12/08/2011
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How to set up your creative writing blog using Blogger - step by step

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If you want to showcase your creative writing, non-fiction articles, your thoughts on the publishing industry or even just your daily musings, setting up a blog is easy with our step-by-step advice.

There are several different blogging platforms to try out and they all work for different levels of technical ability. You don’t need to spend a single penny setting up your blog. Wordpress, Blogger and Posterous are all free to use. Blogger is probably the biggest and most approachable, so that’s the one we’re going to focus on here.

1 Register with Blogger
Before you can start building your blog, you will have to create an account for yourself, and sign in. Blogger is now part of Google, so if you have one, you can use an existing Google account. If not, signing up for Blogger will create one for you.

2 Choose a name that suits yourself and your writing
Once your Google account is created, and you have logged in, the site will ask you to create a Blogger account. There is only one thing to get right at this stage: your ‘Display Name’. This is the name Blogger will attribute to you when you make a post, so – especially if you’re hoping to attract editors or publishers – don’t make it too silly. Choose something sensible and relevant. Unlike your email address, the Display Name does not have to be unique, so you won’t need to worry about choosing something different. I chose the plain but descriptive ‘Writer Jon’.

3 Create a professional writer's profile
You should now see a big blue button marked ‘Create your blog now’, but don’t click it just yet. At the left is a panel allowing you to manage your profile and upload a photo of yourself. It is important to fill in your profile properly, but if you’re eager to get on with the exciting part, you can always come back to it later, through the profile page

The Profile section allows you to manage a few important privacy details. Do you really want to share your email address with the public at large? (If not, perhaps consider setting up a fresh email account specifically for web visitors. You could even set it up to forward to your normal account.)

This is also where you can upload a photo of yourself, which will be visible to all visitors. Again, choose something sensible, but not without character. A bland, easily forgettable, passport photo won’t do you any favours, but is preferable to that hilarious shot of you drooling onto the armchair on Boxing Day.

You have to upload the picture from your computer to Blogger, by locating it on your hard drive, or if there is a suitable picture of you online – or perhaps a more general image relating to your subject – you can also tell Blogger to find it on the web by typing in the picture’s full address, eg www.somesite.com/image.jpg, but be wary of infringing copyright.

Remember to click the ‘Save changes’ button at the bottom, and return to the main page by clicking the link to ‘Dashboard’ at the very top of the page.

4 Create your blog... the fun bit
Now’s the time to click that exciting blue button, and get on with creating your blog. The next page asks you to provide a name (which can be anything – and not necessarily unique) to display at the top of your blog, and the URL (the web address people type to get to the site, which does have to be unique, but shouldn’t be too different from your title – you want casual visitors to remember the link from the title). It can be difficult to find a URL that hasn’t already been used, particularly if you are going for something simple, and, frustratingly, many have been taken but fallen into neglect. For example, I picked ‘The world of writing’ for my title, which suggested a few possible URLs (the ‘http://’ and ‘blogspot.com’ parts are mandatory):
• http://theworldofwriting.blogspot.com
• http://worldofwriting.blogspot.com
• http://wow.blogspot.com
The third option is memorable and neat, but no longer available, and appears to have been wasted, with only one post, in 2000. The second option, too, is unavailable, and possibly neglected, but the first option is most desirable anyway, as it most closely matches the title of the blog. Unfortunately, that too is taken. Slightly less memorable, but without compromising meaning, is http://thewideworldofwriting.blogspot.com – and happily, it is available. (Not any more, of course. It’s mine now.) So in the interests of keeping things neat, I amend the title of my blog to match. If you are happy to use your name, or a variant thereof – which is certainly best if you’re hoping to publicise your writing – it should be easier to find a suitable URL.

5 Design the look of your blog
Before you can start posting, Blogger asks you to set the layout for your site. Don’t worry, you can always change it later if you’re not happy, or would rather just get on with blogging. If so, skip forward to step 8 and come back here later.

For ease of use, design is handled through templates which can then be tweaked and coloured to your taste. The possibilities are endless, and you can achieve some very slick effects by digging into the settings of the templates, or even creating your own, but the ready-made ones are perfectly satisfactory.

I chose the ‘Watermark’ template, which has a plain, dignified feel and font family, and offers a range of fetching backgrounds, including the cute grass shown here.

Other blog layout options include:
• changing colours of text and other elements, either at will, or by selecting a suggested family of colours that go well together
• moving page elements (such as the title, your profile information and links, etc), again either at will, or following a recommended pattern. It’s flexible: you could even put your title at the bottom if you really wanted to confuse your visitors
• adding a custom background, but avoid anything that will clutter the page too much, such as a book cover. You want visitors to be able to read your words easily.

6 How to control your blog
You control every element of your blog from the main Dashboard page

As your blog grows, it will become second nature to return here to control every aspect of it.
• Click Design to alter your template and colours
• Click Settings to control how many posts are visible on the front page, whether to allow visitors to comment on your posts, etc.
• Click Comments if you need to moderate or otherwise edit any comments left by site visitors.

7 How to add posts to your blog
To create a new post, there is a link on the Dashboard, or at the very top right of each page of your blog.

Entering text is very easy – just like writing an email or forum post – and Blogger also provides a handy toolbar strip, which works very similarly to that of Word, or any other desktop publishing programme. There are icons for simple text management, and adding images, videos or files to your posts, even a spellchecker, but the one you should probably use more than any other is ‘Link’. When referencing other blogs or websites, highlight their names, click ‘Link’ and enter the web address. Linking well will improve your relations with other bloggers, and indirectly help to drive traffic back to your blog.

8 Add images and media files to your blog
Bring colour to your posts by adding images, and videos to liven up your pages. There are two options here: either you can upload your files directly to Blogger (click the toolbar link of a small landscape or movie clapperboard and follow the simple instructions) or you can upload them to separate sites and embed them in your posts. Use the straightforward first option if you have the files. But if you want to, for example, highlight a video on Youtube, you will need to embed a link. On the Youtube page for most videos is an ‘Embed’ button. Click it to generate some HTML code for you to cut and paste into your blog post. Be sure to select the ‘Post Options’ on Blogger and the option ‘Interpret typed HTML’. If the other option, ‘Show HTML literally’, is selected, Blogger will display the HTML code, rather than the video.

9 How to attract visitors to your blog
So now you’ve got a pleasant, professional-looking blog. What do you do with it? Try to offer informed or entertaining comment to any visitors that might come your way. And remember that writing for the web is not like print. Attention spans are short, so keep your posts short too, and if you’ve decided on a theme for your blog, don’t go off-topic too often, or the visitors who’ve been attracted by the theme will simply look elsewhere.

10 Keep at it
Lastly, remember to blog! Nurture it. Come back often, even if it’s only for brief posts. Visitors won’t come back without fresh content, and without them, your own little space on the web can quickly become cobwebbed.

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