Wednesday, November 01, 2006

8 Things to Remember While Writing

Once in a while, when I get really into writing on a project, I "zone in" a little too far. I forget certain things - who I'm writing to, what I want the piece to do, etc.

It's easy to tell when I do that. I go to edit later and think, "AGH! What possessed me to write THIS? It's way off-base! Garbage! Wasted time! #$(*&@%&^#$!"

One of the oft-forgotten items is the reader. It's easy to blur a target market's needs in your head. Many copywriters speak of this concern. Brian Clark and Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero, for two.

But I find that's not the only thing I need to remember. In fact, I've come across no less than 8 things I need to keep in mind when I write.

No, I don't actually keep them in mind. After I do my research and before I start writing, I write down the answers to all 8 on a piece of paper and lay them next to my keyboard. Easy reference.

Try it yourselves. Here's the 8, and a brief explanation of their value:

8 Things to Remember While Writing
1. Purpose - Is this piece intended to sell, to educate, to raise awareness, to follow up, or to get a certain non-sales action? More than one (hint: bad idea)? Be specific. "Piece intended to persuade reader to call Sales and book a consultation."

2. Reader - I go by Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero's advice here. I write out a "tarket" person - one representative of my target audience, in detail. The person I'm talking to. "Carl: 35. VP of technology at DDT Corp. Divorced, no kids. Likes old cars and sailing. Wants to get things done at the office fast so he can hit the waves."

3. Action - What will you want the reader to do at the end? It's important to plan this out before you write a word. Do that and you'll be writing toward a specific end. Don't and you'll wander around the request for action.

4. Voice - Choose which voice you'll use and stick to it. Pick your poison: Professional, Casual, Funny, Serious, Technical, Urgent. On occasion you can mix these, but I don't recommend it. Casual's my favorite.

5. Do It Anyway - This is more for me. I don't want the compulsion to stop and edit get in my way. We can go back later for that. It's easy to remind yourself. Just write out, "Do it anyway! Keep going!"

6. Confusion - Everyone wants their writing to flow. But I find keeping confusion in mind wards off the likelihood of flow tripping up. Write down, "Could the reader stop right where you are and lose track?" If the answer's yes - or you're not sure when you check - make a note to revise before continuing. I use this: ((revise))

7. Simplicity - Don't put in "Utilize" when "Use" works fine. The temptation to balloon your copy up with flowery language (especially in technical marketing) is always there. Don't succumb. Simple language sells. Write down something like Peter Bowerman's famous, "Write like you talk." Or the ever-handy "K.I.S.S."

8. Bravery - Another one for me. (Hey, everybody has moments of weakness.) Feeling timid while you write produces writing that reads timidly. I know everyone reading can think of something they've read recently that looked...limp. Sign of a timid writer. This is what I write down to shake the fear: "You're getting paid for this. It's helping you get better each time. Go for it!" Cliche, but it works.

Reminder lists like this one tell me I'm on-target and that I've got everything I need to write. Big confidence boost right there. And like Chris Rock said, "Confidence always wins."

Got something you keep as a priority while writing? Post it in the comments, or send me an email.



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