So after 3 years, nearly 50,000 hits, a few hundred loyal subscribers, and almost 100 articles (each approx 2,000 words), I thought I’d take the time to give the fans what no one asked for: a behind the scene look at what it takes to run a history blog, and what goes into each and every installment of “Epik Fails of History”!
Initially, when I first set out on this never-ending quest, I didn’t exactly have a road map worked out, but I did have a goal in mind: I set out to retell history – ALL the major events of human history, with a critical eye and a humorous twist. I knew it was a long term project, but I never imagined the opportunities that would come from it, and am ever so thankful for all the people who I’ve met because of it: I’ve been on a couple podcasts, I’ve met a couple of my favorite authors who first inspired me, I got a sweet interview gig with James O’Barr (the creator of THE CROW!), and I even almost did a TED talk (long story).
When I first created this blog, I was at a rough patch in my life, a cross roads if you will. I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do. I was laid off from both my jobs at the same time, many of my friends were moving away or starting families, I was still working in retail and didn’t yet have my AA degree. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I needed to write. Thing is, I’d been fervently writing sci-fi short stories and whatnot since high-school, all for naught. I spent so much of my free time typing material that no one would ever see. I even valiantly attempted to publish a book at 16, but not only was I waaay too inexperienced at the time, as it turns out the publishing world of fiction is harder to break into than Fort Knox.
Then I took a college-level humanities class and realized
two three things:
It all started with an essay on the over-the-top cluster-fuck known as The Thirty Years War, the unrated version of which would later become my first article. I soon figured out that I could use this as a substitute for my fiction writing addiction that was going nowhere (mostly because I didn’t have the time to devout to it). Working on one self-contained article at a time was much easier to manage than structuring an entire novel as a novice, especially considering I was a married, working, college student. My other motivation was to actually learn more about history, because before then I struggled to stay awake during history class.
In 2011, a good friend of mine, David Kowalski, helped me brainstorm the idea and inspired me to follow through with it, then another friend and former coworker, Chris Carroll (aka Comic Zombie) got me addicted to blogging… and the rest is… um, history?
So without further ado, here’s the breakdown of my unofficial process…
STAGE 1 – The Idea
As with any other undertaking, it all starts with a spark of inspiration. Usually it’s a title, but sometimes it’s much more vague. Example: “The War of Jenkins’ Ear” sounded ridiculous, so I knew I had to cover it at some point. It always begins with an ‘Epic Fail’ from history and then digging deeper into the details.
STAGE 2 – The Research
This is the longest, most arduous part of the process, but sometimes the most rewarding. I always try and find mostly unbiased sources. Although online sources are convenient, I always make an attempt to grab some books on Amazon or make a library haul. Occasionally I’ll find a documentary or two on Netflix. Just like many of my readers, I’m usually learning as I go!
STAGE 3 – The Structure
If I know enough about the subject ahead of time, I sometimes begin coming up with the structure of the article first. After I’d been doing this for a while, I realized that it would help readers to have subject headings to break up the subject matter, so that it’s not just a gigantic block of teetering text. This also sometimes includes figuring out if it should be a two-parter or more. A good example is The Crusades piece, which started out as a single article and mutated into a massive four-part epic.
STAGE 4 – Pics and Memes
Usually early on, during the research, I try and find two sets of images to go with the piece – relevant historical paintings, maps, pictures, etc and funny random pictures and memes to juxtapose with the serious content. The pictures and captions are sometimes woven in as part of the article. Whenever posting pics, I try and make sure there’s an alternative text description so that even the visually impaired can enjoy the site.
STAGE 5 – The Writing
Once I have a clear understanding of the subject matter, I begin working on the actual writing of the essay. During this phase, I usually focus on making sure it all makes sense. I especially love writing about events that lend themselves to vivid storytelling like The Mongol Invasion(s) of Japan.
STAGE 6 – More Research
Usually as I’m writing out the article, I’ll frequently double check my sources. And then after I have everything typed up, I’ll read over everything and make sure I have my facts straight. I also make sure that the sources are listed at the bottom of the article.
STAGE 7 – The Humor
Although I often try to inject humor in as I write, I’m usually focused more on relaying the facts, before adding sarcastic comments and pop culture references after the fact. Humor is the secret ingredient to making people pay attention to important issues, and the best way to learn about hard truths. I’m no stand-up comic, but there’s nothing more rewarding than laughter, except for maybe a gluten free doughnut.
STAGE 8 – The Editing
This is the tough part for me. I don’t really have an editor. You see, I don’t even make money on this en-devour, so I really can’t afford to pay anyone. That said, I have in the past recruited friends and family to read over the articles before posting, especially if there’s a controversial subject. English class was never particularly hard, but I’m not exactly a grammar Nazi either. My wife on the other hand, is an English major, so I almost always read the articles out loud to her, and in the process I typically find a typo or two.
STAGE 9 – Posting and Promotion
This took a long time to work out a process for and it’s still evolving. First, I check to make sure the article’s composition looks goods, with the arrangement of type and pics, I then add relevant tags (people, places, wars, etc), and then finally I post the article to multiple social media outlets. I have a template put together for the bottom of each article with links to Facebook, Twitter, and Patreon.
STAGE 10 – Move onto the Next One
At this point, I have a long list of subjects I’d like to get to eventually, just check the main page for a chronological overview! (Articles in the works include: North Korea – Part Two, The Cuban Missile Crisis, Alexander the Great, and the Golden Age of Piracy – Part Three!) If you’re looking to start your own blog, I highly recommend Shia Labeouf’s motivational speech. #JUSTDOIT!
I sincerely appreciate each and every one of you for helping me share my passion. The thought that I’ve made even one person think more deeply about world events and their place in them makes all these hours of hard work worth it. However, if you’d like to see “Epik Fails of History” more frequently, be sure to support me below!
Hope you enjoyed this edition of “Epik Fails of History!”, if you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions let me know in the comments below! Also, be sure to ’Like’ EPiK FAILs on Facebook, or Follow on Twitter, and SHARE IT with your friends!
—– More articles on Historic Failure:
THE GOLDEN AGE OF PIRACY (Part Two)
CLEOPATRA – The Last Pharaoh of Egypt