This is just as important as the content (really)

The fourth writing sin in this series

Cellophane…Mr. Cellophane

Welcome to the fourth issue of the series!

I’m committing this sin right now.

You’re reading this, right?

Perhaps you are a gifted writer (and some of you I know it for a fact since I read your work).

Content unfortunately doesn’t get read or viewed if you commit this offense.

But you are too proud to admit it.

In the writing craft, you have seconds (or less) to convince your reader to continue or click away.

Too many licks to get to the center

I have a tendency to make oblique references to various things that I’ve read or consumed throughout my life.

They’re like Easter eggs for you (and I sincerely hope that you’ve caught some of them in my previous issues).

Ok, ok…this one refers to a Tootsie Pop commercial back in the 80s and 90s.

What I’m getting at is that it took too long for the owl to get to the center.

In the end, he just bit into the lollipop.

In the case of sharing our content, we only have moments to get to the center for our reader.

The difference is that if we fail, they don’t bite.

They leave.

There are two critical parts to your writing (three for video).

  1. title or headline

  2. opening statement or hook

For videos, there’s also the thumbnail.

BTW, Netflix changes its thumbnails regularly depending on what it knows about your viewing habits as well.

If you’re a YouTuber, then you’ve known the agony of the process.

It’s no less challenging to master the art of writing the title to the video or the headline to the piece (and the subtitle is just as important).

The vast majority of writers on any social platform suck at this at the beginning.

I’m still pretty terrible at it as well, and it’s why my YouTube gamer channel suffered immensely.

  • It’s why my X posts got very little traction.

  • It’s why my Medium articles have maybe a dozen views.

  • It’s why my Beehiiv issues here don’t get a lot of visibility on the internet as well.

The first step to solving a problem is to admit that you have it.

The second step is to tackle and work on it relentlessly…

Here’s what I’m doing to address it.

Attention…the new currency (among others)

If I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again until it sinks in.

For anyone to consume what you create, you need to grab their attention.

  • In cooking, it’s the aroma of freshly-baked cookies.

  • In furniture stores, it’s the tasteful arrangement and mock ups to help you envision that desk in your office.

  • In content creation, it’s that open loop of curiosity that triggers you to click on the link followed by a compelling opening statement to draw you in.

Learning how to grab attention should be the first thing that we study.

Sadly, it’s always the last (if it’s even touched on at all).

Some people have a gift for just knowing how to push other people’s buttons to get a rise out of them.

There’s some level of “clickbaity-ness” in every piece of content these days.

The easiest place to start studying headlines is to scan news reports.

The front page of Microsoft Edge is great because it gives you loads of content to browse:

An example screenshot I took of mine…

Look at the titles and see which ones grab your attention and ask “why?”.

Another great way to hone your headline and title game is to open up your favorite word editor and toss up 10 different versions of a piece that you want to write.

Ten headlines is the minimum.

Once you have them, throw them into a headline analysis tool like this one and pick out the best two or three to workshop until they’re good.

Use one for your title and the second-best one for your subtitle.

These days, that’s how I do mine…here’s proof:

10 titles. 10 attempts. The next to last was the winner.

It takes anywhere from five to fifteen minutes.

When you scroll through your inbox, I know I’m fighting for your attention.

It took about a year for me to take this seriously.

When it comes to the opening statement, clarity is king.

The challenge is to share your message in a way that makes the reader want to keep going to find out more.

If you’re generous, I have maybe five seconds (tops) to convince you my newsletters are worth your time.

Make it snappy and give a little taste…open with a curiosity loop.

If you’ve read this far, go back to the top and read my opening again.

Have I delivered so far?

If I have for you, then I haven’t Rick-rolled you into reading.

There’s a huge difference.

Grab attention and deliver on it.

Seconds to learn, but a lifetime to master.

What’s next?

Well for me, I’m going to skip next week as it’s mumma’s birthday (not to mention a long weekend for us Americans).

But when I do come back, we’ll discuss the next fun little writing sin that even mastering what we covered today won’t save your reader from.

See you in two weeks!

P.S. We’re painting our house different hues of blue over the next few months.

It’s quite a process to move stuff around, and we’ve only got a few hours as the kids are with the grandparents to do a makeover.

Room by room, we’re making our house our home.

Persistence in your projects is key for any endeavor.