Gutenberg on WordPress

(This was posted in 2018)

For WordPress users, an alert: they are soon switching to a new editing scheme: Gutenberg, which will go from text-based to the more visual block-based editor. Supposedly this will give more power to editors who don’t know how to code, and make it easier to post on your mobile phone. This could possibly go up as early as Nov. 19, although it could also be as late as early January if it’s not entirely ready by Nov. 19.

I use WordPress a lot and I’m a “text person”; I do very little coding. So, how well their editor works always has a big effect on my posting process. Right now I’m taking Part I (presented by Machielle Thomas and Micah Wood) of the BlueHost Gutenberg seminar on this, so I will jot down a few of my notes here:

“‘Blocks can contain anything from images and videos to quotes and text…and you’re able to insert the block from the menu into any different format you’d like.”

You can create custom blocks with preset features for specific uses and effects, for example, to create all the formatting you need that you can just drop into your page.

“Blocks give you power.” Really? Sounds like a talking point to me… 😉 (they actually show an image with arms raised into fists here). Uh, OK.

“The blocks make perfect use of space…ability to create content without unnecessary white space” —  alright; they’ve got me there. One of my pet peeves (especially when working with poetry and line breaks) is too much white space.

Looks like you can do a lot in Gutenberg without hand-holding from a developer.

So I wonder how well this will integrate across all the different themes (templates) on WordPress. Will I have to switch themes? Answer: no, not all themes will be compatible.

Process of installing plugin will be exactly the same as previous plugins. But if you’re a Bluehost customer (promoted by WordPress), you might want to try it out in a staging environment first. Fortunately, they do show you how to do this in Part I of the seminar.

More later…

So, if you are a WordPress customer, your site will automatically be updated to Gutenberg. Regardless of whether you use Bluehost or not, you might want to back up your site before Nov. 19.

If you check out the seminar and just want to see what features Gutenberg has, skip up to the 20:40 point.

Micah takes us through the process of creating a page in Gutenberg. Initially, the editing page looks empty in comparison to what I’m used to seeing. Like – where’s the toolbar?

You click on a + button to insert a block, and clicking on the block brings up a menu. You can make images wider than the content area, and it should be a lot easier to place images side by side in Gutenberg (really looking forward to that), and you can also create a gallery.

There will be tools in a right-hand “document panel” that will allow you create up to six columns across your page, for example:

  • you’ll still have the ability to use the classic editor
  • ability to duplicate a block
  • code editor mode, if you want to do html
  • make a block reusable
  • for all you poets out there — there is a verse block! This is really a plus for me, because I manage an online poetry journal.
  • ability to add tables and columns of text
  • you can add different types of blocks within columns

All, or most, of this can be done without having to do any coding.

At this point, I’m really looking forward to this changeover to the Gutenberg editor. WordPress will integrate Gutenberg in several phases. It is now available as a plugin if you’re in the WordPress business plan (go to plugins in WordPress, and do a search for it). Eventually, in 5.0, it will be in WordPress’ core, hopefully available for everyone at all levels.

Update 11/16/2018: I logged onto one of my websites today, and received this message;

Check out the new building blocks of the web

A new publishing experience is coming to WordPress. The new editor lets you pick from a growing collection of blocks to build your ideal layout.

Be one of the first to try the new editor and help us make it the best publishing experience on the web.

So, here goes…

11/29/2018 update: Well, my first tryout of Gutenberg worked fairly well on the front page of my site, but I had problems posting with images in the blog;  I did not find the plugin to be very intuitive. Perhaps some parts of the theme were not well adapted to the plugin. But after all, it’s early, and the new editor is still in beta. Time will tell…

11/30/2018:  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that all kinds of tutorials are now sprouting up on how to use Gutenberg for WordPress. Go to the Gutenberg Hub to get a rundown on some of the current best. And here’s WordPress Learning Lab’s Gutenberg Tutorial.

5/30/2019 update:

Six months later, I’ve got the image posting down, and I can’t imagine blogging without Gutenberg.

—– Jean Vengua

Genre: The Label on the Bin

“In some ways, genre is a marketing tool.”

Mark Z. Danielewski

I think Mark was understating the case. The book industry uses genre in much the same way that your local record store—remember those?—used signs to tell you that over here was “pop” and over there was “heavy metal.” It was how you found the music you wanted to hear.

Or as author and editor Cathy Yardley put it in her post on Writer Unboxed, “You want to make it as easy as possible for your reader to narrow down her choices. Genre is the first broad stroke in that attempt.”

Broad stroke, indeed, although the number of sub-genres and sub-sub-genres can be eye-opening when you are asked to pick from a list. At least that’s how I found it when I was first asked to classify my novel The Found Diary of Avery Alexander Myer (the link goes to Amazon).

The story has strong elements of magical realism, but at least at the time that was not an official marketing option. It is also an ontological mystery. Good luck finding that on a commercial genre list! What I eventually settled on was “contemporary fantasy.” Does that tell you anything about my novel? Kind of. It says it is a fantasy set in the modern day. Does it tell enough to inform a potential reader? That is a whole other question.

The problem, and the point of this article, is that there are cracks large enough in the commercial genre classification system to walk your dog through. Yet publishing companies, book sellers, and even libraries insist on fitting your story into a particular hole. This means that even if you self-publish, if you want to sell through a major book distributor like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, you must choose a genre. It is simply part of the process.

Should you write and sell for a mainstream readership, this will be a painless and valuable procedure. An author chooses a genre for their readers, not for themselves. Be sure to check out Yardley’s post, “Why Genre Matters,” to get some good commentary on that subject. But for those who write “across” genres, marketing your crypto-thriller-cooking-romance will be a struggle no matter how good your writing.

Some interesting compromises have arisen here and there: “Slipstream fiction,” first coined by author Bruce Sterling, is an attempt to place a tale that is just weird enough to make a reader question the story’s sense of reality. Steampunk is another example of cutting a genre as fine as a publishing house will tolerate. But if Netflix can categorize films as narrowly as “cerebral foreign crime dramas” or “crime late night comedies,” why can’t book publishers do the same?

—Michael Fink

Like a Gemstone


As of this writing I am one of several judges for a short story contest. The project includes noting whether the authors followed protocol, assigning a score to the writing based on various factors, and providing feedback.

I am finding many of the submissions involve authors letting a story go after what appears to be a single draft. Granted, one of the challenges of this particular contest is that entrants have a tight deadline to write a story based on details (genre, theme, a specific character) provided just eight days before the due date. Nevertheless, the high scoring submissions so far are the ones that clearly have been through several careful edits.

The moral I am attempting to impart here is to submit only polished writing. Your best work will be the result of cutting, proofing, revisiting, rearranging, and, when necessary, rewriting. Whether you are submitting to a magazine, journal, or contest, do yourself and their submission editors a favor: polish your writing until it sparkles!

–Michael Fink

The Sensual World, Part 2

Consider the following:
Robert walked into his office. Suddenly, Carla stepped out from behind the door. She had been waiting for him.
“Carla!” said Robert. “I haven’t seen you in…”
She slapped him across his face. It obviously hurt him.
“Since you left Angel’s place and disappeared without another word!” she said, glaring.
Now let us revisit the very same scene, but this time using sensory description to draw the reader into the story:
Robert strode down the hall to his office, running thin fingers through thinner hair. The door rattled on its hinges. Right away, he smelled gardenias—an odor alien to the stale carpet and tacky wood panelling. It reminded him of…
A pale Latina, her head no higher than his chest, appeared from behind the door. She was removing severe leather gloves from her hands.
“Carla!” said Robert in a voice way too high. “I haven’t seen you in…”
His head snapped back. A small, perfect hand print reddened upon his cheek.
“Since you left Angel’s place,” she spat, “and disappeared without another word!” Her glare turned the rest of his face just as hot and red as the slap.
Using such detail also allows the writer to communicate information about the characters that otherwise might have required potentially dreary exposition later in the story. In this case, we now know that Robert’s office is not very impressive or well-maintained, and Carla is a Latina who usually wears a particular scent.
While a number of editors would tsk at the use of “spat” instead of “said,” I believe it is acceptable to include a more colorful or demonstrative word, keeping firmly in mind that, most of the time, “said” is all you need for dialog.
But that is a topic for another day.
–Michael Fink
*Image Source: Pixabay – Public Domain