Harry Potter and The Services Brochure? Okay, so that might be a bit extreme (but admit it, you’d read it, right?). But there is a beautiful cross section between creative writing and copywriting.
The techniques that I have learnt from creative writing via studying and applying the art are, thankfully, transferrable to my copywriting and professional writing career. Which is a boon, as creative writing feels as if it’s some kind of special magic that I am privy to.
Here are a number of copywriting techniques that were developed from my creative writing that I now regularly apply to my client writing.
I am a true believer of the art of storytelling and how that can be applied to copywriting. Copy needs a beginning, middle and an end and it’s critical that when I put something out into the world, whether it be via this blog, my TV blog and especially copywriting for my clients that I hook the reader (that’s you) in from the absolute start. For an extra challenge, I have to keep them hooked in along the entire journey of the piece until the end. And then… the end isn’t even the end. From there the reader must take action.
…the end isn’t even the end. From there the reader must take action.
Openings, first sentences, headings, first chapters… these are all make or break. I spend the most time on these important factors because without an intriguing hook or heading and emotional connection, you’ve already lost the audience before you’ve begun. And people always “buy” emotion.
Tip: if you’re about to write something, put down three headings: beginning, middle and end and then flesh out appropriately.
I am a walking thesaurus! I have learnt a lot of new words that are out of the ordinary vernacular and that adds flavour to writing. There is, however, a precarious balance between writing “too clever” (to the point of repulsion) and peppering interesting words into the mix.
The draft is just that! It’s a draft and it’s vital that I do not to get too hung up on the shape of that draft because the end result is often much different, smoother and has much more intention and clarity than the random jotting of notes that it begins its life as.
Writing inspiration can evolve from anywhere. Often inspiration comes from the smallest and seemingly tiniest thing such as a picture, a leaf I see outside my house or it could be erratic noise (I once wrote a short story inspired entirely from a constant beeping noise I heard from a neighbour). All it takes is one little spark and then an avalanche of ideas and inspiration come together. Mining inspiration is not the tricky part for me, it’s the refining of the ideas and sifting through the possibilities to choose the right one to pursue and develop. These kind of creative copywriting techniques make for some epically wild copy for those clients who want to stand out from their competition or are a bit more of an edgy brand.
The Pomodoro Technique is your absolute best friend when writing. If you can trick your mind that you are merely writing for half an hour to forty five minutes and that all you need to do is get words on the page then something miraculous happens and it starts to unleash a tiny bit of genius and immense productivity. If you tell yourself that you have to write a website or an ebook or other big projects then your mind freezes up with overwhelm. Give the Pomodoro Technique a go!
‘… all you need to do is get words on the page then something miraculous happens and it starts to unleash a tiny bit of genius and immense productivity.’
Just because I clearly understand and visualise imagery and concepts in my mind and there’s a wonderful imaginative world that exists in my head, certainly doesn’t mean that other people (or in fact, anyone) is on the same page.
This means that I have to really choose the correct word every single time and pen (I mean… type) a description and vision as clearly as possible so that I can invite other people to get a glimpse of this incredible world within and conceive the scenario as I intend. I focus on the details and setting up the scene very determinedly so that the reader will automatically put themselves in the scenario without much effort and so they are willing to follow the journey.
Pointing out the extraordinary in the ordinary is a great way to do this.
Perfect the piece
One of the creative copywriting techniques that can never be skipped, no matter how tempting, is the final copy stage. I practice editing and proofreading over and over again until it drives me a bit batty. Each piece of writing is privy to at least three “read throughs” and edits. My final read through is read out aloud as this helps pick up inconsistencies that I may not have noticed on the screen. My neighbours must be curious why I’m always talking to myself!
A lesson which has helped me become a better writer and, perhaps more importantly, a better business person is that the clients’ writing, product, service or company is not about me and what I want. It’s about a very specific demographic which the client has identified and researched and who I write specifically to, almost as if I they were in the room and I am talking directly to them.
The art of planning
Just like any wise person would do (not always me) planning is one of those time saving techniques over the long term is laying out a meticulous plan before commencing writing. This helps with productivity, despite the initial outlay of time. Devising a set of templates, even as basic headings, helps me know where I’m writing to and what gaps need filling.
Start broad and pare back
Let the imagination and writing flow stream wild and free and unfettered in the initial drafting or note taking process. Go as wide and bold as you possibly can, to the point where it feels uncomfortable and you blush as you commit it to paper, knowing that you’d be embarrassed if someone read it in its raw form. Only once you have dumped the grandest of concepts and meandering storylines can you taper it back and edit it to become cohesive, clear and share main palatable points that your reader will want to absorb. If you’re like me, you’ll find it much easier to “calm the farm” in your outrageous ideas than to stretch a watered down, half formed concept into something that is worth publishing.
Not everything has to be shared on the page at once. As you eek out your writing from one seed of an idea, you may discover many estuaries start to form. A novice writer will be desperate to get across every smart thought they have, which may confuse and addle your customer and your writing will lose its effectiveness. Pluck out your main ideas and stick to a consistent theme or niche (for example, I’ve focused on copywriting, marketing, SEO etc) and keep a record or file of all your other ideas, knowing they will find their place in your writing, website, blog or work at some point in time and if they don’t… che sera!
And as with most things the more you do and the more you learn about it, the better it will improve.
‘Not everything has to be shared on the page at once.’