Once a week, we gather here to discuss the art of writing. Not publishing--that’s a big world that involves marketing and business. Not the message itself--you already know in your heart what you want to say. Rather, we discuss the nuts and bolts that contribute to powerful delivery of your message--for the love of the written word.
Backstory weighs a story down; if that weight comes right at the beginning of a story, before a reader is hooked, you might actually be able to see the reader’s eyes glaze over as she moves her mouse to click on to the next story. You have 5 seconds (50 words) to persuade your reader to stick with you--make the most of that time.
So how can you lighten up a little? Try any of these three tricks:
- Start with a bang--jump right into the middle of the action. "Ring! Ring! The telephone's insistent call sucked her out of reverie. She tucked her thoughts away and turned her attention to Valerie's shrill voice on the other end of the line."
- Start by declaring the topic sentence of your piece. "Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, yet more than 25% of moms neglect to train their children to eat it." A quotation, Scripture reference, or statistic can work well to encapsulate the point you are about to make.
- Start with an unusual thought that grabs the reader’s attention. "We learned more from the egg that didn't fry on the sidewalk than we ever did in school."
One strategy I use to lighten up my piece is to simply cut out the first paragraph of the first draft. Often I only end up needing a few words from those opening sentences to set the stage just as effectively in much less space.
It boils down to this silly acronym: RUE your words. Resist the Urge to Explain.
As you write this week, be aware of your backstory. Practice starting in the middle of the story. Practice finding quotes or Bible references to place at the beginning. Practice phrasing a thought in such a way that makes the reader say, “I want to read more!” Practice cutting your first paragraph, and see if the story really loses anything.
Now, let’s think about last week’s assignment: set yourself a goal to write so much a week. What was your goal? How did you do? I am still writing a lot more than I did earlier in the summer; but I found I need to write a lot on the weekend in order to focus on my other responsibilities during the week. My new goal for this week is to get four blog posts in the hopper by the end of the weekend, so I can use weeknight free time on other writing projects.
Join the conversation! Remember, you can comment something as simple as, "I am a writer!" The more you say it, the more your confidence grows. Tell us your writing goals; tell us your experience cutting out the backstory as you try to chisel out the best presentation of your message.