'On Thursday, the twenty-fifth of April, at 10.32 am, Joanna decided she would have to kill David.'
If you opened a crime novel, and that was the first sentence, would you read on? Chances are that you would - because that line is a real attention-grabber.
Who is Joanna? Who is David? What is their relationship? Why does she suddenly want to kill him? And why did she make that decision at such a specific time on that particular date? Simple curiosity takes over. We want to know! And so we read the next sentence - and the next, and the next.
So when you're writing a newsletter, a blog, or a tweet, think of that line - and think how you can make your subject line just as compelling.
Posing one unanswered question is a good trick. Posing three or four is an even better one (though tricky with just 140 characters). And building in something curious, unusual, or intriguing will work just as well. It's worth cudgelling the brain a bit to get it right.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because in my previous life I was a (published) novelist - and the only way I got published was by listening to advice like this. In my case it came from a well-known British science fiction writer called James Blish, who did me the courtesy of demolishing one of my early stories - and then telling me how I should have written it.
It was both the cruellest and the kindest thing he could have done, and I'm very grateful.
So in my next post, I'll be talking about what happens next - and how you follow up on a successful opening gambit.