When I was new to the editing game, just a green, wide-eyed youth, my already grizzled boss, Jim Sire, told me, “When editing something, you can almost always improve it by throwing away the first three paragraphs.” It’s a bit of wisdom I’ve carried with me and applied many times for over thirty-five years.
Writers need to take time to
warm up, to figure out what they really want to say. They may feel they need to introduce a topic, explain something or persuade readers that what they’re writing about is important. Perhaps they aren’t sure what they want to say. Writing things down is a way of thinking things through for themselves. Gaining clarity. Sharpening focus. It can be an important part of the creative process.
Most writers know this. They know that drafts need to be worked and reworked. But sometimes those preliminary thoughts survive rewriting–and still need to be cut. That’s where someone else, someone with a bit more objective view of the writing, can help–someone who doesn’t have as much emotional investment in the piece.
Another trick I’ve learned is similar. Find the best sentence in an article or chapter, and make it the first sentence. This will often require rewriting the beginning (as well as where the sentence was extracted from), but it is worth the effort.
So where are the three original paragraphs I first wrote for this blog? Nowhere. I just decided not to write them.