30 January 2008

Thoughts on writing, part 3

So, you have written your masterpiece, and you know it is absolutely brilliant. You know that, should anyone read it, they will instantaneously fall in love with your amazing writing skills. Now you need to make sure someone will read it.

Naming your masterpiece is really easy if you have written a training manual or technical document, because the name should reflect the content. However, when you have written a blog entry or piece of fiction, naming it becomes a little harder. With a blog entry, the title is also the hook that attracts the readers. An interesting title behaves like a flashing neon sign, grabbing attention and drawing readers in.

But, should you give an interesting title to a boring blog entry, you will only scare of readers from future entries, and could even open yourself up to some flaming comments. And a boring blog is a blog where the blog owner fills the blog with copied content and time wasters, and not a single entry has substance whatsoever*. Of course, if you are being paid per click, you really don’t mind the flaming comments, because each comment means eyeballs.

Like with your content, the title of your masterpiece should be appropriate for your target audience, while still providing enough information about the content to grab attention. So, a blog entry about new uses for a spatula could be named ‘New uses for your common, garden variety spatula’. While this title is a little long, it is certainly more interesting and appropriate than ‘Spatulas: a history’, and probably more audience appropriate than ‘Crack whores use spatulas’ – even if the latter will end up getting you more hits. If you are writing a piece on morality for your church newsletter, you may also want to avoid a title like ‘Waiter, there is a penis in my soup’, for example. However, the title would be completely appropriate for a piece of slashy erotica written for your favourite fanfic site.

There is no secret formula for giving your piece a title that will instantly attract a million eyeballs though, I am sorry to tell you. But hopefully, you will know your audience well enough to hook them in every time with a few simple words.

* the beauty of blogging is that, generally, there is no restriction in the kind of content you, as the blog owner, can populate your blog with. This series, however, is aimed at those who want to be considered writers. And yes, there is a difference.

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