The blank page stares back at you. Suddenly, smacking your head against a wall sounds like a good idea. You rock back and forth. You rub your chin and start picking at cuticles. Maybe you crack your knuckles. And the minutes tick by as you ponder the meaning of writer’s block.
How do I start this? Maybe it’s not going to work after all. Bad idea. No, it’s a great idea. But where do I even begin? And I have to finish this blog post by tomorrow!
Finally, you ditch the introduction, develop an outline, and dig in to the meat of the post. Finally, the dam breaks. Finally, the ideas flow. Finally, your blog post takes shape.
Hours later, head smacking once again seems reasonable. The post is solid, and your introduction is brilliant. But they don’t match. And now you have to tweak the entire post to tie it all together.
Don’t you just wish your writing would flow smoothly from point A to point B? Without the stress and the torture?
An outline and some brainstorming is a great place to start. But what about introductions? Isn’t there some trick to those?
An introduction announces the topic, the perspective, and the writer’s expertise.
It also sets the tone and the attitude. Plus, like a road sign, it tells readers what to expect. Bumps ahead. Rocky road. Slow going. Or a smooth highway undulating for miles through awe-inspiring scenery.
And it can make or break a blog post.
All introductions serve a common purpose.
Blog post introductions should introduce the topic of the post—most of the time. They should be empathetic and focused on the reader’s needs, concerns, or problems—most of the time. And they should draw readers in to read more—every time.
But there’s no single best way to do it. And awesome introductions come in all shapes and sizes—they’re limited only by the writer’s imagination.
Put an end to introduction anxiety with these 10 strategies and examples.
Inject your own brand of humor, creativity, or resourcefulness into any of these tactics. And bookmark this page, print it, or download it as a PDF so you can return to it next time you’re stuck. (Use one of the two icons at the end.) Crafting smart, snappy introductions just might get a little bit easier.
1. Start with a fascinating or little-known fact or statistic.
Make it shocking, surprising, unusual, controversial, or entirely off the wall.
Did you know mommy elephants are pregnant for almost two years? Hard to imagine, but it’s true. Those adorable baby elephants need 22 months to mature before they can live outside the womb. But creating a thing of beauty and intelligence—yes, elephants are smart—takes time.
Shouldn’t you give your novel the same dedication? These 10 tips will help.
2. Ask an emotionally loaded question.
Get to the heart of the matter—the pain, the worry, the heartache you know your readers suffer from. And let them know you’ve been there, too.
Do you secretly worry your writing just plain old sucks? Some days you know it’s good and so much better than most stuff you read online. Other days, it’s flat. Boring. Worthless. And nobody compliments you, nobody tells you you’re good, and nobody’s paying you money for it. Maybe you should just quit.
A lot of writers have felt like that. Even famous writers have their down days. And I sure have, no doubt about it. But don’t quit. Try this instead.
3. Ask a factual question.
A factual question can trigger emotional responses that make readers want to keep on reading. It doesn’t address emotions directly, however.
How much money did you expect to earn from blogging this year? Or any year? If you’re like many bloggers, you started out with high hopes, but you’ve barely earned enough to keep going.
Now let me ask you a different question. What did you plan on earning? Not hope, but plan? Big difference. Let me explain.
4. Lead in with a funny or surprising personal story your readers can relate to.
Sharing a slice of your world almost always captivates readers. And comparing an intangible reality with something more concrete—in this case emotional pain vs. physical pain—can help readers relate to your subject more easily.
You never forget how to ride a bike, right? Wrong. Within a month after I bought my bike, I flew over the handlebars not once but twice, and it took a year for my knees to stop hurting.
Writer rejection can hurt just as bad only it’s emotional, not physical. But unlike crushed kneecaps or torn ligaments, our attitudes determine how bad the pain is and how quickly we heal.
Here’s how 10 successful writers deal with rejection. They don’t have any magic healing balm for you, but if you look at rejection differently, your boo-boos will heal a lot faster.
5. Make a funny, outrageous, shocking, or straightforward comparison to illustrate your point.
Celebrities, politicians, well-known business people, or the unusually wealthy are great subjects. Highlight their personalities, work habits, or other qualities to paint a picture.
Did you know Apple co-founder Steve Jobs practiced poor personal hygiene? In other words, dude smelled bad. Relieving stress by soaking his feet in company toilets sure didn’t help matters. And weird eating habits? He had ‘em. Carrots and apples were his go-to for weeks at a time. No wonder he turned orange.
Writers can be pretty quirky, too. But I’ll bet your quirks won’t even seem unusual after you learn about these famous writers’ strange habits.
6. Start with an anecdote.
An anecdote is a short narrative that’s funny or interesting but also suggests some deeper meaning.
When I was a kid, the late actor Jack Palance was one of my closest neighbors. He wasn’t anybody special or someone I looked up to, but he was interesting. What movie star isn’t? They travel, they make movies, and they meet all sorts of cool people. But it was a world so far away—or so close—that it didn’t impress me much.
I’m the same way about famous writers. They’re people, after all, just like you and me. They’re not magical, and they weren’t bestowed with special powers. Talented, sure, but hard work is their secret weapon.
7. Start with a relevant quote.
You can set off a quote in italics before the post begins (often under a photo), although that’s not really a part of your introduction. Instead, integrate it like this:
Mark Twain wrote, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started,” and that’s exactly what you need to do as a beginning writer.
Or try this:
You might wonder how you’ll ever become the writer you long to be. What’s the secret? Follow the simple words of one of the most famous 19th century American writers, Mark Twain: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
8. Spark your readers’ imaginations.
Invite readers to visualize. Ask them to imagine or picture something. Or ask if they remember a time when something happened or existed—or didn’t.
Do you remember a time when you didn’t have a cell phone or the Internet? Maybe you’re too young, but if you were born before 1990 or so, you might remember. Now think hard. No chat, no texting, no Facebook or forums or email. No instant research tools. Nothing at all except you and your PC (if you had one) or a typewriter.
If you don’t remember, imagine. Imagine having a few hours, a day, or a week completely off the grid. Because as a writer, if you want to get some serious work done, you have to make it a reality.
9. Kick off a post with a reader question.
Reader questions are a great source of blog post topics, and getting started is easy.
Last week, a reader emailed me about a situation that’s not uncommon. “Julie” (not her real name) gave me permission to publish her question on condition of anonymity.
“My parents, especially my mom, don’t want me to be a writer. I’m in college (I’m a junior), and I’m a structural engineering major. That has always been my dream but I’ve been writing since I was a kid.
“After taking a creative writing course as an elective, I know now what I really want to do. I want to change my major to writing and then start an MFA. But my mom is freaking out. And since they’re paying for my education, I don’t know what to do. How can I be a writer with an engineering degree I don’t want? How can I respect my parents and myself at the same time? Do you have any suggestions?”
a carrot artisan chocolates.
What do your readers want more than anything else? What do they dream of and work hard for? What’s the big problem they need to solve? Give them the solution.
So you want to be a writer. Not just any writer, but a really good writer. A famous writer. A fiction writer. A novelist. A New York Times Best Seller kind of writer.
And the time has come to roll up your sleeves and get serious. But you don’t know where to start, and you need a map. What steps do you have to take? Is there any logical path or is it all about luck?
The good news is that the whole process can be broken down into specific steps or stages. Let’s take a look first at how Stephen King did it.
Awesome introductions are limited only by your imagination. And if you want your post to be great, your introduction has to be great too.
Stop banging your head and wasting time. As you’re brainstorming and developing your outline, start thinking about the approach you want to take. And kick things off with one of these ideas for introductions. You’ll save time and frustration, and you can definitely skip the head-banging part.
Your turn. How do you tackle introductions? Do you have any tips? Comments are always welcome.