Writers spend a lot of time on that first sentence in their story.
If the first sentence doesn’t entice readers to the next one, all that hard work creating the story goes down the drain.
In case you’re stuck, here are seven tips on creating the perfect lede.
1. Don’t start off with numbers
There’s no easier way to kill a story than by starting off with numbers. Just don’t. If your story is number heavy, keep the figures farther down in the body of the text. And always round them to the nearest whole numbers, unless the exact number is necessary to the story.
2. Read it out loud
By doing this, you’ll be able to hear whether you stumble as you read. If you’re stumbling, so will your reader. By reading the lede out loud, you can finesse it prior to publishing.
3. Tell me in one sentence
I always jot down in one sentence what a story is about before I begin to write or research my story. You could write this sentence on a sticky-note and post it on the corner of your computer screen, or just write it out on the corner of your notepad. This is a great habit that’ll help you focus on what your story is about. That crisp, clear focus also helps with crafting the perfect lede.
4. What’s the big deal?
Tell readers what makes this story different from all the other ones on your blog. I write a lot about SaaS businesses and I’m constantly considering fresh approaches to writing stories on the same subject. What makes this SaaS software’s function different from the last one’s? Your lede should indicate why your story is fresh.
5. Keep it short
A short lede that focusses on one key point is better than a long lede stuffed with confusing or conflicting elements (a problem that often comes up in the B2B space). You’re not answering the who, what, where, why, when, and how in your lede. And try to keep your lede to around 25 words. Anything longer and readers will leave the page.
6. Buried gems in your story
It’s a good idea to read over your story once it’s complete. You might have a nugget of interesting content in your story that may work better as a lede. If something within the story sounds more interesting than the lede, consider starting off with that point. It’s important to rework your story a few times. Don’t settle for a lede.
7. Got writer’s block? Don’t stare at your screen.
It happens to every writer. The worst thing you can do is sit in front your screen. Go out for a coffee. Stretch. Play with Fido. Relax. Do anything but work on your story. When your mind is fresh, come back and start again.
One of the most valuable assets marketers have is storytelling.
It’s why I created this brief primer on story forms, courtesy of my evergreen notes from journalism school.
If you’re a content marketer, use these story formats to make your company blog shine.
This story format works well if you’re trying to build a timeline of events with a natural progression: “This happened, then this, followed by this.” It opens up with an enticing angle or focus. If you’re dealing with a complex timeline, use the chronological story format.
It doesn’t get any more basic than this. The inverted pyramid is often used in news stories, with the most important bits of information up top. It’s a popular story format among print journalists. Working under tight deadlines, newspaper editors often cut stories from the bottom, which is where the least important points are placed. If you’re on a tight deadline, writing in the inverted pyramid is your best bet.
The classic feature begins with a human interest angle or an opening scene. I love using the classic feature when I write long-form B2B stories that exceed 1,000 words. The opening of the classic feature gives the story context. It moves into sub themes that address various aspects of the story. The classic feature ends by linking back to the opening scene. It gives the story a sense of closure.
Moves from one topic to another. It emphasizes order and explanation. The theme/block story format is easier to write and read because there are fewer shifts within the story.
The whole and the parts
The lede (intro sentence) and first few paragraphs summarize the key elements of the story. The remainder of the story offers details on each element.
I help companies grow by telling their stories.