Good ledes aren’t just good writing, they’re vital for traffic
If you want people to read your stories, it helps a lot to write a good lede.
Joel Cordes, Bleacher Report’s Internship Program feedback editor, sent this advice to our writing interns in this week’s regular email:
“It costs reads when your lede doesn’t match what the article is supposed to be about. This is all some people see on a search engine’s brief description, so you should be telling your readers EXACTLY what they’re about to read in the first sentence or two by matching the lede (paraphrasing) to your headline/thesis. Then, go ahead with the scene setters.”
As I give feedback to Bleacher Report writers, the thing I talk about more than everything else combined is lede writing, and the thing I say more than any other is some variation of what Joel wrote here: Lead with what your story is about, not with background or context, what Joel calls “scene setters.”
If it seems like I’m harping on this topic on this blog, it’s because I’m harping on it.
If you’re a B/R writer and you read that paragraph about feedback a second ago and thought, “Hey, I’m going to send King an email and ask him to read some of my stories and give me some feedback,” do this first: Read through the still-brief archive of posts about ledes on this blog, paying particular attention to the “B/R 101″ piece.
That’s almost certainly going to be the main part of my feedback: Write better ledes by leading with specifics, using important keywords, grabbing the attention of readers by leading with the main point of your story.
Find your published stories on Google, Bing or Yahoo by searching for the headlines. Note what shows up on the results screen: The head, the URL and the first 20 or so words of your lede. If those 20 words or so are about something other than what you were writing about in that story, if they were setting the scene or giving background, you missed a chance to capture the attention of a lot of readers.
That’s your individual, customized, just-for-you feedback for today. If you think you’re writing great ledes already, go ahead and send me that email.