Tips From a Newbie Blogger

Is your pen always at the ready?


What can a newbie blogger tell you? Are you expanding your practice of the Art & Science of Writing? Perhaps you’re thinking of beginning your own blog.  Recently I’ve received requests for tips on setting up a blog.  Before launching into how I’ve created and maintain this site, I must clarify that I’m not a techie and do not possess the mental acumen to write the code required to build any website from scratch.

If you are a professional writer, having a blog can be a key feature of your authoring strategies Regardless of whether you are an author, you may be thinking your greatest concern is what you’ll write about.  I suggest that if you feel the need to have a blog, the contents of it are already floating in your mind.  The quality of your output will, of course, depend on your skill set.

Setting up a blog demands many things beyond the writing of text.  Therefore, today I’ll focus on the mechanics of creating a blog. The first and recurring requirement for doing this is having the patience to accomplish the task.  Next on my list of requirements, is my favorite pairing of ingredients in most things I do:  Art and Science.  I place the issue of art at the fore, because without an artist’s inspiration, you’re less likely to create an appealing space that will capture and keep your readers’ attentionPlease note that I’m not suggesting that all of us are worthy of assuming the title of artist.  However, we can reach for the artist’s balance of mind and spirit in exploring color, shape, and overall composition—regardless of the style in which we create our memorable statements.

As to the element of science, whether or not you are a techie, there are sources to help you determine the appropriate building blocks for bringing your vision to fruition.  Your research can begin with querying your favorite search engines This will provide the technical terminology you need to be able to ask intelligent questions during online searches and efficient analysis of tech manuals.

Even if you decide you’re not qualified to build a blog site, this preparation will help you communicate effectively with specialists in building websites.  For by the time you’re ready to launch the building of a blog, you should have established a connection with a reliable techie or tech support company—online, if not in person.

Parallel to my June 2015 blog on Media Relations, I suggest you make the most of every contact you can develop.  How do you go about making friends with techies?  If you are able to move from online communication to meeting in person, take a page from your personal life.  Coffee, lunch, or drinks (not necessarily alcoholic) moves you into a social atmosphere in which you can explore commonalities and a potential working relationship with the person.  Regardless of how you connect, when it’s time to formalize a professional relationship, be specific about your needs and desires Ask the individual or company to clarify the services they will be performing for you and the fees you will pay.  Depending on the parameters of the work involved, a contract may be called for.  If that is so, you may want to consult colleagues as well as an attorney prior to signing a contract or making any payment.

Personally, although I’ve designed my own websites several times, I am now using website and blog templates provided by the company that hosts my online presence.  Regardless of the tools used, the design of a website or blog is a major commitment of energy and time.  This is especially true since search engines now expect a level of optimization that meets the standards of the latest electronic devices—and those standards never stop changing.  Fortunately, an international company providing templates should ensure that the products they offer their clients are state of the art.  They may also help you with a program of search engine optimization.

Before you feel I have failed to help you in your hour of need, let me tell you how I’ve modified the template for this blog.  Fortunately the templates provided by such a company usually offer varied features and levels of adaptability.  There are some limitations I’ve had to accept, since I chose to accept the parameters of a free template.  For example, while current posts offer my bio at the bottom, it does not appear in posts that have been archived.  Also, without utilizing an add-on menu, I cannot customize items in the contents list to the left of the page—nor can I modify their appearance.  And, although I’ve can choose the text colors of my posts, I am unable to do so for their titles.

Design features in the blog were drawn from my website. Harmonious in appearance, both feature:

My artwork includes a banner with my logo at the top of each page
~  Ivory colored backgrounds
~  Dark blue and plum colored fonts
Favicons with my logo to the left of the URLs

Color is a very important element in any visual project While there are many blues and golds to choose from, I selected colors for my logo that print well in gray scale.  The blue is deep enough to print as nearly black when printed in gray scale.  Conversely, the gold I work with is light enough that it prints as a light gray, allowing the lettering in the blue to be readable.  I should point out that the colors I tend to use are close to, but not exactly web safe colors.  This means that I provide subtleties that most visitors to my website or blog will view; but should a visitor’s monitor and software limit the range of visible colors, their default settings will be close to my design.

The operation and maintenance for a website or blog may rest on trial and error…at least initially.  When I first uploaded posts, I was not aware of choices I could make in visibility.  There were also instances where I failed to notice a typo or changed my mind about the wording of a section of text.  Eventually I recognized the value of choosing the preview option after inputting text.  This allows you to make sure that both the content and its appearance are pleasing.  As a final test, I read the text out loud, prior to hitting the publish button.

Determining the topics I explore in posts is purely personal and often a spur-of-the-moment decision In my weekly authors’ salon, areas of concern and new discoveries arise as we share materials we are reading and writing.  My commentary is also motivated by edits of text that reveal recurring flaws in my own work.  This particular post is in response to repeated questions from readers of this blog and visitors to my website.

When launching this blog, I was reviewing the first three books in a trilogy of murder mysteries set in Honolulu, where I lived for over two decades.  With the launch of Prospect For Murder, I am moving forward with seeking publication of the next two books in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery Series.  I’m sure that my personal issues with writing and editing will continue to encourage me to examine questions of authorship that may be occurring in your own work.

Finally, I want to thank a couple of readers who sent suggestions for improving the coding used within this blog, and for heightening its search engine optimization.  I’m just beginning to act upon your welcome response by changing the formatting of images for some online locales from JPEGs or GIFS to PNGs…

Wishing you the best in your creative endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, author, consultant, and motivational speaker

To learn more about the award-winning Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries, including Murders of Conveyance [Winner, Fiction Adventure-Drama, 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards] and other projects, please drop in at my author’s website You’ll even find Island Recipes that might inspire your culinary creativity.

For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

Follow Me On:
Amazon, Arizona Authors Association, Apple Books,
Audible, Authors Den, Barnes and Noble, Blogarama, Book Bub,
Cozy Mysteries-Unlimited, Facebook, Good Reads, Hometown Reads

Book sellers may contact book distributors such as:
Baker & Taylor, Follett, IPG, Ingram, Mackin, Midpoint, TitleWave

Design Dilemmas 2, Fonts

Confronted By a Fantasia of Fonts?

You’ve completed your research for a writing project.  You’re through composing and editing the text.  What a relief!  But if you’re in control of printing and/or publishing the finished work, you’re probably facing several decisions about its appearance.  While there are clear differences in design for hardcopy and electronic publishing, you may find that layout is not an issue—if your text is being dropped into a predetermined format, as in an existing website or magazine. 

Whether or not this is the case, you may need to select and apply the fonts that will present your message to the world If you have written a piece of fiction, you may be facing fewer considerations.  In this scenario, the sections of your piece may not exceed a title page, table of contents, preface, prologue, chapters, epilogue, and acknowledgements.  If so, a single font family may be ideal for the entire work—with variations in italics, all-caps and bold face. 

But if your piece is non-fiction, you may have additional elements, such as:  An Introduction, Afterword, and Appendices; Glossary and Index; Graphs and Charts; and, Photographs, Pictures, and Illustrations.  While simplicity in visual elements is ideal in any reading material, you will want to ensure your presentation has a positive impact on the readerAnd this may require the use of more than one font family.

Your first consideration in font families is the choice between serif typefaces [historically referred to as Roman typefaces by typographers] and sans-serif [Gothic] typefaces.  Unfamiliar with the term serif?  You’re not alone.  A serif is a small tic or line placed on the ends of letter strokes.  To compare these two categories of typefaces, let’s examine the differences between the classic Times New Roman and Arial font families.  While the former looks fancier with its little tics, the latter is straighter and bolder. 

But before you declare the cleaner look of Arial ideal for all purposes in our modern world, consider the issue of eye fatigue.  When we stare at the same kind of image [i.e. a uniformly straight font] for very long, our eyes become tired…and when that happens, your audience may lose interest in the message you have worked so hard to produce.  Therefore, consider using a mix of two or three font families that will make the various parts of your work pop.  Not only will this lessen the chance of your reader becoming tired, it may increase the likelihood that he or she will remember your key points. 

In general, for both print and electronic purposes, sans-serif font families are ideal for section titling, and sub-categories or menu labels.  This bold lettering says, “Stop and Pay Attention to Me.”  Although you may not be able to lessen the number of words used in a title, if you limit menu labels for website and other electronic publishing to one to three words, they will be memorable.  Conversely, for the body of your text, you may want a serifed typeface, that allows the letters and words to flow from one to the next, while minimizing eye strain. 

Before moving on, let me clarify that I am NOT suggesting you go wild, using a wide mixture of font styles and treatments in hopes of looking artistic.  While I have suggested using three font families, in most cases, two of those would be non-serifed fonts for titling and menu labels.  Titling might be in classic Arial [in bold], while the labels of menus might feature a smaller and tighter font such as Arial Narrow.  For wide, easy-to-read text, I prefer Palatino Linotype rather than the Times New Roman that most computers will default to, if the specified font is not loaded. 

There are many details to the history of the design and use of fonts that reach beyond the scope of this discussion.  One is the mathematics of font spacing, which you may find mentioned in your own research of the topic of fonts.  Simply stated, a monospaced, fixed-pitch-or fixed-width font is non-proportional, meaning that each letter and character occupies the same amount of horizontal space.  This is in contrast to a variable-width font, in which the space between letters and characters depends on the actual space a letter requires.  Since an “I” requires less space than an “E,” a variable width font may be helpful if you have a limited amount of width. 

Let me also make a few comments on the judicious use of italics.  While some design specialists are allergic to any use of them, I think italics are appropriate in some cases:  Differentiating a slogan from the name and contact information of an individual or corporate entity; emphasizing a word or phrase within a large body of text; replacing quotation marks to indicate dialogue or a character’s inner thoughts.  For me, I base my decision on using fonts on one key issue, How effective will this form of highlighting be?  The answer often rests in examining the length of verbiage surrounding the text you propose to italicize.  The overuse of any element reduces its effectiveness.

A similar evaluation should help you in determining when to use a bold font.  Consider business cards that offer every letter and character in bold…Without a variety of shapes, color and emphasis, the reader is likely to be indifferent rather than impressed.

In closing the book on fonts for today, let me say that your ultimate choices will depend on your individual taste and style.  To help you refine the process of choosing fonts, I recommend you collect a number of business cards (and maybe a couple of brochures) and consider the elements that appeal to you.  Spread the printing samples out on a neutral background and ask yourself, “What does the text style say about the featured person or business?”

~  Is the presentation organized and easy to read?
~  Do I relate to the person or business?  Do I trust their message?
~  Does the message reflect current standards for the industry or genre?

If you find yourself responding negatively to the sample materials, envision how you might improve both the message AND its delivery.  As to your own work, ask yourself two questions.  “Is my proposed use of fonts going to accomplish my goal of impressing the reader with my message?”  And, “What will my choices in fonts and other design elements tell readers about me?” 

My signature font family is Peignot For titling and limited amounts of text, I often use a mix of the Peignot and Arial Narrow fonts [see the logo at the top of this post].  By embellishing these non-serifed fonts with varied treatments of sizing, texture, and color, I hope to announce that I’m progressive in perspective yet respectful of elements of classic design.  Do you think I have accomplished my goal?

Wishing you the best in your creative endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, author, consultant, and motivational speaker

Discussion of art is available at the following blogs:
Authors Design Dilemmas 1, April 2015
Confronted by a Fantasia of Fonts, May 2015
Rainbows of Color, May 2015
Winning Logos & Slogans, October 2015
Quality Book Production, February 2016
Harmonizing Branding Elements, August 2016
Book Promotion and Evolving Art, January 2017
Balancing Text and Space, February 2018
Successful Cover Art, December 2018

To learn more about the award-winning Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries, including Murders of Conveyance [Winner, Fiction Adventure-Drama, 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards] and other projects, please drop in at my author’s website You’ll even find Island Recipes that might inspire your culinary creativity.

For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

Follow Me:
Amazon, Arizona Authors Association, Apple Books
Audible, Authors Den, Barnes and Noble, Blogarama, Book Bub
Cozy Mysteries-Unlimited, Facebook, Good Reads, Hometown Reads

Book sellers may contact book distributors such as:
Baker & Taylor, Follett, IPG, Ingram, Mackin, Midpoint, TitleWave