Hint #10 Great beginnings
MAGAZINE HEALTH WRITING BASIC 12 part – 10
Award-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez said one of the most difficult things is the first paragraph. “I have spent many months on a first paragraph and once I get it, the rest just comes out very easily,” he explained. Of course, we’re not writing Marquez literary novels, nor do we have the luxury to spend a year on a first paragraph. Still, writing that first paragraph can really stump a writer.
The lead paragraph invites readers into your article, so you want to get it right. One way to write a lead is to start with an anecdote, i.e., tell the reader a little story that suggests something about the bigger point your article makes. Lately I’ve noticed a lot of health editors wanting this kind of lead. I think that’s because a recent reader poll said readers like this. Your editor might even suggest a “real people” lead. The story isn’t about them, really, but telling their story briefly in the lead gives a clinical health topic a human face. You could also lead off with an observation, an intriguing statement, or a question.
Some writers say you need to grab readers by the throat. That works, too, although I think it can come across heavy-handed. If your article is tightly organized and logical, and the pace, and expression are in harmony, then your lead doesn’t have to do all the lifting.
If your first paragraph still isn’t coming, don’t let it block you. Go ahead and write the middle and even the ending, and come back to it later. I often find the lead comes when I’m writing the ending. Ever notice how many article endings refer back to something mentioned at the beginning? I bet those writers do it the same way. As a reader, I find it equally satisfying.
Happy Health Writing,
[See the full list of 12 hints here: 12 Hints for Magazine Health Writers]