deadlines and good copywriting

I must admit, I didn’t accomplish much in the way of work yesterday. In fact, save for a bunch of rather unpredictable forum moderation (why, oh why to I torture myself), I did precisely no writing until after I’d already resigned myself to wine and a book before bed. You’d think that once 10 PM rolls around that you’ve pretty much tapped your day for all it’s worth. Not so yesterday and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.

See, I’m a deadline person. A crunch hound. A last-minute superhero. I got an assignment for market-specific copywriting that needed done before the day ended in America. No problem. I had it done before midnight GMT+1. That’s well before the west coast hits the freeway.

The requirements were simple, but decent copywriting is a delicate task. Copywriting is the stuff that fills advertisements and other typically persuasive copy. You are being sold to in some way when you read it. Brevity is paramount, but you also have to bait a great big hook in there too.

Possibly one of the best training exercises for copywriting is to write brief letters to editors and submit tips or anecdotes to weekly magazines. I didn’t believe it myself until I’d done it. After I’d been printed in Reader’s Digest, Women’s Weekly, and Love It! (some of those multiple times) I began to see like an editor. You think your twenty-five word tip is tight? Watch a pro cut it to eighteen for print. These guys are selling something to the readers — bite-size information. It’s not an obvious sales pitch, no, but it is a hook. Good writers plus good editors equals sales. This is a training exercise you can’t miss.

Books on copywriting are fine. Seeing a professional editor whittle pounds of weight from your already lean copy? Artistry. Look at your own copy with those eyes. That’s when I think you become a good copywriter. I used this lesson last night and wrote some of my hookiest, funkiest, tell-me-more copy ever, but I guarantee it will be edited. Strangely, I can’t wait to see the final results.

Writing prose, poetry, fiction or non-fiction opens our vocabularies, our visual minds, and permits us to be verbosely expressive. Copywriting on the other hand, is tapping its foot and telling you to get on with it. I now see how writing creatively won’t really help you with copywriting (there is a more specific language with copywriting), but copywriting can teach you a helluva lot about ‘getting on with it’ in your more creative work.

They are certainly two very different disciplines, but I feel more confident as a writer for having figured out the strengths of them both. The important thing to realise is that you don’t have to be a professional copywriter. I’ll bet Shakespeare wouldn’t be able to sell you washing powder, but I think he’s certainly proven himself in creative writing. If writing ads, tips, or letters to the editor seems pointless, try summarising your book or short story for a book jacket. You’ll be surprised at how copywriting seems more natural when selling your creative work is at stake.

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~ by Jen on Wednesday, 18 October 2006 - 10:40am.

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