I once attended a news writing class where the lecturer only cared about 2 things: what the newspapers had written about that day, and how we could start of in 50 words or less, a story about a recent event on campus.
It had to be under 50 words, and it had to spark interest.
From attending class, I quickly learned to develop a thick skin about my writing and welcome criticism.
Who cares about the bird?
News writers know a great many things about good writing. They know, for example, the only point of the first paragraph, called the lead, is to spark interest. And the job of the first paragraphs is to lead to the second, which would explain more on the story. So only the most important human-interest aspects of the story lead their writing, and the details are painted in later.
Example: An otherwise mundane story about say a firefighter who had to rescue Mrs. Teshire’s cat, named Lucy that got stuck in a tree that had a rare Galapagos bird nesting, yesterday at 5 p.m. on Grand Avenue could lead:
“The rare Galapagos bird, one among 1000 of its species in the world, was discovered yesterday in attempts to rescue a cat that got stuck in the tree it called home, along Grand Avenue.”
This opener sparks interest by telling you, the reader that a rare bird was accidentally discovered in your town. Questions like, “Who’s cat? Why did it get stuck? Is the bird safe?” might pop into your mind after reading this lead, which means you would read on.
The writer could then paint in details about the event in a few of the next paragraphs, then switch to information or news about the bird, or the reasons why its going extinct, or any other related information.
Do your blog post leads spark interest?
News writing is all storytelling, because it explains things that have already happened. Leads in news writing aim to answer the: who, what, when, where, and why should I care, but only starting off with elements that tempt them to read more.
If you have subscribers to your blog, then sometimes the first mention of your posts is through their e-mails, if a reader clicks on a title, then the lead is what makes them decide if it’s worth reading. So what do you entice your readers with?
Wether you write to entertain, inform, or inspire, the next time you are starting a post think of the headline, then tailor the first 50 words to make your readers stick around to read the rest. Paint a scenario, and then give them solutions, give an anecdote that ties off to the story, or just start by answering the “Why should I care?” and reel them in.
The point of the headline is to get clicks; the point of the first 50 words is to get readers to read the story.
Have a better idea for the lead in the example above? in 50 words or less, post it in the comments field below!
Image credit: Flickr-phalinn
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Daisy Quaker is a freelance internet marketing consultant, specializing in social media strategy, content marketing, e-mail marketing and internet marketing strategy, find her on Twitter and tell her what strategies work for your business.