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Just H
02-18-2009, 09:59 AM
What are your styles for writing copy? Do you go with a first instinct and then make minor adjustments? Do you go all out and then throw it out and completely start over so you have a fresher perspective? Do you have the most important info edited by friends/colleagues before you finalize it?

vangogh
02-18-2009, 12:34 PM
Depends a little on which page of the site. For the sales copy pages I first spent time deciding how the site content should be organized. What sections should be included, what pages should go into each section. I created a text file for each page I would write and made some notes and asked myself what the goal of each page was and what action did I want someone to take on the page. I spent some time thinking about the purpose of each page individually and within the entire site.

Next I looked through a handful of other sites in my industry that I respect and read through some of their pages looking for ideas. When I worked on an about page I looked at their about pages, etc. I wrote a draft for each page of my site and then left all the copy alone while I worked on other things. When I came back to to the copy I rewrote most everything I had written. Some pages the changes were minor and other pages I might have started again from scratch.

If I'm remembering right I did then edit every page one more time before putting it on the site. I did ask a few people to help find typos and other obvious mistakes as well as to get their opinion about the pages in general. I also went through the site for typos, etc.

I didn't have anyone else edit the pages for me, but I did listen to everyone's suggestions and incorporated some into rewrites.

For my blog the process isn't quite so long. I usually make some notes about what I want to write and then write a quick draft for the full post. Depending on time I may leave the draft for a day or two and then edit it prior to publishing or I may edit and publish right away, though usually after at least a 15 minute break. During the editing of the post I also add in some images and links and otherwise dress up the post visually a little.

KristineS
02-18-2009, 01:41 PM
I usually research and then write a draft. The draft goes to whatever experts on the subject matter I can dredge up, and they vet it for accuracy. There are also people I have read things for flow and for comprehension.

I'm with Vangogh in that I usually look at sites in the industry or niche to see what they're saying and what information they feel is important. I may not necessarily follow in their footsteps, but it helps to know what the industry standard is.

I tend to be a seat of my pants writer though. I very rarely do more than one draft of a blog post, and generally do one full out writing of web site copy and then make minor tweaks after that.

rezzy
02-18-2009, 02:29 PM
When I first started blogging, I would write it and post. This was a terrible method and was really a bad process. As I have become more serious about blogging and building a subscribers, I generally research if I am not sure about a few points.

This gives me some points to mention during the post. Once its complete, I proofread, insert images and post. If I can a post completely and not touch the keyboard its ready to post. If not, I fix the problem and read that paragraph or subheading again.

I dont subscribe to the throw out idea, and am not big on brainstorming or taking notes.

Dan Furman
02-18-2009, 03:51 PM
When I do client work, I focus on the goal of the writing - what are we trying to do here? Are we looking to get a contact? A sale? Just be remembered? What's the (general) optimal end result?

Once I get that, then I go about doing it. That's really the only "writing method" I use.

I never bounce stuff off people - I never even call anything a draft, because people will change "drafts" by default, whether it needs it or not. Nobody ever looks at a draft and says "perfect". At best, they say "good, but...". I'm a writer - I feel I know what's good and what isn't (I know that's a little arrogant - it's part of my unique charm :) )

And I generally agree with Rezzy about brainstorming, notes, etc. But sometimes in my business it's unavoidable - especially with larger companies. And I admit it can be fun with the right group (I love brainstorming with secure, confident people who worry more about the results than how they came across in the session.)

Just H
02-18-2009, 04:10 PM
Wow, that's quite a variety already! Lays out a bit of an overall process with very good structure: Decide the goal, research and write OR write and research, proofread, add-in/rewrite/include images, publish.

I think I too quickly jump in most of the time and forget about the ultimate goal until later which does a variety of undesirable things: I get off track, I switch focus when I figure out the goal mid-way through, and I feel the need to throw out and start over (which I often do). All resulting in copy that's not very effective or wasted time and energy.

Speaking of brainstorming, I've done a lot of this in different arenas. With some business ideas in small groups, one person writes and we just throw out everything that's coming to mind. It usually seems helpful to get it all laid out, see more clearly what definitely doesn't fit, and what stands out as the more prominent ideas. I also have some Psychology background and in some creative circles we've passed around just small pieces of phrases and added on to those to make up a unique poem or expression of the collective group. They usually walk away feeling contributive and creative and represented in what we've come up with. But there I go again, wandering off the subject a little . . . (At least all these discussions get me thinking of things I've done and enjoyed and would've never remembered!)

rezzy
02-18-2009, 04:58 PM
In my writing I try to minimize waste. As I write, I make subheadings, this helps the reader and me as I write stay on task with post.

I am writing about candy and my heading is water bottles, I realize this isnt going in the right direction. This also becomes helpful for readers, as they skim the page hopefully the subheadings will get their attention.

cbscreative
02-18-2009, 05:31 PM
I've probably used every approach depending on the situation. I find Dan's "no draft" approach to be very interesting. It's certainly true that anything called a "draft" will always get revised, but I have not managed to get around drafts.

In most cases, after considering the objectives of what I am writing, I just begin writing without too much regard for flow, content, or completeness (too much or too little). I then go through and fine tune it, adding, deleting, changing, or rearranging as ideas flow, and repeat the process as many times as I feel are needed. My "first draft" (which I am usually the only one who ever sees it) is often 2-3 times longer than the final piece. This allows me to prioritize what's important while I keep chopping and revising until it's done.

I also don't do a lot of note taking in most cases. I tend to incorporate the note taking and brainstorming into the writing process itself. As for headings, they usually come last. Although they can come at any time during the process, I don't worry about them until the content is written. That way I can use headings to effectively summarize what is in the content. I like to make them attention getting, so it's not uncommon for me to spend a lot of time with headings. If you think about a newspaper, many people only read what grabs their attention, so headings are very important.

vangogh
02-18-2009, 07:01 PM
I think I too quickly jump in most of the time and forget about the ultimate goal

You always have to start with the goal because it will lead you through the rest. You can always change the goal later or refine the copy because you realize it's not meeting the goal you set, but you should try to have a goal in mind. Think about what you'd like someone reading the page to do. Sometimes there isn't a specific action you want a person to take on the page in which case think about how that page fits within the overall goal of your site.

@Dan - the no draft approach is interesting. I like to call my first attempt a draft since it takes all the pressure off having to come up with something. By calling it something other than a finished piece the words will come out quickly. Ultimately I see everything I write or design or program like a piece of clay that can be molded over and over again. The first draft to me is like grabbing the clay in the first place so there's something there to mold. Sometimes when I grab the clay it's practically molded itself. Other times it needs more work before it becomes the shape I want.

cbscreative
02-18-2009, 07:29 PM
Ultimately I see everything I write or design or program like a piece of clay that can be molded over and over again.

Sometimes you even need to ball the clay back up and start over. I seldom scrap an entire piece, but I do find myself often taking entire sections, even major portions, and reworking them (sometimes 3 times or more) to where it has no resemblence from one version to the next.

vangogh
02-18-2009, 07:32 PM
Same here. It's all an iterative process to me that you keep working at over and over. You seek perfection, but you can never attain it. All you can do is take what you have and try to make it better. Sometimes that includes realizing you went down the wrong path and starting over again.

Dan Furman
02-18-2009, 09:06 PM
@Dan - the no draft approach is interesting. I like to call my first attempt a draft since it takes all the pressure off having to come up with something. By calling it something other than a finished piece the words will come out quickly. Ultimately I see everything I write or design or program like a piece of clay that can be molded over and over again. The first draft to me is like grabbing the clay in the first place so there's something there to mold. Sometimes when I grab the clay it's practically molded itself. Other times it needs more work before it becomes the shape I want.

well, some things take longer than others, and sometimes I do go back and rewrite, etc. What I'm saying is I never give a customer a "draft" - the first thing I send them is what I call the finished work. I also send a "read me first" document that explains a few things, and one of the things it explains is I will happily do a revision if you really feel I missed the mark.

What this does is it puts the ball in their court to really, and not arbitrarily, find something wrong.

I started doing this when I noticed that most people really couldn't tell me definitively what they wanted changed, just that it was a draft, so they expected the final to be "different". Once I stopped calling it a draft, that went away.

I'm also really thorough in the beginning - I made a fairly detailed questionnaire that asks good questions, makes people think about their business, etc. If we have to, we'll talk about it too. And I don't start a project unless I am very clear where I am going. It works well.

Basically, what this approach has done is lessen the rewriting that doesn't need to be done. About 80% of my clients are thrilled with the first work I give them. The other 20% have excellent comments (because I kind of forced them to really dig), which results in a better product for them.

vangogh
02-18-2009, 10:23 PM
Oh got'cha. Yeah I wouldn't send a client a rough draft of writing either. Generally I'm not doing writing for them. Most of what I described is the writing for my own site.

For me if I don't call it a draft then I spend too much time editing what I've written instead of writing the next line. By calling it a draft I keep the editor away a little bit. By saying it's a draft I know I'm going to edit later so I can just get on with the writing.