A key aspect of writing for the 21st century, applicable to non fiction and fiction, is grabbing the reader’s attention.
The number of distractions people have these days was covered in my last post. Here are some techniques for grabbing the reader up front:
1. Establish credibility. If you’re being published by a major publishing house this will help, but even if you’re not you can put your key credential up front. If you spent 20 years as a gardener and you’re writing a book on gardening I will want to know that. ‘Gardening from 20 years experience” is a good title in my opinion. So don’t be shy. Tell us why we should read your book. And tell us quickly.
2. For non fiction, make it practical. I am writing a guide to social media and making it practical is a key consideration. Two of the top five Sunday Times non fiction books this week are practical in some way.
3. Other favorite themes for non fiction, which grab readers are war, for the armchair fighters among us, violent crimes, to make us glad we’re safe, and cooking/homecraft. These areas make up most the remainder of the top non fiction slots.
4. Start in the middle of the action. This standard piece of advice for fiction writers, to cut out the long preamble, to go straight into the action, is also what non fiction readers want these days. In non fiction we want a quick way to move to the key areas of our interest. So let us get to the heart of it, fast.
5. Make a bold statement. In commercial fiction there is often a big scene right at the beginning. This could be a murder, a kidnapping, an interview or a disagreement. The purpose of the scene is to hook the reader in. Similarly, in non fiction you can make a bold statement. If you have something new to say offer it up early, then let us read the rest of your book to find out what’s next.
Digital, whether through blogs, Twitter, Facebook or video/audio are all vitally important to success these days. Whatever you are writing, consider how you can build an online presence which will use the skills you have. The demand for online interaction is high and likely to get even higher. Publishing and being successful with just a printed book is becoming less and less likely.
Other aspects of grabbing your reader’s attention include titles and keywords. Here is a post I wrote, on my social media blog, explaining key words in simple terms.
Beyond key words is the whole area of titles. This is an art, which includes many elements difficult to distill. Taste, fashion and culture are all part of the choosing of titles. My suggestion is for you to consider the most popular current titles in your genre, then to create something totally unique for yourself, which acknowledges what works, yet does not copy it. Not an easy task for fiction.
For non fiction there are staple titles for guides which include fragments such as “How to” – “The Secret of” – “A Way to” – “Get rid of” and words such as quick, solve, easy and free. Again, I recommend looking at the best-selling titles in your area and also to consider what grabs you when you read those titles.
Having participant voices, explaining that you will be reflecting the views of people involved directly in what you are writing about, is my final piece of advice for writing to grab your reader’s attention. It may not be necessary to live in a slum for years to write about poverty, but it is a real way to get attention. Many people want to know what it’s like for people whose voices we don’t normally hear. That in itself is a good thing. Exposing what really goes on in the world is one of the reasons people write.
Telling stories, whether true or imagined, allows us an entrance to worlds we would never otherwise experience.
I wish you all the best in creating yours, and attracting your reader’s attention. And I hope, in the end, we can all do some good with what we create.
Here is a link to the next post on theme, the most important part of writing IMO. And for a previous first post in this series, go here for the post on modern distractions, on writing with accuracy, being fantastic, sensuous and gripping.
This post is the second on a voyage exploring the world of getting your writing noticed.
Please leave feedback, make suggestions and engage. This series of posts needs you to get involved to make them fly.
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The next post, on Theme, a critical issue, is already up and available here.
Here are some links to useful information for writers:
socialmediaisdynamite.blogspot.com for my blog on using social media to get noticed.
The reality of being published – 2 months after my first book came out all over the UK I wrote this post
The Accessible Author – how the author’s role is changing
Frantic Editing – a post on the editing process my first novel went through in the summer of 2011
Finally, a big thank you to all my readers, everyone who comments and everyone who visits. I hope you find this information useful on your journey to getting your writing noticed.
Please reblog, link to, Tweet, post or mention this post. There are links to do that above and mainly below.
This is the first in a series of posts about getting our writing noticed. All seven posts are now available on this site.
I propose to cover the following items in turn:
1. Writing fiction for the 21st century. Making our writing accurate, fantastic, sensuous and gripping. The evolution of fiction.
2. Writing non-fiction for the 21st century. Grabbing the reader up front, digital first, key words & participant voices.
3. Theme – the make or break element.
4. Pace – keeping our writing moving.
5. Emotion – making the reader feel something.
6. Meaningful social media – building a real following on social media.
7. Advanced social media for writers – what works and what doesn’t.
This series of posts is a free of charge service. If you have thoughts or comments on any post, or questions, please submit them at any time.
The first post is now up and available here.
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What is The Istanbul Puzzle?
The Istanbul Puzzle is a thriller/mystery novel, first published January 19, 2012. It's the first in a series of novels featuring Sean Ryan and Isabel Sharp, being published by Harper Collins and a series of other publishers around the world. The Istanbul Puzzle starts when Sean discovers a friend and colleague has been beheaded in Istanbul.
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