Dear Writer, Get To the Point Already

Linda Caroll
Apr 18, 2019 · 3 min read
from unsplash, of course.

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

That’s the first line from Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
You can’t read that sentence and not read the next sentence.

You know how she doesn’t start the book?

She doesn’t start by explaining that she has a story to tell. Or justifying why she’s writing it. She doesn’t tell you about that 6th grade writing prize. Or that you might or might not like her story, but hey, give it a chance…

Why do writers DO that?

I’ve been on a quest to find new people to read…

I’ve been looking for new people to read.
Why is a long story, won’t go there today.

But I’ve been doing this stupid thing where I mouse over names to see if they are new here. And by new, I meant they only have a handful of followers.

Hot damn.

Too often, I can’t even wade through the first two paragraphs.

Y’all need to try copy-writing for a while…

I’m not a professional writer. Not in the manner of Stephen King or Margaret Atwood or Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m not even a writer unless you count copy writing, because I do a boat load of that. Like, every damn day.

Copy writing teaches some really hard lessons.

Mostly that people read what they want — and by what they want, I mean what they find interesting.

If you’re not interesting, you don’t get read, opened or clicked and then whoever was paying you sure isn’t going to pay you to write more of that dross. Because no, they want a writer who can engage the reader.

You learn to be interesting real fast or you don’t eat.

In my earliest memory, my grandfather is bald as a stone and he takes me to see the tigers.

That’s the first line of The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

Do you see what I’m saying here?

You’ve watched movies. You know how sometimes they loop around and treat time like it’s not exactly linear? Any reason you can’t do that?

Like, if there’s boring stuff you “have to” add (for whatever reason) is there a reason you can’t start with a bang and lead into the boring stuff once the reader is actually interested?

Copy writing teaches that, too.

Lots of times I have to give shitty boring details or there’s going to be trouble with lack of disclosure. I don’t start with them, for heaven’s sakes.

Here, I’ll lend you my axe

Some years ago, I spent 2 years reading new submissions at a small publisher. Mostly, what I wanted to do was take an axe to the writing coming in.

Chop the first paragraph, maybe even the entire first chapter.
Too many writers think they need build up.

No. Build up comes later. When they’re interested.

Start with a bang!


Linda Caroll

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