Authors: Find the “Beating Heart” of Your Story for Web Success

Village Spared from Deadly Storm

You just put the last period on the last sentence of the last chapter of the novel you’ve been writing for the last three years.

Soon it will be time to tell everyone about your book. If you want to reach beyond family and friends, a new challenge looms: writing for the web.

This is the time to shelve all the lovely prose you honed so carefully over those three tortuous years, and to consider some stats from the Nielsen Norman Group.

–       79 percent scan rather than read webpages.

–       “Eye stops” last 0.1 seconds. Surfers decide every 10-120 seconds whether to leave or stay on a page.

–       Only 28 percent of page copy (at most!) gets read.

So creative writers must be brief, simple and put the most important information first. This is easier if you’ve spent some time as a newspaper reporter. If not, start working on it. Go through a day and put headlines on routine events.

Man Trips Racing Up Subway Escalator

Student Spills Coke on New Ipad

Biker Cuts Off BMW; Driver Enraged

There’s a wonderful scene in the movie version of The Shipping News where a wise old newsman guides a clueless younger reporter, admonishing him to find “the beating heart of your story.” Peering into the ominous horizon, he says, “What do you see? Tell me the headline.”

The new reporter answers, “Horizon fills with dark clouds.”

The old newsman shakes his head as if dealing with the village idiot and says, “Imminent storm threatens village!”

“But what if no storm comes?” the other says.

“Village spared from deadly storm,” he shrugs.

Here’s the beating heart of my next novel, Bootlicker:

An unholy union exists between a racist U.S. senator and the candidate poised to become South Carolina’s first black congressman since the Civil War.

What’s the beating heart of your story?

9 Comments so far »

  1. Melanie Saxton said,

    Wrote on February 19, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

    Hi Steve – Interesting post. I think it’s all about getting people to the site in the first place. As an SEO content writer (in addition to magazine writing and book editing), I see so many good-looking websites and blogs that aren’t optimized. They are written as though they are a print edition. But online writing is very, very different than print. I recommend authors look into SEO content writing services for tutorials or to kick up their websites a notch. The goal is to rank highly on Google, after all. I do not provide SEO content writing services outside of my employer but welcome inquiries at in case we can help.


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Excellent point, Melanie, and for anyone reading, you would do well to take up Melanie on her generous offer.


  2. Jenny Milchman said,

    Wrote on February 20, 2012 @ 2:15 am

    AKA the log line. I love writing these (although I take the commenter’s point about leads not necessarily equating to high SEO). Can’t wait to see what happens with your next novel, Steve!


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Thanks, Jenny; the recipe for success is indeed a mystery. And thanks for asking about Bootlicker, which is coming soon. The preview is here:


  3. Marie Pinschmidt said,

    Wrote on February 24, 2012 @ 2:41 am

    I love to title, Steve. Good luck.


  4. Marie Pinschmidt said,

    Wrote on February 24, 2012 @ 2:42 am

    Sorry! I love THE title.


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Ha, thank you, Marie!


  5. Emily L. Moir said,

    Wrote on March 7, 2012 @ 2:21 am

    Interesting statistics and good advice.


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Thanks, Emily, and glad you dropped by! Emily’s blog is here:


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