Something got me thinking. We are constantly bombarded with titles like How To Be A Professional Writer and 5 Ways to Make Money Writing Online This Month, but a lot of those pieces are missing the mark. What they tell you is how to do what everyone else does. Or to do what they do.
But that’s representational. And what you really want is aspirational. And possibly inspirational. When it comes to blogging, which is what we are doing here, there is really only one thing that you must do in order to be consistently successful. You have to deliver on what you promise to.
When it comes to blogging about blogging or writing about writing, it can be even harder to deliver. Because it’s so patently obvious that half the people writing these articles are doing it for clicks, claps, followers, hearts, or whatever small sprinkles of technologically simple love that makes them feel good.
But if you want to be a good blogger. One that readers trust. One that develops a fan base. You have to deliver on the promise you make in your headline. Because if you don’t, you’re just smoke and mirrors. And the smoke fades away and when it does, it’s just you in that mirror. Only you.
“Good storytelling delivers on its promise.”
— Neil Gaiman, from his MasterClass, The Art of Storytelling
A headline is really a title, but because of the way the Internet promotional cycle works, our titles often appear more like a headline. An introduction to something, slathered in between 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Cast of Full House and If You Liked This, You Will Definitely Like This.
Your headline isn’t just a way to get people to click on your story. It’s the way you set up your story. It’s an introduction to you as a person. Because your headline is a promise to the reader that the forthcoming article will deliver.
You can’t control whether they enjoy reading the piece or not, but a reader will notice right away if the headline was a ruse and the story a fallacy. And every reader will take note of that writer and blacklist them in their mind.
Because if we choose to blog, we should have complete respect for anyone who chooses to read something we send out. The digital landscape is vast. Having someone, anyone, click on anything we write is fantastic. If we think we are too deserving of e-love from strangers, we may spend more time on our headline than the accompanying story. And if we do that, we have failed our readers. And ourselves.
Your headline is a promise because the only way to succeed as a creative is to get people to trust you. Not like with their wallet or babysitting their kids, but in your process. That your process is true. And you. That you are your process and you take pride in what you do. When you create a title, it’s because it serves a bite-size morsel of what’s to come.
The proof is your writing, but also how your writing develops naturally from the title. And it’s not really about how you think they are connected. It’s about how a reader will flow effortlessly from the title to the text. The seamless transition from headline to story is all you can hope for. That is if you are concerned with this type of thing.
There is a reason that headlines were coined clickbait. The goal was a click because the click generated revenue. But on most of the sites we blog on, a click doesn’t generate anything for us. It doesn’t get us a fan. It doesn’t get us a clap. It doesn’t get us paid. So why is everyone talking about clickbait headlines online when the click is wholly irrelevant?
More so than other avenues on the Internet, here is where you definitely need to make sure the proof is in the pudding. That you can back up your boast with skill. If you tell us you have 5 Ways To Change Your Life Today, you better really have them. Because if not, we will never read anything you write again.
Because we can’t trust you. You didn’t deliver on your headline. And therefore, you didn’t deliver on your implied promise. You don’t have the proof, in your writing, that can gracefully follow the way you introduced us to the piece. So you don’t have anything. You just have pudding.
It all comes together when writers think of the headline and the story as one entity. Just like how good movie previews make you want to see the movie, a good headline makes you want to read the story. But if the preview is good and then the movie sucks, you will always remember that it didn’t live up to the billing. When it all comes together, we live up to our own billing.
Think of your relationship with your readers as an implied contract. You, the writer, cast your words off into the void and onto the screen in hopes that someone reads them. And in so doing, you open yourself up to potential criticism and applause. But it’s not a one-way contract.
They, the readers, agree to read your writing, but only when the proof is in the pudding. And if it’s not, they are entitled to revoke their choice to read you and end the contract between reader and (failed) writer forever.
It all comes together when our readers know that we care because we took the time to build an effortless transition from what we told them we were going to write and what we wrote. This is good blogging.