Jan 1, 2008

writing great leads

Here's a freelance writing tip you've probably heard before: writing a great lead is like hitting the bull's eye. If your lead doesn't hook the editors and publishers first, or it won't ever hook readers, much less grab their attention.

A great lead:
  • brings the subject to life
  • intrigues, excites, or startles readers
  • appeals to the reader's emotions

Sometimes the article or chapter tells you how to write the lead. Other times, you need to figure out exactly how you'll hook readers. Anecdotes, questions, quotes, paradoxes, dramatic examples or startling statistics all draw people in. Real life can give you writing inspirations for leads.

Here's two examples of anecdotal leads: The Risks of Liposuction and Setting Healthy Boundaries. Are they interesting enough? If not, how would you improve them?

Writing tip: "Nothing hooks readers faster than a question that asks something they've always wondered about," writes Frank Peterson in The Magazine Writing Handbook. I'm getting ready to write a query for a Father's Day article, and I'm struggling with the lead. What have people always wondered about, with regard to Father's Day?

Hmmm.......what to give to their dads and how to celebrate are the natural answers. But what about asking a question that readers haven't thought of? For instance, what would it be like to meet your dad for the first time? I think a question like that might hook readers.

In fact, I think I'll try that writing idea right now.

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