Keep Your Train of Thought On Track

Keeping your readers moving seamlessly through your book is a challenge every author faces. One element that helps ensure Joe and Jane Public stay with your story and logically connect to your ideas is transitions.

 

Transitions are the connectors, the bridges, the stepping stones that tell your readers what to do with the information you’re presenting.

They must be planned and relevant, or they stick out like files on a birthday cake.

Within a paragraph, transitions provide coherence: the sense that a paragraph has only one main idea.

Gene ordered his favorite meal at the taco stand. He grabbed the bag of food and took it home. He ate the tacos.

Although Jane Public could understand what is going on in Gene’s world, painting an engaging mental picture is difficult with the choppy, vague prose. This kind of writing encourages a reader to put the book down and never return. Not good. Not good at all.

With a few transitions and some beefed-up writing, Jane Public reads on.

Once the street vendor passed him the sack of tacos, Gene headed for his car. The first thing he did at home was plop the sack down on the coffee table and turn on the football game. His stomach growled. Unwrapping his favorite beef-and-bean fare, he then ate all five before the kickoff.

Transitions ensure Joe Public clearly understand your information and instruction.

Now what? Getting ahead and staying ahead of the game. Planning a strategy for managing your critical people is imperative. That includes both the project cheerleader and the project adversary. The project manager needs to plan for communication breakdowns, a significant activity. General guidelines suggest most of your time is spent in some form of communication.
vs.
Now what? First, getting ahead, and then staying ahead of the game. After all, planning a strategy for managing your critical people is imperative. Frequently, that includes both the project cheerleader and the project adversary. And finally, the project manager needs to plan for communication breakdowns, a singularly significant activity since general guidelines suggest most of your time is spent in some form of communication.

Between paragraphs, transitions let an author allude to the idea in the previous paragraph and then change or further enhance the idea in the next one. Again, with no paragraphs, the change appears abrupt or unrelated.

Many times, she’d thought about the legend of the ghost in the old inn. Charlotte didn’t believe in ghosts.
She jumped at the unexpected cold touch on her shoulder.

Not bad, but a minor rework—including a couple transitions—adds major oomph to the passage.

Although the legend of the ghost that lived in the old inn was creepy, Charlotte shrugged it off. She didn’t believe in ghosts.
Until she turned down the dusty hall and felt a cold touch on her shoulder.

Wow!

 

Does the same hold true for non-fiction paragraphs? You betcha!

Your business plan is the blueprint for how you plan to build a successful enterprise. Consider which people will have the greatest impact on your success.
If you need capital investment, investors will be your primary audience.
vs.
Your business plan is the blueprint for how you plan to build a successful enterprise. Consider which people will have the greatest impact on your success.
For example, if you need capital investment, investors will be your primary audience.

One more for kicks and giggles? Okay, if you insist…

Grady was sure he’d seen the suspect duck behind a BMW double-parked next to a UPS truck. No way was the jerk getting away.
Grady dodged several street barriers and delivery trucks to come up behind the man. The guy was gone. A bullet whizzed into the metal garbage can next to him. Grady ran for the safety of a doorway, searching the rooftops for the shooter. He stumbled into a pothole, twisting his ankle.
Great. Some detective I am. Glad his partner wasn’t here to see Grady trip over his two left feet.

Again, not bad but kind of snoozy. Enter transitions!

At first, Grady was sure he’d seen the suspect duck behind a BMW double-parked next to a UPS truck. No way was the jerk getting away.
But by the time Grady dodged several street barriers and delivery trucks to come up behind the man, the guy was gone. A bullet whizzed into the metal garbage can next to him. Grady ran for the safety of a doorway, searching the rooftops for the shooter. That’s when he stumbled into a pothole, twisting his ankle.
Great. Some detective I am. Certainly glad his partner wasn’t here to see Grady trip over his two left feet.

Click here for a printable list of transitions you can use to ensure readers follow your train of thought.

Write on!?

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