Ice-cream for editors

James Buckhouse
Apr 16, 2013 · 2 min read

Start with your conclusion.

Learn from your favorite editors and re-write your text once you’ve finished to start with your conclusion.

Divergent, creative or courageous text requires iteration to shape half-ideas into complete thoughts and to nurture initial inklings into actual insights. Sometimes you end up in a place you didn’t expect.

The courage to re-write your text after you’ve found your big idea will transform you from a thinker to a writer.

Don’t save it for the end.

Scientific papers start with an abstract for a reason; the audience needs to know immediately if the content will match their concerns before they commit to a longer work. Let people know in advance the promise of your text and help them believe that you will deliver against that promise if they stick with you.

Only murder mysteries, awards shows, and iPhone launches should save the “big reveal” for the end—for everything* else—open with your conclusion.

Don’t give up on surprise.

Just because you open with your big idea doesn’t mean you can’t delight and surprise your reader. Think of your first sentence as a movie trailer and your subsequent text as the actual film.

How to do it: The inverted ice-cream cone method.

Start with your normal discovery process: Debate, orate, fight and write your way through a messy problem until you eventually come up with your answer. Cut-n-paste your conclusion (usually your last sentence) and make it your opening line. Then re-write your content to adjust to your new beginning.

I like to think of the conclusion-turned-topic-sentence as the first drop of ice-cream that makes its way down the cone to sneak out the bottom. Catch it on your tongue and start again from the top.

*Almost everything… Perry Mason episodes should start with a phone call and end with a confession, for example.

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