Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo) this year? If you are participating, .ME wishes you best of luck with these last days, and we hope you will reach your goal of writing a novel by the end of month! While it took you a month to to write your (1st?) novel, lets make your website even faster – in a matter of days, if not hours!
Got a Draft, Get it Noticed – With a Website
So at the end, you will have at least a great draft for a novel, and with it the next step comes logically – making your personal blog, where you can share excerpts, ideas, or just keep yourself committed to regular writing.
If you didn’t participate for some reason, but you would like to commit yourself to regular writing and show your writing skills to the world, don’t worry! Either way, being a writer requires a lot of hard work, patience and, nowadays, an online presence.
Having your own website allows you to take control of your digital footprint by organizing information available about you in the way that serves you best. As a writer, you know that surely the best thing to do is to have a blog, but you postpone having one because you think it requires a lot of time and a lot of programming skills? Well, you are not the only one. “How to start a blog?” is a question that keeps trending on internet, and we are here to help. Even though programming skills can be useful for setting up a blog, they are not necessary. You will need only a little bit of patience and our humble step-by-step guide.
Pick a Domain Name
The first thing to think about when starting a blog is picking the right domain name. A domain name is easily explained as a unique name that identifies a website. For a personal blog the best choice would be your full name, since it’s the easiest way for someone to find you online. And what better way to promote individualism and personal brand than a .Me domain? It’s the perfect domain name for blogs, resumes, and personal pages with over 800,000 registered domains. Google allows geo-targeting of .ME domains, and in terms of search treats them like any standard TLD (.com, .net, .org). Once you find an available .ME domain name, don’t hesitate buying one before someone else takes it! And don’t worry if you don’t have a clear idea for your blog yet, you can adjust it later.
Set up Hosting for Your Website
If you don’t want a website builder but you’ve chosen your domain name, you will need a web hosting service that will take care of all the “programming thingies” for making your blog appear online. There are various types of web hosting services, such as free, shared, dedicated and collocated hosting. Free hosting, though tempting, is not recommended because it is pretty limited and you don’t have full control over the look or content of your blog. Shared hosting is probably the best option for a blog, since dedicated and collocated hosting cost much and require some higher skills.
An example is GoDaddy, the world’s largest domain name registrar with over 13 million customers and over 60 million domains under management. You can buy a domain name and set up your hosting there in just a few easy steps, and be sure you will get a safe web hosting and 24/7/365 service.
Install WordPress – It’s Perfect for Writers
After setting up your domain name and web hosting, it’s time to install a blog publishing tool. We recommend installing WordPress, one of the best blogging platforms, because it’s completely free, simple to use, and makes customization of your website as easy as possible. WordPress also includes extensive documentation and a community forum where you can ask questions if you get stuck or help someone else. You may need some time to understand how everything works, but once you get a hang of it, it’s going to be really fun, we promise! Also, finding a customization tool or trick for WordPress is almost never more effort than a cursory Google search.
Coming Soon? That’s Fine!
Your website is now online, but under construction while you put up your NaNoWriMo Draft. We know you know that, but you should also tell it to your wandering visitors because a half-finished site is enough to make a bad first impression online. To set up a sign that says “coming soon” you can download and install Ultimate Coming Soon Page WordPress plugin. Now you can enjoy all the fun of customizing your blog with no time pressure, stress-free. Once you finish your site, just deactivate the plugin.
Get the Look Right!
After all that technical work, it’s time to take care of your visual identity – find a theme that presents you and your content the best. While your words do speak volumes, a good look for your website says the whole story! Make a list of the main features that are most important and search for themes that meet as many requirements as possible. That way you aren’t spending time tweaking the code and design later.
You can search free and premium themes, but free themes often don’t give you much customization options, even though you can find some decent ones. Premium themes, on the other hand, offer you unlimited support, which is essential if you are starting a serious blog – and you can find great themes at a reasonable price. You can find a variety of themes for writers online: look at themeforest and Colorlib. Make sure your theme is compatible with the WordPress version you are using, responsive and mobile friendly.
Don’t Forget Your Logo!
Also, having a logo and a header makes your blog look truly professional. Try making one yourself at Canva or ordering one on Fivver – for only $5! Undoubtedly, both ways you will have massive fun and a great visual identity on your blog.
A Bit About The Author
While writing your blog posts regularly will change the look of your blog feed, you will need some static pages with information that doesn’t change often, or ever.
Start with your About Me page: put your photo and a short bio, tell something about yourself in a few sentences, explain why you started writing, why you participated in NaNoWriMo and what your goals are. You already have a personal .Me domain name and you want to build a relationship between you and the readers – tell readers about yourself as if you were saying it out loud to a new acquaintance. Be personal, after all it’s a blog with your name on it, and your readers want to know you better.
With complete freedom and control over your content, you can now make a Portfolio page that meets your needs. In your case, it’s actually going to be a bibliography – a list of the things you’ve written. Show of your work proudly, as your blog is a place where your readers and prospective clients will have an opportunity to see all your work – not only the recently published one.
Contact page is a place where you can simply share the best way to reach you when someone reads some of your work. Before putting email address there, find a plugin that will help you avoid spam attacks at your mailbox, or put a contact form through which people could contact you.
Finally, you should have a Homepage – the first place guests will land when visiting your blog, and decide if they will praise you or judge you based on the impression you make. If they don’t get past the homepage, they won’t read your draft!
Don’t Forget Some Essential Marketing Plugins!
One of the best things that you get by installing WordPress on your blog is that you don’t have to be tech savvy to make your blog wonderful, but you will still feel like one. Plugins are free tools that help you put some helpful features on your page without any struggle. I would say your must-have plugins are Yoast SEO – all-in-one SEO plugin that helps you optimize your posts so you can get organic traffic from search engines, and WP Google Analytics – a plugin that tracks your visitors and their ways of finding your website. For more detailed insight in necessary plugins you can check Nimrod Flores’s blog and find plugins you find most useful for your blog.
You will also need widgets. Widgets are small blocks on your blog that perform a specific function. They are used for adding content and features in the “widgetized” areas of your theme, also known as sidebars. Make sure you put About Me widget, a little box where you can write your name and purpose in a really short and simple, but meaningful way. Also, put in the Social Media widget, it adds links to all of your social media and sharing site profiles. You can search for other plugins or widgets directly on WordPress site and adjust them accordingly with the growth and needs of your blog.
Backup! Backup! Backup!
Making that much progress requires saving it, which means making a backup. It may take you a little time, but hey – better safe than sorry! Remember that it is your responsibility to backup your website on your own, even though your hosting provider may offer limited backup services. You can choose between free and paid backup solutions, and the list of 7 Best WordPress Backup Plugins will help you with your choice.
Your Know How to Write – Prepare Your Content Strategy
Good writing is not the only thing needed for having a successful blog – you also need a content strategy. Before even thinking about skipping this step and relying only on your writing, let me explain why such strategy is crucial. Content strategy has been best described as “…the practice of planning the content creation, delivery, and governance.” by Kristina Halvorston on A List Apart blog.
It basically means that you need a plan, something like an editorial calendar, basically any kind of schedule that will keep you on track with regular blog posting and ideas. It will also help you “upgrade” your writing skills and make you think more about how to write to other types of readers, besides the ones who read your print. If you are not sure on how to differ writing for offline readers from writing to online readers, you can read about it in Writers Unboxed blog’s post. Thankfully, you know how to write, so that will make it easy!
Now that you’ve set up your own little place on the internet, protected it and decorated it, the only thing left for you to do is to share your words with your readers. You can install a newsletter plugin (try Mailchimp because it’s simple to set up and reliable) and email your blog posts to your subscribers, share information about your blog posts on social media, connect with other writers on their blogs… There are actually a lot of methods for sharing your content, growing your base of subscribers and reaching bigger readers, so it’s pretty important you read something about it to understand it better. Here, you can start on HubSpot’s Blog with some true-and-tried ways.
Even though the whole setup process requires some time, I hope this guide helped you save some time and made the procedure of starting a blog a lot easier! Writing during the whole month of November wasn’t easy, but now it’s time for lots of people to read your work thanks to the website you made! 🙂
P.S. While sharing articles on social media, don’t forget to tag them with #NaNoWriMo