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Challenging Myself To Write A Book Review

June 12, 2021 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as ,

I have found writing book reviews a little intimidating. Even though I know as a expectant published author they are important and help with book sales. I’m not one to share my opinion on something unless asked. And I tend to stress over the words I choose for explaining what I mean.  I mean, what if what I say misses the mark? Or offends someone? And I’m not as eloquent as someone else. Have you read some great reviews on a story and wish you could phrase things like that?

Yet, a book review is just that.

An opinion.

And someone might be interested to hear about it from my point of vew.

I have to remember that.

And then when I decided I would try, my kindle only lets me select a star count, not write words, so I’d have to go downstairs to my computer, log-in and find the purchase and write the review. It makes an already reluctant book review writer want to scream.

Yet, don’t I read reviews when making purchases to see if it’s something that fits my interests? I need to at least try.

So now I have a notebook on my ottomon so that when I finish a story I can practice writing a review. 

Writing a Book Review

I recently took the time to type up one of them and post it. 

I also see that sometimes people review books in blog posts, and that’s a new challenge for me.

So, in the essence of practice, I wanted to post a review in a blog post as well.

Here I go;

Sing in the Sunlight by Kathleen Denly Cover for writing a book review

Sing in the Sunlight by Kathleen Denly

This is book 2 in her Chaparral Hearts series, published by Wild Heart Books (and yes I’ve read book 1 and looking forward to book #3). The historical setting is in California, mostly in the San Diego area.

Sing in the Sunlight by Kathleen Denly is a special story of love, kindness, & patience.

I loved the characters, their interactions with each other, and the way God’s words were woven throughout the story naturally. 

The historical context was rich with details and I felt right there in the story. 

The struggles of doubt and longing and the lies we believe were very easy to identify with. 

It’s amazing what can happen when one continuously seeks God’s wisdom and stays on the path of doing what’s right. I want to be a better person after reading this. 

I wanted to disclose that I received a free copy from the author but was not required to review it. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to share.

It’s not a large review, but it came from the heart. Maybe I will get more comfortable with this and learn to expand a bit more. 

Are you comfortable writing book reviews? For those more experienced, any words of wisdom?


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Using a Blog SEO Checklist to Streamline Your Blog Post

May 12, 2021 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , , , ,

Did you know that using an Blog SEO Checklist can help you streamline the time it takes you to build your blog posts?

We all know it takes time to figure out what we even want to write about, but then we also need to figure out all the SEO parts that support that particular blog post.

If we were to build the SEO as part of the blog post step, we’d save ourselves a lot of time and be more strategic and purposeful with what we are posting.

I don’t know about you, but it seems every month I forget how much time it takes to organize my SEO because I think about it AFTER I write the post. Sometimes it takes longer figuring out the SEO then it does to write the post and pull graphics together. And then because I’m entering it all last minute, I don’t think it through as much as I would like.

Screen shot of Yoast SEO Fields to complete for stronger SEO

I’m working on changing that and thought it would be helpful to pull together a checklist for all of us.

Focus Keyword: 

Figuring out this first—even before you start writing the post—will help save you time in the long run. What do you want your focus word to be? Everything else should stem from this.

Category & Tags:

Knowing your categories and tags before you develop your blog posts help you be more strategic and set up an organization within your posts. In my classes I help you brainstorm and build out potential ideas for your blog.

Blog Title: 

Make sure to put your focus keyword in your title and the first paragraph of your post.

Slug:

The slug should be condensed version of your title and/or keyword. See my blog post about slugs—URL Slugs: The Right Custom Slug Builds SEO or Custom URL Slug and How To Make One

Meta Description:

This is a summary in a small one-to-two sentence structure. Some use the first paragraph, some change it up. Make sure it includes your focus keyword, and remember this is the summary someone sees if they are searching the topic and your post appears on the search results.

Graphics Alt Text:

The Alt Text should have your keyword in it. If you pick your keyword last and already uploaded your graphics (see my three-part blog post about graphics and SEO) you might miss this opportunity to connect your graphics with stronger SEO.

Think of one link that would support your blog post (research, your own website). You can sign up for my Marketing for Authors Newsletter using this link to my website.

Think of one link within the blog website that supports your current blog post. Don’t forget to use Anchor Text. I did this in the slug section and the graphics alt text above.

How to Apply Your Blog SEO Checklist

I highly recommend creating a spreadsheet to keep track of what you use for SEO every post. It’s important that you don’t repeat the same words and phrases each time, yet build out synonyms and similar themes with your SEO to help establish your authority on certain topics.

If you have a notebook, you can download this sheet to write in the blanks.

a checklist of SEO fields to complete for your blog by Denise M. Colby, Marketing for Authors

Short on time? Take a screen shot of the data, or write it on a post-it note. Anything to help you keep track of your SEO. It’s all about building your brand, and your SEO strategy is a part of that. And using a blog SEO checklist is one way to help you develop this strategy.

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How Big Is Your Writing Box?

April 12, 2021 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , , ,

We all have created a box for our writing, whether we know it or not. It’s our map, so to speak. And detours can either help or hinder our writing journey. So how big is your writing box? And how do you adjust when potential opportunities or detours appear?

Blog header with white background and laptop open with white screen and Writing Box in it

We all have a game plan when we first start writing. We sort of need to in order to reach our goals. But is your writing anything like you originally planned out when you first started?

Mine isn’t.

I get asked a lot by friends who know I’m writing a book “When will your book be published?” “Have you finished that book yet?” Well, I can understand their questions, since I’ve been working on my book for over eight years now. (I’ll be honest, I’m not focused on it full time, since I’ve had other commitments, including jobs & volunteer positions for my kids schools).

I still plan to publish, but after some amazing side journeys, I now wonder if my book(s) are not the entire piece of my writing journey?

I love my Writing Journey so far

My experience has been awesome, overall. Sure, there have been high points (winning a contest, learning, making friends) and low points (getting hard feedback from a contest, not figuring out a scene, everything taking too long), All of it has helped me learn so much about myself. From putting my work out there, to learning from so many fantastic workshops I feel like I’ve gained a second degree, to making great friends and joining some amazing writing groups. 

But I’m finding as I complete this latest round of edits and share my MS with a few additional people, I’m curious to see what will come next. And I’m willing to step out of my original writing box to see where it can go. Which is very different than having the focused expectation of how the next step will happen.

See, In the beginning, my book was the main goal. Now I’m not so sure.

Be Willing to Expand Your Writing Box

We all have to start somewhere. But, if we are too rigid with our plans, we may miss opportunities that help us with the bigger picture. For me, I needed to explore other areas of writing to help me figure out what I could and couldn’t do. Some of these side journeys have helped me continue on this writing journey.

Magazine Articles

I wrote magazine articles, which took time away from my book, but I found the deadlines, working with an editor, and seeing my writing in print, helped to keep me motivated, and help me be a stronger writer.

Magazine cover articles written by Denise M. Colby for Westcoast Magazine July 2018
Some of the magazine articles I have written and published. If you click on the picture it will take you to those articles that are published digitally

Blog Posts

Blog posts and being a part of this blog has helped me gain confidence in putting my work “out there” and learn that the sky won’t cave in, I do have something to share, and how to respond to comments (and experience the thrill of connecting with a reader). Some of my first blog posts covered topics of hard-learned lessons (Let Me Tell You Something, Face Your Fear) and sharing what I was doing and testing out theories (What is Alt Text and How To Use It), which lent to the next step…

Marketing for Authors

When I made connections between my day job (Marketing) and this author thing and realized I had expertise to share. I felt a nudging to teach (at writing conferences, and in blog posts, and a training course in the works) and establish my Marketing for Authors newsletter. Now I find I love teaching and helping other authors figure out their brand and creating additional content and how this all ties together.

Marketing for Authors Logo - Teal, black and white text with a light bulb and MfA over it. By Denise M. Colby

With all that, I really don’t know if my book is the end all goal now. Or it may still be and all of this will support it in ways I can’t explain yet.

Am I going to finish it and publish it? Yes. Do I have more stories in the works? Yes. But by allowing my writing box to get bigger, I’m seeing infinitely more ways to connect and be a part of this publishing world.

Our Writing Box ties into our Author Brand

What do I want my brand to be?

Our Author Brand is our Author Name and pieces of who we are (and who we decide to share with the world). How we explore and expand as our writing grows and expands. It takes time to develop what our voice is going to be about. And it should continue to evolve.

I have found that by being flexible with my writing box I see a bigger picture. And I’ve learned to trust my instincts and take some side journeys.

My Writing Box Grew Bigger When I Took a Detour

I know I’ve talked about this in snippets in my classes, but here’s a deeper dive into how this came about and became an aha moment for me. And why I believe my branding brainstorm I teach in my classes can help you figure out your brand and new and different ways, which can in turn help you to connect with your readers.

My Example:

I love journaling. Whether it’s a prayer journal, or a travel journal, or what I’ve now started as my Word of the Year Journal, capturing thoughts and writing them out help me process things.

When I started writing my novel, I wanted to have an element of a journal in my story. I didn’t know how I would do it, but wanted my heroine to have a diary that turned into prayer journal. Something which helped show her journey throughout the story.

I wasn’t even completed with my first round of edits when I had a nudge to create a website page about starting a prayer journal. And I argued with myself for taking away precious time to work on my book, etc… But in the end I decided doing so would be good practice for putting something “out there” on my website. So I created the page 7 Steps to Creating a Prayer Journal.

Example by Denise M. Colby of how her writing box expanded by creating a webpage about creating a prayer journal

It didn’t click until afterwards how much this fell in line with my story.

And by flushing this page out, it helped me see more clearly how to implement what I wanted to do. This little detour actually has helped me write my book. And I think it is something I can tie into when my book is published.

Side note: Something else that has come out of all this is the desire to design a line of journals as well. Who would’ve thought that something I love and hold dear, would become a large part of my story and brand?

If I hadn’t take then the time to flush it out and do it, I would’ve limited the potential of offering more than just my story.

So am I the only one to experience this?

Do you have a side journey that has helped your writing career?

I’d love to hear about it.

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There is No Such Thing As Too Many Books

March 12, 2021 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , ,

I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as too many books. I’m sure that’s a quote I’ve seen somewhere. Maybe I should get a t-shirt with that specific phrase on it!

photo of a library with lots of books on the shelves with blog title There Is No Such Thing as Too Many Books

My To-Be-Read-Pile is ever growing, is yours?

I have books on my Kindle, books under my bed, books on my nightstand, and in the special pieces of furniture that I purchased specifically to hold books.

And yet, I still love to go to the library and peruse possibilities or hunt for treasures at used book or garage sales, or add to my Kindle list through all the different newsletters I receive from the many authors I follow.

Am I the only one who does this?

Any suggestions for how to manage them all?

used book store front window promoting used and rare books bought and sold
I love to shop in used book stores!

Adding To The List

As I’ve made new writer friends in the different groups I’m a part of, I seem to have added a whole slew of authors to the list of books I want to read. It’s fun and exciting, but it can be overwhelming sometimes too.

I’m just curious to know if anyone shares in this same quandary?

My desire to add to my pile seems to ebb and flow, sometimes based on how overwhelmed I am with where to put everything. But mostly, I do tend to just accept and enjoy this desire to continuously add to my pile.

Of course, many books become favorites and I find it difficult to add them to the donate pile. Anyone have that habit as well?

Some days it feels like book overload. But other days, I just smile and look forward to the new set of friends I’m going to meet in the next book I read.

I’m hoping I’m not the only one who suffers from this malady!

Do you, too?

Denise M. Colby is writing her first novel. Check out her website to find out more about her story. You can also take a peek at her real-life hero she wrote about in a previous blog post.

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URL Slugs: The Right Custom Slug Builds SEO

February 12, 2021 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , , ,

Did you know you can customize the slug part of the URL for every blog post you create AND that it helps to build SEO? All of us create a URL when we post on this blog. But did you know you can customize it?

Blog post header that talks about how a Custom Slug Builds SEO by marketing for authors owner Denise M. Colby

What is the slug and what does it do. 

A URL is the address of a website page. URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It’s this address that allows someone to go directly to a specific page. The slug is the tail end of the URL that identifies a particular page on a website in an easy to read form.

What’s nice about the slug is that you can provide the link. Or someone can find it in a search engine. 

And we all want someone to find it if they search for the information we are writing about. 

How can a URL slug appear in the searches we want?

Choose the right words.

In my research I found out that the simple extra words can be removed. Words such as the, and, of.

The simpler, the better. Just 4-5 words max.

And using the Keyword or phrase you’ve selected is a bonus when building SEO. 

Even though we don’t own this blog, we want our writing to be found. So SEO on our individual blog pages matter, which means the right slug builds SEO.

And one way to do that is to customize the URL slug. 

How do you customize the URL slug to build SEO?

The slug is listed in the Yoast section at the bottom of our post entry. You can also see it appear in the Permalink to the right, under the document.

Just take out the extra words. Choose words that would be a phrase that someone would write in a search looking for this particular article.

For this blog post, I chose custom-slug-builds-seo, which is the same as my keyword phrase.

I then took this keyword/slug and googled it to make sure that it fit what I wanted it to fit.

Once you set a slug, don’t change it.

This is because once you give out the link to the post, if you change it, no one will be able to find it.

I know I have several slugs I would love to go back and change and make them stronger and shorter. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

But keep in mind. It may not be wise to go back and clean up past URLs. Especially if you have already used them in other blog posts or pages. Once you change the URL the link is broken and people who click on the old link will get an error message. 

If you’d like to learn more about SEO, sign up for my Marketing for Authors newsletter (notice this url slug was created way before I knew to condense them), or take a look at some of my other posts on this website including one about blog post creation.

I’d love to learn your experience with renaming the slug part of URL. Let us all know with your comments listed below.

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