Sign posts


What kind of hooks do you leave for your readers. Let them know where you are heading and where you’ve been. Remind them that they’ve seen something before or reassure them that they don’t have to understand something completely now because you’ll come back to it later.

You can’t write a lot of these your first time through the material because you don’t always know where you’re heading. I usually sketch out my chapter intro before I write the chapter. It helps set the direction for me as I’m writing. When I’ve wrapped up the chapter I come back and rewrite this intro — this time for the reader.

These hooks reassure the reader that they can trust you to lead them on this journey. In fact, even though it seems completely backwards, these little breadcrumbs help the reader forget that he is being led. It gives him enough of a broad view of where they are that they feel more self-reliant.

If you look around you, you’ll notice plenty of these signposts in real life. Maggie and I spotted a bunch of signs on a hike across a West Virginia golf course yesterday. The messages in red were different in the different signs along the way but they all were clear, informative, and encouraging.

We wouldn’t encourage our readers to "Keep pace" but there are things that we as writers should consider about pacing. We’ll talk about them tomorrow.

This post originally appeared in the Pragmatic Life blog.