

Today, I want you to write (or at least think about) your Writer's Manifesto. What does writing meant to and what do you hope to do with it?

Your manifesto should answer these questions (among others):
  • What is the purpose of literature?
  • What is my individual purpose within that larger purpose?
  • Why do I write?
  • Whom do I write for and why?
  • What is my ultimate goal as a writer?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Writing prompt: Flipping the sign

Choose what is generally considered a positive character trait — honesty, beauty, courage, and the like. Describe a person who exhibits that trait, but do so in such a way that the positive trait becomes negative.

You could do it the other way around, too: putting a positive spin on a negative trait.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Rewriting prompt: Killing Four

Start with something you've written, 300-500 words. It doesn't even have to be anything you consider final. Go through it closely and rewrite it as and where needed so it contains no four-letter words. I don't mean that metaphorically; I'm not simply asking you to eliminate profanity. Get rid of all words containing exactly four letters.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Editors and That SEO Jazz

It's an understatement to say that a lot goes into creating and maintaining a website that appeals to both search engines and living, breathing humans. But when the separate areas of search engine optimization (SEO) and good content come together just right, it's like a good jazz combo. Many different parts combine to create something that really grooves.

  • The first area of SEO is the underlying site design. This deals with elements like crawlability, mobile-friendliness, and page loading speed. This part of SEO is like the pianist laying down the chord structures that underlie the music created by the other instruments — the other elements of SEO.
  • Then you have the content strategy — how often you publish, what topics you'll cover, what voice you'll use. All this is guided by research into your audience and their behaviors, desires, and needs. This part is like the drummer, establishing the tempo of your website and your content production.
  • Marketing — both online and off — plays a big role in SEO. It gives many of the other website elements (especially content production) their direction. The marketing aspect of SEO is like a walking bass line: It gives the site content a foundation and drives the whole process forward.
  • On top of this rhythm section are the melodic instruments — your actual content. Each jazz combo — and each website — has its own particular combination. For a website, it can include text, video, audio, infographics, apps, and more.

When all the parts of this SEO band work well together, it's more likely to attract some attention from Google, yes, but from your audience as well, which is your ultimate goal.

I'm not here to help you build a band, though. Although it's helpful to understand at least at a basic level how all the parts of your SEO jazz combo fit together, you need to focus on your part: the editorial content.

That's where I come in.

On May 13, I will present an audioconference through called "SEO for Editors." In what I hope will be a delightful and informative 90 minutes, I will cut past the parts of SEO that word mongers like you and me have no control over and focus on the editorial aspects in our bailiwick. You'll get:

  • A brief history of Google algorithm changes that have affected how we create content
  • Guidelines for creating links that both people and Google like
  • A look at how keyword strategies have changed over the years
  • An overview of what titles and headings mean for SEO
  • A discussion of what high-quality content means to a search engine
  • The golden rule of SEO

One more apt comparison of SEO to a jazz combo: There's a lot of improvisation going on in both. Just as there is no formula for creating "the perfect song," there is no formula for creating "the perfect content" that will land in front of everyone who you think ought to see it.

Yes, Google and its ilk use algorithms (just a fancy word for formulas) to power their search results, but
  1. Those algorithms customize results for the listener (the searcher), not the band. Every new search is like a different ear listening for a great tune. (And not everyone will be interested in your jazz.)
  2. They aren't singing. Search engines are tight-lipped about exactly how their algorithms work, releasing only the information they think website owners need to know to help search engines connect searchers with the information they're looking for. Why so reticent? Because people are selfish jerks. With every big search algorithm change, short-sighted SEOs rework their strategies to try to game their way up the search engine results pages (SERPs). Then, when the next change comes along, those short-sighted strategies — much like the once beloved keytar — all but disappear.

My hope is that, in this audioconference, I can show you today's basic best practices of on-page editorial SEO — the right scales and chord changes, if I may extend the metaphor further — so that your content has a better chance of reaching the ears that want to hear it.

So if your job relies on writing and/or editing online — whether you're a blogger, a journalist, an ad copywriter, a corporate word-slinger, or the editor in charge of any these folks — nag your boss into paying for the professional development opportunity that is "SEO for Editors."

See you there.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Writing prompt: Use the Force

Take a fairly mundane task or experience from our current world and set it in the world of Star Wars. Think light-hearted and funny. Some possibilities:

Friday, May 1, 2015

After National Poetry Month

WARNING: The following post is quite introspective (read self-centered). It was written completely for my own edification and not for my audience. As such, it — and its author — will likely come off sounding, well, querimonious. Plaintive. Grousing.


Still, other writers who have shared the feelings I express here might find some measure of commiseration in them. So maybe it's not so self-indulgent after all.

When I saw National Poetry Month rolling toward me, I thought it might be a fun challenge to try to write and post a new poem every day of the month. And it was both those things: fun and challenging.

And I did it: Thirty poems in thirty days.

But completing this challenge didn't give me that warm fuzzy feeling that usually comes with setting a goal and completing it.

Honestly, though, I don't know what I expected to really get out of it. Did I expect that somewhere in there I would land on a perfect string of words? Would I draw in new readers from around the globe? Would I discover that I truly am a poet?

I think the past 30 posts prove pretty well that I am not a poet. Sure, I can make things rhyme. And I can establish and maintain a meter. But all that is closer to math than to creative expression. Poetry remains for me the psychiatry of the literary sphere: I can talk intelligently enough about it, but if you actually need it done, you should go to a professional.

It wasn't all crap, of course. I did have a few prideful moments this month. I am particularly fond of the poem from last Tuesday, "A Walk in the Woods," the first draft of which I really did write while perched on a bench in the woods. There was also one of my earlier posts, "The Possum," which came out of March's Indy WordLab. We were directed to write an animal poem, and although the form of the poem itself is no great feat, I like the concept and the metaphor behind it.

Did you have a favorite Logophilius poem this month?

All told, though, after a month of daily posts, I created nothing of great import. And according to everything I know about SEO (which is more than your average blogger), not to mention what the analytics tell me, these thirty posts did very little to make this blog easier for people to discover while searching.

In short, I don't feel like I accomplished much of anything. My view of the last month is like the cynic's view of climbing Mount Everest: I started at the bottom. A month's worth of stuff happened. And now I'm back at the bottom, where I started.

And sometimes, as my last poem of the month reveals, I feel even worse — that all the writing time and creative effort I put into the last month of posts was wasted. That I could have — should have — spent it on something more important, like a novel. Or even just one kick-ass short story. Anything that would have more staying power than a handful of haiku, limericks, and random quatrains.

But, I try to be positive. I try. This little poetic tangent is over now, and in May I will return to things more useful and interesting. For everyone (I hope.)

Watch this space.