I admit it. I’m a terrible closer. If I spend 20 minutes crafting my lede, you can guarantee I spend 18.5 minutes on the closing. It’s something I work on more often than I want to think about, however, it is better than the alternative – driving your audience off a cliff. When I’m stuck on my wrap-up I try four things to get myself back on track:
1. Revisit the lede.
The lede brought your audience into the article and the conclusion will touch back home on the same thought, feeling or person – if an anecdote – that interested readers in the first place. If you remember writing academic papers in school, we were taught our conclusion should be the introduction/thesis statement reworded. A closing won’t be that simple, but your lede will definitely give you a road map to the end of your journey.
2. Call to action.
One type of conclusion that is very popular is a call to action – it gives readers a task: find out more information, call to donate, share your story, etc. There are times when we struggle for an ending to an article that isn’t there – a call to action moves the reader out of the story and into creating a story of their own.
3. Leave it.
I don’t mean leave the article unfinished, but leave the piece alone. Give it some breathing room and come back to it with fresh eyes. It’s amazing what a few days or even hours can do for perspective and for finding the right way to put an article to bed.
4. Research More.
It sucks, but sometimes when you’ve reached the end of your rope you are there because you haven’t given yourself enough rope to work with – in other words you have holes in your research. Time to do ask a few follow-up questions or dig deeper into a source. Plot holes don’t just happen in novels.
Missing conclusions are unsatisfying and frustrating readers. They look to see if the article continues on another page or if there’s more after the Google ad. They check the headline and previous couple of paragraphs to see if they missed something. The one thing they won’t do is forward or share your piece, so wrap it up – splendidly.
What’s the toughest part of an article to write? The lede (lead) or conclusion? Do you have tips for getting unstuck?
If nothing else, you can always fall back on the old rule about speeches — tell them what your going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.