03 Jul From Hard Graft To The Final Draft
People often say that ‘writing is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration’ when talking about the writing or copywriting process. In other words, you have to put in the hard graft before you start the first draft.
Once you do the hard graft of research and thinking, the writing’s the easy part. Right? You’ve consumed so much information that the words burst out of you. Or at least trickle. When you revisit, maybe after a run or whatever you do to relax, the craft takes over. You chop and change like Edward Scissorhands until you’ve sculpted your masterpiece; or at least a piece of communication that does its job well. A result that any copywriter, and client, should be happy with.
‘Great writing is rewriting’ is another idiom. The rewriting is where you structure your content in a logical order. You cut the fluff to improve clarity, delete really unnecessary words to improve readability, vary sentence length to improve flow, and sprinkle in some nuance to inject personality. The research and thinking is the hard graft. But the re-writing, or copy-editing, is the real craft.
The research and thinking are the hard graft. The re-writing is the real craft.
The more complex the product or service, the more research, thinking and rewriting is usually involved. Before writing about any complex product or service, I ask myself ‘Can I explain it to a five-year old?’ Or better yet, I explain it to a five-year old. Usually my niece. If she gets it, it’s clear to set sail. If not, choppy waters may be ahead: best get back to the research and source material.
When I start a new project, especially a technology client, I try to get my hands on all the source material they have. I’d rather have too much material to draw from than not enough. I can always filter through later.
Some start-ups may not have a live product or service yet, let alone any source material. When working with these clients I’ll always bring my handy voice recorder to the discovery phase and record the CEO or Founder speak passionately about their vision, while I sit there sipping coffee and munching biscuits. Maybe ask a few questions. Apart from my laptop, notebook and brain, the voice recorder is my most valuable copywriting tool.
- Don’t start the first draft until you’ve put in the hard graft;
- Rewriting is the true copywriters’ craft;
- A voice recorder can make all the difference to the final draft. Don’t be daft, get yourself one!
If you’d like to read a more in-depth article about the copywriting process, check out this piece on the PCN website.