Last weeks’ blog ‘blogging – what I’ve learned so far’ proved very popular and elicited a number of comments and questions, some of them around the practicalities of getting started and running a blog. So this week I thought I’d go through some of the key things I learnt in my early blogging journey (often through trial and error). You can of course get someone to do it for you, but I do believe that, having set it up myself and made the mistakes along the way etc. means that it now does what I want it to do in the way I want it to do it. So, this is a blog along the lines that: ‘if I can set up a blog, anyone can.’ I’ll add to that, that while not being a complete computer numpty, I am no expert. To illustrate that I am the sort of person who still shouts at his computer when it doesn’t do what it is (in my mind) supposed to do – most recently that has to do with some of the vagaries of Windows 10. However, back to the blog:
Deciding it was for me
Before I decided that an author blog was a good idea I knew little about blogging. I knew vaguely what one was, had read one or two, but that was it. So first I went out there and looked. I studied science fiction blogs, author blogs, writing blogs, blogs on blogs and blogging and more. Some of the best ones are on my resources page and many more I’ve still got bookmarked, so I can return to them occasionally. This gave me an idea of what a blog did / could do (yes I was that naive) and what they could look like / what I might want mine to look like. That also opened me up to just how much information there was out there. So having decided this was something I wanted to do what next?
Where to start?
First I wanted more than just a blog, I wanted an author site. A simple way to start blogging would have been through Google Blogger (and it can do more). I do have a one of these sites as well (more later). However, everything I’d read suggested that for what I wanted ‘Wordpress’ was the way to go. So then I did some more research – on other blogs (of course), the WordPress site etc. The clincher was looking at the ‘Wordpress walk through series (1-10)’ on Youtube and thinking, yes even I can do that.
Oh, and then I bought a ‘how to’ book. For me, as I’ve mentioned before this was ‘Wordpress for beginners’ by Dr Andy Williams. If you’re not a techy and don’t really understand coding etc. this is the best advice I can give. I followed it page by page, even when at times I didn’t understand why. Later of course you will have those ‘Ah, so that’s why I did this, or that’ moments. I’m sure there are other equally good or even better ones out there, but it got me up and running with a sound, basic site that worked and that I could improve on as I understood more about what I wanted and what it could do.
OK, I want a WordPress site. First thing I need is a host server. How to choose? Don’t know. There are many, all offering very similar services. I suggest reading reviews, ask friends and plump for one that seems reliable. I use 123reg for no other reason that as a scientific consultant I had used them to set up my e-mail etc. and they support WordPress (I guess most do). They seem OK to me, but then I’m sure my site is hardly demanding. And when I’ve wanted technical advice I’ve been able to get it, online or over the phone. They also have a good number of ‘how to’ videos etc. However, what I didn’t find out to start with was:
Set up your WordPress site using the Linux version, NOT the Windows version. I used the Windows version to start with and it was sooooo slowwwww….. I didn’t find this out until I’d struggled for a few days and then had to start again. Oh, and as the user, builder of the site, it makes no difference, it just runs better. I guess things may have improved now – anyone know?
But I get ahead of myself, first when you register with your host you must choose your domain name and e-mail addresses. Again everything I read suggested that it’s better to have a specific author e-mail address i.e. not just your email@example.com. It looks more professional, that you are taking it seriously. For me it also keeps my writing e-mail separate from my social e-mail. Also it’s quite fun to have your own e-mail attached to your own domain name (perhaps I’m easily pleased). I chose www.martynfiction.com (I also took out .co.uk, even though I don’t use it, so no-one else can take it – advice given to me when I started consulting years before) on the grounds that it was relatively simple and although I write science fiction, if I strayed into other genres it would still be appropriate.
As a blogger this is where the only essential costs occur i.e. £60 – £70 p.a. for the site hosting and about £10 and £5 a year for .com and .co.uk respectively.
OK, everything is in place and I’m ready to get started building my site/blog, what now? Find out in part 2).
As always comments, sympathy and ideas/suggestions are welcome.