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Stellar Introductions

How to Write a Stellar Introduction

It can be the hardest part of a book to write. In an introduction, we want to draw the reader in, introduce our topic, show a bit of our personality, and give the reader a taste of what’s to come. We want to set up where we’re going in our book without giving away all the good stuff. It can be daunting.

But it doesn’t have to be. For almost a year in this column, I’ve talked about how to write great first lines. Now let’s talk about how to develop a great introduction. I recommend writing a rough draft of your introduction before you start your book, just so you know where you’re headed. But don’t hesitate to adjust it as you write the rest of your book or even to write most of it later. You may find that you can include elements from your chapters to give the reader a taste of what’s to come.

Ask the Right Questions

Ask yourself the following questions to form an outline for your intro. The answers to these questions will reveal the heart of your book—what it’s about and why you wrote it. The last two questions will help you fill in the details of the outline. By the way, these questions are great to use when writing a book proposal.

  1. In just one phrase, what is your book about?
  2. Expand that a little. In thirty words or less, how would you describe your book?
  3. What made you want to write this book?
  4. Why do you think this book is needed in the world today?
  5. What groups of people can benefit from your book?
  6. What tools or resources did you use to make your points (the Bible, personal experience, statistics, other people’s books, etc.)?
  7. What practical steps or help do you hope to provide in your book?

The answer to Question 4 would be great in your first or second paragraph—introduce the need that the book fills or the problem that it answers. (Don’t forget to start the intro with something snazzy, using an idea perhaps from this article, 5 Ideas of How to Start Your Book.) Questions 1 and 2 would be the perfect follow up—share what this book is about. Question 3 would give the reader insight into your heart—why you wrote it. Use Question 6 to show that your book has objective and/or personal insight. Mention some of the answers to Question 7 to give the reader a preview of what’s to come. Don’t go into too much detail, but talk enough about what’s in the book so that they will want to read all the chapters. Finally, use Question 5 throughout your intro. Appeal to these groups of people with the wording and examples you use.

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Use Your TOC

Another great tool to aid you in writing your introduction is your Table of Contents. This roadmap to your book will show you what points to mention in your intro. Get the reader excited about what’s coming by using phrases from the Table of Contents, or by lifting words or ideas from the book’s chapters and inserting them into your intro.

An Example Outline

Here’s an example outline of an introduction. This is based on the intro to my first book, 2 Timothy: Winning the Victory.  I began the intro by using an allegory about the apostle Paul running a race and passing the baton to his protégé, Timothy. (To see the introduction, click this link. Scroll down to Day 1 in the sample to read the intro.)

Here’s my outline:

  1. A veteran runner passes the baton to his younger teammate.
  2. Paul is the veteran runner, and Timothy is the man poised to take his place.
  3. Just as Paul passed principles to Timothy to help him in his ministry, the same principles have been passed down to us in our generation.
  4. This is our time to fight the good fight, run our race, and serve God faithfully.
  5. So pick up the torch, and don’t stop running.
  6. Whatever victory you need today, depend on God and use the resources He’s given you.
  7. Questions for reflection/discussion
  8. Prayer

Do you think the questions mentioned above would help you to create an introduction? If you haven’t written your intro already, answer them and make an outline. Tell me how it worked, and share any questions in the comments below. Happy writing.

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4 comments

  1. Great information–thank you! I plan on referring to this often.

  2. Thanks so much Katy!! I have not written my intro yet and am really excited now to do this. This post was exactly what I needed to get me started. Thanks again!

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