7 Deadly Writer’s Sins: #5

Figuring out how I want to say something when I begin an article can sometimes be the most difficult part of the whole article, and the topic of this post.

Sin #5:  Failure to lead

When a reader comes to my site, the first thing I want to remember is they’re just “window shopping.”  Glancing at a headline here and there, catching a word or phrase, until she’s decided it’s really worthwhile making the purchase of “time” to read the article. 

Writing has competition. 

Therefore it’s not only important, it is critical to issue a compelling invitation in the lead. 

To intrique, to capture, to captivate the reader, and pull them into your story, the lead must have a powerful promise.  “I will give you something of great value for your time.  The words you are about to read will somehow enhance your life.”

What might entice the reader?  

It could be entertainment — emotional release, laughter, lifting someone out of their current reality into a different spot.

It could be inspirational — maybe a personal story or the story of someone you know well who will permit you to share how overcoming challenges has changed a life (for the better of course).

Then, of course, there’s information.  Interesting information… perhaps a story of the rancher’s  daughter who became the first female bareback bucking horse rider; or an interesting story of an immigrant’s generational passage and changes.  We are  intrigued by trivia of all varieties in stories and facts that have no practical application but fun to know.

Practical, usable information is sought without end.  We have an insatiable thirst for knowledge.  Tips on maintaining your automobile yourself, how to become and stay healthy, physically and mentally; how to find a new job, or keep the one you have, and one of the favorite topics of all — information about money… how to make it, how to invest it, how to keep it… and how to spend it in a way that gives you the most enjoyment.

All of these topics, however, will not gain a reader unless you are able to earn his time and attention.  The most important aspect of this is your lead.  It must be a strong, honest invitation with a promise of benefit.  It needs to announce the subject, introduce the focus, and establish the tone. 

The subject is your topic, whatever it is that you’re writing about.  The focus is the slant, or perspective, you are presenting in whatever you’re writing about.  And the tone is the emotional context.  It should be obvious at once, consistent with and appropriate to the tone used throughout the writing. 

“Window washing tips” is a subject.  “Window washing in three easy steps” provides the perspective or slant – “easy.”  “Washing your windows from the outside without breaking in”  sets a light tone.

As you work through the subject, focus, and tone, remember that the reader isn’t yet committed.  He just wants to find out what you’re offering, and is scanning the article quickly before deciding to commit.  Remember, the goal is to get the reader into the “store” and then become a potential “buyer.”

Be open, honest, honorable, and respectful of your reader.  You want your lead to entice, promise, invite or offer.  Once there, the reader will want more — problem solutions, questions answered, or entertainment.  From your reader, you’re getting a precious commodity… time.

So, my friends, lead well and others will follow.

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