Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Copyferreting - How To Close Up Gaps in Your Work

(Fair warning - I've had a monster headache all day. Today's article might sound a bit off.)

Flow is extremely important to copy. Without flow, there's no story. No foundation on which to build. No steady persuasion effort. You've read copy like this: you get lost, can't figure out what's being said, don't feel like reading more, and so on.

Flow depends on connecting ideas. I guess I'm an atypical writer, because I don't always sit down, start at the top and write in a linear order from beginning to end. As I write, I jump from paragraph to paragraph. I want to make sure the ideas are in proper order to be the most convincing. (Something tells me I'm not alone in this.)

However, this leaves gaps between points quite often. The ideas are present, but the flow is not.

The good news is, if you've done your research, you already possess the connectors necessary to close up the gaps and create flow between your words. These are a couple of ways you can pull them out of your head.

Don't Let Floaters Disappear - Sometimes you'll be writing in one area, and something else will pop into your head. It's not relevant to what you're writing that moment, but it might be relevant three paragraphs up.

Don't hesitate. Don't reach for the scroll wheel. Start writing it that second. Yes, it breaks up what you were working on before. But you can pick it back up. Pause, even for a moment, and you'll lose the brainstorm.

I call these "floaters" - bits of copy that float in out of the blue. Relevant to the overall subject, but not right this second. These are potentially flow-saving elsewhere, because they're the result of your mind sifting through your research and previous copy.

When The Wall Approaches, Throw Notes At It - You have been taking lots of notes during research, right? You have the product features, benefits, competitors' information and company sales points at your elbow, right?

When your fingers stop moving and your mind falls flat, reach for your notes. Browse through without a specific purpose. Toss what you've written back and forth. Usually what you need is waiting to jump out. Keep doing this when you hit a wall, and the walls will decrease.

Juggle - It's happened before - you're at a dead stop. Another sentence, one you wrote last paragraph, looks like it will fit next. But it means patching one gap by creating another. Do you move it?

Yes. Continuity now is hard to maintain. Going back and adding on is easier. Juggling sentences can yield surprisingly good results. Almost every time I do it, I get a better flow. And even more helpful, after I do so I have little trouble resuming where I was.

Try these ideas out in your own copy. They aren't hard-and-fast rules by any stretch. But they might poke your writing brain in just enough of a new direction to inject some creativity.

Other parts to my Copyferreting may appear here at a later date. Keep your eyes peeled!


On a sadder note: CNET editor James Kim has been found dead. He risked - and gave - his life for the chance of saving his family. The man deserves hero's honors. I salute his courage and his sacrifice.


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