10 things your blog needs to attract more readers

We know you love blogging. You get to pour your heart out and write about things you love. 

However, what the point of writing day in day out if no one is reading the awesome things you are writing. As you post consistently on your blog, you must also think about steps you can take to increase your blog’s traffic. 

We have 20 things you can do today if you want more people to be attracted to your blog. Take a look at the list and implement a few of them as soon as possible. Your blog will thank you. 

1. Have a clear brand. Yes, your blog is a brand and that brand must shine through with every post. Pay attention to brand elements such as colour, design of images, writing style, tone etc. 

2. Meet the needs of your ideal reader. Don’t forget your reader. Make sure they actually find your blog worth visiting and reading. 

3. Sort out the tech stuff. Your blog needs to be responsive and mobile friendly. It’s 2017. We don’t need to say more. 

4. Work on your homepage. A drab homepage will drive readers away. Spend a bit of time working on your homepage. Use eye-catching images and some fun words/ phrases on your home pager. 

5. Easy to navigate. Your readers should not struggle to search for things on your blog. Life is already stressful. No one wants to come online to be more stressed. 

6. Access of previous posts. If your readers want to read your old posts, you should make it as easy as possible for them to find those posts. Have a neat archive for your posts that is visible. 

7. Don’t be all over the place. You blog should be simple. Messy blogs are tedious to read. It’s like too much is going on at one. Keep it as simple as possible. 

8. The comment section. Make it easy for your readers to leave a comment. No one wants to climb a mountaing just because they want to drop a comment on your blog. 

9. Add some variety. Your content shouldn’t be the same day in day out. Switch things up. Use video, memes, quotes and guest posts to make your blog more interesting.

10. Contact page. Wondering why this is there? What if someone wants to contact you to offer you a big opportunity or a really big platform wants to feature your content on their site, how will they contact you? Create a contact page on your blog and include your contact details. You might want to limit this to your email alone so you don’t begin to have stalkers. 

We hope you can begin to implement some of these tips as soon as possible. 

 

#WriterSpotlight – “Being a writer means that you must continue to reinvent yourself.” Akinola Ajani

It’s Thursday and it’s time for another #WriterSpotlight feature! Today we have Akinola Ajani who is the author of the first Nigerian counter-terrorism novel. How cool is that? What’s more amazing is the fact that his books are sold in popular bookstores across the UK like Waterstones and WH Smith. We don’t know about you but we were definitely eager to find out how he was able to achieve this. He bares it all in his interview with us! 

Hello Akinola, please introduce yourself.

I’m Akinola Ajani, a Nigerian author, freelance writer, and poet, the author of Nigeria’s first counter-terrorism novel Operation Game Change published in March 2014.

When did you start writing and how has your writing evolved over the years?

I started writing when I was eleven years old. Most of the stories were fables told to me by my grandfather who was a master storyteller. I honed my craft over the years, improving my creative imagination and my understanding of the language through constant practice. I started out writing about past events and personal experiences but I’m more of a fiction writer now as I find more fulfillment in exploring the boundless limits of my imagination

How rewarding has writing been for you?

Writing has been quite rewarding, there are lots of opportunities to work as a freelance writer and earn a substantial income. There are domestic and international contests with attractive prizes and strategic publishing with the right marketing angle can yield amazing rewards financially. Being a writer means that you must continue to reinvent yourself, what it means to be a writer today is a lot different from what it meant a decade ago.

Do you think you were born to be a writer?

I would say I was born to be a writer but it’s not that straightforward. Writing is not just a profession, it is a calling. There is a strong bond between myself and my pen, so profound that nothing can get in the way.

Your book ‘Operation Game Change’ is a counter-terrorism novel. Why did you choose to write on this subject?

Operation Game Change is Nigeria’s first counter-terrorism novel and I wrote it at a time when Nigeria was struggling to cope with the scourge of terrorism in the north-east. As a country, we had little experience in dealing with terrorists and we found ourselves in an embarrassing situation with terrorists able to hit targets that were hitherto thought to be secure. We didn’t respond well because we didn’t know how to. Our armed forces are better suited to open warfare against known enemies and terrorism is the direct opposite. Terrorists fare better in urban warfare, small unit tactics and covert operations. I looked at the situation and saw the need to take a page out of the sustained counter-terrorism campaigns carried out by the countries like the United States in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, disaster. The role of technology in fighting corruption cannot be overemphasized as it helps to gather intel and stay one step ahead of the enemy. In Operation Game Change, I proffered solutions to the menace of terrorism and pointed out some of the angles that require more attention as far as Nigeria’s counter-terrorism strategy is concerned

How has the reception for your book been?

The book has been well received in some quarters but domestically, the reception leaves quite a lot to be desired. Operation Game Change was well received in France and the United Kingdom and I have positive feedback from fans in those regions.

How much did reading help shape your love for writing?

Reading has played perhaps the biggest role in my writing career to date. There is a lesson in every story, every writer shares a piece of their soul in their stories and that can open your eyes to better create your own. A book allows you to go into the writer’s mind and marvel at their creativity while picking up bits that can help you write in a different way or improve your understanding of grammar, expand your vocabulary or give you a better picture of certain things that you can call on from your subconscious when you’re writing. I feel compelled to try to write stories as compelling and engaging as some of the books I have read and I’m still trying to outdo some of my role models.

Tell us three ways social media has helped your writing career?

Social media has helped my writing career in a number of ways. It gives me access to platforms where I can meet other writers and form short-term and long-term professional relationships. It also provides avenues to learn more about writing on relevant blogs and websites. It serves as an information hub where I learn about current writing contests, freelance writing opportunities, and publishing packages.

What do you love most about being an author?

Being an author gives me the opportunity to talk about my book and its subject matter on many online and offline platforms. It is a privilege to be regarded as an expert on a particular issue and a lot of people are willing to listen to what I have to say about terrorism in Nigeria and writing in general. It also opens doors to connect with other authors.

How easy was it for you to find a publisher and what was your experience like?

It was quite easy to find a publisher as I belong to an international writing platform that makes it easy to reach publishers. The experience was quite interesting as it opened my eyes to the inner workings of professional publishing. I had a consultant for every aspect of the book from interior design to marketing, cover creation, and final printing.

Who are your favourite authors and why?

My favourite authors are Mario Puzo, Nora Roberts, and Chimamanda Adichie. Mario Puzo’s books depict an intriguing yet undeniably dangerous time in history and his masterful storytelling transforms the Italian mafia from a criminal cartel to a folklore reference point. Nora Roberts writes with the ease of a graceful Olympic swimmer, she maintains the flow from beginning to the end. Chimamanda Adichie’s wit is as impressive as her courage and undeniable fondness for her roots and the stories that make Africa what it truly is.

What has writing taught you?

Writing shows me that I can live twice; in the moment and in retrospect. I can live three, four lives in the same story and end up dead in all of them. It taught me that I can’t control a story entirely without the characters getting in the way. Writing also showed me that words can make you feel things you didn’t even know existed. You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see but you can’t close your heart, your feelings know you better than anything else.

If you could change three things about Nigeria through your pen what would they be?

If I could change three things with my pen in Nigeria, I would say Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, and Corruption.

What do you love about The Sparkle Writers Hub?

The Sparkle Writers Hub is a platform that constantly seeks to improve writers by exposing them to the various aspects of the profession. It brings writers closer to their writing goals and encourages them to keep going despite the odds against them. Its mission is to equip writers as much as possible to enable them to maximise the rewards and opportunities available in the writing profession.

What’s your advice to somebody who loves to write but doesn’t know how to start?

It is important to remember that there will always be better writers out there but nobody else has lived your life and the world deserves to hear your story. Writing requires courage and sometimes, self-doubt is a difficult obstacle to surmount but we’re all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master and that includes you.

Akinola’s book, Operation Game Change, can be purchased from Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, Ebay, Indigo, WH Smith, and Amazon.

 

If you know any writer who you feel should be featured on our #WriterSpotlight segment or you are that writer, please send an email to thesparklewritershub@gmail.com. 

#WordOfTheDay – This is what ‘Chicanery’ means

It’s time to learn a new word on The Sparkle Writers Hub!

Today’s word has a very interesting meaning and the word is ‘Chicanery’.

Pronounced \-ˈkān-rē, -ˈkā-nə-\, Chicanery means clever, dishonest talk or behaviour that is used to deceive people.

Here’s how to use it in a sentence;

  1. He wasn’t above using chicanery to win votes.

  2. That candidate only won the election through chicanery

Pretty easy right? Try using it in a sentence today. 

#GrammarSeries – Never say ”The reason why.”

This error is so common that it no longer sounds like an error. But, it is!

You may ask what is wrong with saying ”The reason why”. Well, that’s pretty simple – REDUNDANCY!

The word ”why” is a special pronoun that expresses reason. Therefore, saying ”the reason why” is as good as repeating ”reason”. In addition, the pronoun ”why” usually introduces an adverbial clause or phrase, not a noun/nominal phrase. Hence, it cannot serve as the subject of the sentence.

So, instead of saying:

“The reason why she came was to borrow a book.”

Simply say:

“She came to borrow a book.”

“She came because she wanted to borrow a book.”

See you next week! 

 

Get started as a freelance writer with these tips

One of the greatest joys of being a freelance writer is getting rewarded for your skill. We are referring to financial reward. At a time where many people call themselves writers, what are the odds that you will get good paying freelancing projects?

Well. the odds are not that slim. You however need to take some steps to make it easier for you to attract those kind of opportunities that will make you smile to the bank. 

Here are some tips which we know you will find useful. 

Define Your Niche and Target Audience 

You cannot be a jack of all trades when it comes to freelance writing. You need to have a specialty. Will it be fashion? Lifestyle? Politics? Or Inspiration? You decide. 

Make your choice based an area you are good at or you can easily adapt to. Don’t limit yourself to areas you love. Think a little bit wider. 

Once you have chosen your niche, identify who your potential clients will be. If you want to specialize in tech, you may want to list out all the tech companies available and begin to do your research. Keep your ears open for opportunities to do freelance writing jobs with those companies. If you are bold enough you can even pitch your services to them.

Create a Website or Blog

How will potential clients find you? How will they assess if you are indeed able to deliver. A website or a blog will address this. 

You can begin by building a simple WordPress website or blog. Once you’ve done this, post some freelancing work you have done. Don’t forget to include a list of the services you offer, testimonials from previous clients if you have any (It’s always a good idea to get testimonials from those you write for) and of course, your contact details. 

We love the way Ebun Oluwole showcases her work on her personal website. 

Publicize what you do 

Yes, we know you are a writer but if no one knows what you do how will you make money from your writing skills? You must begin to see your freelance writing as a business and to attract high paying clients, you have to do some marketing. There’s no other way around it. 

Make the most of social media. Have a great bio. Across all the social media platforms, let it be clear that you offer freelance writing services. Promote your work on social media; both organically and through paid ads. You can do this with as little as $5. 

You also need to interact and do some social listening. Twitter is great for this. People are always looking for who can offer one service or the other. Another great platform for you to market for yourself is LinkedIn. If you do not have a LinkedIn profile, we advice that you create one. You will come across several useful clients and opportunities there. 

The last thing we will suggest is for your to become visible on Google. Aside from writing blog posts on your website, feature on other websites through guest blogging and contributions. This will improve your Google ranking when your name is searched for. Always make sure your bio reflects that you are a freelance writer when you contribute to these sites. 

Don’t forget that making the money you want from your writing skill will take some time and hard work. You cannot afford to leave anything to chance. 

 

5 Storytelling Mistakes You Must Avoid as a Blogger

Blogging is fun. It requires you to share a story with your readers. This story could be about your experience, thoughts or events happening around you.

If you want your readers to keep flocking to your blog, you need to master the art of storytelling. Bloggers are story tellers. Didn’t you know that? Well, now you do and today we have some storytelling mistakes that you must avoid so that your readers can have the best experience when they visit your blog. 

Writing the stories you want to read. 

Yes, we know it’s your blog but if you keep writing only the stories you want to read, you will alienate your readers. You must be wondering, ‘Doesn’t this conflict with the advice to write from my heart and write the things I am passionate about?’ No it doesn’t.

While you are free to choose the theme you want to write on, you must write your story in a way that will be interesting to your audience. It’s not just about the story but how you tell it.

Forcing yourself to sound like a storyteller.

Authenticity is key when it comes to storytelling. When you tell yourself that you must sound like a storyteller, you can be assured that you are doing it wrong. Don’t force the story neither should you try to fake it. Authenticity goes a long way in telling stories effectively.

One tip we can give is for you to make your story as real as possible. You can use real people and real events to achieve this. 

Prolonging the story beyond what is necessary

Storytelling doesn’t mean you have to write an epistle. This is not a series or a book. It is a blog. Make your story short, sweet and simple. When a story drags on, it may get boring and you don’t want your readers to be bored right?

If you want to write a long story, consider breaking it into parts and let your readers anticipate the next installment. 

Starting in a boring way

The story may be great but if the opening sentences are boring, you may have wasted a good story. Your readers may not get to the end or read the interesting parts of the story.

Sometimes, the best place to start a story isn’t right at the beginning. Come up with creative ways to start your story. This is will make your readers eager to read more. 

Not having a main point of focus

What’s the point of writing a pointless story? You would have wasted both your time and energy. Let your story have a key message; something your readers will take away at the end. Even if the story is just to make your readers smile, write in a way that you will allow you to easily achieve this purpose. The last thing you want is for your reader to get to the end of your story and say, “What did I just read?” 

Always bear in mind that honing your storytelling skills comes with practice and the content you consume. Visit blogs where the owner tells beautiful stories. It will rub off on your own storytelling skills. 

 

#GrammarSeries – 8 boring words you need to stop using right now

Hey Sparkle Writers! Welcome to another #GrammarSeries. 

Today we want to talk to you about words you absolutely need to stop using right now. It’s not that these words are bad but they are stale because they are overused.

You know we always have you covered. As we highlight the words, we will show you words you use in its place.

Pretty

Do you use the word ‘Pretty’ a lot. We think it’s time to stop. Here are some other words you can use; Beautiful, Lovely, Elegant, Attractive, Handsome, Striking, Gorgeous, Exquisite, Fair, Cute.

Little

This word is overused. Thankfully there are some fantastic alternatives; Compact, Diminutive, Miniature, Slight, Minute, Microscopic, Petite.

Funny

Are you fond of saying something or someone is funny, here are other words you can use in its place; Amusing, Humorous, Witty, Comical, Silly, Hilarious, Hysterical, Laughable, Jocular. 

Nice

We know we have a lot of nice people around but other words can use used to describe such people; Benevolent, Gracious, Considerate, Decent, Congenial, Courteous, Warm, Cordial, Humane.

Happy

Do you know these words can be used to express the same meaning as the word ‘happy’? Merry, Glad, Pleased, Delighted, Jolly, Elated, Thrilled, Cheerful, Jubilant, Joyful.

Run/ Ran

Instead of saying that someone ran away, you can try using any of these words; Bolted, Hurried, Raced, Dashed, Galloped, Jogged, Sprinted, Rushed, Sped, Darted, Trotted.

Bad

If something is bad, you can use the following words to convey that; Atrocious, Terrible, Dreadful, Vile, Brutal, Despicable, Sinister, Nasty, Wicked, Abhorent.

Smart

It’s very tempting to use the word ‘smart’ when describing someone’s intelligence. Here are some other words you can try; Witty, Sharp, Brainy, Gifted, Wise, Clever, Bright, Quick-Witted, Knowledgeable.

 

This is what it means to write from the heart

Your ideas are valuable

”Write from the heart.”

You must have heard this line before. You are probably still wondering what it means and why people insist that you must write from the heart. The answer is not far fetched. It is the best place to write from! 

There is a difference between writing because you have to or because your job demands that you write and writing a piece from your heart – something that resonates with you and literally brings fire to your bones.  That’s the reason they say: ”No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” When you write, write from a place of understanding, passion and if possible experience. It reflects and ultimately affects how your readers will respond to your piece.

We are not saying you must always write about something you went through. We are asking that you write about topics you are passionate about; talk about what makes you tick and hey, make us love it too.

It makes your work easier and your readers will also have a good read!  

Every blogger needs to read this

3 ways to get great pictures for your blog

How do you feel when you see bloggers who write posts and get 20 comments, 100 shares and even gets endorsement deals because of their blog. It makes you wonder what you are not doing right.

We saw this quote and we were encouraged and being the great people that we are, we have decided to share. This quote was shared by Darren Rowse.  He said

99.9% of great bloggers are not awesome on day one. Their awesomeness is the accumulation of the value they create over time.”

How profound is that? 

This means that you have no business getting envious of other bloggers and their successes because they have done so much work overtime to get to that point. You can’t be blogging for one month and expect the same results as someone who has been blogging consistently for one year. 

No blogger becomes perfect by writing just one blog post. Perfection and mastery comes from blogging over and over and over again. So if you are feeling depressed as to why you are not seeing results be rest assured that they will come you just have to keep blogging.  The more you blog the better you become at editing posts, creating images and sharing your thoughts. 

We know that there are some people who will argue that they’ve been blogging for a while and still no results. Our advice is this keep blogging your time will come. 

 

These tools will help you blog like a boss

3 ways to get great pictures for your blog.png

Sparkle Writers, how are you doing? and your blog? Fine we hope.

You know how time consuming it is to manage a blog right? It’s even more difficult when you are trying to do things right. In between finding the right images for your blog, editing the images and posting on facebook, twitter and instagram time never seems enough. 

Here are a few tools that can help you blog like a boss.

Fiverr

Ever heard of this amazing community? It has a pool of experts that can help you with several blog activities. Logo design, template creation, programming and lots more. All you need to do is get started by signing in. What’s best? It costs $5dollars. Well you can get them for that amount or higher, depending on what you want. 

Grammarly 

Grammarly is a great tool  that helps you improve your writing. It helps to correct your typos and grammatical errors. What do you think about having something that helps you edit your work just as you are typing.  Well that’s if you sync it with your computer. Grammarly is that tool that can work for you.

Mailchimp

What serious blogger does not communicate with his reader via email? Not sure there is any. Mailchimp helps you send messages to your reader, talk about blog posts and grow your community. They have free and paid versions so you can choose what plan suits you.