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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dive In!


Olympic divers amaze me.


They climb up a ladder, walk out on the diving platform, take a few preliminary bounces, and dive--leaping off the board, twisting, turning, arching--finally slicing through the water to finish their routine.


Amazing.


The purpose of Olympic diving is to dive--to get off the platform and into the air and then into the water. If the diver just stood there bouncing on the board well, I'd get tired of waiting.


"Dive already!"


"Jump!"


"Just do it!"


Writing the lead paragraph for your article is like diving off the platform. You don't want to spend too much time up there on the board, bouncing, bouncing, bouncing ... you need to set up your piece and then dive in.


We're writers. We love to write. We love words. We especially love the words we write. And sometimes we are convinced every single word has to stay in that article we've oh-so-carefully crafted. No slicing, no dicing.


Part of writing is--dare I say it?--editing. And editing is more than just polishing the words you've written. Editing is also figuring out what words you need to delete.


Too many words can become too many sentences, which can become too many paragraphs, which becomes a lead that is way too long. It's like a diver taking too many bounces on the board. He's up on the board, bouncing, bouncing, bouncing, bouncing, bouncing, bouncing ...


Dive already!


The next time you're working on an article, look at how many "bounces" you take before you dive in to the rest of the story. Your lead should set up your article and then allow you to move on.

You decide if you need a sentence or a paragraph or half a page before you're "off the board" and into the rest of the story. If you're on page 2 and you're still setting up your story, you're probably overdoing your lead. You're just bouncing on the board. Step back and rework it so you're not wasting valuable word count on a lead that's too long.