What’s the big deal about your first blog post, you ask?
Well, I’ll tell you:
Apparently blog readers are a busy, distracted bunch. It seems a blogger has less time to engage readers than a novelist does. And that makes me want to pull the quilt over my head and refuse to leave the bed.
This disheartening tidbit about the tendencies of blog surfers to click on, judge, and click off rapid-fire is one of the many things I learned in my online course “Blogging 101” (thank you, Writers Digest and Dan Blank). Early in the course Dan said something along the lines of, “Face it, your blog is just another page among billions. You have only a second or two to engage your readers.”
Honestly, even guys with the worst pick-up lines get more than two seconds before women will draw a line through their names. Okay, maybe not. Two seconds is actually fairly long when you’re listening to a cheesy pick-up line.
And here I thought we (I, the blogger, and you, my charming and charmed reader) were going to spend some quality time together, getting to know each other, sharing a virtual caffe latte and observations about great writing.
But noooooo. Dan says I must engage readers in less time than it takes to steam the milk.
I also thought writing this blog would be a welcome respite from at least one of the challenges of writing fiction.
You know the one I’m talking about, right? Every prose writer, published or who wants to be published, has heard this: Your book succeeds or fails on its first page. It is there you will grab your readers, make them want to hang around with you for the next 300 pages or so. Your future as a self-supporting writer depends on one page, perhaps 250 words, of writing. Actually, fewer than 250 words, because first pages tend to be shorter.
So you, the beleaguered writer, sweat that first page. Agonize over the words, the phrasing, the tone. Polishing, honing the voice. Of course, because you’re a writer who cares about the craft, you will apply the same care to the entire manuscript. But you want people to read the entire manuscript and if they are to do that, you are told, you must grab them in the first page. The most finely crafted manuscript, you are told, doesn’t stand a chance if the writer blows it on the first page.
Now, blogging, I had reasoned, is free of that first page challenge. It’s not like a reader is in the airport bookstore, trying to find a book to read on a five-hour flight, right? There’s no urgency to this blogging arrangement. The reader will get to know me, post by post. It will all be genteel, leisurely, urbane. Caffe lattes in front of a crackling fire. Feet up on the ottoman.
And then I took Dan’s course and he disabused me of my romantic notions.
A second or two is all I have to grab a reader’s interest.
Ironic isn’t it – not long ago I was bemoaning the fixation on the first page of a manuscript. Now, after Dan’s bombshell, I’m looking at my manuscript’s first page differently: It has perhaps a couple hundred words – at least two minutes in which I can grab the reader. That’s 120 seconds. More than enough time to steam the milk for a caffe latte!
There it is, then. The first post to my blog. I estimate it took you two seconds to read the title of this post and the first line. I hope you stayed with me for the next few hundred words.
I’m feeling okay about the two-second challenge.
Or, I was, until I realized that the Two-Seconds-to-Grab-the-New-Reader-Rule applies to EACH post, not just the first one.
Charlotte, this is a delightful post! Your voice is a welcome and refreshing addition to the blogosphere. Cheers!
I agree! You keep going with titles and first lines like this, and you’ll have plenty of readers with you well beyond two seconds. I look forward to more.
Ah yes – the art of the post title! It’s why people with marketing degrees make great bloggers. Thanks for your note, Iris.
Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging, Charlotte! I look forward to following your posts.
Nice post, Charlotte! I look forward to reading more.
You had me in two seconds. But I’m your brother. Are you going to have anything on sports?
Honestly, this is one of the few times you’ve listened to me for more than a few seconds! Don’t hold your breath for sports topics on this blog.
Hope I can keep you reading! thanks Kim.
Hi Charlotte —
Very nice Charlotte! Now I want a latte….
Late to the game, but cheering for you all the way. I read your first post last, is that cheating?
People can read the posts with a mirror, through rosy glasses, or with a red pencil at hand. So long as they visit the blog every now and then – and who knows what inspiration a person may find by reading things her own way?
Love this post, Charlotte. I have a lot to learn. I am following you all the way. Kaye
I’m not sure who’s following whom, Kaye! But I’m glad we’re on the journey together! Much success in your endeavours and with 40 Tales from Ma’s Watering Hole!
It’s now going to be Fifty Tales from Ma’s Watering Hole. Oh dear me. I’ll have to think of some more stories…As soon as I can figure out this blog stuff I will link to other blogs. Love reading yours and Grier’s so far. Now to Joe’s. kaye