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Archive for February 3rd, 2009

Obviously, we all have a slightly different work styles when it comes to writing. How we gather information, how we get inspired. I have one method that I hesitate to reveal.  Not because it’s so inventive, but because, at first glance,  it seems to be a waste dubious investment of time.

The best $12 I ever spent.

Phone Tap: The best $12 I ever spent.

I refer to tape recording my initial discovery meeting with the client… either in person or by telephone with a line tap.  Afterward, I transcribe the call and distribute to everyone present and ask for any additional notes or impressions.

There are a couple of benefits to this practice:

Digesting a Corporate Culture: At your initial discovery meeting with the client, they will dump on you every brochure they have produced in the past ten years.  It’s almost always T.M.I., man! How much of this stuff matters? More specifically, how much of this stuff matters to THESE people asking you to do THIS job TODAY?  Best recent example: A Big Important Company with every reason to crow about their history…and lots of background material to prove it. In the meeting they said, “We know nobody cares.  Show a couple of dates, a couple of mergers, a couple of technological advances, and move on!”

Flesching Your Kincaid, so to speak:  Ever write a page of brochure or web copy, then run the spellcheck and find that you are 35% passive, a 3 on readability, and writing at the 12th grade comprehension level?  Come on, it can’t be just me!  Parenthetical phrases, five-dollar words and other examples of fancy-schmancyness abound. Now, spellcheck an interview transcript. Zero passive, 65 readability, 7th grade comprehension. Truly, you are writing the way people speak.  That’s usually what I am after, so I try to preserve the language as I transition from transcript to copy.

Breaking the Back of the Story: I don’t know how I came up with such a dire name for this concept. Considering the frustration you feel when trying to find your inspiration, it’s a pretty good title.  In this instance, transcribing an interview and arranging it into neat sections and ideas is the perfect activity while you are waiting for the inspiration to arrive. When it does, you will have all the dumb little details organized. You have broken the back of the story, and now you can throw your head back and laugh maniacally as the guts spill out! Charming.

Drawbacks? Of course, this takes time. I am a decent typist (for a boy!) Indeed, my two index fingers are a blur on the keyboard.  But it can be slow going. But I budget for it, and I always tell the client to expect it. And, for all the reasons stated above, I feel it’s worth it.

Besides, when this copywriting thing falls through, it might make a decent plan B. Did you know that thousands of court reporter jobs go unfilled each year?!

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