Think of hooks as pulling your readers toward you.
There’s also a force pushing them away: skepticism.
Often, skepticism outweighs the strength of your hooks, and readers quit reading early. You can do something about this. You can proactively counter the five types of skepticism within your intro:
- Superficial: This is the skepticism of readers not believing you’ll share things they don’t already know.
Solution: Tease your original insights in your introduction.
- Irrelevant: Readers don’t believe you’ll cover key points they care about.
Solution: List the points you’ll cover.
- Sloppy: Readers don’t want to sit through more bad writing.
Solution: Rewrite your intro to be clear, succinct, and intriguing.
- Implausible: Readers don’t believe you’ll answer your hooks well.
Solution: Make your hooks realistic. Don’t over-sell.
- Untrustworthy: Readers don’t believe you're qualified to write about your topic.
Solution: If you have relevant credentials, share them. If not, make your hooks so captivating that they can't help but continue reading. Make the rest of your post so insightful, logical, and well-researched that they don’t question you further.
An example of combatting skepticism
For an example of an introduction that both hooks you and combats your skepticisms, click the button below to show the first section of my Muscle Guide.
While reading its intro, identify the sentences that establish credibility, novelty, and depth in an attempt to combat your skepticisms.
How to ask for feedback
Let’s return to the topic of asking for feedback. It's the only way to validate that your hooks work.
It's important to ask for a specific type of feedback:
- Ask several people to rate your intro from 1 to 10 on how interested they are in reading more. Also ask, “If you were writing about this topic, what questions would you most want answered?” If their questions captivate you, swap them in.
- To avoid high scores from friends just wanting to be kind, tell them: “Don’t be afraid to give me a low score. The more that people tell me this isn’t good yet, the more I'm motivated to make it even better. You’ll be helping me focus.”
- Keep asking for feedback and rewriting your intro until you reach an average of 8/10. An 8 validates you’ve identified a compelling perspective. It’s a sign that self-doubt is probably unjustified.
Just aim to make your intro interesting enough to get readers wanting more. Don't chase perfection.
This handbook is a first draft. Please share your feedback here as you read it.
Knowing you've found the right topic
The best topic to write about is the one you can’t not write about.
It’s the idea bouncing around your head that urges you to get to the bottom of it.
You can trigger this state of mind with a two-part trick.
First, choose an objective for your article:
- Open people’s eyes by proving the status quo wrong.
- Articulate something everyone’s thinking about but no one is saying. Cut through the noise.
- Identify key trends on a topic. Use them to predict the future.
- Contribute original insights through research and experimentation.
- Distill an overwhelming topic into something approachable. (This guide.)
- Share a solution to a tough problem.
- Tell a suspenseful and emotional story that imparts a lesson.
Now pair that objective with a motivation:
- Does writing this article get something off your chest?
- Does it help reason through a nagging, unsolved problem you have?
- Does it persuade others to do something you believe is important?
- Do you obsess over the topic and want others to geek out over it too?
That’s all that's needed: Pair an objective with a motivation. Now you have something to talk about.
Next, let's figure out what you're going to say.
Where are you in the writing process?
This page explained the importance of a captivating intro, and how hooks are the backbone of an intro. By generating hooks, you also discover what to write about.
The next page explains how to explore answers to the hooks you raised.
Here's the writing process you'll follow:
- Choose a topic
- Write your intro, and use it to brainstorm talking points
- Get feedback on your intro ← You're here
- Generate insights on your topic ← The next page covers this
- Rewrite for clarity, succinctness, and intrigue
- Cycle between rewriting, resting, and receiving feedback
- Copy edit for grammar, word choice, and flow
If you don't want to keep reading
I'm running an experiment. If you've read this page and don't want to continue reading, please Tweet me why: @Julian. It's fun and helpful to hear from you.