Step 2: Set It Up

Now that you’ve chosen a blogging platform in Step 1 let’s take a look at the various things you’ll need to do to get your blog up and running. As mentioned earlier this process might take anywhere between 30 seconds to 5 hours … depending on the type of blogging platform (Hosted vs Stand-Alone), design (premade template vs self built) and personal preferences. For the sake of brevity I’ll limit this guide to the downloadable WordPress platform as well as Blogger – due to time and space constraints.

Installation – WordPress

Installing the WordPress platform may take some time (as does Movable Type, instructions here). The project page proclaims how great and mighty their 5-minute-installation is, but the fact still remains you’ll have to understand the basics of FTP and have a good code editor on hand.

For this I suggest getting Winzip (for the downloaded package), Filezilla (for uploading the software to your server), and Notepad++ (for code editing). These are my personal favourites, and while there may be other better packages out there I get by pretty fine using those, even today.
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Detailed instructions on the installation (there are several ways of doing it) can be found here, and if anything crops up there’s a great support forum with a bustling, growing community. Alternatively you can get a free installation from the guys at install4free. I personally would not take such an option, mainly because I first installed WordPress as a learning tool about blogging software. But if you have no care for understanding the intricacies of the WordPress backend, by all means go ahead and use the service. Just remember to change your server passwords after your blog is up and running.

Don’t worry, it’s not as daunting as it sounds. WordPress is wonderful to work with once it’s installed, and very rarely will you have to manually tinker around with the software files itself. Just keep at it – there’s a wealth of help files all online, and it won’t hurt to learn a thing or two about FTP while you’re at it.

Installation – Blogger

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Blogger – like other hosted blog platforms – is incredibly easy to set up and use. There are a total of 3 screens while creating a new blog, all of which are self explanatory and (God forbid) explained here.

Beyond the Installation – WordPress

WordPress users have quite a few options available to them – especially if they want to customize their blook to suit their needs. Some things you’d need to do after installation:

1. Activate the Akismet plugin. Akismet prevents your blook from being flooded by comment and trackback spam. This is absolutely vital – spam is annoying and WordPress’s Matt Mullenweg is pretty sure this problem will only worsen in the coming years.

2. Get a unique theme. The default theme is boring. Either design one yourself (knowledge of CSS and PHP is required, as well as at least 6 hours of testing and retesting), contract a designer to help you, or get a free theme from the WordPress theme viewer. Before downloading one, however … read this and this and understand that there are themes out there that serve no other purpose other than to promote poker and printers and other spammish sites. Good designers to get themes from? Small Potato is one of the best.

3. Get a Feedburner Feed. Readers can subscribe to the chapters you’ve written by subscribing to your blook’s feed (generated by WordPress), but take it one step further and unload the burden of generating your feed to Feedburner. There are other reasons to do this: Feedburner gives you stats on how many subscribers you have, and they provide a subscribe via email service that suits the purposes of a blook perfectly.

4. Add a sitemap. Download the plugin here, follow instructions. Google friendly sitemaps help search engines index your blook, meaning less headaches later on as you start to promote your writing.

5. Read and Implement This! Read this article and implement the steps there. While most of the techniques presented are too complex for the ‘ordinary’ Joe (and some are not required for blooking), it is a good list to reference as you gain more and more experience with the WordPress platform.

Psst: here’s a link to Lorrelle on WordPress – it covers just about everything you need to know about the platform, written in an informative, easy-to-understand style.

Beyond the Installation: Blogger

Blogger’s feature set isn’t as extensive (nor as complete) as WordPress’s, but it has ease of use going for it. The things you can do in Blogger are well thought out and simple to learn – some basic HTML and CSS should cut it, and more complex techniques can be found at the Blogger forums – home to hyperactive code monkeys. Another To-do list:

1. Feedburner! Get a feedburner feed, and then integrate it into Blogger with these instructions.

2. Themes! Themes in Blogger are so much easier to create, and there is absolutely no reason for you to rely on one of the default themes. At the very least head over to Gecko and Fly or Blogger Templates and get a new one, or do one yourself. I don’t see any reason you should buy a Blogger template – it just isn’t worth it.

There isn’t anything else you need to do to get Blogger ready for blooking – additional features you may want to implement are links to each chapter in the sidebar and an about page (or descriptive posts for each character). These are all sraightforward steps and can be done without the need for directions or instructions.

There you have it. WordPress and Blogger installed and running. A lot of the steps above are pretty generic, and further help can be found through Google. In the meantime here’s a list of handy links:

For WordPress

Lorrelle on WordPress: a great resource of all things WP.

WordPress Tools Collections – Read the name.

WordPress Codex: Installation.

WordPress Audio Video Installation – from OptiNiche

WordPress Theme Viewer – beware the sponsored themes

WPDesigner – one of the very best out there.

For Blogger

Beautiful Beta – Hacks for Blogger, well written and impossible to fumble with.

Blogger University – About the same, but offering different solutions.

10 Things To Do When You Set Up Your Blogger Blog – Written over at Wowiwo.

This post is part of the Ultimate Blook Guide series. If you enjoyed this post you may subscribe to Novelr’s RSS feed.

Go to Step 3: Optimize!

Possibly Related Posts:

Category: Writing Web Fiction
  • http://www.bookdiva.net Lorrim

    This is quite the informative post, for those who need some encouragement and /or help in setting up a blog.

  • http://www.ohouse.ca Gloria Hildebrandt

    Stupid question re activating the Askimet plugin. I am already using WordPress for my own blog, so when Akismet asked me to apply for a WordPress account, I did not want to. But I can’t seem to get Akismet without it. What is going on here?

  • http://undeadflowers.com Richard

    Good post there. One suggestion that I do have with regard to themes is that you can always customise themes that you download online (unless the theme’s author says you can’t).

    I never have time to write my own theme from scratch–but I can always find an hour or two to tweak someone else’s!

    Of course, if you do this it’s absolutely vital that you give credit to the original designer.

    By the way, you’ve put up some great posts lately which I’ve been meaning to comment on–been a bit busy lately, sorry!

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    Sorry for the seriously long reply: the real world caught up with me for 5 days or so, and I had no internet access.

    To Lorrim: Thanks for the encouragement! Good to see it can be helpful.

    To Gloria: You’ll need a WordPress.com API key. This is given to you when you create a WordPress.com account – just go to My Profile after signing up and it’ll be there. You can reuse the key for multiple blogs.

    To Richard: A good point. Novelr is running on a modified Cutline theme – but what I fear is that most of the authors out there writing won’t know how to code.

    On the other hand they can always force a nephew or niece to do it for them … ;P