I’m grateful to Kevin for allowing me an opportunity to share what’s left of my sanity with you. Be A Better Blogger is the only blog I’ve joined in nine years of blogging…just because.
Maybe it’s the wit. Perhaps it’s the unique character and voice—I’m not altogether sure. What I do know is, this is a community I’m excited to be a part of and to share what meager knowledge I have. So thanks for that, Kevin!
Chances are, by the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll think me insane. FYI—that’s perfectly alright, and not altogether uncommon. The hope here is to make sure to impart some clever principles behind the madness…then it’s all good.
You see, I lie to kids for a living.
Oh, not like I’m trying to deceive them or anything like that—they’re white lies. I’m a fiction writer of epic fantasy for upper middle grade and children’s books. Well, ok, I also write for parents, but I don’t dare lie to them.
The point is, my job revolves around creating a grey space in the perceptions of youth, to open their imaginations. By connecting enough reality to heavy doses of “wonder”—readers expand their ability to believe and even develop the critical skills of thinking outside the box. Not just in the stories I write, but in their own lives. That happens, because with fiction the box can be anything we want it to be…even if that’s nothing at all.
Personally, I think fiction writers have an advantage when it comes to blogging. Not that anyone can’t do what I’m doing, because you can…you’ll just have to think it through a bit more if you write no-fiction or technical things. Kevin is a great example. He does a great job on this site, walking that line with his brilliant humor and stories…and it works incredibly well.
My website Wanted Hero has been running for close to ten years now—though it hasn’t always contained a blog. It was meant to sell comics and then books, but I couldn’t help but interact with readers…so at the beginning of 2014, I decided to add a blog and focus on it. Fiction writers, after all, have all the same desires of success that you do: readers, followers, growing influence, sales, comments on each post and the list goes on.
We also have the same questions:
- Do I post daily, weekly or when the mood strikes?
- How do I advance my brand and get noticed?
- Do I allow guest bloggers on my site?
- What do I do when the ideas simply won’t flow/suffer from burnout?
- How do I get people to sign up to my email list?
(insert nail-biting and head-banging here…)
These are all great questions and most have been answered or will be (I have no doubt) here on Be A Better Blogger…but my main question—the one that weighed on my mind more than any other was this:
How do I build Wanted Hero to be a site people will remember, come back to and talk about with others?
This hit me again when I read Andrew Warner’s guest post here on Be A Better Blogger titled: How to be a blogger people pay attention to. He talks about blogger outreach, leverage and promotion which are critical, yes, but what I was interested in was what fiction writers call draw.
Even if you build relationships with other bloggers, if you don’t create the gripping content, those relationships might not turn out the way we hope. Bloggers may find you to be a nice person, but if you don’t have the right content, they’re not likely to link to it, recommend it or allow you to write guest posts for them.
But my thinking went further than that.
Personally, I wanted to compensate for my lack of ability to make new friends. I mean, most of my time is spent with elves, dwarves, accidental heroes and evils that just won’t stay dead. The things I write have to be of such a caliber that readers can’t help but show their friends what they discovered.
Yeah, it had to be that good.
Isn’t that what we want for our blogs anyway?
To be the topic of the water cooler conversations at work? To be that website people want to text about to all their friends?
Of course we do!
It’s why we all work so hard to write, tweak and grow our babies.
…and I should know, I have 12 kids.
It wasn’t until I switched from making comic books to writing novels that I realized a secret weapon already lay in my tool box. Something I did every day which would, over time, make a huge difference to my blog, my business and the influence I had with readers.
When it’s a good time to talk back to the voices in your head
All the help I ever needed was sitting right there, in my own mind. The people, places, topics and passion—all at my fingertips.
Writing about my world was what I did daily and it’s what I love—so the ideas are usually fresh if I require them. Talking with Wendell (my main hero), the wizard Morphiophelius (a.k.a. Chuck) and his sidekick Dax (don’t ask)…showed me that I indeed had an entire staff to assist me.
All I had to do was ask.
That’s the beautiful thing about fiction. When the mental train starts to slow down, you can find ways to jump the tracks and keep that momentum going.
Here are a few ways how to do just that.
Be Who You Are
Yeah, this isn’t helping, is it.
Point is, I write fantasy and that involves creating complex and interesting people, places and events that draw the attention and KEEP the attention of others. I’m not a cook, a financial expert or rock star (though my kids think I rock, does that count?).
Isn’t getting and keeping a readers attention what blogging is about?
So I allow my daily personality the freedom to bleed over into the blogging arena. I’m no Hemingway, but I do enjoy humor, adventure and wonder—as well as teaching, so my writing reflects that.
Write About Goals
The first thing I started blogging about was my personal writing goals. 100 Sales a Day was my first goal and it became a series of posts, then two books. When I decided to write another fantasy novel, I wanted to show the process of my worldbuilding—so I did a 31 day series with detailed articles, packed with daily infographics and podcasts which I converted into YouTube videos (for easier viewing/listening and ranking).
TIP: Readers enjoy looking over our shoulders when the goal is BIG enough.
Many people don’t have the imagination to think big—so by sharing your own hopes and dreams, allowing them to actually see the process from your perspective, many times empowers people and gives them permission (crazy I know, but true) to do it for themselves. Writing from the perspective of characters and sharing their goals and dreams adds fuel to the fire of interest.
Use and Develop Quotes
Under the heading of every chapter of my books, I wanted to empower and inspire. By placing a quote from the narrator of the story, I share snippets of wisdom.
“When you’re on the run, just remember, you don’t necessarily have to be the fastest.
…just faster than the last guy.”
-Chapter 8, Race to Til-Thorin
Next to the storyline itself, these quotes became the #1 aspect of my books reviewers and readers got impassioned about. I tried the same thing on Goodreads, got the same reaction…so I started doing it on my blog. Quotes get memorized and passed on like air, so if you’ve written some powerful quotes, use them—especially when they’re from your characters. You not only have the opportunity to have a lasting impact, your characters will be more memorable to readers.
Share Your Mistakes
What, you’re perfect and don’t have any mistakes to share?
Sorry. That was too funny.
My books and blog posts contain open admissions of stupidity. It’s a part of my writing process. I feel it makes the characters more real, enabling others to relate to these stories on a deeper level.
In reality, people often wonder why I maintain such a huge attendance in my various classes when I teach 12-15 year olds. It’s not uncommon for older kids to ditch their own class and come sit in mine…even students as old as 20 years of age.
Why would kids flock to my classes?
Content, possibly…but they tell me it’s mainly because I don’t lie to them.
I know, I know—the first thing I said to you was that I lie for a living.
I do…but I don’t.
Does that make sense?
I’m brutally honest about my life and the path I’m walking.
Does that help?
Just because I’m technically a grownup, doesn’t mean I’m without fault. Unlike some adults, I don’t have a, “Do as I say because I said so,” complex, or a, “I know it all and you know nothing…because you’re a child,” attitude.
So that’s what I tell the kids.
“I don’t have all the answers guys!” I announce proudly each year. “So sorry, but that’s life. I’m just a little further down the road than you are, so take it easy on me and I’ll do the same for you. I DO, however, know where to GET the answers. So if you have a question and I don’t know the answer, I’m going to say ‘I don’t know the answer’…and then we’ll go discover the answers together. Sound good? If you’re ok with that level of honesty, we’ll do just fine together.”
They’ve been okay with it for 16 years and counting.
TIP #2: Kids are smart.
TIP #3: So are your readers.
TIP #4: Don’t lie to either of them. You’ll be a better parent and the kind of person people want to listen to.
Instead, consider being a beacon. A road map, circling all the pot holes and pitfalls, explaining your follies from time to time so others can avoid your mistakes if they decide to wander down the same path.
Not only is writing this way refreshing and enlightening, you’ll gain a new level of trust and appreciation from your readers.
Interact With Your Characters & Have Your Characters Interact With Readers
This is by far the most fun and rewarding aspect of being a blogger, at least from the perspective of a fiction writer. Bringing characters to life in a book is one thing—but becoming those characters to mingle with and respond to readers is a whole new level of fun.
Höbin Luckyfeller—one of my characters (and co-blogger) wanted to get involved in this process. He’s an award-winning researcher and author from Clockworks City, so having him on board was quite an honor.
At first he wasn’t sure how human’s would react to him, but I encouraged him to relax and be himself, maybe share a little of his research—so that’s what he did. At first Höbin started talking about diseases he was researching, but that didn’t go over too well. So he used the blog as a journal, sharing personal struggles he was having…and even uploaded his professionally collected data, which we turned into Character and Lore sections.
In his latest post, I asked him to do an interview on How To Train A Hero (sort of).
It was supposed to be a three-way conversation between Höbin, Chuck and Dax…but unfortunately it got a bit out of control. Dax and Chuck started arguing and it bled over into the comments.
Hey, it was worth a try.
There has been a lot of laughter since it was posted…but you can go see for yourself.
Drawing on your fictional characters for help can be a fun and memorable experience…not just for you, but for those who visit your blog. It lends a unique quality to your writing and presence and when you have multiple characters to draw from, the possibilities can be endless.
Fictional characters can BE your guest posts (without risk to your site).
You can interview fictional characters.
You can be interviewed BY fictional characters
Fictional characters can leave comments, adding a layer of flavor, humor and interactivity.
A final note on using a fictional identities…because there is a Dark Side.
Keep your characters on your site, where they belong. If you decide to use them elsewhere, make sure it is apparently clear that they ARE fictional. Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT attempt to pass your characters off as real people.
Believable, yes, but never living, breathing souls.
What I shared today is using fictional characters in plain view and for entertainment purposes only.