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Mastering the Hook By Terry Whalin

Master the Hook and You Engage the Reader

It is fundamental that in any writing you do, you must hook the reader to engage them.

Last week a friend who purchased a couple of my books made some comments on Facebook to show me how she read those books. My Billy Graham biography which she read in one evening. Then my Book Proposals That Sell, she had planned to skim the contents and pick and choose what to read. But she was reading every page. Such reader feedback is important to every writer. When I read it, I knew that these books were achieving a basic for every piece of writing!

Each of us have a wide variety of media (including print) which pulls for our attention. Everyone has limited time to read. It’s the task of the writer to pull that reader into the material through a story or a series of questions or pointed content. I want to give you some ideas how to do this basic writing skill. In my journalism classes, this skill is called “Hooking Your Reader.” 

As you write, you need to be aware of the power of word choice and sentence construction which could make a difference whether your words are read or ignored. From my years of writing, I want to give you five aspects to consider:

Writing Takes Practice

The writing world has a strange mixture between natural talent and a taught skill. Each of us can learn how to write a query letter or a book proposal. But that natural talent you have to bring to the table. None of us know if you have this talent or not unless you are using it. There are many places to write—not just books but magazines, online publications and many other places. In the first chapter of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, I wrote about the early days of my writing and give a series of possible places to publish your writing.

If you haven’t seen this list, I encourage you to follow the link and explore it. There is no opt-in and this link will go right to it). What actions are you taking to practice your writing?

Use Stories

Everyone loves a good story to pull or hook you into the writing. These stories can be your personal stories or you can tell someone else’s story. The skill of good storytelling is something again that will come with practice and a skill you can learn to include elements like dialogue, description, and other elements. A good story will keep your reader moving forward through your words.

Write in the Active Tense

It may have been years since you thought about tense in grammar but this element makes a difference whether people keep reading or not. Years ago when I was doing academic writing, I wrote many passive sentences (a pattern for this type of writing). Active tense pulls the reader into your work. Make sure every sentence is in the active tense.

Seize Every Opportunity

You need to learn to hook your reader in every type of writing, whether long or short. If you are writing back cover copy for your book, hook the reader. If you are writing a social media post, hook your reader.  Every writer needs to learn  the variety in their skills and take every opportunity to practice this skill. 

Always Focus on the Reader

Some writers lose sight of who will be reading their work—readers. Always keep this reader in mind as you write for clarity and also to keep them turning pages.

What methods do you use to hook your reader and keep them reading? It’s a conversation I’d enjoy having with you at the Outcomes Conference 2022.


Terry Whalin has written more than 60 nonfiction books plus been published in more than 50 magazines. Has served as an acquisitions editor at two book publishers and he’s a former literary agent. Now Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing, a NY based traditional publisher.

Do you know you have a book inside you? What about one that would document your ministry or passion for a cause? Do you want to engage others in whatever message you want to communicate? We have what you need at the Outcomes Conference 2022. During the event, you will be able to schedule a complimentary 20-minute consulting session with publishing expert, Terry Whalin. Seize this opportunity and discover how to make your message known.

It’s just another reason for you to join us for the Outcomes Conference 2022.


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