By Katy Kauffman
With time, I have become a better train conductor. Instead of jumping the rails to explore lush, green forests or majestic mountain peaks, I am better able to keep my train of thought on its intended course. Have you ever thought of yourself—a writer—as a train conductor?
Words are our cars, and chapters are our trains. We may not wear the nostalgic conductor’s hat, but our thinking caps fit snugly in place. That may be the problem. In the broad expanse of ideas and sentences and experiences, we have to chart our course. What points do we need to make? Which ones do we need to leave out? Our necessary writer’s tool (dare I say the word?)—an outline—acts as our track. The track grows as we add illustrations, insights, or examples to make our point. The danger comes when our exuberance for sharing what we know runs off track and into the thicket.
Oh, it may not look like a thicket to us. But our readers will find themselves traveling through briars and underbrush if we decide to jump the track. They may appreciate the extra leg of the journey, tucked safely inside our train. But they will start to wonder why their conductor added a few stops before the destination. We never want to confuse or disappoint our readers. We want them to travel with us again through worlds of truth or imagination.
So how do we ensure that they will buy our train ticket and ride with us again? By delivering what we’ve promised. By arriving at our destination at the end of the book and making every stop until we get there as enjoyable, informative, and encouraging as possible.
Here are five questions to ask yourself about every chapter, paragraph, and sentence in your book. These questions also work for shorter rides, such as articles and blog posts. Once you have poured out your heart on paper, put on your conductor’s hat and examine closely your train of thought. Streamline your writing by evaluating the “track.”
my train of thought travel from Point A (the beginning of my chapter or
article) to Point B (the end of it) in a straight line, or have I meandered off
- Have I included stories, statistics, or quotes that illustrate my point, or are some not as relevant as others?
- Can I cut out any paragraphs, sentences, or single words, and my message is still clear?
- Have I inserted anything that’s precious to me but unnecessary to my overall point?
- Do I arrive at my destination “on time,” or do I have any delays and detours?
Our goal as writers is to arrive at our destination—the end of our work—leaving our readers feeling as if they have had an adventure worth remembering and taking to heart. Guide them all the way through your message of truth by using the most effective route—don’t let your train of thought jump the track.
What do you do to help yourself stay on track in your writing? Share your tips and ideas with us in the comments below.
(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Phil_Bird/bugnin.)
Our goal as writers is to leave our readers feeling as if they have had an adventure worth remembering. Don't let your train of thought jump the track. via @KatyKauffman28 (Click to tweet.)
Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. Her first compilation, Breaking the Chains: Strategies for Overcoming Spiritual Bondage, won a 2018 Selah finalist award. Her next compilation, Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character, was a 2019 Selah finalist and Director’s Choice finalist. Katy’s writing can be found at CBN.com, thoughts-about-God.com, PursueMagazine.net, two blogs on writing, in online magazines, and on devotional blogs. She loves spending time with family and friends, making jewelry, and hunting for the best donuts. Connect with her at her blog, The Scrapbooked Bible Study, and on Facebook and Twitter.