Starting a blog 101

As some of you may know I’m teaching a college level online course called “Writing Blogs.”

I don't have a picture of a blog, do you're getting a chicken.

I don’t have a picture of a blog, so you’re getting a chicken.

This is my first 100% online course and it’s been a little tough because it’s difficult to sense frustration unless the students write about it in the forum. And I’m sensing frustration.

It’s been 3 weeks and my class is *just* starting to create their blogs. This was intentional, as I’ve told my students you have to know how to play your scales before you can improvise.

My students had to pick a topic based on their qualifications (and a hobby counts as a qualification) and then they had to look at other blogs in that field in order to begin figuring out who their audience is. We took our time with this because nailing your audience *before* you begin writing is critical. Putting the time into the design or foundation up front will save time (and heartache) later on.

We’ll be having a lifestyle blog that will use a lot of photos, a blog that captures the angst of youth and music (and baseball), a blog about surviving a TBI (Traumatic Brain injury) one on exploring life on a philosophical level and even a teacher’s blog.

It’s all good, these are great ideas.

But designing a blog and then creating one are two different steps.

I thought I’d share my class notes on creating a blog in wordpress with you (I know that we have some readers  at NHWN who want to set up a blog …someday – why not do it now?)

For my class, I’ve created a new blog fittofood.wordpress.com where my students will be able to see real life examples of what we talk about each week. If you’re interested in blog design and you’d like to follow along on that blog please do, just be aware that it is a work in motion (on purpose) and it will be evolving.

So here are my “creating a blog” notes –

**

From the discussion board, some of you have actually created the beginnings of a blog on wordpress. Bravo, good for you.

But for some of you, it may feel like I gave you a hammer and told you to go build a house.

Sooooooo, for you guys, here’s how wordpress works.

To help you, I’ve decided to create a new blog on wordpress (I may kill it at the end of this course, I may not.) My audience will be primarily women who are interested in getting back into shape. I also hope to migrate some of my readers from my personal blog to this one.

My topic is: I am going to challenge myself to get back in shape to do a triathlon next year (there is more to this story that makes it compelling but that’s it in a nutshell.) Some of my friends are going to join me. It’s a challenge girl-power tale.

But the key word is compelling. I want my readers to keep coming back.

I have my audience and I’ve created a challenge with a storyline. People will follow to see if we “win.” It’s a story with a hook – we’ve talked about this. Having a hook for your readers to hold onto is very important.

To start your blog: first create an account on wordpress (user name , email, password)

Put a name for your blog in the URL box. Here’s where it gets a little tricky, if that name has already been taken you can’t use it.

There are millions of blogs out there, so chances are you won’t get your first choice – try variations, try abbreviations – just be careful not to have your blog name be too long or too complicated.

Once you have a name that works hit enter and voila, you are the owner of that blog!

I called my blog fittofood.wordpress.com (fit2food was taken, darn it) – for every pound I and my friends lose we will donate a pound of food to a food bank (hence the name Fit to Food)

What now, right?

You will need to choose a theme. A theme is the wrapper that goes around your blog, it’s the template for how it will look. WordPress has a bunch of themes and you try them on until you find one that “fits.”

You get a chance to choose your theme when you create your blog, but if you didn’t do it then, you can always choose a theme under the Customization option in the left column.

A bit of caution – some of the themes cost money. You don’t need to use those, just look around for the free ones and use one of those. For my new blog I used that fruit banana one. It was clear after working with it for a bit that it wouldn’t work so I changed it to another theme. Not a big deal, I looked around for a theme, choose Preview (which lets you see how it will look) and when I found one I liked I switched.

You can always preview any theme (even the ones that cost money) and nothing is set (or charged) until you press SAVE.

Now you need to start defining your blog.

Under Customize (left column):

Enter a blog title – the url has no spaces so if you entered your name with no spaces that will be the default for your blog title. My original title was fittofood I changed the title of my blog to Fit to Food – notice that I chose what was capped.

Tag line – this is your subtitle and it gives your readers an idea on what your blog will be about. My tag line is “On a quest to feel bullet proof again.”

Still under Customize, if you click on Header you can upload a photo to replace the default photo that came with the theme. You’ll probably have to crop the photo so play around with a few photos. My first photo had poor resolution and so I went with the swimming photo that’s up there now. I’ll probably change that one soon.

Now you’re ready to put up a post.

On the left column, click on Posts.

If you click on All Posts, you’ll see everything that has been posted onto your blog. WordPress prepopulates your blog with a “welcome world” post. Go ahead and delete that one.

Now click on New Post and enter your new post. When you are ready click Publish.

Although you can type directly into the wordpress editor, get into the habit of using a program like word and then cutting and pasting it into your blog post. This saves you a lot of heartache when your network is unreliable.

NOTE: some word processing programs don’t paste well into wordpress and you might have to add an extra “Enter” or Return after each paragraph. If you find that the text all runs together when you cut and paste that’s why. I know it’s weird and it doesn’t always happen.

The wordpress editor acts very much like the word editor, you can bold, bullet and if you want to insert a picture, click on the photo icon and browse for the file on your system.

Remember that you need to give your post a title (you’d be surprised at how many people forget that.)

My first post is called “The Desire to do” I have a photo and a short story.

I wrote an “about me” and I put it on a new Page (not post) but I think I’m going to also put it as my second post (just because this blog is so new, people need to immediately know who I am.)

So that’s it. To get started you’ll need:

  • Theme
  • Name
  • Title
  • Tag Line
  • Header
  • Blog Post
  • Publish

Remember that there’s not much you can break. The only thing that’s permanent is the URL you choose, other than that you can change the title (in my personal blog I went from Simple Thrift to Lessons Learned from the Flock), tag line, and theme. You can add posts and you can delete them. You own this space and you can do with it what you want.

For those of you who have not created a blog, go ahead and give it a try. This is the very basics of what a blog needs. Soon we’ll be talking about things like keywords, categories, and widgets, along with many of the other options available.

Follow along on fittofood.wordpress.com where you’ll see each of the options added to the blog as we discuss them.

Any questions (at all) let me know in the discussion forum.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

23 thoughts on “Starting a blog 101

  1. Add original content and you are off. Original content meaning something you created yourself, no copy-paste.

    Consistent creativity is the hardest part. I am an eclectic blogger and that adds a challenge. Ideas can go in several directions. Going from idea to something ready for publishing can take half an hour to an entire day.

    I hope the students are used to writing and thinking outside the box. If not blogging will be difficult.

    • Those are good comments and I’m going to bring them back to the class.

      Good or bad, blog writing is a different writing skill than say journalism. You’re right, you have to think outside of the box. You also *must* inject your voice.

      The blogs of those who write in complete, dull boring paragraphs will have slow death.

      A slow and very painful death.

      But then like most any other skill, the more you do it, the better you are at it.

      Thanks for your insights.

      • I really enjoyed this and subscribed to your blog. I recently started my own blog. Feel free to check it out. As the feelings in my first 2 posts may help your students. I’m not the best at grammar but I feel I have a strong voice and I’m sick of writing in the “closet”. Your students are lucky to have you guiding them as I just jumped head first into blogging. Figuring things out as I go.

  2. Hi Wendy, I have just started a blog and have used wordpress instead of BlogSpot, I have had a lot of teething problems to set it up, but thanks to the support line and forum and what else I found on the net. However there is one teething problem left and that is how to create a drop down menu, I probably don’t understand the language or what to type in so that it creates the drop down menues…is there a chance that you can help me with this…my blog is http://www.karunalifeforce.wordpress….your advice and support is very much appreciated…thank you so much from the bottom of my heart…Gabriele

  3. These are great points and I wish your post was present when I started blogging! I resorted to many books (Kindle version) and articles before I started and tweaked as I went along. What is great about WordPress is that if you run into trouble, the experts are always there to respond and sometimes do the work for you!

    It is easy to get lost in the beginning. There are so many themes now and more arriving every day, it seems. I hope your students take an inventory of what their topics are and what they want their audience to read, before choosing a theme. Also, important is the header picture. I played a lot around that one.
    Good luck to all. Maybe we followers could see the finished product when published?
    Sallie

  4. Awesome – awesome – awesome. A class for teaching blogs. This little oinker could teach them a few things – snorts and oinks my friends. Good luck to your class – I’m here if they need me. XOXO – Bacon

  5. I wish I had all of this great information when I started my blog. For me it was quite a painful process, but I think I finally getting the hang of it (I think).

  6. Wendy, great idea to create a sample blog for students to see, and follow. Starting a blog is a complex project. When I took an online course to create my blog, it was frustrating. The practical how to was missing. It felt as if i was alone in cyberland. Good that you are there totally for your students. Christine

  7. Pingback: Blogging 101 and Time Management | randomlyreview

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