Sunday, March 06, 2022

Hooking Your Reader

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Last week a friend who purchased a couple of my books made some comments on Facebook to show me how she read those books. My Billy Graham biography which she read in one evening. Then my Book Proposals That Sell, she had planned to skim the contents and pick and choose what to read. But she was reading every page. Such reader feedback is important to every writer. When I read it, I knew that these books were achieving a basic for every piece of writing: you must hook the reader and pull them into your writing.
Each of us have a wide variety of media (incljuding print) which pulls for our attention. Everyone has limited time to read. It's the task of the writer to pull that reader into the material through a story or a series of questions or pointed content. I want to give you some ideas how to do this basic writing skill. In my journalism classes, this skill is called “Hooking Your Reader.” There are probably other names this skill is called as well but I'm referring to the conscious awareness of what draws your reader to your writing. As you write, you need to be aware of the power of word choice and sentence construction which could make a difference whether your words are read or ignored.
From my years of writing, I want to give you five aspects to consider:
1. It takes practice. The writing world has a strange mixture between natural talent and a taught skill. Each of us can learn how to write a query letter or a book proposal. But that natural talent you have to bring to the table. None of us know if you have this talent or not unless you are using it. There are many places to write—not just books but magazines, online publications and many other places. In the first chapter of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, I wrote about the early days of my writing and give a series of possible places to publish your writing. If you haven't seen this list, I encourage you to follow the link and explore it. There is no opt-in and this link will go right to it). What actions are you taking to practice your writing?
2. Use Stories. Everyone loves a good story to pull or hook you into the writing. These stories can be your personal stories or you can tell someone else's story. The skill of good storytelling is something again that will come with practice and a skill you can learn to include elements like dialogue, description, and other elements. A good story will keep your reader moving forward through your words.
3. Write in the Active Tense. It may have been years since you thought about tense in grammar but this element makes a difference whether people keep reading or not. Years ago when I was doing academic writing, I wrote many passive sentences (a pattern for this type of writing). Active tense pulls the reader into your work. Make sure every sentence is in the active tense.
4. Seize Every Opportunity. You need to learn to hook your reader in every type of writing, whether long or short. If you are writing back cover copy for your book, hook the reader. If you are writing a social media post, hook your reader.  Every writer needs to learn  the variety in their skills and take every opportunity to practice this skill. 
5. As you write, always focus on the reader. Some writers lose sight of who will be reading their work—readers. Always keep this reader in mind as you write for clarity and also to keep them turning pages.
What methods do you use to hook your reader and keep them reading? Let me know in the comments below.
My Articles in Other Places
Each month I write for a couple of other online locations. Here's some recent articles on other topics:
Do you know your competition? Every author should know their competition as a part of their business plan--even if they self-publish. 
Every Writer Needs A Safety Net In the ups and downs of writing, I encourage every writer to have a safety net and you can read this piece to learn the details. 

My Speaking Schedule 
I'll be speaking at a few conferences in the coming months. Follow this link to learn the details. Hope to see you in person at an event. 

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