Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It was a dark and stormy night...The End --Cindy Blomquist

I find that most people know what a story is
until they sit down to write one.
~Flannery O'Connor

Don't bother submitting an article to me with a weak first sentence. If you don't grab me with your first line, then I'm on to the next one. And if you close your article by quoting Scripture...for sure it's in the dumper. Does that sound a little harsh? (Especially since Women of the Harvest loves to nurture and grow new writers.) OK, I don't have that mentality, but your readers do!

As you plot out your article, make sure you pay attention to the beginning and the ending of your story. Please spend time here or else your reader will do one of two things: 1) not read your article, or 2) be totally dissatisfied by the time the last sentence is read that they just might throw it in the trash. Sorry.

In this age of I've-got-a-lot-to-do-so-don't-waste-my-time, you must grab your audience immediately. Draw your readers in with your first sentence. How do you do that? Be provocative: Missionaries are the most entitled group of Christians. Say something that flies in the face of the norm: Getting sick was the healthiest thing that happened to me. Break open a taboo and say it out loud: My husband beat me last night. Don't be boring. I repeat, "Don't be boring."

As I alluded to in my first post, my biggest pet peeve with articles submitted to the magazine is a weak last paragraph. Why? Because I need satisfaction: a well-paced ending gives me closure and makes me feel good about my investment in reading the article. A bad ending is like a car cruising along in the fast lane about to pass up its appointed exit, only to make it by crossing three lanes of traffic without looking to see what catastrophes have occurred by this abrupt and careless behavior. Don't be that kind of writer (or driver). Allow yourself the time to wrap up your article by drawing in all that you have just said. Reiterate your thesis. Evoke a call to action. Tell me about the transformation that resulted. Drive your point home without crossing 3 lanes of traffic at 100 mph.

And please, oh please, don't use a verse from the Bible to wrap it up...more on that next week when I write my final column on writing about spiritual topics.

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