So, my merry band of would-be bloggers and I are over half-way through the latest Business Blogging Club course.
For the first time, I decided to run the six-week course online, so that you didn’t have to be local to take part.
I won’t deny that I was worried about the decision at first. Part of the success of the previous course, held in person at the wondrous Space282 in Southend, was the unexpected sense of supportive, face-to-face collaboration it had brought.
We’d discuss our new ideas together every week, and there would always be a throwaway comment or a strangely fascinating fact that would get seized upon by someone else. “I didn’t know about that…it’d be a great subject for a blog post!” Constructive feedback was freely given, not just by me, but the entire group.
The result was more enriching, personal, and informative blogs that were a joy to read.
So far, the current online course is shaping up to be exactly the same. Once you get past the slight awkwardness of working away on your writing with a camera on your face (I do always give people the option of switching this off!), there’s something irresistibly meditative about working at home, in the warm and the quiet, knowing you’ve got others around you who are doing exactly the same.
It’s gone so well, in fact, that I’ve been thinking not only about running the same course again in the new year, but also setting up a weekly ‘Blogging Circle’-type club on Zoom, for people who want to motivate themselves to write.
(If you’re interested, let me know).
But anyway. That little pre-amble was intended to demonstrate the point of this particular post, which is…
…if you want to grab readers’ attention, you have to start with the heart.
What I mean by that is, if you spend your first few paragraphs ‘setting the scene’ for what you really want to say, you’re in danger of losing readers before they get there.
It’s exactly the same with novel-writing.
The first draft of my latest novel opened with a chapter full of scene-setting, mostly involving a ‘normal day at work’ for my main character.
But so what? Who’s interested in reading about someone else’s boring old ‘normal day at work’, if there’s no immediate hook to draw them in? What’s the point?
The best writing advice I ever received was to ditch that sluggish opening chapter, and start my novel with the first piece of genuine action in the book.
When you follow this advice for your blog posts too, it’ll create an immediately ‘hooky’ read that people will engage with from the off.
In other words, don’t begin by rambling on about who you are and what you do, before you get to the essence of what you’re actually writing about.
Begin with that essence instead, and trust that your readers will stay with you for the back story. If that essence is interesting and relevant enough, they will.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen my course-ees’ writing come to life by following this tiny piece of advice.
One post in particular was written by an amazing career coach, who began by politely introducing herself as someone who really enjoys helping people transform their career. So far, so… meh.
It was only once you’d read through those first few introductory paragraphs, that you stumbled upon the genuine nugget of gold in that post.
Originally from Slovakia, this lady had come to the UK with not much money, and a poor grasp of English. Within six years, she’d gone from being a kitchen porter, to an accounts payable manager in a big company.
Now, instead of that meandering pre-amble, her post starts like this:
“After I moved to England, I went from a kitchen porter with poor English washing dishes in a local pie and mash shop to an accounts payable manager in six-seven years. So if you are right now not happy with or struggling in your career I can relate to that.”
I don’t know about you, but I want to know more!
This opening also beautifully demonstrates why she loves helping other people transform their career so much. She’s been through the process herself, in a unique story that ends with great success.
So next time you’re writing a blog post, think about that secret sauce. Start with the action first, then prepare for an extra helping of engagement.
I'm a friendly and professional writer, reviewer and editor who works with warmth, humour and flexibility.
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