Friday, October 17, 2014

How I Write Blog Posts

Last week fellow Spain blogger Cassandra of Gee, Cassandra tagged me in a “Blog Hop” that’s been going around (although we both agree that’s a lame name so we’re not going to call it that). Basically you have to talk about your personal writing process and how you go about blogging, and then you tag/nominate/@-reply three fellow bloggers to write their own response to the Blog Hop meme going around. So let’s get started!

1) What am I working on / writing?

I am the worst at getting around to doing write-ups of places I’ve been to; I’m just now finishing up talking about Portugal (April 2014) and there are several cities and villages in Galicia that I’ve got some (empty) drafts for, too. One of the biggest items on my blogging to-do list right now is simply to get caught up on travel posts.

This school year I’d really like to talk more about Santiago de Compostela, where I’ve been living for the past year. Now that I’ve uploaded 400+ photos of the town to Flickr I feel like I can finally write some general city posts to do Santiago justice, anything from a tell-all post about the cathedral to restaurant recommendations to a historical examination of this city’s foundation legends. I’d also like to share more about Galician culture: typical food, things you see in the countryside like hórreos and cruceiros, and even the chestnut-roasting festival called Magosto.

Current projects in my queue include a guided tour inside and around the cathedral of Santiago; a much-needed discussion about travel and privilege; and a “For Dummies”-style post summarizing the history of Spain.

My draft posts page


2) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

In the expat-in-Spain/travel blogosphere, I think one that sets my blog apart is all of the historical and architectural insights I include when I write about the places I’ve been to. I majored in history and Spanish in college, and have recently been learning more about Western architecture, so my posts naturally reflect these interests. While some folks might focus on the “foodie” scene or traditional dishes, I try to talk about not only what the major religious and civil monuments are but also how they got there and why they are historically or artistically significant—all in a way that laypeople like yours truly can understand.

And having lived in the Andalusian province of Jaén for a year and going into my second year in Galicia, my blog also focuses on the under-appreciated parts of Spain. When I first got placed to teach English in Jaén—a backwater area close to Córdoba, which I had preferenced—I was admittedly disappointed. Yet over the course of the school year I came around to the fact that I was extremely fortunate to live in this nice little corner of the country overflowing with olive oil, castles, and Renaissance architecture. And Galicia has been historically isolated from the rest of the country, so I’m doing my best to share with the world the culture, cities, and cuisine of this charming region.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Living ~5,000 miles away from home isn’t the easiest thing to do, and while the Internet has made hopping halfway around the world (okay, 1/5 of the way if you’re gonna be technical) a whole lot more doable, time zones, work schedules, and crappy wifi connections mean it’s not always easy to keep family and friends updated on what daily life is like and your adventures. Enter The Blog. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter my friends can keep tabs on me, and for my grandparents in their 70s and 80s, my mom prints out my blog posts and mails the hardcopies to them every couple months or so.

Having gone through the gauntlet of applying for the auxiliares teaching program, various visas, and (temporary) residency, I’ve tried to follow that whole do-unto-others-as-you-would-have-them-do-unto-you thing and write how-to posts to help fellow English-speakers trying to come to Spain. There’s no way I’d be in the place I am today had I never found all the resources from blogs and the Facebook groups all those years ago, so I’m eager to pass it along and help others “learn the ropes.”

I also simply write for myself. Blogging is a great hobby if you’re afraid of letting your writing skills get rusty, and while I don’t always meet my goal of two posts per week, this personal goal has kept me coming back to my keyboard, week after week. Plus, I just have this inner urge to write; it’s kind of hard to explain. Some folks sketch and paint watercolors in journals, others film short videos, and still others recreate recipes when they’re back at home from a trip. Me, I have to write. So that’s why I blog!

The draft post of this post. Blog inception!

4) How does my writing process work?

Here’s all the nitty-gritty details you’ve been waiting for, I’m sure (haha).

If I’m working on a travel-related post, before I can do anything else I have to process the photos I took while in said city/region/country. This involves whittling through crap pictures to find the decent ones, then editing the good ones in iPhoto so they don’t look washed out or flat, geotagging them, uploading them to Flickr (on dreadful wifi speeds), and finally naming and tagging said pictures.

Any post I write usually begins in my iPod’s Notes app or its equivalent on my MacBook. Since they both sync with each other on iCloud, I’ve found this to be the best way to file away potential blog posts or organize ideas I’ve got knockin’ around upstairs. Sometimes it can be just a single bullet point, but they often evolve into complex, branching paragraphs—at which point…

My Notes.app
…I go to Blogger.com and create a new draft post with a “skeleton” or framework of how I want the post to turn out: giving it a tentative title, adding relevant tags, and putting in headings and blank spaces to fill in later. If I’m feeling like procrastinating (read: always), I like to plug in relevant photos from my Flickr photostream to “get that out of the way” and avoid writing.

I also do a lot of research to make sure my posts are well-rounded, accurate, and more interesting, using Wikipedia, my travel guidebooks, other travel blogs, and locally-based websites with more information about certain obscure sites. Often I can start researching the Church of El Salvador in Teruel, Spain, for example, and end up two hours later browsing all the battles of the Reconquista in the late Middle Ages. Ah, Wikipedia.

Once I finally get a draft post all filled out with headings, pictures, and actual text, I let it “sit” for a day or two so that I can go back to it with fresh eyes and look for misspellings and awkward phrasings. This revising stage is the easiest for me personally as I love to “omit needless words” (in the words of Strunk and White) and polish a post until it feels ready. When I’m done editing, I’ll give the post a quick preview to make sure there’s no paragraphs leading out into outer space or two pictures on top of each other. Then it’s time to hit publish!

Who I’m tagging!

* Mike of Mapless Mike, since he is now all moved in to his new home in La Rioja!

* Kaley of Y Mucho Más, since she also blogs as a hobby and we have similar viewpoints on the travel blogging world.

* Julia of Nowhere but Everywhere, since she hasn’t posted in a while and I always love the entries she writes full of imagery and emotion.

If you’re a blogger or writer, tell me about your own personal writing process below in the comments!
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