(Transcript) – Six steps to a stellar introduction that keeps your reader wanting more

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Morgan MacDonald : Welcome guys. Today we are talking about the six steps to writing a stellar introduction that keeps your reader wanting more, because that’s the PURPOSE of an introduction – get them hooked and KEEP them hooked.

 

I am on [vacation] — I’m not REALLY on vacation. I’m, honestly, traveling with my husband on his conference. We left the kids back in Houston, and I’m going to get a lot of work done. I’m really excited.I never have THIS much time to concentrate. I’m going to do some client work, do some writing, and business strategy, and it’s going to be fantastic.

 

But I don’t want to forget about my Scope plan, because I still have Scope plans in the works for you guys. All week we’ve been talking about the nitty-gritty of writing. So as we’re going through all of this stuff, if you need it written down, I take notes for you. I post notes at http://www.paperravenbooks.com/periscope . So you can always go there [and] catch the notes that I put up, and the replays and transcripts too. So don’t worry.

 

Let’s see. Who’ve we got in the room? As you’re coming in let me know your name, and where you’re tuning in from, and what you write. I would LOVE to know what you write. That’s my favorite thing to talk about. Books, or blogs, or something in between? … [irrelevant comment].

 

Okay. So let’s jump right in. Actually, first a couple of Periscope housekeeping [issues]. So if you’re new and I say something that you like, or resonates with you, or you want to hear more of, tap the screen for hearts and that lets me know that you’re engaged, and paying attention, and that what I’m talking about is valuable to you… Oh, thanks guys. Thanks.. If you’re not already following me, and you love to hear about writing, and ways to improve your writing, and stay motivated throughout your writing process, hit that little “Peri Dude” down there to change that “plus” to a “check”, and then [you’re following] me. Feel free to share with your friends too. If you have any writer friends who would benefit from knowing how to write an awesome introduction that would be fantastic.

 

So I am Morgan Gist MacDonald. I’m a writing coach, and an editor of nonfiction writing. I’m also an author, and I help authors write their books, from vague idea to first draft to finished manuscript, and everything in between. I help them figure out what to write, and how to write it, and keep them motivated through the process. So that’s what I do.

 

Today we’re talking about introductions. So if you missed Monday and Tuesday you can go to http://www.paperravenbooks.com/periscope . On Monday we talked about how to come up with the idea for your book, and how to PLAN for writing. So that’s really important…Hey Courtney. Welcome… Yesterday we were talking about five best practices for writing. Then today we’re getting to the intro.

 

The reason we do the intro LAST – we’re COVERING it last, and you also WRITE it last – [is] because the intro is what sets the stage so that the reader knows what to expect in the book. But how can you set the stage for the book when you don’t even know yet really [how] the book is going to unfold, and [what it’s] going to look like. So you write the book, and THEN you can do the intro.The same thing goes for any length of writing. [For] blog posts, write the blog post first, and THEN put the intro sentences on. If you write and essay, or an article, or a thesis or dissertation – whatever – you write the body FIRST, and the conclusion, and THEN you go back into the intro. So the intro is really, really important because it is the very first thing that your reader is going to encounter. So you have to do several really strategic things to make sure that the reader is immediately hooked, and wants to keep reading. That’s the whole point. It’s like, the title draws them in, and makes them intrigued. Then the introduction convinces them that this is going to be worth reading. Then you can start to lay out the whole argument in the body of the blog, or article, or book, or whatever it is.

 

So, what do we need to do? I have six steps for you. We’re going to go through them once. Then I’m going to recap halfway through, and then recap [again] at the end. So hopefully you won’t get lost. But if you DO get lost : http://www.paperravenbooks.com/periscope .

 

Okay. Number one : do not get hung up on the first sentence [laughter]. We ALL do this, but the first sentence can be rewritten later. A lot of people just want to come up with the PERFECT first sentence, and so they just sit there staring at the screen, typing a few words, backspacing, and then typing a few words, and then backspacing. Just write SOMETHING. Write something LAME, acknowledge that it’s lame, and then move on with the rest of the intro.

 

Number two : talk about the problem that you see related to your topic.  And I should caveat this, this is all geared towards nonfiction writing. There MAY be some parallels with fiction, but I’d have to talk to the fiction writer. So talk about the problem that you see related to your topic. So let’s say you write about the importance about educating girls in science. The problem that you see is that girls are not interested in science from elementary on up, and therefore we don’t have very many women engineers. Or maybe you write about religion, and the community, and the problem you see is that people aren’t setting aside time to be involved in a church or religious group. So flesh out whatever problem you see. It could be related to education, or religion, or environmentalism – or ANYTHING – history, the way that we VIEW history, travel. It could be related to anything. There is always a way to frame a problem. You want to flush it out, and you want it to feel PAINFUL to the reader. You want the reader to acknowledge that, “Yes. This IS a problem worth talking about, and thinking about, and writing about.” So talk about the problem.

 

[Now] this is number three : tell your reader the vision that YOU have for the world where this problem is solved. So if you were talking about girls who are not encouraged in science, what does the world look like if girls ARE encouraged in science, and become engineers? If you feel like religion, and people giving time to religious communities is not happening, and that is a problem, what does the world look like if we HAVE tight-knit, cohesive religious communities that feed people’s souls? Be a beacon of optimism. Be the light shining in the darkness, and hold up this image for your reader and say, “This is what life could look like.”. And be optimistic. I think that the world has enough pessimistic realists. This is the time in your manuscript where you should be very optimistic. Then later on in your post, or thesis, or book, you can, sort of, counterweight it, and say, “Okay. Well yes. We WANT to be very optimistic, and here are the challenges…” But right NOW, in the intro, optimism will set the tone for the book.

 

Number four : give the reader just a little bit of your own story. Tell the reader a LITTLE bit [about] why you care about this problem, and why you’re investing time to solve it. Because we ALL have a backstory. There’s always a reason why we’re interested in a topic. Maybe it’s because you WERE a girl who was interested in science, and went on to be an engineer. Maybe you were going into seminary, or something, and you didn’t complete it because there were no tight-knit religious communities. These are just random examples, but we ALWAYS have a reason why we are personally invested in a story. And even in really serious, or academic, or scholarly nonfiction writing, your reader is still a HUMAN. Your reader still wants to know why YOU are writing about this, and why you care so much. So even if it’s just a paragraph – or for a book, maybe a COUPLE of paragraphs – give them just a small slice of your story, and why you care.

 

Okay. So we’ve said : don’t get caught up on the first sentence; talk about the problem you see; tell your reader the vision you have for a world where that problem is solved; give the reader a tiny slice of that story. [And now] this is number five : tell the reader how she (or he) will be personally impacted by the book. So what does this book – same goes for a blog post or a thesis – give to your reader? Is it a step-by-step guide? Is it inspiration? Is it wisdom from the field? Is it a shift in perspective?  Like what will the reader GET through reading this book? There’s always a transformation – always. Even in the most serious, and hard, nonfiction, the reader ALWAYS has SOME transformation. Go ahead and tell them in the introduction what that transformation is going to be, so that they can look forward to it. Hopefully they ALREADY WANT that transformation, and so they will be EAGERLY diving into the book.

 

Then number six : keep your writing reader-friendly, especially in the intro. So that means keep your tone conversational, keep the sentences fairly short, and keep the jargon to a minimum. So this goes for ANY kind of writing, scholarly or whatever. The introduction is where you really need to PULL your reader in. This is the BEST place to be conversational, because you’re inviting the reader in.  You’re, kind of, like “Okay. Let’s get comfortable. Let’s talk about this.” You can dive into the nitty-gritty, and the references, and footnotes, and jargon, and whatever, later on. The intro is the place to be welcoming, and to show them that you’re a REAL person who cares about this real problem, and that you are acknowledging that the READER is a REAL person who also cares about this problem.

 

So keep all of your sentences short. By “short” I mean 20 to 30 words at a MAX. So you can actually use like Word, highlight the sentence, and do “tools -> word count”, or whatever. Once you start hitting like 40 words, sentences are WAY too long, especially for an intro. Keep the TONE conversational. I mean – what does a conversational tone look like? It means you’re not using a lot of phrases. You’re not using a lot of commas. You’re not using a lot of [prepositions which] tend to be an indication that your sentences are getting too long and clunky. So if you find yourself including lots of those prepositional [words] like : “of”, and “with”, and “by”, and “to” – and you may have three, four, or five prepositions in one phrase – that tends to be an indication that you’re making your sentences too long and bindy. So here in the intro we want them to be short, tight, and friendly.

 

So those are MY six tips for an introduction that will really BRING your reader in. Because think about it. Okay. So the first one is : don’t get hung up on the perfect sentence. You can always come back around to it. That’s just to get you writing. Talking about the problem. Getting the reader emotionally connected with your topic, and getting the reader to say, “Yeah! You know what? That IS a problem.” Telling your reader your vision for how the world looks when that problem is solved, is getting that energy and optimism, and pulling that reader in to say, “We can solve this together.” That’s essentially the vibe you are giving off. [It’s] one of empowerment, and readers, people, humans, are just really drawn and attracted to that KIND of optimism.  [Telling] a little bit of your story. We’re humans. Even if we don’t want to admit it sometimes, we love story. We love to know that the author truly cares about their topic. And, of course, a reader wants to know how they are going to be impacted by the book. They just do. They want to know that this book – or blog post, or thesis, or dissertation, or whatever – [is worthwhile].

 

So that’s what I have for you guys today. I think that if you can stick to those tips and write a short, powerful introduction, that is really the key to getting people to commit to going ahead [to read] the rest of your post, thesis, dissertation, or book.

 

So if you guys have any questions let me know. Tomorrow… we are going to talk a little bit more about titles. Let’s talk about titles tomorrow, because titles are also really important for giving the reader a good idea of what your book is about, and whether it is worthwhile.Titles can be very intimidating for people. So if you want to tune in for tommorów’s [Scope], hit that little “Peri Buddy” down there [to] change that plus to a check, and then you’ll be following me. And you can always catch the replays at http://www.paperravenbooks.com/periscope .

 

So you guys are very quiet today. It’s probably partly because I’m really not on my normal Scope schedule, but that’s okay. So I’m on California time instead of Central time, so I’ll probably be Scoping a little bit later in the afternoon than you guys are used to. But I’ll still be here, and we will talk some more tomorrow. So in the meantime, go do some writing, put that introduction last on your list. Go ahead and finish whatever it is that you’re writing, and then circle back and do this intro. That will be the EASIEST and BEST way to write an introduction that pulls your reader in.

 

All right guys. Have a good afternoon, and I will talk to you later. Bye.  .

 

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