Wednesday, January 25, 2012

No One Reads Past a Crappy First Sentence

Try for good, strong first sentences.
--Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Back in 1986 when Natalie Goldberg wrote this, the internet wasn't even a gleam in Al Gore's eye. Today, thanks to Gore's brilliant invention, our collective patience and attention span is a tiny fraction of what it used to be.

That's why, with today's readers, everything rides on your first sentence. Everything. Forget "good" and "strong." If your first sentence isn't amazing, nobody will read you. And it's a dead certainty that no one will wade through several paragraphs of boring text to try and figure out what your point is.

That's why the single best thing you can do to attract today's readers is to strip out everything extraneous. Words, sentences, paragraphs, everything. Get to the point, and make getting there interesting. Write so your readers will want to follow along.

Otherwise they'll leave and never come back.