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)
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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.
Do You Need to Make a Huge Blogging Shift?
Sometimes, you get bogged down with your blogging routine. Routines feel comfortable, right?
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But blogging is a feeling game like life is a feeling game. All flows based on your emotions. If you feel really good – first – then you take good feeling blogging actions and over time, with patience and trust, see good feeling blogging results.
Unfortunately, most humans give almost zero thought to their emotions before diving in to a blogging routine. Bloggers believe you need to do something or follow a set routine to succeed, to drive traffic, and to make money. Day after day, year after year, most bloggers follow a routine without giving zero thought to how they are feeling, if they enjoy blogging, if they have fun following the routine, and if they feel detached, patient and trusting in the process.
This is the only reason why as of about 7 years ago, 80% of bloggers never made more than $100 during their blogging careers. If 8 out of 10 humans can not make $100 through blogging over 1, 2, 5 or 10 years, 8 out of 10 bloggers clearly give zero thought to their feelings BEFORE blogging. Feel bad, and you see no money. But those 2 out of 10 bloggers who feel really good make lots of money over the long haul.
Maybe it is time to make a shift, guys.
2-3 months ago I made one shift. 1 month ago I made an even bigger shift; quite huge, for me. But what I did differently made almost zero difference. How I chose to feel marked the big shift, then, I moved into different blogging actions.
For example, I faced some deep fears, felt the fears, and instantly, after feeling pretty crappy for a short time, I felt better and better. Choosing to face fear, clear it, and feel better, helped me see things clearly. I tired of my blogging schedule, my social sharing groups, blog commenting and heavy cross promotion. In truth, I hated it. I did have some fun with each for a while but the passion long left me. Since how you feel before and while you blog means everything, my mindset-feeling shift told me I’d have so much fun guest posting. So as of about 3-4 weeks ago – maybe less – all I do is guest posting because I have fun guest posting and guest posting comes easily to me.
Making the shift involved facing deep fears of failure, loss and struggle. I had to feel the fear of letting go lifeless activities for me – at the time – to clear out the fear, and properly release these strategies, and to move forward so I could feel good, then, decide what blogging actions would feel fun and easy and enjoyable to me.
All shifts happen emotionally first, by your choice. After feeling some muck and then feeling better, you clearly and intuitively feel through the next fun-feeling, enjoyable step.
What About You?
Do you need to make any shifts with your blogging campaign? Or do you need to make one big, sweeping, all-encompassing shift?
Getting caught up in blogging routines feels comfortable, familiar and safe, sometimes. But do you feel good before you begin the routine? Do you feel good working the routine? Do you feel detached, relaxed, trusting and like you are cared for, and prospering, while following your blogging routine?
Be honest to make a necessary shift. If you love following your routine, cool. Proceed. But most humans are taught – me included – to follow some routine (no matter how you feel) to get something, specifically money, so you can avoid failure, struggle, poverty, going hungry, illness, and embarrassment. This is exactly why most humans work jobs. Follow a routine to get money even if you feel really bad or terrible following the work-routine; aka, even if you hate your job and it feels lifeless, or soul-less.
May be time for a big shift guys.
Why Comedians Teach You a Powerful Blogging Lesson
Last night I saw a funny comedian perform in Atlantic City.
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Chris Delia charmed the audience with his silly, somewhat absurd, level of humor.
He also explained how comedians need thick skin to become successful. Humor is a very personal, subjective topic. Some people find some comedians hysterical but never laugh at other comedians. As you imagine, bombing feels terrible to most comedians. At least until they develop a thick skin.
I once read how Kevin Hart often waited until 1 AM to work an open mic. Sometimes he waited until 1 AM and the place closed down so he never got the chance to do his set. Imagine how thick-skinned you need to be to not let that bother you? Is it any wonder why he is now worth $150 million? He became immune to criticism, failure and rejection. As a matter of fact, after developing a thick skin, he likely did not see criticism, failure or rejection.
All those evenings of 1 AM sets in front of 1-2 lifeless people or all those nights of being told to go home at 1 AM after waiting for hours to do his act purged the fear of criticism, failure and rejection from his being. Void of these fears, he rose up to being one of the most famous, wealthy and powerful comedians on earth.
Bloggers Need Thick Skin
I once promoted a course to the tune of 8000 page views before I sold one copy. Did I quit promoting the course? No. I developed a thick skin during the process. I did not see 8000 rejections. I only saw meeting and helping more human beings through my blog. Even during moments when I felt like giving up I trusted in myself and believed in the blogging process. Quitting and failure were no options for me. But in the same vein, I needed to be thick skinned to see through criticism, rejection and failure.
I needed to be aware of opportunity amid the appearance of nobody reading my blog. Toss in being patient and persistent in helping folks during my most trying times and you have a pretty thick-skinned individual.
Do Not Care What People Think
Chris Delia shared how he could care less what people thought about him. He dressed down a few hecklers during the show.
Comedians succeed because they care less about what people think of their acts; being heckled, ignored or criticized had nothing to do with their belief in self and their belief in their comedic style.
As a blogger, give no thought to what people think of you. Guess what? You cannot control your reputation. No matter how long and hard you work in life to maintain a positive reputation, you can never physically control what people think of you. I am largely a nice guy 99.99% of the time yet some people genuinely hate me. I cannot control their demons. Plus I know we see the world as we see ourselves so if someone hates themselves I cannot do anything about that self-loathing.
Focus on yourself. Focus on what you think about yourself because this is the only thing that matters. Being comfortable in your own skin aligns you with loving, loyal followers who appreciate you for who you are. Let go everybody else. Critics form an energetic yoke if you care about their thoughts but dissolve into thin air when you could care less about what they think of you.
Bloggers become successful because these few folks who have thick skins shine brightly in a world of thin-skinned bloggers who fear criticism, judgment and rejection. The few who step it up do wonders because we all want a piece of free spirits who march to the beat of their own drum without caring what people think, say or do, in response or reaction to them simply being themselves.
Do You Have an Exit Plan for Your Blog?
This past week I ceased sharing posts in blogging tribes.
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I finally got it; I joined tribes because I feared unless I shared other blogger content, nobody would read my content. I feared if nobody shared my content, nobody reads my content, and I needed to share other blogger content to effectively influence bloggers and people to share mine. Ouch.
As you can imagine, I put in many long, hard hours working a job, NEEDING to be online to succeed with my blog. Rewind. Working a job. Did you see this phrase? I worked a job. I needed to be online to succeed. Largely, at least. Does that sound like a business owner to you? Does that sound like leveraging? Sure I drive some passive traffic and profits to my blog but being honest, I largely worked a job and had a job for much of my 10 years online, and I did not have a pure business so I could step away from my blog and business for months, at a time. Or, forever.
I have more of an exit plan now. I have a blogging business. I am writing my tail off to be in as many spots as possible without relying on sharing tribes and other groups that require me to be online, to social share posts, so other people can social share my posts, so I get traffic and profits. I began to think; what am I doing? I mean, if you love joining social sharing tribes, do it. Nice friendship builder. But you need to have some exit plan with your business and need to see how you can step away one day so it is about a 100% passive income machine – or, so you can sell it at a tidy profit – in order for you to be a free entrepreneur, versus a bound employee.
I am having so much fun writing blog posts and guest posts daily. Plus it is easy peasy. Every piece of content is forever, unless all these blogs vanish or get closed out by all these bloggers. Fat chance. Plus I can drive to Atlantic City today with my wife and enjoy a show this afternoon into evening and my business will still grow from a heavy passive element. Even though I am online writing this morning, all my blog posts and guest posts serve as a passive promotional army for the Blogging From Paradise blog and brand.
Imagine me trying to social share other blogger posts as I am driving down the Parkway? Not happening.
Network. Have fun making friends. Build a rock solid foundation for your blog. But eventually, evolve into someone who leverages your presence so you work a business, not a job. Any strategy 100% dependent on you being online, sharing blogger content so other bloggers share your content and boost your success, is a job, not a business, because you are tied to the online world and have no exit strategy, and a light passive element to your blogging business.
Gradually place less emphasis on networking online. Focus on purely passive elements, like writing more blog posts and guest posts, which last forever. Humans change, quit, fail, change tastes; you never want to be at the mercy of the fickle human beast. Unless all blogs close down, all of those blog posts and guest posts you wrote are pretty much forever.
Focusing a bit more on things – things helping people – helps you leverage your blog and business powerfully so you can make an exit plan and step away from your blogging business for 1, 2 or 3 months. I know bloggers who take vacations for months; everything keeps growing money-wise because they leverage, and are not dependent on people for cash flow, because their system creates the cash flow.
Trust in the process plays a big role too.
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