Friday, July 11, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Big thanks to my blog buddy Anne from Nearly Irish? for the nomination to participate in this year's My Writing Process Blog Tour. The tour is simple, bloggers invite each other to answer a few questions about their blog and their writing projects. Each blogger links to the blogger who invited them to participate and to their own nominated blogs. It's like Neknominations, but hopefully with fewer fatalities...

What am I working on?

As an unemployed expat trailing spouse, I am primarily working on this daily blog. With lots of time on my hands, I have the freedom to sit down and write some brief creative blog-fiction every day. 

The original goal of the blog was to help us record and share our expat experiences for ourselves and our American friends and family. Since arriving in Ireland, it has grown well beyond that into my daily focus, the reason to get out of bed, but not necessarily change out of my sleeping clothes...

I have met some great people through the blog, Irish locals, prospective expats, visiting tourists, and other expat bloggers like Anne up there.

The skills gained as a hobby writer on the blog inspired me to write some occasional voluntary articles for free community newspapers in Dublin, the most recent of which can be found under the In Print tab above.

In the very recent past, I have had some very modest success selling articles of various topics on a freelance content website. I hope this can turn into yet another outlet for my writing and maybe a small revenue-generating hobby for the rest of my life.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Well, the short answer is, it doesn't. Not in the broad scope of the dubious heading, Personal Blog... This space is just another outlet for parshally proofred opinions and sentiments spewed from a darkened room. The format of this blog goes against nearly every blog recommendation on the web- and that's the way I like it.

Most blog tips are aimed at people trying to maximize their ad revenue and traffic on their site. Content is usually laser-focused on a popular or profitable niche topic that isn't necessarily interesting to the blogger. Posts are less frequent than the six-per-week goal I have here, and are much shorter to grab the click/swipe/close crowd. Nothing wrong with a monetized blog, of course. Many talented writers make good full-time livings maintaining one or more of these blogs, and more power to 'em! It just isn't my style. 

My six-per-week goal forces allows me to explore a wide range of material. Any topic can be a potential blog post when I have to write as many unique and marginally interesting posts as I do. It keeps me active in the community, looking up and attending events happening around town- if for no other reason than to post about them here. Post subjects may seem scattered, and again- that's the way I like it.

Why do I write what I write?

Each piece that I have written so far- on any platform- has been of great personal interest to me. Blog articles are of course records of my own experiences and hobbies in Dublin and around Europe. I can write easily and passionately about these with little or no research or thinking. This makes them great as intellectual dumbbells, keeping up the tone and endurance of my writing muscles without really pushing them to grow.

The newspaper articles and for-sale internet pieces are like the bench press of my writing. I still choose topics in which I am interested to keep me motivated. In the newspaper articles, I have covered volunteer efforts to clean up litter, books on local history, and a series of free classical music concerts by young aspiring musicians. My for-sale internet pieces have been basically bite-sized blog posts with all opinions removed and replaced with practical information for the casual clicker.

I feel that the next challenge for me will be to write and cover a topic in which I have no interest. I know professional writers have to do this all the time, but I am a bit hesitant to step into that deep water, especially when my ability to eat and sleep indoors doesn't depend on it...

How does my writing process work?

I approach each kind of piece in a different way. Blog posts are most casual, for-sale articles require a bit more attention and care, and newspaper pieces have to be thoroughly edited, picked-at, and cleaned up- mostly because of exact word count requirements.

No matter the piece, I write in 50-minute bursts with 10-minute breaks. Having the internet and all her distractions so close to hand can be a real drag on writing output, but it is unreasonable to expect a human to sit at a computer with the golden, shiny, plaything for too long without playing. I set a timer (on a website) for 50 minutes and work uninterrupted. At the conclusion of the timer (it opens any chosen YouTube video as an alarm) I set the timer for 10 minutes and can go nuts. Maybe I go outside and walk around, maybe I make a cup of tea, maybe I check the sports scores or social media platforms. At the end of the 10 minute break, it's back for 50 more.

Blog posts, with their freeform structure, can be rattled off rather quickly. I take on a topic from beginning to end, usually without an outline. Any source checking happens when I get to that idea, and is usually done on Wikipedia. Don't try this on your English papers, kids! After finishing the post, including links and photos, I hit the Preview button and proofread. If it is moderately coherent, I schedule and publish the article and move on.

Newspaper and for-sale articles are tackled much more deliberately. I always use outlines for these topics, and usually make large headings in the the text of the document to mark them. When dealing with the strict word counts of a newspaper article, I have to be very careful about word choice and phrasing. It has to be interesting and fleshed-out without being wordy. Of course, the same rule applies for for-sale articles, but the word count is approximate and flexible, allowing me to say what I have to say in the number of words I choose.

After finishing one of these articles, I proofread once, then shelve the article for at least one day. The next day, I proofread again, this time carefully reading the piece aloud to myself to make sure it makes sense and flows well. If major changes are needed, I make them and wait another day before reading again. Most writers don't have the luxury of so much time with their pieces, but I thankfully don't depend on a steady income from writing, so I can take all the time I need.

Wrap it up!

I'm glad this piece was for the blog and not for an exact word count article. If that were the case, I would have a lot of editing and cutting to do. As it is, I can click Publish and forget about it!

Sadly, I wasn't able to find another blogger to continue this share-fest chain letter. There goes my Webby award nomination!

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