Have you ever written yourself into a corner?
You get tippy-typing away on your keyboard – silly grin on your face as you spin some random idea into a clever story.
You go after this anecdote, down that rabbit hole…
And before you know it – you’re 2000 words in to a GREAT story…
But have NO idea how you’re going to wrap things up, or connect it back to what you were actually trying to write about.
It happens to the best of us – even the most sought-after storytellers in the world!
A friend recently shared this TED Talk with JJ Abrams
(He’s the director behind Mission Impossible III, the new Star Trek movies, and dozens more).
His show “Lost” is arguably one of the greatest successes of modern television. The first season had an estimated average of 16 million viewers PER EPISODE!
And 70% of those viewers stuck with the show religiously through the end of the final 6th season.
Now THAT is some serious reader retention.
(If you don’t know the show, it’s an insanely complex storyline that has a ton of interconnected threads, but somehow keeps you hooked the entire way through. Pretty impressive.)
But here’s the crazy thing…
When Abrams started writing the show, he had NO IDEA where the story was going.
He knew he wanted a show with a major network, but when ABC approached him – he had nothing.
But he didn’t want to miss the opportunity, so he took their $10 million, and started cobbling together the pilot episode on a very tight timeline.
It ended up being one of the most expensive pilots in history.
The thing is, since he was making it all up as he went along, he had no idea where the story was going after that pilot. (Pretty ballsey, eh?)
A plane full of strangers, crash-landed on a mysterious island, with some wacko unexplainable stuff happening around them – That’s as far as he got.
You see, since JJ had no story, he used the pilot episode to establish “big questions.”
The entire episode was just open loop after open loop.
The only “pay off” you get in that first episode (or even in the entire first season) is that there’s a qualified hero who’s committed to figuring it out.
It turned out to be the best performance the network had seen in years, and more than 23 million people tuned in for season 2.
There’s a few great lessons here to keep in mind when you’re writing your emails, advertorials, leads, or anything where you need to keep your reader “hooked.”
#1 – You don’t always have to tease the answers, solutions, or benefits. Sometimes you can get away with just verbalizing the question that’s already in your reader’s mind.
#2 – You don’t have to have it all figured out when you start your first draft. You can let the piece lead you where it needs to go, and cobble it together along the way. So don’t let yourself get bogged down in the first draft.
#3 – Give your readers the confidence that you will help them figure it out. Use credibility and proof that lets them sit back, and trust that you’ll answer the questions they have in their mind.
And if you ever feel imposter syndrome creeping up on you…
Remember that JJ Abrams just signed a five-year, $250 million deal with WarnerMedia Film…
And he got there by saying “yes” when he had nothing substantial to deliver, and simply figured it out along the way.
You can rest easy knowing you’re in good company since most of the great marketers out there start their best campaigns with nothing more than ‘good questions’
I’m no different, which is why I’m excited to share my freelancer journey and advice about beating Imposter Syndrome in this months issue of AWAI’s Barefoot Writer Magazine.
In this issue we talk about overcoming head trash and “thought hijacks” that steal your writing confidence away. It’s a great piece to shake off 2020, and dive into 2021 with new energy and confidence.
Want Kevin Rogers and I to personally help you launch and grow a sustainable freelance career in 2021?
We’ve just opened the doors to a new class for our Escape Velocity coaching program.
It’s a 10-week intensive coaching program, where we coach you through our step-by-step system to launch and grow a steady, consistent freelance copy career.
This one is special – because it’s the last time we’ll be coaching the program live until much later this year. (We want to focus on some exciting new projects we’re working on at Copy Chief).
So if you want to stop “winging it” and take the guess-work out of freelancing – grab one of the few remaining spots before January 1st
(We’re limiting the class to around 30 people to make sure everyone gets the personal coaching they need.)