How to sharpen up your blogs and articles with one quick chop

Have you ever looked at something you’ve just written and thought, “that first paragraph isn’t needed?

No? Well, maybe you should. Even we pro writers often go back and chop off the first paragraph or even two, and let the blog, article or other piece of writing start a few lines along, when we really get down to business.

chopping branch of tree

Either leave preambles and back stories out altogether, in a box, or at the back.

When your writing engine is still running cold…

It’s a bit like when you start your car on a cold morning. I know most modern cars have automatic chokes, but you still don’t get the best performance from even a late model Bentley until the engine has warmed up.

It’s the same with writing; especially if you’re not too sure how to lead into your subject matter. In the first two or three sentences – maybe a few more – you’re warming up your mind and getting around to what you want to say.

winding up car

Your writing doesn’t warm up right away!

You’ll find, in the main, that once you have written those few sentences and got into the real thing, you don’t need the introductory sentences anymore.

As my dear delightful namesakes, HowToWriteBetter.org, point out you need to “avoid throat-clearing.”

A couple of examples: how deleting the parts in italics makes the text stronger

If you’re writing something that’s difficult – or perhaps even you’re not in the mood – it can be hard to motivate yourself to start the writing process off.
Some people really get themselves in a state about it and wonder if they have lost their “mojo” or simply aren’t good at writing.
We have “writer’s block.” Often, though, by thinking we’re not good at writing, we’re sort of missing the point…
When you say you have writers’ block, is that really what it is? Or is it thinkers’ block?
How do we get rid of thinker’s block when we’re writing?
Apart from a few partial exceptions (e.g. literary fiction perhaps) writing is not the be-all and end-all of the artsy-fartsy world. It is not even an art form like painting or drawing or sculpture.
Writing is a vehicle: a means of communicating your thoughts to your audience. And they need to be the right thoughts.
Purist trolls: line up here to call me a philistine cow
Whenever I say this I can hear the writing trolls’ teeth beginning to grind from 50 paces away.
But face it, kids. “If you don’t know what you think, you can’t write it down” as my friend and former colleague John Butman once wrote in a book we co-authored.
And thereby hangs a tale of a) why so many writers suffer from writers’ block and b) how they can solve the problem.
Have another look at John Butman’s words, with a little editing from moi … if you don’t know what you think, trying thinking about the topic in a different way.

writing tipsThe mere thought of writing a book can terrify people. When writing even a blog post or an article is often a challenge, the prospect of generating 40,000 words or more seems like an impossible task.
With nonfiction, there are a number of considerations to look at before you even begin to write. Needless to say there is a lot of help available out there and normally that will require you to invest some money in the project.
And of course, you are likely to wonder how best to monetise that project so you get some ROI.
(Still) Thinking of writing a nonfiction book? Great! But if you want it to sell commercially, you need to make sure it delivers good value to prospective readers. Here are some tips to help you make sure it does.
Much as we authors like to think even our business or self-help books are the next best thing since How To Win Friends And Influence People, ego must be dumped and business acumen must prevail. Bottom line: with nonfiction books the question of whether or not to write one has to be a business decision.
It needs to be taken in the same way as a decision to introduce a new product or service. With nearly all nonfiction (and fiction too, up to a point) there is usually room for a good new book on the market, provided it’s likely to attract a substantial group of readers because:
**It’s about something entirely new and very interesting that no-one has written about before or
**It’s about something that’s not new, but to which you contribute something entirely new and very interesting

Punchline for blogs, articles, emails, etc:
Try removing your first sentence or three, and see how it gets your reader into the main topic faster.

It’s not just in blogs and articles where you need to give a chop

Recently I advised an author client to chop out the introduction and first chapter of her book and move them to the appendices at the back.

Although she was shocked to begin with once she tried it she agreed it was much more reader-friendly that way, because it jumped straight into the action with no unnecessary preamble.

People writing nonfiction books often feel they have to spend a good chunk of the reader’s time on the back story before they (readers) can fully appreciate what the book is all about. Unfortunately readers can get bored very quickly and more than short preambles, introductions etc. become an irritation for them.

Whatever you’re writing, whether a short blog post or a full length book, you’ll nearly always find that you’re the only one who thinks a lot of this information is needed! If some back story is essential, try to weave it in and out of the crucial content as asides or even as boxed-off additions. That way it doesn’t clutter the main body of the text.

Punchline for books:
Grab readers with what they’ve bought your book for. Either leave preambles and back stories out altogether, in boxes, or at the back.

Comments welcome!

Main image credit to Frits Ahlefeldt
(USD $10 donation paid to artist.)

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