After graduating college, I believed I was well prepared for my first real-world editing job at a national magazine. I’d been corrected and coached by wonderful teachers over the years—but somehow, it ratchets things up a notch when you’re being paid to perform a task that was previously a matter of As, Bs, and Cs on a report card.
I’ll admit to being a bit shaken the first time a story I’d written came back from a grizzled old editor, soaked through the page with red ink. As I read through the comments, though, I realized he was absolutely right. About every darn thing.
The best writing tip this editor gave me sticks with me to this day: In most cases, you can chop the first and maybe even the second paragraph of your first draft. There’s a lot of throat-clearing that tends to go on when you’re first formulating your thoughts. Quite often, all it does is delay your readers from getting to the good stuff.
So, the next time you’re struggling with getting a lede paragraph just right, consider uncapping your red pen instead—and putting your readers right into the action.