February 13th, 2013 by Roger.
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We were so sure the book was home and dry…until an out-of-the-blue email from the publishers caused us to think otherwise. Basically it isn’t American enough. In particular they want to see more US ads featured.
That’s not impossible to put right, but it begs the question, why now? This book has been in development for 14 months; springing this on us two days (count ‘em) before we’re due to hand over the final manuscript is a bit much.
This is in no way a slur against our American brethren - I yield to no man in my love for the USA. But wouldn’t it have made more sense to either commission an American author, or perhaps make clear what was needed a bit sooner? Just a suggestion.
February 8th, 2013 by Roger.
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Picture the scene. I’ve written a first draft of web copy for a new client and pinged it over to them for their perusal. I make clear it’s all far too long, but I’m a great believer in getting some early doors feedback to see if I’m on the right track. A couple of days later I get a big thumbs-up from my contact, who goes so far as to say he “absolutely loves it”. Happy days.
My next task is to edit it down to somewhere around 150 words per page - the max the designs will comfortably support. To do that I need to loose some of the sentences and phrases the client liked so much in the rough first draft. Remarkably they notice and ask where their favourite word/line/paragraph went. I then have to diplomatically explain how it’s not really possible to cut a piece of text down and keep it the same length, which opens a whole can of worms regarding the site’s architecture, content strategy and the like that take forever to resolve, turning a neat, streamlined job into a bit of a beast.
So, what could I have done to avoid these shenanigans? I’m not completely sure. I *thought* I’d managed their explications (as the phrase has it) by explaining just how rough the first draft I sent them was, and how my next task - assuming they broadly liked it - was to cut it down to a more practical size. I also recall explaining how web pages should be as short as possible, and may even have evoked the name of Jakob Nielsen and the ol’ “200 word max” rule to make my case.
The solution, I think, might be in how I edit. I’ve another similar job on right now, and instead of just lopping off sentences and so on to reduce my word count, I’m making a real effort to understand the spirit of each paragraph (if that doesn’t sound terminally pretentious) and précis by rewriting and merging ideas. “Hardly rocket science”, I hear you cry, and I’d be crying the same thing in your shoes, but when time is against us we go for the path of least resistance, no? Especially if it’s (a) worked before and (b) I had no reason to think any other approach was required. Early indications are this approach might keep everyone happy. So the moral of the story is, précis and prune by synthesis. Sure it’s a bit more work, but nothing’s too much trouble for clients, right?
February 6th, 2013 by Roger.
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…something along the lines of, “Just as every dentist wants to be a doctor, so every photographer wants to be a painter.” So does every copywriter secretly - or not so secretly - want to be a creative writer? After all, if we work with words and flatter ourselves that we’re creative then surely it’s only natural to take that further and turn to prose or poetry?
It’s not as though examples are too hard to find - Salman Rushdie was a copywriter before the success of his first novel and came up with the timeless slogan “naughty but nice” for cream cakes. A decade earlier Fay Weldon was part of the team responsible for “Go to work on an egg”, and I’m sure there are dozens of others who’ve made the leap from copywriting to creative writer.
But in my case Picasso got it wrong. I’ve no urge to author - once the day is done the last thing I feel like doing is sitting down at my laptop for another few hours and hammering out taut prose. My writing muscle is worn out by then, plus whatever megre stock of ideas I have is severely depleated by the day’s demands.
In fact for me, being a copywriter is the worst possible dayjob for a creative writer. Instead I’d need to take up pig breeding or telephone sanitising, just to make the mental space I’d need to get my thinking straight and have a decent idea. But that’s just me.
So is it possible to successfully combine copywriting with creative writing? Do you recognise what I’m saying about it being the same mental muscle? Or do you gleefully produce polished prose every evening?
February 5th, 2013 by Roger.
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It’s been too long. All my fault I hasten to add - my heart just wasn’t in it last time around. But I’ve grown, I’ve learned, I’ve been on a journey (as they say), and now I feel it’s time for us to let bygones be bygones. Could we, y’know, start again and give it another go? We could? I think I love you.
The main ingredients of my reborn blog are copywriting, words, language and creativity, with a dash of branding, design and advertising thrown in for good measure. They’re what I know, what I love, and what I want to write about.
On those very subjects, today is a special day as I’ve just emailed off the final manuscript for my latest book on copywriting to the publishers. It’s called “ReadMe: Ten Lessons on Writing Great Copy”, and it’ll be out on Laurence King Publishing next spring. I’ll be blogging about it regularly. Between now and then they’ll be no end of tweaks and revisions to be sure, but 99% of the main text is done. Ho-bloody-ray.
Next comes months of frustration as we try to get clearance for the many images, followed by more months of translation and marketing in preparation for a launch in April 2014. That seems unfeasibly slow; I dare say a team of monks could create a similar sized illuminated manuscript in less time, but apparently it’s unavoidable (something to do with international book fairs).
What’s odd is how I feel right now. I thought I’d be relieved or pleased, but I feel…a bit nothing. Before I’d landed this book contract it was all I wanted; not it just seems part of the furniture and hard to get excited about. How spoiled am I?
Have you ever finished a large project or piece of work that you were looking forward to ending, only to feel underwhealmed? Maybe even a bit disappointed? Hopefully I’m not the only one.