4 Tips for Editing Lead-Ins
By Katy Kauffman
the heart of our writing, but lead-ins may be the stars. The beginnings of our
blog posts, articles, and books need to shine so that the reader is enticed to
read our message and discover the takeaway. Whether we start our writing with a
story, quote, question, or intriguing statement, the job of the lead-in is to
capture the reader’s attention and introduce our topic.
So how can
we best edit our lead-ins so they fully shine? Use these four tips for creating
stellar lead-ins and the transitions that immediately follow them.
1. Create a crisp first line.
Some of the best first lines are short. If you start your writing with a long one, see if you can create two sentences out of it or preface it with a shorter sentence.
Then look at your word choice. Does the first line have vivid nouns and verbs? Replace any “limp” words with vibrant ones.
2. Streamline a story’s details, and start in the right place.
I once had the tendency to include too many details in a story. If you use a story as your lead-in, read it again and strikethrough any sentences that aren’t necessary to making your point. Ask yourself whether each paragraph is needed and whether each sentence is needed in a paragraph. If you can delete a sentence and the story still makes sense, you may need to let that sentence go.
But don’t sacrifice personality for “tidy.” If a sentence adds humor, warmth, or insight about the people or event mentioned in the story, leave it in to add some interest. Such a sentence also reflects the author’s personality, and readers love to see that.
Also take a look at where you started the story. Is it in the middle of the action? Does the story start with a problem to grab the reader’s attention or with striking dialogue? Be sure to begin a story in such a way that the reader wants to read the next line and the next and the next to see what happens.
3. Make sure you’re using key words from your lead-in in the transition to your spiritual point.
Smooth writing makes for smooth reading. Highlight the connection between your lead-in and main point by using the right words.
I once wrote about finding soap bubbles on the shore (or what looked like them), and used words from my story in the transition to my spiritual point. It went something like this:
“The ocean was edged with soap bubbles, or what looked like them, as if God were cleansing the waters. White foam stood at attention along the beach, a reminder of what ‘clean’ looks like. I played tag with the waves for a little bit, and then stepped into a foamy mound. My toes didn’t feel it as much as my heart did. Clean. A sense of being made new, washed, set right. ‘Clean’ is a refreshing word, and it is a reality usually achieved through hard work and care. It takes hard work to keep a house clean. How much more our hearts.
Just as it seems impossible to keep an entire ocean clean, it can seem impossible to keep our hearts pure all the time. Yet Jesus adds ‘pure in heart’ as a condition for happiness and blessing.”1
Pick words from your story or slant (the metaphor or focus you use for your piece of writing) to include in your transition. I enjoy discovering these transitions in others’ writing. That connection between the lead-in and the spiritual point is when the lead-in shines the brightest.
4. Underline sentences that have punch, zip, and wow.
Even now as I edit a compilation, I keep two colored pens handy. One color is for underlining sentences that have punch and zip—the author made a point and made it well. The wording was spot on. The second color is for the wow lines. How did the author talk about Scripture or the way life works with God? Wow sentences fill in a missing piece of our understanding or explain something beautifully.
For lead-ins, punch, zip, and wow appear when the story has striking or vivid wording. When you get a glimpse into the heart of the main character or the matter at hand. When the story illustrates a spiritual principle just right. All three elements keep the reader engaged and wanting to learn more. Underlining these sentences in our lead-ins and transitions helps us to see if we have taken enough time to word sentences just right, infused enough insight into it, and created a beginning that is worth reading.
Which one of these tips do you like the best? Tell us in the comments.
(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and steafpong.)
1 Katy Kauffman, Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character (Buford, Georgia: Lighthouse Bible Studies, 2018), 303.
Katy Kauffman is an
award-winning author, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine,
and a co-founder of Lighthouse
Bible Studies. She has the privilege of working with
writers and the Lighthouse team to create Bible study compilations and magazine
issues. She has a monthly newsletter for writers called The Lighthouse Connection,
and she contributes to three blogs on writing. Connect with Katy at her blog, Winning the Victory,
and on Facebook and Twitter.