Most bloggers are technically terrible writers.
Did I get your attention? If I didn’t grab your interest then I haven’t done my job as a writer. Sure, using a harsh (and basically untrue) statement like that is gimmicky as hell, but, it’s not a bad trick if I don’t overuse it. That punchy single sentence is what is referred to as a one-line hook lead and it is just one of the seven types of leads I am going to talk about in this week’s post.
For those of you who think you aren’t familiar with leads, you actually are. Lead is just the fancy writer-speak word for the introduction to a nonfiction article; your leading sentence. There are many types of leads and many combinations of those types. The type you use will depend upon the purpose of the article, the intended audience and the response for which you are aiming from your readers.
Even if you don’t know it, you are all familiar with at least one specific type of lead: the journalistic lead. A journalistic lead tries its best to hit as many of the five Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why) as possible in the first sentence or two. The reasons for this are twofold: (1)the reader can quickly learn the basics of the story without being led through some sort of mysterious maze and (2) the editor can cut as much of the story as necessary for space later without necessitating any sort of rewrite.
Journalistic leads are generally not the best fit for blog articles. Although you will occasionally want to cover the five Ws right off the bat, it is almost always better to allow your story more of a feature-y feel instead of the hard-hitting pointedness of a news story. As bloggers, we are not often news-breakers. This means that we rarely find use for a journalistic lead and so I am not going to include it in my top seven.
Some types of writing do not require leads: novels, some short stories and other works of fiction rarely have need for a lead. Books are much longer than blog posts or other nonfiction articles so there is more time available for building a story. You can sustain suspense and slowly reveal “the point” because readers have settled in for a long read.
With short nonfiction, like blog posts, you have a very short amount of time to grab your reader and hold on tight. Whether or not you are able to do this is entirely dependent upon the lead that you construct. For this reason, the lead is the most important part of an article. If you can’t get readers through the first few sentences, then the rest of the page is irrelevant.
As I mentioned before, there are many common lead types. However, I am only going to share with you the seven that I have found most useful as a blogger.
A comparison lead is exactly what you’d think: it is simply the comparison of one situation, object, etc. to another. We all know that technology changes every day. You go to bed with the coolest iPod on the planet, but when you wake up it’s passe because it doesn’t have a touch screen. For this reason, a comparison lead lends itself very well to a blog post.
Example: My officemate has a shiny red Motorola Q that makes my Blackberry 7100i look about as high-tech as a block of stone and a chisel. (True story. I am very jealous.)
This one is also very straightforward in definition, but it is often misused or overused. Take a look through your archives and come up with a rough estimate of the percentage of posts that begin with a question. If it is more than 5% then this article is definitely for you. A question lead, when overused or abused is simply a copout for finding the right way to “tell.”
When you are using a question lead, avoid rhetorical questions like: “Are you tired of hearing about the Google pagerank update?” Used correctly and thoughtfully, a question can be a very strong lead. By starting out with a question, you can immediately engage your readers’ by challenging them to think of an answer.
Example: Could you survive a week alone in the wilderness?
If you can find numbers related to your article that are surprising or help tell the story, it can be a great way to get things going. By using a list of numbers to start off your article, you run the risk of scaring off people or boring them to death. Make sure that when you use this lead the numbers are relevant and interesting.
Example: Forty-two percent of college graduates never read a book again.
Blogs started out as personal diaries and some of them are still written in the same conversational style. My writing style often has the feeling of verbally addressing an audience. With readers used to this format, it’s really no surprise that an anecdotal lead can work very well. The personable nature of a storytelling introduction makes the piece feel more intimate than if you were to start with facts or figures.
Example: Sunday afternoon was windy and rainy so it was the perfect time to plug in the electric blanket and catch up on some much-neglected reading. Just as I got perfectly situated in my chair, Sadie decided it was time for her to get her snuggle on as well. The problem is, Sadie requires an active snuggle; one that involves a good deal of petting and scratching, actions that don’t really allow for concentrated reading.
- One-Line Hook
This is the type of lead I used to kick off this article. The one-line hook is one of the most difficult types of leads to write effectively because you have so few words with which to work. Your goal, with a single sentence, is to evoke a strong enough response in your reader to make them stick around for the whole story. One-line hooks work very well for bloggers because our readers often have short attention spans and more than enough other blogs to read. With a one-line hook, you throw your lead out there, wait until you feel the bite and then yank that pole up to ensure that the reader is good and caught. That might be a bit too gruesome a metaphor in our politically correct times, but you get the point.
Example: Most bloggers are technically terrible writers.
A carefully chosen quotation can be just the powerful punch an article needs to really get going. Like Question Leads, Quotation Leads are often overused and should only be used when they are the best choice for the particular story. If you are writing about a particular person, a quotation lead would be a great fit.
Example: “Every writer I know has trouble writing.” – Joseph Heller
I have seen a lot of controversial leads in the past couple of weeks referring to Google. A controversial lead is used to make the reader feel surprise at what the writing is imparting. This type of persuasion tactic shows the reader why they should react a certain way rather than just telling them: “Hey you, Be shocked!” It is subtle enough to help the reader feel that he/she is in control of their emotions and is an effective way of avoiding a condescending tone when you are attempting to get your readers to feel a certain way about something.
Example: Scores of sex offenders in Anderson, South Carolina, will be corralled for Halloween tonight in a move authorities say is needed to keep kids safe as they trick or treat. (From CNN.com, October 31, 2007)
As a writer, you hear a lot about “style” and “voice.” This can be confusing when you also hear that you need to switch things up to keep people interested. When it comes to leads, you are definitely in a situation where you need to switch it up. It is fine to love Question Leads with all your heart, but if you commit to a monogamous relationship with them your writing will become boring, tired, too predictable.
As you learn different types of leads, you will become more adept at choosing the right lead for a story. If you use a different type of lead for each article you write in a week, that doesn’t mean you are lacking style. It doesn’t mean that you haven’t found your voice. What it means is that you are educated enough as a blogger to have many choices when it comes to the most critical section of an article: the beginning.
How to Develop Super Human Confidence in Your Blog
Baby steps, my Young Blogging Padawans.
New bloggers, baby step your way to being super human confident in your blog. Being wracked by doubt, with a little wild excitement mixed in, you cannot gain unreal confidence in your blog today. But slowly and steadily gaining clarity gives you the foundation upon which to become a highly successful blogger who feels bold, knowing your blog rocks.
I am about super human confident in my blog. I am developing the same level of confidence in my eBooks and courses, too. Why? Believing in my blog and premium offerings helps me to help more people and I also make more money too, which is neat, considering I live a worldly life.
Follow these tips.
1: Feel and Release Fears-Doubts Aligned with Your Blog
Before you become confident, you need to purge any lack of confidence. I know this feels bad but tis a necessary step to become super duper confident in your blog and in your premium offerings, too. Sit with doubts, those nasty traitors. Be with your fears about self, your writing ability and your blog presentation. Feel these unpleasant energies. Clear the energies. Proceed from a clearer, more confident, space. Confidence is borne of clearing a lack of confidence. Do messy energy work to become uber confident in your blog and in your blogging abilities.
2: Surround Yourself with Loving Bloggers
Loving, caring, compassionate bloggers see brilliance in you when you cannot seem to see it in yourself. Although all confidence issues flow inside-out, you need a network of supportive people around you who believe in you, versus being around haters or negative nellies. Never, ever, ever surround yourself with poverty conscious, failure conscious bloggers. Are you running a cyber charity? Are you a therapist? No! Negative people stuck in fear and failure throw negative cross currents into your being, shaking your already fragile confidence in your blog.
Hang with folks who believe in you and who believe in your blog. Pros share where and how you can improve but they always believe in someone who follows their dreams, and will instill that faith in you, and in your blog, too.
3: Write Your Butt Off and Publish Content Like the Dickens
Writing and publishing content is like breathing to me. I do not lose confidence in my ability to breathe because this is an automatic, auto-pilot, process. I just breathe without thinking about it. Ditto for writing and blogging. I wrote and blogged for 20,000 to 30,000 hours so now it is an automatic, easy process I have super human confidence in. I do not even think about it because I do it routinely, automatically, on a type of auto-pilot borne of making writing and blogging a habit.
If someone criticizes my blog, it is like someone criticizing my breathing; sounds weird, or funny, but it stirs me not, because I have equal confidence in each.
4: Do Energy Work
I do not play around; 3-4 hours of energy work daily allowed me to face, feel and release blog doubts, to become the clear, confident blogger I am today. Consider meditating, or doing yin yoga, or doing Kriya yoga, and power walking. Or do it all. I spend 3-4 hours doing each – collectively – daily, to expand my awareness so I can feel and clear doubts and so I can blog mainly from an abundant, generous, relaxed, detached vibe.
Be confident guys. Believe in your blog. Follow these 4 tips to succeed and to become super human confident in your blog.
Should You Search for New Blogging Niche Ideas?
Ask yourself that question and you will get an answer that best suits you.
I went with the blogging tips niche for people who want to circle the globe. But I did not go for this niche to be new, edgy or different. I had lived that life for many years. This made sense for me. I was being genuine, honest and as authentic as one can be. Perfect match. But if I chose a new niche from an energy solely of financial gain, being popular or some other fear-based driver, I would have fallen flat on my blogging face.
Why would you ask someone for new niche ideas? What is the energy or intent there? Do you want the fast track to success? Or are you in a creative space, wishing to do something different? I see searching for new blogging niches as being a waste of time considering the endless, established niches we already have at our disposal. Why waste time and energy searching for some niche if you have all the niches you need right before your cyber eyes? Toss in the fact that you need to research the niche inside-out if you have no prior knowledge and you invest a significant amount of time just to get the blog off of the ground. Makes no sense to me.
What do you love talking about? What is your biggest passion? Start there. Select that niche. You already have an ample supply of information in your noggin and the confidence to discuss the niche in clear, cogent fashion. Who cares if the niche is new or old? The blogging tips niche – my main niche – has been around for a few decades. Who cares? There is nothing new under the sun blogging-wise but thousands of new bloggers join our ranks daily. I also find that I seem to be converting people to blogging the more I persist in creating and connecting, keeping at this gig, being present, helping spread awareness about a pretty cool blogging niche, and, about a pretty cool way to help people and to free yourself.
Go with What You Know
When it comes to picking a blogging niche, go with what you know. Pick a niche inside of your blogging and knowledge wheelhouse because being armed with knowledge, experience, and a pulsating passion for discussing the niche makes you stand out from the blogging crowd in a major league way. I created this blogging course in under a day. Imagine that? 6 hours of recordings and oodles of blogging knowledge, packaged into a course that I created in under 24 hours. Imagine how much I needed to know about blogging and how confident and clear I had to be in myself, to ship in 24 hours? I go with what I know; sure doesn’t hurt me.
But when you pick a new blogging niche you have no knowledge of, it takes you 2 months to create and ship the course. Not good. There is the quick, and the dead, in the blogging world. We need be patient, persistent and generous to succeed online but in the same regard, adding years to your learning curve by deviating from what you know is a foolish blogging idea. Why? Go with what you know to prosper mightily over the long haul and to hit the ground running.
But Is It Worth the Time?
One of my favorite check up blogging activities involves asking if some blogging action is worth the time. Someone may ask me to do something to benefit them. Sometimes, I do it. But often, it is not worth the time I would put into the action. Why? My time is precious. All time is precious. Thinking how a specific action leverages your presence in a specific amount of time gives you clarity in making a decision.
Someone may ask me to guest post on a blog completely out of my niche. Is it worth the time? Almost always, nope. But even if I do it once I likely never do it again because I only have so much time daily to work with, and I cannot spend 1 second trying to connect with an audience who has zero interest in what I have to offer. Just my gig. I have too much to do daily, to do anything otherwise. The secret for any new blogger is to learn this time posture tip and to put it into action before your schedule gets filled with clients and speaking to customers and creating and connecting. New bloggers believe they possess all the time in the world but this ain’t true. New bloggers need be as ruthless with their time or else other people will trample all over their time.
Imagine if someone asks you to self-publish an eBook on an unknown platform because the person enjoys reading eBooks on the platform. Would it be worth the 3 hours it took to write and proofread and ship the eBook to put it on a platform for one person? Nope. Waste of time. But you would be surprised at how many new bloggers or struggling bloggers make this foolish decision, choosing to waste their time for one person with weird, exotic tastes. What WOULD be worth your time? Write the eBook, self-publish on Amazon and gain access to an audience of hundreds of millions of people. This is smart use of your time because 3 hours of work gives you access to millions of people. Do you see why I promote my Amazon eBooks all day long?
Speaking of, buy my eBook:
because this read melds perfectly with the topic of this blog post. We need turn down or release certain online partnerships that do not resonate with our blog, brand, schedule and overall energy. I released a few of these over the years because I was not resonant with the gig. Accepting out of a sense of guilt, or, loss of opportunity-money, would have completely wasted my time. I would have needed to own that one, big time, because if you say “yes” to an opportunity you do not vibe with, you waste time every split second you engage with the business partner, or, in the business opportunity itself.
Check your value filter. What do you most value? Before you do anything with your blog, ensure this activity aligns with your values. I value writing to help people, I value promoting my eBooks and I value promoting my course, too. Which is why you see me guest posting here and on a gazillion other blogs while publishing 5 or more posts to Blogging From Paradise these days. I spend time on what I value to help more folks, to succeed and to have fun enjoying the ride.
Do the same before you decide to engage in any blogging activity.
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