Just Short of Perfect

Let’s say you’re an artist who has constructed an awesome story with solid characters, plot, and setting. Or maybe you’re a business person who has put together a twenty page report for a one-hour meeting with a client and you’re ready to be done with the whole thing. Your focus is on the content, where it needs to be: let SilverPen step in and polish the piece with our first-rate copy editing.

Copy editing is the process of reviewing a piece of writing–be it an email, a novel, or anything in between–and making sure everything is picture perfect. We go over all the painstaking details of punctuation, grammar, and syntax to make sure nothing will detract from your work. No matter how excellent your writing is, if you have typos it will be disregarded, or at least looked upon unfavorably. Whether you just need a second set of eyes to proofread or you want to make sure every word is examined from half a dozen different angles, SilverPen Publishing’s copy editing service delivers.

Whether you’re local to Springfield, Missouri or you’re on the other side of the world, we’re happy to help. Ask us about copy editing to learn more about taking your writing that last step to perfection.

Constructive Criticism in the Workshop

When I was growing up, we had a workshop in our back yard filled with experiments. Most of these involved woodworking of some sort, from bird feeders to toy swords, and everything was always in a state of incompleteness. Once one project was finished we’d start tinkering with another–it was a place where work was done.

I once heard that “Writing is Rewriting,” and at no time is that more true than in the workshopping phase. No piece is ever perfect, it is merely at rest, and a workshop is a way to pick it back up again and smooth out the edges, repair the joins, and try a new tint of varnish. Workshopping provides direction for improvement.

SilverPen Publishing’s workshopping service helps you build a better piece of writing. Whether you want to make sure that important email or newsletter is just right, or you want feedback and advice on your epic novel, I will apply years of experience from critiquing (and being critiqued!) to help you find areas of improvement or ideas that need to be added or taken away.

There’s no doubt that criticism is a key to improvement–you can’t sand the rough edges off a piece of wood without applying some pressure. I pledge that only constructive criticism to help you build a better piece of writing will ever be given.

Interested in learning more about workshopping? Check out our services page and don’t hesitate to contact me!

Trying to map everything out

What are my goals? What are my priorities?

My time has been invested in working on something else the last few weeks, so I haven’t been writing or even critiquing (which kind of sucks). I have been doing a lot of research and planning, though, and the further I get into this, the more overwhelmed I feel. I’m also excited, anxious, nervous, and impatient. It’s a freaking smörgåsbord of somewhat uncomfortable emotions.

The overwhelming bit is how much this will change some of the things I’ve been doing. I may have to let go of some old processes and even names/titles that I really like. It’s the catch-22 of starting something new: I’m excited to embark on a new journey, but a very large part of me is all whiny about how he likes the way things are now. I don’t wanna change.

Hopefully tonight I’ll have time to sit down and really think about those two questions up above. I have some answers to the first one, but they’re still a little too ambiguous. The much more difficult question is numero dos. Where will my time be invested, and in what amounts? How will that affect my current resources? How should I change those resources so I can make my priorities a reality?

I wish I had someone to talk with about all this. But since I haven’t figured any of it out yet, what would I say?

Connecting Facebook and SilverPen Publishing

As a blog author, I have a variety of goals when writing and posting an entry. I want to help or inform people, and I also just want to write for the sake of writing. But there is most assuredly a part of me that wants feedback, community, and discussion, primarily in the form of comments on individual entries.

This has been happening regularly on Facebook, which imports all of my blog entries as notes, and that’s great. Unfortunately, those comments can’t be moved or copied from Facebook to my primary site, so the conversation happens there among a small group of my Facebook Friends while general visitors to my site never see them. I’ve only had a few hundred comments on SilverPen articles here locally, but that number would easily double or triple if comments left on Facebook were added in.

Because of all this, I have been seeking a solution to the Facebook-Comment issue. My initial desire was some sort of plugin or API hook to simply copy comments left on Facebook notes to their corresponding entries on SilverPen, but this has been tried and failed. Facebook’s API changes too often, and though it has opened up some in the last year or so, it is still pretty walled off. Comments simply can’t be taken out reliably.

Therefore, my desire became channeling people from Facebook to my site, so they comment here instead of there. To do that, I needed to integrate my site with Facebook.

To this end I have employed the built-in Facebook Notes Import feature in Facebook and the WPFacebook-Connect plugin. My original intent had been to use the WordBook plugin and stop using Facebook to grab my RSS feed, but upon attempting to publish this post it failed in a horrible, fiery way. Shocked and dismayed, I looked at some other options and then hit upon an idea that seemed both elegant and simple. I will have Facebook keep importing my notes through RSS, turn off commenting on Facebook notes, and modify my Feedburner Feed to add a comment button to the end of each post. Nearly the same end-result with one less plugin and a lot less fidgeting and work. I’m a bit disappointed I hadn’t thought of this to begin with, to be honest.

The next step was far more complicated and cumbersome, but I thought it important that Facebook users who are being forced to go to another site to comment be able to do so pretty effortlessly. WPFacebook-Connect allows single sign-on between my WordPress blog and Facebook, so Facebook users can connect to their Facebook account with a single click and then comment.

Of course, a fair few modifications had to be made to SilverPen for this all to work.

Login Page

Login Box

When you first install WPFacebook-Connect, your login page may look pretty janky. I have a custom login page (designed by the same genius who did my theme, Ryan Burrell) and it broke badly when the “Connect” button slapped itself on there, so I had to style it a bit.

Unfortunately, this button is the same one used in the blog comment area, so modifications here affect those pages as well. In addition, it’s not immediately obvious how to style this. The div tag used for this button isn’t listed anywhere other than the common.php file and there is no corresponding CSS to modify–by default, it is unstyled. Add something like the following to the fbconnect.css file in the /plugins/wp-facebookconnect folder.

.dark {
 position: relative;
 float: right;
 margin: 0 19px 0 10px;
}

The div in question is simply .dark (for reasons I don’t quite understand, though I appreciate the terror some might experience when connecting to Facebook), and the above code floats it to the right so it doesn’t break anything and then lines it up with my login boxes.

Comment Area

Connect Box

Because the stupid button is styled off .dark and is used on both the login page and for the comment form, you can’t style them differently. I went round and round about this, trying to figure out how to do it, and came to the conclusion that the button would have to be duplicated in the code and one set up with a different style. This seemed like it might break some functionality and I wasn’t confident enough to give it a go, so I decided to work around it.

The above code meant my button on the comment page was off-set to the right, rather than being properly centered inside the border I created for it with:

.fbc_connect_button_area {
 float: right;
 border:2px solid #D5D5D5;
 color:#417378;
 width: 160px;
 text-align: center;
}

Note that width element, though. I decided if I couldn’t beat it, I’d work around it, so I just centered the text and tweaked the box size until the button looked centered. /smug

The float: right up there is to move the whole thing over to the right and not break anything. If you’re curious, I placed the FBConnect code (per step 2 of the instructions for WPFacebook-Connect) right after the else statement in my comment.php, a la:

<li><strong>Logged in as <a href="<?php echo get_option('siteurl'); ?>/wp-admin/profile.php">
<?php echo $user_identity; ?></a>. <a href="<?php echo wp_logout_url(get_permalink()); ?>"
title="Log out of this account"> Log out &raquo;</a></strong></li>
<?php else : ?>
<?php do_action('fbc_display_login_button') ?>
<li>
<label for="author">Name <?php if ($req) echo "<span>(required)</span>"; ?></label>

Profile Header

Facebook Profile Box

When someone is connected through Facebook, it adds a little box to the top right of your WordPress blog with their name, picture, and an option to log out. Of course, you can move this anywhere you like, but I chose to leave it up there. In addition, per Ryan’s recommendation, I styled it with Facebook’s colours so it would actually make sense (instead of looking ugly and out of place–by default it has a white background, the font is browser default, and the font colour is dark blue).

.fbc_profile_header {
 text-align: right;
 padding-top: 10px;
 padding: 5px;
 border:2px solid #8B9DC3;
 background: #3B5998;
 color: #fff;
 width:160px
 font-size: 0.5em;
}

What all this unfortunately means is every time the plugin is upgraded I’ll have to go back and make these changes again. Thank goodness I have it all documented in a handy blog post ^_^

Conclusion

Though the process was a bit tedious (due mostly to my own ignorance), I learned some new things about both PHP and CSS by implementing this, and I’m excited to see it work decently because I would like to use this same setup for the new Help Desk website I’ve been working on. We’d like people to be able to comment and interact with us using the accounts they already have, so knowing how to connect Facebook and WordPress is going to be a big help.

My next curiousity is to see how people interact with the new comment-redirection from Facebook notes and the ability to connect SilverPen Publishing and Facebook. Will you comment and give it a try?