Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Stepping Stones of Our Writing


by Katy Kauffman @KatyKauffman28

Clunk, clunk, clunk. 

I hopped to each stepping stone and landed with a thud. This would be fun if I were five years old. The stones I had spaced were so far apart that crossing the yard felt awkward. Sometimes I had to leap. How unnatural. What was I thinking?

Let me try that again. I moved the stones closer to each other, and I started walking once more on the brown faces of the rocks. Clop, clop, clop, clop, clop. I felt like a bunny as I crossed the yard with speed and grace. As much grace as you can muster in tennis shoes. 

Sometimes when I write an article, the first lines of my paragraphs are awkward. Instead of acting like “speedy” stepping stones in my backyard, they slow me down as I read a page. The wording is too factual, or the flow of thought doesn’t track. What was I thinking?

So I go back and edit the “stepping stones.” I adjust my flow of thought or I trade weak words for vivid ones. Then I read again. I fly better from paragraph to paragraph, and if editing my stones helps me, it will definitely help the reader.

Did you know that you can track your flow of thought by reading just the first lines of your paragraphs? Take a piece of your work, and only read the first lines. Is that the message you meant to share? Is the wording vivid and captivating? Do you share unique insights at the beginning of each paragraph? 

First lines are the writer’s ally to help readers walk through the pages and chapters of our nonfiction writing. How can we create the best stepping stones to help readers travel through our pages and principles? 
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  • In the first line of a paragraph, repeat a word that was mentioned at the end of the previous paragraph—you’ve brought your previous thought forward. 
  • Start a paragraph with a unique insight to keep the readers’ interest—an insight that they may not have thought of before. 
  • Infuse your first lines with vivid nouns and verbs.
  • Read your first lines aloud, and listen to the syllables—is there a lyrical quality to the words you have chosen?
  • Track your flow of thought in your first lines, and adjust the track so that the train of attention and understanding have the best possible route.
  • Eliminate factual wording by not just mentioning the “what” in your first line, but by including a taste of the “why” or the “how.” 
  • Include headings throughout your writing that act as extra “stepping stones.”
  • Start some paragraphs with a story to keep the reader flying through your pages. 
Do you ever find your first lines to be too factual like mine, or spaced too far apart for the reader to follow? Try some of these tips, and tell us in the comments which one is your favorite. Join the conversation!

TWEETABLE

Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author, an editor of REFRESH BIBLE STUDY MAGAZINE, and a co-founder of LIGHTHOUSE BIBLE STUDIES. She loves connecting with writers and working alongside them in compilations, such as Feed Your Soul with the Word of God, Collection 1 which is a 2020 Selah Awards finalist. She recently started THE LIGHTHOUSE CONNECTION, a monthly writers’ newsletter including writing tips, inspiration to write, and news of submission opportunities. 

In addition to online magazines, Katy’s writing can be found at CBN.com, thoughts-about-God.com, and three blogs on writing. She loves to spend time with family and friends, take acrylic painting classes online, and do yard work in the morning sun. Connect with her at her blog, WINNING THE VICTORY, and on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

10 comments:

  1. Thank you, Katy. These are so helpful. I was just wondering this morning about the placement of my paragraphs, and this is a good guide to make sure the thought flows well. I tend to be factual in my writing, so expanding on the why and how will help.

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  2. Such an encouraging post Ms. Katy. We each much find the pace and stride that is "right for us." Wonderful thoughts here ma'am. God's blessings.

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  3. Katy, these points are so helpful! Thank you. I am going to print these for future reference.

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  4. Remembering your teaching and working to apply your wisdom this very day! It's making such a difference. Thank you Katy.

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  5. Always love your words! Thank you.

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  6. Thank you for practical stepping stones to improve our nonfiction pieces. I want to try including more why and how aspects in leading sentences.

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  7. Thank you, Katy, for practical techniques to create stepping stones for readers. I want to incorporate more how and why aspects into leading sentences.

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  8. Thank you, Katy, for practical techniques to create stepping stones for readers. I want to incorporate more how and why aspects into leading sentences.

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