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Writing Tips

Stress Free Images for Blog Posts

Does the idea of finding images for your blog posts give you a headache? If so, keep reading.
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Serious blogging is a lot of hard work. There’s SEO, keyword research, data research, discovering effective ways of driving traffic to your site, writing, scheduling, editing, you name it. But there’s another vital element that may or may not be in your personal wheelhouse: image creation.

Why Images Are Important

The majority of people are sighted and highly visual. Images tell a story, set a mood, and reinforce your brand. They help create an emotional context that connects to your readers. And it helps them remember you, too. Most people only remember 10% of what they hear, but images bring the recall rate up to 65%. Plus, posts with images are more likely to be liked and shared across a wide range of social media platforms.

Social Media

Free and Easy Resources for Creating Images

The good news is that there are a lot of great free tools out there for bloggers. Here are the ones I use every day.

Canva

I’ve been using Canva since way back in my teaching days. Registration is free and can be done by linking your Facebook or Google Plus accounts or simply by using your email. Once you’ve registered, you have access to a host of free templates, images, illustrations, fonts, and other elements. There’s a Pro subscription plan available for those looking for even more access, and there are design elements and images available for a $1USD fee.

Gratisography

Gratisography

No registration required, just download and go. These weird and wacky images are 100% copyright free with no attribution requirement. You can read the full terms of use here.

Unsplash

 

Unsplash

Gorgeous photographs with zero copyright and attribution restrictions. You don’t have to register to download photos, but you can if you’d like to follow certain photographers. You can search pics by keyword or theme. Full info on their use policy here.

Stocksnap.io

StockSnap.io

Great images for travel, lifestyle, and food bloggers. You don’t have to register to download photographs. And all their pics are listed under the creative commons license listed here.

SplitShire

SplitShire

Nearly 900 photos as of this posting. You can search by keyword or category. No registration required. Pictures can be used as is or modified. More on their terms of use here.

Pixabay

Pixabay

This site has photographs, illustrations, digital artwork, AND vector images. Hands down, I use this site the most. Most images are free of copyright restrictions but that may vary per image so be sure to read a pic’s terms of use before downloading. You don’t have to register with Pixabay, but non-registered visitors have to complete a captcha code each time they download an image. Registration is free.

Why Getting a Photograph is Only Half the Battle

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So, you’ve found the perfect photo for your blog post. It’s copyright free so you don’t have to worry about getting sideswiped by legal issues. And that’s a great start! But have you noticed that other professional bloggers incorporate text into their featured images? There’s a really good reason for that.

See, incorporating text into an image allows you to include a call to action, or something you’re inviting people to do. And once you have an image like that, you can share it on just about any social media site and— you guessed it— bring traffic back to your blog.

Then, there’s Pinterest. Everyone in serious blogging circles has heard about Pinterest and how it can do wonders for increasing traffic. I was skeptical at first, too, but after doing some research I decided to try it out. And I’ve definitely seen an uptick in my traffic. However, in order to get going and growing via Pinterest, you have to give people something to pin. A standard stock photo won’t quite do the trick. There is a process for optimizing your Pinterest profile and pinning strategy to drive up traffic (and lots of amazing blogs out there have free tutorials on how to do this). But you’ve also got to have images that are optimized for pinning.

What To Do If You Don’t “Get” Visual Design And Words Like Vector Stress You Out

Take a deep breath. Use the free resources above. Do what you can. Ask others for their advice and opinions. Test drive different images with your blogging friends.

And, if all else fails, you can take advantage of my custom image-creation services.

writing, Writing Tips

Writing for Short Formats: 3 Free Sites You Should Know

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Something that was impressed upon me earlier this month was the importance of being rejected. Yes, you read that correctly. Rejections happen for many reasons and a productive writer will collect more than a few. Literary Hub has an excellent article about why it’s important to set rejection goals.

Rejections (and acceptances) mean you’re actively writing and submitting your work for publication. But how do you choose where to send your work in the first place? If you’re working in a short format (essays, short stories, flash fiction, microfiction, and poetry), there’s a broad array of digital and print magazines and anthologies looking for submissions. Some publications have a rolling submission acceptance period while others have a small window. Some accept unsolicited submissions while others do not. Wading through the requirements for each one can become overwhelming. Luckily, there are a few filter sites that can help you narrow this process down. The following are free, but there are subscription-based ones out there, as well.

The Review Review

This one is my personal favorite so far. You can filter your search by reading period, response time, reading fee, payment level, format (digital or print), and whether or not the publication accepts reprints. Not only does it filter magazines who want fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, but it also searches for art and drama. They also have an in-depth blog which I highly recommend.

Poets and Writers

This was one of the first sites I found. You can search for broad categories such as fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. However, you can narrow this search by the following subgenres:

  • Autobiography/Memoir
  • Commercial Fiction
  • Cross-genre
  • Erotica
  • Experimental
  • Feminist
  • Flash Fiction
  • Formal
  • Graphic/Illustrated
  • Healing/Health
  • Historical
  • Humor
  • Journalism/Investigative Reporting
  • LGBT
  • Literary Fiction
  • Love
  • Micropoetry
  • Narrative Non-fiction
  • Nature/Environmental
  • Political
  • Pop Culture
  • Prose Poetry
  • Regional
  • Religion/Spiritual
  • Serialized Fiction
  • Translation
  • War

The advanced filter options allow you to search by payment level and format (web, e-publication, print, audio, video). I did run into a couple of instances where the magazine’s information had changed from what was listed in the database (submission window suddenly closed or a publication had gone on hiatus due to financial difficulties) so be sure to read each website thoroughly before attempting to submit anything — which you should be doing anyway.

The Grinder

This site is for fiction only. You can filter your search by genre, story subject, story style, and story length (flash, short, novelette, novella, novel, story collection, novel excerpt). In addition to these, you can specify word length, minimum payment (cents per word), average response time, whether they accept electronic or postal submissions, and whether the magazine has won or been nominated for awards. This can be narrowed down even further by magazines which accept simultaneous submissions, reprints, and multiple pieces. You can also ask the search to only show anthologies or contests. If fiction is your specialty, this is the place to go.

 

Once you’ve found a magazine you’re interested in, be sure to read their submission guidelines thoroughly. It also helps to read through a few of their previous issues to get a sense of what they are interested in printing. If you’re submitting a short story and their site doesn’t have special formatting requirements, it’s a good idea to stick to Standard Manuscript Format.

Many of the magazines I’ve come across so far use Submittable to handle unsolicited submissions. Creating a profile is free and simple. (If you haven’t guessed by now, “free” and “simple” are two of my favorite words.) Not only do many publications require you to have an account before submitting, Submittable helps you track what you’ve sent where and when. They even tell you where your work is in the process, which is pretty great.

One last note. You may not receive a personal response after submitting to a publication, and any response you do receive may not be for several months down the road. Editors and publishers have a huge workload, and it takes time to wade through all the mush. So instead of obsessively checking your Submittable profile to see if your work has been rejected (or accepted) yet, try submitting to another magazine.

Do you have any favorite literary magazines or submission filter sites? Share them in the comments below.

 

 


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Writing Tips

Free Character Building Template

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Whereas plot is the framework around which a story hangs, a character is what drives a story forward. Good characters anchor your audience in the world you’ve built, giving them something human (or an anthropomorphic equivalent) to latch onto. Whether they’re the main character or a minor one, every character should come across as “human.” And what is something we humans do best? Why, build stories, of course!

Every person frames their own life into a story in which they are the main character. It’s how we grapple with understanding ourselves and our place in the world. Every character thinks they’re the main character; every character holds a slightly different version of the story.

Years ago, when I was still working with Spectacle Publishing Media Group, LLC (which I also co-founded but eventually left due to my hectic piano teaching schedule) I was offered the opportunity to write a guest post for Morgen Bailey’s Creative Writing Blog. (Morgen is a fantastic British author with several writing workbooks and online courses. I can’t recommend her work enough.) In that post, I proffered five aspects of character writing.

A great deal has changed since I wrote that post. I’m no longer at SPMG, the blog my name was linked to has been retired, and Poetry As Told By Robots is off the shelves. However, the content of the post still holds true. Character building takes work.

Recently I’ve developed a template to streamline my own character building. It’s not all-encompassing, but it’s customizable enough to meet my needs. Whether you’re in the market for free templates or are looking for ideas to help you build you’re own, this character sheet is free for the taking. Enjoy!

character sheet

The PDF version is available for download here: Character Info Template


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Post may be re-shared for non-commercial purposes with credit to Ditrie Marie Bowie. If shared digitally, a link back to this blog is preferred.