There is no more pleasant sensation than when a good book falls into our hands and we can no longer leave it until we have devoured it completely.
It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, a special chemistry between you and the writer starts to form. You feel you both have a lot in common.
The writer lets you get into her characters’ lives – or her own life – and when you finish the book you feel a kind of emptiness, because you simply miss them.
It seems to you that this book was written for you and that some of the characters’ struggles have resonated with your own feelings.
Writing is a way of transferring enthusiasm, both in novels but also when we write to sell.
Whether it’s an article for your blog or the copy for your website, your words have to evoke feelings, they have to grab the reader tightly so she will continue reading.
If you want to learn how to write really well and make people want to read everything you write, you need to insufflate your words with life.
You have to make time stand still and make that person, who has started reading your article or home page, forget that she is in a hurry.
Contrary to what many people think, nowadays people still like to read.
Why do you think then so much content is created on the Internet and millions of books are still published?
The reality is that people only read what interests them.
Here I’m going to show you some of the techniques that good writers use to make your writing interesting and captivate the reader.
I feel really sorry when I read blogs from people who have taken the time to write them – including statistics, quoting sources, using correct language – but they turn out to be soporific.
Even for those that are the target audience who are supposed to understand the technical words.
People don’t read them because they are drab, they don’t excite, and most importantly, they don’t get the reader involved.
To get people interested in your article you have to bring your words to life.
And how do you do that?
By describing real situations that serve as examples so that the reader can picture the scene and easily get involved.
Here’s an example.
Years ago I decided to polish my creative writing skills by signing up for an online writing school based in Madrid.
I won’t say any names so that no one is offended.
I tried to follow the classes and read all the material they sent us before doing the exercises.
After 2 months I quit.
The texts they sent me were boring the hell out of me. They were flat, insipid, they didn’t contain a vivid language and therefore I couldn’t engage.
So I decided, as I’ve done so many times in my life, to learn to write better on my own by reading the best books on writing that I could find.
One of them was “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott.
This book teaches you writing methods by mixing the technical part with the author’s life experience.
It’s full of vivid moments that let you peek in, and that make you smile and get excited.
For example, the bird scene that has stuck in my mind and that gives the book its title.
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was 10 at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was sitting at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
This scene stuck with me and it comes to my mind every time I get overwhelmed with some task. I think of the birds and I say to myself, come on Elena, bird by bird.
With this scene Lamott manages to put us in the right situation and so we perfectly get the message she wants to convey.
We can almost feel her brother’s anguish, since we have lived through similar moments in childhood.
In order to grab your audience’s attention you should share concrete moments, so they’ll feel engage and will forget that they have an endless list of things to do.
This technique can also be useful when you write the About Us section of your company.
The Word Man is a British copywriter that I admire a lot.
This guy is a storytelling wizard and tells you his story in a fun and original way that makes you want reading till’ the end, like going down on a slide.
This is how he starts:
“Adding extra to ordinary since 1988
Most six-year-olds in September 1988 were still playing with their own snot. Not me. I’d just put together a ten-game unbeaten Scrabble run against my dad, who’d only taught me how to play that very month. And the more we played, the more my vocabulary grew. ‘Bazookas’ across two triple word scores was my personal zenith. By junior school I was unstoppable. It wasn’t long before I was correcting teachers’ blackboard spelling and being the annoying kid who’d pull you up if you wrote their instead of there.”
Anyone could have said “Since I was a kid, I’ve always been very good at spelling” but The Word Man tells you an engaging story that makes you smile and forget that you’ve got some spaghetti cooking in the kitchen that are going to get mushy.
Write crystal clear
In order for the people who have landed on your website to get hooked on your words you have to write in a transparent way.
The reader doesn’t have to spend energy trying to figure out what you want to say, all the energy has to be concentrated on reading on to find out more.
One way to write in a clear way is to ask yourself if you would repeat that same sentence in a conversation.
For example, someone asks you, “What do you do?”
And you reply, “I apply Cognitive Sophrology techniques to my clients“.
Do you think that person understood anything?
I don’t think so.
But if you say – “I help people who are going through a hard time turning around their negative thoughts and making the best of them” – that person will have a better idea of what you do and you won’t sound like a walking encyclopaedia.
You need to write as you speak.
Imagine you are talking to a person who has come to your website and who wants to know more about how you can help them solve a problem.
Anticipate the questions that pop into his head at the points where there may be some doubts since you are talking about something more technical.
The same goes for your blog posts.
In order to make sure they are clear, ask yourself before you sit down to write “What do I want with this article?” “I want the person reading it to have a better idea of how to write in a more engaging way”.
Having your goal clear in your mind will help you with the structure and also to better convey the message.
Rhythm is one of the most important factors when writing.
A text is like a melody, with its highs and lows, with faster and slower moments.
When you change the rhythm you break the monotony and turn the reading into a pleasure, like listening to a song we like.
An example of a text with an excellent rhythm and which is also one of the most famous opening lines in the literature world is this one:
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style”.
Yes, it’s Lolita by Nabokov.
Note the combination of short sentences with some longer ones.
Also the questions that he himself answers, a method that the Spanish writer Fernando Aramburu also uses often in his great novel Patria.
Rhythm is the colophon of your text. It will transform your post from just another post to one which it’s worth stopping and reading until the very last word.
Recommended Reading How to write in a clear and engaging way