I remember a refrigerator magnet my mom used to have that read, “They only notice if you don’t do it.” The magnet was about cleaning the house. If the house is clean, no one notices, but if it’s dirty, then it’s painfully obvious to everyone.
That’s what proper grammar, spelling and punctuation in your blog is like, which I wrote about last week. It’s basic and the lack of it will make you lose credibility. But it won’t make your writing more interesting or readable. Creating text that keeps the reader interested is a totally different story altogether.
An editor told me once that if the first line of a story doesn’t grab him, then he won’t consider publishing it. That is excellent advice. One of James Altucher’s many writing tips is that when you write a story, go back and remove the first and last paragraphs. That way you will skip your unnecessary introduction and get right into the meat of the story.
A technique you will see in a lot of modern literature (as well as movies) is to start your story somewhere in the middle, at a crucial point of action. Then you can go back in time to give background to the story. But wherever you start the story, be sure to have an interesting first line, one that will make the reader want to continue reading.
Another tip is to write with a specific person in mind. Imagine that person is sitting in front of you and you are telling them the story. First of all, it will make your writing more like how you speak – simple and direct, without too many fancy words that really only have a grammatical function.
Secondly, it will give your story an emotional foundation. The story you tell your mom is different than the story you tell your friend. The story you tell your wife or husband is a lot different than the story you tell someone you are trying to seduce.
Good writing doesn’t have to be fancy, but direct and clear. Next week we’ll get into the quite complicated concept of “show, don’t tell.”