Are you having a hard time taking the first step of writing your chapter, article, or blog?
Concrete skills can often give you confidence and motivation to help you take the first steps, so let’s look at some specific techniques for the starting point: your introduction paragraph.
The introduction paragraph (or initial several short paragraphs) needs to accomplish three things:
1)hook your reader into continuing to read
2)present a promise of what is to come
3)introduce you, the writer
Hook your reader into continuing to read
Because you have very little time to capture your reader’s interest, begin the introduction with a hook — a statement that “hooks” your reader into continuing to read. Some of the most common and effective hooks are included below.
A question or series of questions:
“Have you ever felt God calling you to step out in faith, only to find yourself wondering if you heard Him wrong?” (Lysa TerKeurst, “Did I Hear God Wrong?” proverbs31.org, July 26, 2018)
This is a question I can relate to, so I am hooked into reading.
An intriguing statement:
“I looked up the definition of hemorrhage today. Can’t say I’ve ever done that before, but there’s a first Google for everything, isn’t there?” (Annie Downs, “The God Who Sees and Heals Us” (in)courage, September 14, 2018)
I’m curious about this unusual first statement. Where is she going with this idea?
Set a scene:
“Five-year-old Ryan was a little spitfire whose favorite pastime was riding his bike. His rickety, red girl’s Schwinn bicycle had been handed down through several cousins before making its way into Ryan’s garage and heart. He proudly paraded his contraption up and down our block each afternoon. So imagine my surprise when one day I saw Ryan kicking his bike.” (Karen Ehman, “Cultivating Contentment,” Real-Life Devotional Bible)
When setting a scene, use as many sensory details as you can — something Karen Ehman masters. Notice the powerful words: spitfire, rickety, paraded, contraption. Strong and specific words allow your reader to visualize the scene.
A personal story:
My sons and I dance in the kitchen as we put away dishes while loud music blares. Lately, the sanctuary of our home is the only place I can dance without embarrassing them, a fact which usually doesn’t stop me from car dancing when a good song comes on.
Besides, today I would dance anywhere because I’m in a dancing mood.
Why? I got a new pair of boots. And these are not sensible boots. They are high-heeled and impractical. Today they make me feel beautiful. (Melanie Chitwood, “Do You Think I’m Beautiful?” The Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women)
In these first three paragraphs from my devotional, I tell a brief story about me, my sons, and how I’m being carefree in my new boots. These introductory paragraphs hopefully serve to make me real, an everyday mom just like my reader, and hook my reader into reading more.
Your introduction is a promise of what is to come
Along with your title or headline, the opening paragraphs give the reader an idea of the topic of the chapter, article, or blog post you’re writing. It also presents a promise to the reader of what is to come.
Stick to the promise.
I read an article called “How to Overcome the Fear Factor When Speaking.” In the first paragraph, the writer assured me that if he could overcome his fears about speaking, then he was confident he could provide practical tips to help me with my fears as well. He then enticed me with his funny and captivating anecdotes, telling stories of his fear-induced failures.
Despite liking this writer’s style, I didn’t finish the article. Why? He wasn’t delivering what he promised. He enticed me, but as I continued to read, I didn’t get any practical solutions. Because he didn’t deliver on the promise of his introduction, I felt like I had wasted my time.
In a short piece you need to get to the point fairly quickly. In a book you have more time, but either way you want to remember readers are busy, inundated with information, and looking for quick answers to their problems.
Introduce you, the writer
No, I don’t mean you write, “Hi! My name is Melanie Chitwood and I’m writing about the introductory paragraph.”
In your introductory paragraphs you want to start establishing your voice as a writer. You want your reader to remember that behind the pages of the book or behind the screen of a tablet is a real person — you, the writer.
When establishing your voice, you must ask yourself: Who do I want to be as a writer? Do I want to be scholarly, delivering lots of information? Do I want to be relational, walking alongside my reader as we delve into a topic? There’s no right or wrong answer here, but make sure that voice is apparent in your introductory paragraph.
Are you ready to take the first step of getting your manuscript completed by writing your introductory paragraph? Open up a document and try one of these techniques. You’ll probably find that getting a good introductory paragraph written is the momentum you need to continue writing.
Melanie Chitwood is the author of two marriage books, What a Husband Needs from His Wife and What a Wife Needs from Her Husband. She’s a writing coach and editor at Next Step Coaching Services where she helps other writers make their dreams come true.