Best-selling author shares writing tip

Best-selling author Lee Child has just started on his latest novel. He’s only a few pages in, but he’s already sharing a writing trick he used in his opening chapter.

For 23 years Child has been cranking out page-turners featuring his hero, Jack Reacher. They’ve dominated the fiction charts, sparked film adaptations starring Tom Cruise, and enthralled millions of fans. And Child cheerfully admits that over those 23 years he’s developed a signature clipped style.

But for the all-important first paragraphs of his new book, he’s changing the pattern.

He’s started with a longer than usual introductory sentence. He says he wants to let the words breathe as he writes about the end of summer, the migration of birds and a list of States charting Reacher’s planned journey across America.

Then a five-word hook – “He didn’t get very far” – drags the reader into a very different world. Suddenly a world of peace and tranquility is shoved aside, replaced by a world of darkness and danger.

My point… it’s not just about the words you write. So much of the effectiveness of your words depends on how you package them: how you dress them up in sentences and paragraphs.

Everything should have a purpose in your writing: the words you choose, and the framework you hang them on. This is not to say that short sentences are better than long sentences. Just be aware of the effect sentence length has on the impact of your words.