You eagerly open your blog’s analytics dashboard. Scanning the graphs, your heart sinks. Less than 10 visits per day?!
With a deep breath, you pop over to yesterday’s post, scrolling down to the comments section. Only one comment, from your mom.
Scanning the social media buttons for tweets…tweets? Tweets anyone?
Your posts may be well written, and you may be a wonderful expert in your field. But chances are your writing isn’t interesting enough.
And soon enough, the blog police are going to show up at your digital door and shut the boring thing down. But before they do, take a page from writers toiling away in the ‘creative writing’ realm.
Fiction writers know how to keep readers engaged. There’s nothing vague, abstract or didactic about a good novel. A gripping story grabs you from the first sentence and infiltrates your psyche until the very last word.
Nab these five tactics from fiction writers to make sure your posts magnetize your readers’ attention – and keep them coming back for more.
I’ll list them here and then delve in more deeply below.
- Use specific language
- Tell stories
- Seduce with verbs
- Open with drama
- Bring on the conflict
Use specific language
Conceptual or abstract writing can quickly lead your readers into a daze. Topics in my niche – change, empowerment, personal growth – can be difficult to make specific.
Try this: write your blog post as you normally would. Print it up and circle any abstract language. Replace with more specific phrases. Here’s an example:
Abstract: During the class, my students experience great transformation.
Specific: During my online writing class, my students build writing into their weekly schedule, focus on a specific project and after a few weeks of dedication to their writing, feel more confident and energized.
Specificity is what makes the next strategy work every time.
One of my clients said she wanted to write about creativity on her blog. I stifled a yawn and asked what she wants her blog to achieve. Soon we were both energized when we realized that 90% of her content was going to be ‘before and after’ case studies of the jewelry she’d redesigned for them.
You’ve heard it everywhere: story, story, story. Stories engage the reader because they’re concrete and offer the reader an experience they can imagine and participate in.
Experiment with story in several ways. List the stories you find yourself repeating over and over. Next to the stories, jot down themes or lessons from each story that relate to your blog’s topic.
Reverse this by itemizing your themes or post ideas. Then look to clients, case studies or real life stories that can illustrate these points. This approach usually works better for me but see what suits you. It may take some time and consideration, so be patient.
Story! Much more interesting than theory.
Seduce with verbs
Verbs are so sexy! A well-chosen verb can drive a limp sentence and the rest of the paragraph straight to the edge of a cliff, leaving you panting, sweaty and wanting more.
Go through your latest post and circle all the verbs. Now get your handy thesaurus – I swear by the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus – okay, I love it, I cuddle it, I sleep with it – ahem. Search and replace your placid verbs with words that add verve to your prose.
If you can ditch all forms of the verb ‘to be’, more power to you. I don’t strictly adhere to this rule, but I do seek to use this verb sparingly.
Open with drama
When writing my novel, I came across a book called The First Five Pages. The author, Noah Lukeman, emphasized that it is mission critical to grab the reader in those first pages.
As time went on, the stakes (and amount of reading available) increased until writing advice insisted that the first five paragraphs, nay, five sentences – no! – the first five words of the novel had to reach out and grab the reader – no wasting time.
And for a blog piece, which is likely skimmed online, that dramatic opening is even more important.
Go for the gusto right away. You may draft the entire post and then circle back to the beginning to make sure the opening zings.
Bring on the Conflict
Here’s the biggest problem bloggers face: their posts are too nice. In life, we tend to be conflict averse, playing nicely with others.
But ‘nice’ is death to prose. Every kind of writing needs to bristle with tension. Once I ‘got’ this for my novel, writing became much more fun. I learned how to throw obstacles in my protagonist’s path, and to keep ratcheting up the tension in each scene.
I became adept (and happily so, meany me!) at making my character internally squeal like a pig. Of course in real life I play nicely.
When writing your blog posts, what’s the central conflict or problem? What is your solution for this problem? Every post should have at least one conflict.
How many of these tactics from fiction are you currently using? Which tactics are you using that needs a refresher?
Steal all five tactics from fiction writers and watch your blogging become its own bestseller.
Blogger, novelist, poet…all kinds of writers can get more traction with their writing in my online class Make Writing a Happy Habit. Make writing an integral part of your life…and love it. Next session starts October 29th, 2012.