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I always think winter sports whenever I think about this writing technique

I still remember some of the worst falls I had...

We’re chewing through what I’m learning about great writing.

Last week was about hooks

This week is about the second point.

As a reference: 7 parts of great writing:

  1. Powerful hook

  2. Slippery slope formatting

  3. Focused content

  4. Approachable delivery

  5. Reader-focused

  6. Specific writing

  7. Powerful takeaway point

BTW, there’s a good chance that you know all these already from a multitude of other sources if you have a a background in this discipline.

I don’t.

As I said in previous issues, I want to help you shorten your timeframe if you haven’t because this has taken me ages to get into my head.

Anyway, let’s talk about slippery slope formatting…

Image generated using Leonardo.AI.

Skiing or snowboarding?

I’ve been on the ice as far back as I can remember…but as an ice-skater.

I started on the figure skating track before switching to hockey for a few seasons.

To this day, it’s still an exhilarating feeling to be on the rink, and the time is fast approaching when I’ll put my own kids out there to experience it for themselves.

It wasn’t until college that I attempted the slopes of Wintergreen (and yes, in the early 2000’s we could scrape together a trip there).

I chose snowboarding for the challenge of sliding down on my side and for the added option of falling on my back as opposed to faceplanting.

It wasn’t that hard to pick up after years of being comfortable in a cold environment and the sensation of snow and ice beneath my feet.

So why do I share this?

I share it because this is what slippery slope writing does to a reader’s eyes.

The way the text is presented has as much to do with the content as it does the formatting.

Combined with a hook, this sucks them in further and further into the body of the content and promises a satisfying conclusion as they pick up momentum in the message (which we’ll discuss more next week).

How about some examples of what I’m talking about?

Bunny slopes and double blacks

I’m still very much a bunny slope kinda guy when it comes to this skill, but the best kind of slippery slope just rockets you to the bottom of the piece with almost no friction…like a near vertical drop down the side of mountain that requires a helicopter to reach.

As I’m not in any position to be the expert, let’s see what Kieran Drew has to say about it:

Here’s an example of formatting for a slippery slope

  1. Start with a hook

  2. Keep it simple to skim

  3. Keep the reader going with a story

  4. Open up with more detail and variety

  5. Pull the reader along with pacing and style

  6. Close it down with a solid message that stays with them

  7. Make sure that the way you structure it keeps it visually appealing

Again, easy to describe and provide a quick overview, but it’s HARD to get good at!

It takes practice...lots of practice…lots and lots of practice…

Since most skip trying to develop a good hook at first, this is the hurdle they face when they start their writing journey.

The uninitiated will right blocks and blocks of dense prose and descriptive rambling that would make the third little pig salivate if he wanted to build his house on paper.

As an academic writer, I’ve nodded off more than once from my slogs through literature reviews. While it’s par for the course, do academic papers really have to be formatted in the double column style to squeeze in as much information into a tiny space?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that it’s not something you want to get into the habit of doing out in the real world on social media.

I know I haven’t mastered this skill yet but regardless of that, I strive to thank the reader for perusing my content because of the time and effort it takes to go through them (and I thank you naturally for doing so here as well).

As with the previous issue, I’m simply going to point you to some materials that I think are truly valuable:

I’m not doing this to push these products on you (though they are worth the time and money put into them), I’m sharing these because they are the source of my learning, and I’m actively applying these to improve.

I’ve gone through Kieran’s course four times now, and I’m about to go through Erica’s for the second time. If you can make it all stick the first time, I’ll be very impressed.

Closing thoughts

Today’s issue was about what to do with the reader’s attention once they granted it to you: the slippery slope of content.

And if you haven’t already, try to get on a rink or a slope to get a physical sense of what this feels like…that or try to remember a piece of writing that pulled you along with no effort on your part.

As always, thanks for reading this newsletter! If you’re a budding writer, I hope these nuggets serve you well.

Vince

P.S. I’ve recently toyed with the idea of rebranding this newsletter as “Night Writer”…David Hasselhoff anyone? In any case, feedback on this series is always appreciated!