It gets you every time doesn’t it?
You sit down, sticky fingers on keys, and you write. Or so you think.
Because you aren’t at a loss for your topic. You aren’t even at a loss for your sub-categories. You’re at a loss at how to begin writing your irresistible blog content.
Should you start with a long winding sentence and eloquent words? Or maybe with a fairytale and somehow relate it to your topic on tech in the 21st century?
None of the above.
We all know, starting with a ‘hook’ to lure that reader in to read some more is the lifeline of your content—whether it’ll make an impact. Get a comment. Get shared with the world…go viral…perhaps…
You wanna avoid having your readers leave your page as soon as they came in because of yawn worthy writing.
You need to know how to begin your posts with a punch. But that’s only the beginning.
Starting with a punch is good—excellent. But how about what happens next?
Ever notice how, when you’re frantically looking for an answer on Google to your burning question you’ll click through posts in a matter of seconds, literally seconds, and just skim read the subheads? We all do it.
And this is where you get to be the smart writer.
The writer that meticulously writes their subheads in a way that makes the frantic scanner (again, literally everyone on the internet) pause and read what you have to say.
I’ve attached an outline below so you can take a look at it as a reminder when writing.
How do you do it? Let’s start with the hook first. That grand opening statement.
How you decide to start can literally mark the difference between someone sticking around and reading or leaving and never giving it a second thought. It won’t matter if your content is valuable.
Without the hook it’s at a loss for usefulness.
Now, How could you possibly start your writing in a way that makes anyone want to read more?
We’ll start with an easy one: Ask a Q
A question. An inquiry. Be inquisitive.
Notice how, in real life conversation, a question will often get someone’s attention much more than just a statement.
A question is directly addressing them. And it automatically triggers a mental response back (rapport anyone?).
No matter your topic, a question always works as a way to pull the reader in and want to learn more. It’s better to have a question that is short rather than long and winding. You don’t want to lose readers in a sea of wordiness.
Starting with an intriguing question can look like:
“It gets you every time doesn’t it?
“Have you ever wondered what it would be like to call your own shots?”
“Ever made a lemon pie without a single lemon?”
“How many times have you stumbled upon this phrase?”
Now let’s compare these opening questions to opening with a boring sentence (which is what 90% of writers tend to do).
“Starting to write your post in a compelling way can be hard.”
“It is possible to call your own shots in life if you work really hard.”
“Lemon pies can be baked without lemons.”
“This phrase is repeated a lot.”
The best part is, coming up with a question opening statement can be super easy if you:
A) Have a subject to write about
B) Know the main point you’re trying to make
Try it and see.
Stories Cure All
Start with a story. Now, before you get scared and think you have to write an intro, body, and conclusion. A story can be short. Literally.
For instance, take this one:
“The first time I slept on a park bench I used a puddle of tears as my pillow.”
Woah. What a story. There’s no way someone is going to read that and NOT want to learn more.
Stories don’t have to be long intricate explanations and descriptions of this and that and the other. Short and sweet work a lot better for intros.
Some more examples?
“That was the sixth time I burned water.”
“My mentor turned around and quit on me that day.”
“He brought me a red rose and my life changed forever.”
“Getting into tech pulled me out of my grandparent’s musty basement.”
BAM. It’s common knowledge that adding stories to your writing makes it relatable and engaging. Adding short stories to your beginnings does that and more. It keeps ’em reading.
Find the most mind blowing statistic you can find about your topic and stick it in as your first sentence.
“96.7% of the population will become president of a country by 2030.”
“By 2025, puppies will be the majority species on planet Earth.”
“There is enough laundry soap in the world to inundate the moon.”
Shocking right? Who knew puppies were gonna be the majority on planet Earth by 2025? It can prove an important point you’re trying to make, make your content memorable and encourage people to share it more.
Shocking statements naturally pique curiosity and questions in a reader’s mind. And hopefully, this is where your writing answers those questions.
Make your content shareable and memorable with a bit of shock factor.
This one can be a little tricky to pull off. The secret is making sure you follow it up with an equally awesome statement.
For example, say you’re writing a post about Instagram. An engaging way to begin with a one-word sentence could be:
The platform for 200 million users changing the way we do social.”
Yet another example could be:
It’s part of my life and part of yours too.”
One word openings get the reader focused on that one word, which can often be your subject. This is so much better than starting your writing with:
“Confusion is growing rampant and is all the hype these days as it seems to be affecting more and more people.”
The sentence is simply too long and it’s saying way too many things at once.
Next, you want to—
Boldness takes you far
Make a statement about the reader. With boldness. No need to worry if it applies to them or not, especially if it’s a broad one. Some examples are:
“You are more creative than you think.”
“You’re lazy and you don’t want to admit it.”
“You have the power to make billions.”
“Making enough for next month’s rent should be the least of your worries.”
The idea is that your bold statement will be explained further to explain what you mean as they read on. This doesn’t necessarily mean you get to stick a random bold statement in your intro and then go on to talk about your love of fluffy cats.
Opening sentences are the beginning of your chain link.
When you’re writing, think of it as building a chain link of sentences and headlines that will keep a reader hooked til the end. One sentence should lead to reading the other, and the other and the…
It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Enter headings. Every writer’s best friend.
Ok Viv, I get it. Introductory hooks are important. But people are still not sticking around and reading my sh*t!
Have you paid attention to your subheadings?
Not IF you include subheadings in your writing. That’s a given (or it should be. They help, I promise). But HOW you whip up your subheadings and use them.
Up your subheading game.
Stop giving your reader’s exactly what they want.
Yup, you read right. Usually, when you come up with your headings, you come up with labels. Like they’re cubby holes for your kindergarten art supplies.
Supercharge your headings. Look at them from another angle. For instance, say you’re writing about photography and the post is on ‘The 10 Reasons Why I Use a 50mm Lens.’
Your basic subheads, unfortunately, look like this:
- A 50 mm lens is cheaper than an 85 mm lens
- A 50 mm lens solves the focus problem
- It takes images more compatible with Photoshop
- It brings happiness to free-lancers
- it fits every camera you can buy
You get the gist. (excuse my lack of real camera lense knowledge).
So what happens? A scanner will encounter that, scan for under 5 seconds, and run. Never to return.
Say you switch up your heading game and those same headings now look like this:
- A 50 mm was easy on one thing
- It solved my main photography problem
- Photoshop is blessed with a 50 mm
- It brings what freelancers need the most
- But the number one reason why I bought a 50 mm was…
So what did I do there? Let’s take one heading: “It brings what freelancers need the most.”
Assuming a 50 mm lens brings happiness and it’s what freelancers need most, I didn’t bluntly give it away in the heading.
Instead, it leaves room for speculation + curiosity when it says “It brings what freelancers need most.”
What does it bring to freelancers that they need so much? Guess you’ll just have to read on to find out. 😀
The second set of revised subheads make the reader want to know exactly what you’re talking about without being too confusing. That’s when they’ll start reading your post. Curiosity is a huge driving factor in making great subheads.
The goal is to get your headings to flirt and make the reader want to learn more.
Don’t give it all away in one blunt phrase.
So what types of headings are out there?
Shock factor subhead
Just like starting your writing with a shocking statement, you can also use this in your subheads as part of your writing chainlink.
What subhead could you use as a highlight to that next section to pique curiosity?
Remember, shocking subheads can be silly. They don’t have to be factual—as long as you answer their curiosity in the coming paragraph.
Saying it without really saying it
The point of a subhead is to warn the reader what the next few sentences will be about, is it not?
But nobody said they have to tell them EXACTLY what it’ll be about. In the example of the 50mm lens, the second to last subhead reads
“It brings what freelancers need most.”
What that is can be included in the coming paragraph (FYI it brings happiness). Giving it away in the subhead kills any interest in your next string of sentences. Cue skimming.
The question you know they’ll ask next
Another great way to use subheads is by making it the burning question you know they’ll want to ask next after you’ve explained something or made a point.
“So how do you make a million dollars in two months?”
“Why don’t you get to use all the resources they offer you?”
“So why didn’t you ever make it to finals?”
Follow it up with the answer. This works great because you’re one step ahead of your readers, and before they know that question is being formed in their head they’re already reading it in your copy. It’s a tactic for great, effective writing.
Brainstorming a headline doesn’t have to be a conundrum
When you’re trying to brainstorm a headline, go through and think about these five things:
- What is the underlying idea of your headline section?
- Ask yourself, how could you tell what it’s going to be about without giving too much away?
- Can the headline be a question?
- That the headline be a shocking statement that is then explained by the section?
- Will the headline pass the confusion test?
Using these questions as guidelines will help you come up with a perfect, attention-getting headline each time. While it doesn’t take uber genius it might take some practice before changing your subhead and intro game forever (not to mention for the better).
It’s time to go fish
Starting your content with a punch and keeping your reader’s hooked with smart headlines is a great way to stop skimmers from skimming when they stumble upon your posts and convert them into your raving blog audience.
A strong message paired with strong writing leads to a lasting impression.
As they say, knowledge without action is dead. It’s time to go out and create your own irresistible blog content. And go through old posts and modify them if need be.
Your audience, your writing, and ultimately yourself, will thank you.