A good lede (lead) draws readers into the piece. It’s purpose is to pique interest, tell readers what the piece is about and transition them into the body of the article. It also needs to develop rather quickly. That is a lot of weight to place on a paragraph or two, which is why it’s the area writers agonize over the most.
As with most things, writing improves through practice, critique and analyzing others. This exercise incorporates all three. Rewrite the ledes you come across throughout the day. Newspaper or magazine articles, blog posts – it doesn’t matter, simply read the piece and create your own lede for it. There are a few rules:
- The lede must be in your own typical style or niche. It’s not helpful if you suddenly become Tom Brokaw for a newspaper lede when you usually write a funny automotive repair blog. This is about taking what you do to the next level, not mimicking someone else.
- You must use the facts given in the article.
- Don’t agonize over it. The exercise is designed to improve your writing. It won’t work if you only do one rewrite in three hours. Keep it down to 10 minutes max, then move on to the next one.
- Complete five pieces then rest. Take a walk, check email, whatever you need to distract from the work.
- Look at both ledes – the original and your re-write – and critique. Be sure to recognize what is good about each piece as well as what needs work.
There are some ledes so brilliant, they either inspire you to pick up the keyboard or make you want to throw your laptop out the window. Those ledes are a product of hard work and practice. Fun, no pressure exercises are a great way to hone your craft – here’s to magnificent ledes!
Share your favorite writing exercise.