A Lead Writing “Trick”

One of my editors now, Ron Robillard, a long-time editor at several papers across the state, recently started to read my blog. Actually, yesterday was his first time. When he told me I held my breath and expected to be criticized, but he only had some great advice for me to try on my leads.

He told me to think of the headline for the story, before I write it. At first, I thought that was a terrible idea because the reporters don’t write the headlines. In my time at the Chronicle, I have yet to actually suggest a headline to an editor.

He knows that I don’t like writing headlines. I think most, if not all of the editors know by now. I usually start my stories with the second line and finish the story from there. After I’m “finished” I go back to the top of the story and try to think of a good headline. Sometimes it takes me 5 minutes, and other times much, much longer.

via Brostrom.de

I thought his idea more after we were done talking and it really is a great idea. Having the headline would give me an idea of what to base my story around. Instead of struggling to come up with the main focus of the story in a sentence, I can try to think up the headline and, hopefully, smooth that whole process out.

The lead to each story is crucial to get and keep a readers attention. The headline is the first key, but the lead is your best shot of getting them to read the story, so it has to be good. I try to do catchy leads, not corny ones, but catchy ones.

Besides being catchy, the lead has to convey as much information as possible to the reader. It has to be the answer they have been looking for. Sometimes I think of it as I’m answering a question they may have. The story is the answer, with the lead being as straightforward as possible. The lead also gives the reader the voice and direction of the story.

Of all the things that I struggle with, leads are the bane of my existence. Obviously, I’m kidding, but I am really going to take Ron’s advice to work. I used it this morning and I’ll be using it with each story I write moving forward. It may take a little while for me to get used to it, but this new “trick” may really be the answer I have been looking for.

We will have to wait and see.


3 Responses to A Lead Writing “Trick”

  1. Pingback: READ READ READ « Just Starting Out

  2. Pingback: Lead Writing Woes « Just Starting Out

  3. Pingback: Lead Writing 11 Months In « Just Starting Out

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