Monday, June 14, 2010

ETR: Speed Copy

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Issue No. 3042 - $1.00

Monday, June 14, 2010

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"For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can."

Ernest Hemingway

10 "Speed-Copy" Secrets
By John Forde

The better you get at writing good copy, the more clients will want access to your time. In the beginning, you'll want to give it to them.

But as time goes by, you won't be able to.

You'll try to cherry-pick projects, taking on only those that won't bog you down disproportionately to what you'll get in return.

But what happens when you have no other choice than to just... write... faster?

A few suggestions...

1. Really DO Cherry-Pick Projects

There are some copywriting jobs that just aren't worth your time. Which ones? Be wary, for instance, of products with no clear audience or no clear benefit for the audience they're meant to target.

Be wary of projects without a passionate champion on the client side, too. If there's nobody who can sell you on what you're supposed to be selling, there's a good chance you'll have a hard time selling it to prospects.

And look out for projects that don't have at least 85 percent of the pieces in place before you get started. Unless, that is, you're also being paid to help develop the product... a different and more involved job than just writing the sales letter.

2. Know Your Load

Writing can be physically draining, if you're doing it right.

Copywriter Bob Bly once told me that he logs only about four hours on each project per day, but he stays fresh by keeping two projects going at once and switching to the second project in the afternoon.

I've tried that. And sometimes it works. Maybe it will work for you. But, frankly, once I start working on something -- anything -- I get too caught up in it to let it go. So I actively try to avoid other projects until I've got the first one completed.

3. Gather Your Resources, Part I

One of the best ways to accelerate the pace on any writing project is to feed it the nourishment in needs to get started. That nourishment is information.

Read up, interview, discuss.

Do a phone interview with someone who knows the product inside and out. Record it and start typing as you play it back. You'll need other resources along the way. But this is where you'll need to begin if you want to burst out of the gate with as much power as possible.

4. Build Your Framework

Once you've got a grasp on the general direction you're going to take with the promo, make an outline. Too many writers skip this step.

Yet, for all but a rare few, unstructured writing shows. The benefit of an outline is that you know where you need to go. You also know where you DON'T need to go.

And as the research and ideas start piling up, that's equally important.

5. Gather Your Resources, Part II

Once you've pulled together a rough outline, you'll start to see the holes you need to fill.

That means more digging -- more magazine clippings, more notes from studying the product and the customer base, more notes from talking to the client.

The research part of the copywriting process should almost always take most of your time. If you're working with a product you don't know well, figure on spending about 50 percent of your total time on research. Then 30 percent on writing the first draft and another 20 percent for polishing and revision.

6. Try Writing in 3D

You would think that the best way to tackle any copywriting project would be to write the beginning first, the middle second, and the end last. And for many writers, that's precisely the path they follow. However, I'd personally recommend an approach that's a little more non-linear.

What do I mean?

Ideas, phrases... tend to arrive pell-mell, like a conversation that leaps from topic to topic.

So what I do is write in sections. I actually create separate, labeled documents in Word that match my outline or "mind-map" of the message I'd like to deliver. Then, as I research and revise, I jump back and forth between sections, adding to one, tightening another, copying and moving bits and pieces of ideas. Then I reorganize them to fit the more logical, linear outline that will underlie the final piece.

7. Write Your Close First

Here's an interesting idea -- start at the end. And I can give you at least two solid reasons to do it.

First, because the offer you write will, word for word, have more impact on the prospect than any other section of the promo (except the headline and lead). If the offer stinks, you haven't got a chance.

Second, because knowing specifically how you'll close the sale keeps you from going off on tangents that can sidetrack your sales message.

8. Give Your Headline and Lead Room to Breathe

Perfectionism is a problem for a lot of writers. If that means you, get over it. You'll kill yourself and your career trying to get every word right -- sacrificing the rest of the copy while you tinker... and tinker... and tinker... with the headline and lead.

Instead, put the headline and lead copy in a separate document -- or somehow cordoned off from the rest of the promo. Open that alternate writing window whenever you're working on the main document. And when you get an idea about how to make the headline or lead stronger, dip into that alternate writing window, make the changes, and then jump back to the rest of the piece.

I do this a dozen or more times while I'm writing, with the headline and lead changing 10...  20... or more times before I'm through.

9. Learn to "Copyify" Your Notes as You Research

This takes practice. But you'll write much faster if, when you take notes, you record those notes in a form that's close to what you'll want for the final copy.

For instance, instead of jotting down this note: "Mention last year's booming commodity market to support resource buying op"... make this note: "Last year's booming commodities market is the perfect example. Had you subscribed to my 'Dirt, Rocks, and Other Investments' advisory service then, you'd already be up XXX% on Mud Futures alone by now."

You get the picture.

10. Use Markers and Shortcuts

This last suggestion is a small thing. But very, very handy.

Let's say you're writing and you need to cite a stat you don't have at your fingertips. Just drop in "XX" and keep writing.

Or let's say you need a subhead to transition between sections but the perfect one escapes you at the moment. Just drop in "[SUBHEAD HERE]" and go back to it later.

The idea is to preserve your momentum at all costs.

There you have it -- 10 of the "secrets" that help me write the best possible marketing copy at top speed. They should work for you too.

[Ed. Note: Copywriting is just one skill you can master to help your business grow. Learn the ins and outs of copywriting, marketing, search engine optimization, and more from some of the best experts in the business (including a coach dedicated to giving you individual help and advice) in ETR's Internet Money Club. Registration is open for only five more days. Find out how to reserve your spot right here.

And to get John Forde's wisdom and insights into copywriting (and much more), sign up for his free e-letter, Copywriter's Roundtable, at or send an e-mail to Get a free report about 15 deadly copy mistakes and how to avoid them when you sign up today.]

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"I admire the way it was written."

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Today's Words That Work: Pell-Mell

Pell-Mell -- from the French of "to mix" -- means indiscriminate; disorderly and confused.

Example (as used by John Forde today): "[When you're writing sales copy] ideas, phrases... tend to arrive pell-mell, like a conversation that leaps from topic to topic."

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1 comment:

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