Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Word Love Wednesday :: RUE Your Words

What’s your art?

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.

Today’s tip: Resist the Urge to Explain. You have read over-explanations; you have probably written some of them. In my case, it usually comes from a sincere intention to help the reader feel invited into the moment, but sometimes it leads to too much backstory.

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:
  1. 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."
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Photo Credit


  1. Hi Krista,

    I appreciate your wise writing words here!

    My current writing goal is small, just 500 words per day, but I'm going for quality as I finish my book. LOL Some days I actually surpass that goal.

    I write only one blog post per week, it's all I can manage right now. But I love my bloggy friends!

    Blessings to you!

  2. Hi Krista,
    Great post, I need to watch my words more. My current goal is two blog post per week.

    Have a great weekend!

  3. Thank you for this post, Krista! I've been focusing on 'resisting the urge to explain' a lot lately. I love the way you explain it here.

    My current goal is one blog post per week. I hope to transition to two soon, though.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  4. I love that you're sharing this learned knowledge, Krista! GREAT examples for ways to start a piece, too.

    I aim for 3-4 blog posts a week right now. After we get settled into the new school year, I'll go back to aiming for at least 1000-2000 words a week extra beyond the blog posts (on either articles or chapters). Hopefully one day I'll be able to up that amount!

  5. Excellent words, Krista!! So good for me. I've never really thought about 'too much explaining' before. Great thought.

    I hope you are having a wonderful August!!!

    Blessings to you,
    Kate :)


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