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The one super secret to excellent editing

January 4, 2011 8 comments

Ready?

(drum roll)

Save as.

No really.  Save as is your ticket to being absolutely ruthless.  It is your ultimate chainsaw for hacking out those passages in your work that are funny, cute, profound, and just lovely, but are sadly unnecessary.

I’ll give you a scenario.  You have a passage that you love, love, LOVE (i.e. you think this might just be the best, most clever little piece of writing you’ve ever put to paper and cutting out will give you a MASSIVE HEAD EXPLOSION!!!).  BUT, it’s not really driving your plot or character development (or, for you copywriters out there, does nothing to make people want to buy the product).

No worries.  Just hit “save as” and create a new version.  This can be your cut to the bone version.  And you can hack everything out.  It doesn’t matter.  Because you have your full version with all the lovely passages that you can’t bear to lose.  You’re not really deleting anything!  It’s so liberating!

Of course you’ll ultimately have to make the decision whether to include those lovely, though perhaps useless, bits.  But by then, you may find you’ve got a far better piece of work than you started with.

So the next time you need to do an excruciating edit, save a new version and hack away.  Believe me, your final will be better for it.

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Categories: Copywriting, Fiction, writing Tags: ,

How to write with voice

December 12, 2010 6 comments

So we’re going to have a break from the usual gin-fueled rants on London’s public transport and actually talk about what this blog is supposed to be about: writing.

When you’re trying to write a novel, everyone tells you that the most important thing is to find your voice.  So.  What is this nebulous ‘voice’ of which I speak?  The thing is, it’s pretty hard to put your finger on.  It’s a sort of style, a distinctive voice and flow.  I like to think of it as your personality on paper.  It’s who you are, to people have never met you.  If you do it right, people will know who you are without having to read the by-line.

I struggle with this.  If you’ve been hanging around this blog long enough, you probably know that in my day job, I’m a copywriter.  And that means I’m not allowed to have a voice.  Or a style.  The mark of a good copywriter is the ability to write in lots of different styles.  So how am I meant to turn it off and on?

I’ve now decided that copywriting is great for helping develop voice (it does, also, have the happy side effect of ensuring I am able to pay rent and buy food).  It’s great because I’ve found that the best way to find your voice is to write lots of stuff in lots of different styles.  You’ll eventually find a style you are most comfortable with.  And then you’ll write like that for a while and it will start to morph and change a little bit.  And then it will be your own.  Hooray!  That’s your voice.

So.  It’s taken me over three paragraphs to tell you that the way to write with voice is…to write.  A lot.  Not exactly a revelation, but true all the same.  So happy writing.  In whatever voice is yours.

The Advertising and Marketing letter

August 24, 2010 6 comments

So if you work in advertising or marketing, you’ve probably already seen this letter, but it is great, and I thought I’d pass it along.

Of course this is amazing.  The source is unknown, but I found it via PSFK, who I found via Gapingvoid, and then passed it along to all my co-workers and linked to it in twitter, etc (yup, it’s gone VIRAL!).

Also, thought I’d share the conversation I had with my creative director shortly thereafter:

Creative Director: Where did you find this?

Me: It’s good, eh?

CD: Who wrote it?

Me: Don’t know.  “Brian,” apparently.  Probably some marketing person.  Clever, eh?

CD: It was you, wasn’t it?

Me: No, I found it online.

CD: It sounds an awful lot like your prose.

Me: It wasn’t me.

CD: Hmm [raised eyebrow suspicious look]

Me: I found it on the PSFK site.  You can go look.

CD: Ooo-kay [giant eye roll]

[Pause]

CD: I especially liked the bit about the sausages.

Me: Yeah?

CD: You like sausages. [massive eye-wagging]

Me: I do NOT like sausages.  Wait!  I mean, I do like, no–never mind.

[Pause]

CD: You totally wrote this.

(Okay, I made the sausage part up, but it’s soooo something my creative director would say.  Also, for the record, I do really like sausages.)

On rationalization and procrastination

Okay, so clearly it’s been a while since I’ve written a post.  And here’s a big list of all my excuses:

1) I was moving flats (clearly necessary to avoid stabbing, being devoured by mice, or similar)

2) I had to do work for clients (you know, the people who pay the rent in my new, non-mouse-infested flat)

3) I had to catch up with old friends (after many texts and emails with lots of scary capital letters and excessive punctuation using scary words like “intervention”)

4)  London has been sunny (okay, so I totally had to sit outside because London is NEVER sunny and this was perhaps my last chance to soak up and store some sun so I don’t die of vitamin D deficiency or similar come autumn)

5) I had to apply for jobs (yes, still, and some job applications are like NOVELS with the notable exception that novels are actually quite fun and interesting and job applications most certainly are NOT)

6) I had a MASSIVE HEAD EXPLOSION!!! and was, understandably, unable to write coherent sentences thereafter

So.  This is a lovely bit of rationalization.  And it isn’t good enough.  But I do this all the time, with this blog and–scarily–with my current WIP.  But there is no excuse for letting something that matters so much to me to slide for so long!

What do you think, blogger friends?  How do you beat the procrastination and rationalization bug?

Also…an aside: I wanted to give credit to Bill Waterson for the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip above.  Because, let’s face it, Calvin and Hobbes was brilliant and the “funnies” just aren’t the same any more.  But I couldn’t find an official site.  Best I can do is tell you to buy the books here. I have all the books.  If you don’t, you should buy them because they are amazing and you’ll smile for months.  (Disclaimer: I am not in any way affiliated with Calvin and Hobbes or publishers, booksellers, or similar but I totally wish I was because, as I said, they are amazing)

Ooh! ABWP is blushing a bright red!

June 24, 2010 8 comments

Well, gee.  And here I was all ready to write a snarky post about something or other.  And then I saw that I had been awarded this lovely little award by both Bethany (my first-ever commenter and blogger-friend) and Miss Rosemary!  Thank you, thank you to you both! Everyone should check out both their blogs.

Er, and so I am required to provide seven revelations (confessions) on the personage that is (behind)  ABWP.  Here goes…

1) I like to read silly, teen books like Twilight and Harry Potter but I only take serious Cormack McCarthy, Virginia Wolf, etc books on the tube.  Because people will see.  And I am too old to be seen reading Harry Potter.

2) I am terrified of rubber bands.

3) Orange is my favourite colour, and I have orange toenails throughout the summer months.

4) I am uncommonly short.  I try to hide this with the constant use of monster heels (which sometimes get stuck in the groves of the tube escalator) to no avail.

5) I drink pints far more often than gin.  (This is totally a financial decision.  I would drink Tanqueray and Tonic all the time if it was the same price as a pint.  Because gin is way more delicious.  But times are tough.)

6)  Sometimes I can’t sleep because I worry that this MS that I am writing will end up unpublished, unread, and unfulfilled just like my first MS that is now collecting dust in a corner.  And I wonder what my life will have meant, if I cannot do just this, this one little thing that I have always wanted and that I somehow use to measure my self worth.  This is when the gin helps.

7) The human behind ABWP is fairly quiet, proper, and actually kind of a nice person (hard to believe, I know) who cares about soft, mushy things like other people’s feelings (she is only kinda snarky to very special people who know her well).  This is kind of a secret.  Don’t tell anyone.

And now I get to pass it along!  Hooray!  I’m totally mentioning people who’ve gotten it already because I like them.  So there.

1) Lynsey May – She’s got a great perspective on writing, and also has a copy day job so can relate to a lot of my copywriting rants (always appreciated).

2) MilkFever – Lisa is great for encouragement.

3) Write for your life – good info on general writing and the techie stuff like podcasts

4)  Write-or-die – straight talking,.no-nonsense account on writing books

5)  Rachelle Gardner – for a literary agent, there’s a lot of great variety on her blog (hence the mention)

6) Lua – my 2nd ever commenter, and another faithful blogger-friend who consistently posts great content and is lightning quick responding to comments.

7) I’m using this as a combined re-thanks to Bethany, my first-ever commenter (yup, we hit it right off) and Miss Rosemary for the award (I know you’ve already got one, but you totally deserve it).

When writing well isn’t good enough

ABWP had a rough day yesterday.  She is still looking for a new copy day job, and has been fielding rejections.

(Also London was dark and cold, and when she tried to go running, it rained on her.)

Feedback has been this: her writing samples are good, interview responses are good, but others have more experience.

Darkness falls.

This got her thinking about her manuscript, and all the factors that go into finding an agent/publisher/etc.  ABWP has been of the firm belief that the key to getting published is to have a good story, and write it well.

But what if that is not enough?  The market is saturated?  The theme is unpopular this season?

MASSIVE HEAD EXPLOSION!!!

But then, today, London was all blue skies and sunshine.

And she thought:  I can’t change my experience.  But I can polish my portfolio.  I can change how many agencies I approach.  I can overhaul my cover letter.

And also: I can’t change the market.  But I can polish my manuscript.  I can change how many agents I approach.  I can overhaul my query letter.

And so.  The point, blogger friends, is this:

Stop stressing about the stuff you can’t change.  Do something about the stuff you can.

ABWP is still trying to follow her own advice.  But tomorrow is meant to be sunny again.  That should help.

The super-duper, never-heard-before secret to writing a novel in 30 days!

(Ha!  See what I did there?  Copywriting one-oh-one.)

Oh, sorry.  Did you actually want the secret?  Here it is:

Don’t.

I have been in the deep, dark pit of despair that is applying and interviewing for new jobs.  And have just turned down a job (direct-mail, selling white papers) to avoid writing headlines like this all day every day.  My soul cannot handle it.  But I fear my soul is slowly dying at the current job as well (though for other reasons).

Also, London has forgotten that it was sunny and lovely and we’ve all gotten out our summer dresses and sandals and reverted to winter!

On the plus side, however, on the tube the other day I saw a girl wearing white patent shoes, neon blue tights, neon pink shorts, a green-blue-and pink dress (all neon), a PATENT neon-pink jacket, and bright blue sunglasses.  Her boyfriend had green and blue hair.  Hooray!  A smile!

So blogger-friends, please pray (send good vibes, think happy-job thoughts, etc.) for me!

(I’m off to see what you’ve been up to)