Fiction, nonfiction, copywriting-the principles of writing stay surprisingly the same. Whether we are writing case studies or creating campaigns, there are a few tips we at LMD always use–tips that come recommended by some incredible authors.
- “Just do it.” –Margaret Atwood
Atwood wrote the classics The Handmaidens Tale and Alias Grace—and she also knows what it is like to have writer's block. When asked how she overcomes it, Atwood takes a page out of Nike’s playbook: Just do it. In other words—start writing, and your brain will catch up.
Sometimes getting started is the hardest part. You may have a million ideas spinning around in your head, or you may have none. Either way, it’s easy to feel pressure to produce an outstanding draft on the first try. Don’t fall victim to this impulse!
Your writing doesn’t have to be excellent off the bat. It doesn’t even have to be usable. Start writing (even if you know what you are producing is terrible), and eventually you will fall into a rhythm. Think of this as a sort of warm-up–getting your brain into “writing-mode” and putting of your rambling thoughts on paper. With time, you’ll start to make sense of your ideas and can go back and edit, edit, edit.
- “Quantity produces quality.” –Ray Bradbury
In his book Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury (of Farenheight 451 and The Martian Chronicles fame) argues that good writers write a lot. Like any skill, nobody starts out as a pro. The best way to learn is to just keep at it, and at it, and at it. Given that he has a Pulitzer to his name, this “practice makes perfect” advice has served Bradbury well.
- “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” –Jodi Picoult
Emotionally charged novels like My Sisters Keeper aren’t the only thing Jodi Picoult produces–she also has some good advice when it comes to brainstorming. We use this tip at LMD when thinking up tag lines, campaign ideas, and blog topics. We live by the idea that there are no bad ideas in brainstorming. Start making your list (we like to do so in a group, so we can play off each other's suggestions). Some ideas might be silly, some might be serious. None are wrong. Set a timer for an hour and just see where inspiration takes you.
Then, refine. Choose the best of your ideas to really focus on developing. And even if you end up with 100 not-so-great ideas? That’s 100 ideas you can edit, pull inspiration from, or use to springboard your next brainstorming session.
- “Never use a long word when a short word can do.” –George Orwell
The writer of 1984 and Animal Farm has a point when it comes to keeping it simple. It can be tempting to use big words or jargon–but keep your audience in mind. Simplicity is often the best route. Using words or jargon your audience may not understand can alienate them, and leave your writing feeling fluffy and empty. Get rid of those SAT words to keep your audience's attention and make your writing more accessible to all readers.
- “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” –Elmore Leonard
Your audience probably has a very short attention span. People are busy, and nobody wants to slog through unnecessary text. Elmore Leonard knew this better than many–his westerns, thrillers, and crime fiction kept his audience on the edge of their seats. While your copy likely won’t include outlaws having a showdown in a saloon, you can still trim your works to include only the essentials. You want to capture, and keep, attention. Trimming your writing helps you get the point faster–an important factor when you might only have 14.42 seconds of focus from your audience.