The one technical skill no writer can do without

Technology and the internet have changed writing and publishing forever. Way back in the mists of time copying a book meant paying dozens of monks to sit and transcribe each word by hand. It was expensive! Around 1450 the Gutenberg printing press made it much easier to print a few hundred copies of a book, but it was still a laborious process.

Fast forward to 2014 and digital technology lets us copy an entire book in moments, and send it to nearly anyone in the world via the internet. If you want to work as a writer in books, newspapers, magazines or any other part of publishing today, it’s essential you understand how digital publishing technologies work. And the one skill I recommend time and time and again to new and established writers alike is…


WordPress is best known as a blogging tool, but that disguises it’s real value as a publishing platform. Want to set up a blog to publicise your latest teen vampire urban fantasy novel? Sure, WordPress can do that. Want to publish your episodic techno-thriller online? No problem, WordPress can do that too. Maybe you want to set-up a community news site for your home town of Palookahville? Yup, WordPress can do that. How about an image rich celebrity gossip magazine to share your secret photos of Miley Cyrus? Absolutely no problem. And here’s the thing, WordPress is free and open source, so all these publishing projects can be done for a fraction of what they used to cost.

But doesn’t this all take mad technical skills?

No, it doesn’t have to. You can sign up for a free blog at that you’ll be able to start using in minutes with no technical knowledge. But if you take a little time to learn about using tags, categories, and some fundamentals of online writing, you can start to unleash the full power of WordPress. I’ve coached hundreds of writers in WordPress skills, and even the biggest technophobe can be up and running in a few hours at most.

You can take WordPress up a level by having your own custom installation. This allows you to access a host of plugins and themes to make WordPress even more powerful. Advanced plugins like BuddyPress can let you craft your own private social network, a great way to build community among your readers. WordPress can even be extended as an online store, to let you sell items like e-books and branded merchandise directly from your website. Take a look at a great WordPress resource like WPMU Dev to see the hundreds of different jobs WordPress can do.

I set up my first WordPress blog in 2004. In the decade since then I’ve gone from amateur blogger to professional writer for publications including the BBC, The Guardian, Wired UK and many others. The WordPress skills I learned early on have helped every step of the way along that path. If you have questions or would like some 1-2-1 help getting the most out of WordPress just shoot me an email on:


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

4 thoughts on “The one technical skill no writer can do without

  1. I started using self-hosted WordPress at the same year, 2004 (I was blogging since 2002 using Blogger). But after a couple of years with it I tried MovableType for less than a year and then migrated to Squarespace, where I’m based since 2008 or something. I really like Squarespace, but sometimes I miss the freedom of WordPress and its myriad of plugins and themes. And I heard WP changed a lot since then. Maybe it’s time to give it a go again?


    1. Could be. I know a WordPress developer who has a whole business moving people out of Squarespace in to self-hosted WordPress installations. It’s a fine blogging platform, but won’t go the extra distance WP does.


      1. Yes, I agree. Squarespace is fine and really sleek, but they cut some features in the upgrade from version 5 to 6. It “just works”, but it’s a walled garden. Back then, when I was using it, WordPress didn’t allow the creation of static pages, yet, just blogs (and the blog should be the home page); that’s why I migrated. But I know all of this changed some time ago and I’m tempted to test the waters. This very theme you’re using here is really fine and shows how much WordPress added to its feature set.



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