Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Writing is writing

My past few days have been spent writing some advertising copy, both for a client, but also for myself. Having been completely immersed in working on my novel for the past month – which is, of course, a very different kind of writing – I went into the two projects figuring it would be a very big change of gears. Turns out, it wasn’t.

To be honest, I don’t normally produce advertising copy. It is a very specific branch of our arcane livelihood and requires specialized knowledge and techniques. Having looked at enough of it over the years through my graphic design business, and also being able to see the revision process first hand and finding out the reasons why things are done a certain (and occasionally counter-intuitive) way, I felt I could do the job right, and hopefully, well. It was proving a bit more difficult than I envisioned, simply because you do have to spend a lot of time just thinking, e.g.: how do I make this one point in this particular sentence, using the absolute minimum of very punchy and evocative words.

Then it dawned on me (I know, I know, I can be incredibly dense sometimes) that this is pretty much the same thing I do with my own novels and novellas. As a matter of fact, the technique of producing a Rapid Reads novella requires pretty much the exact same set of skills. For ad copy – unless your advertising copy is for a literary magazine – you don’t want to use real fancy words. The prose must be punchy and deliver the goods in short, simply constructed sentences.

With my Rapid Reads hat firmly on, the words started to flow. I sent off the copy to my client yesterday and this morning received word that everyone at the client’s office is thrilled with what I wrote. (That being said, they had 8 or 9 revisions, but such is the nature of this particular job.)

So today I’m here to say that no matter what you’re writing (a letter, an invitation, a synopsis, ad copy, or a novel), a careful wordsmith will apply the appropriate tools for the job (and you must know what these are), but in a careful, thoughtful and artful way. One can’t say, “This job is worthwhile, requiring real care to put together, while this job isn’t as ‘worthy’ so I can cut a few corners.”

It’s also very instructive to developing as a writer to try your hand at different things. Too often we get sidetracked by novel writing to consider that there are things to be learned by producing sometimes wildly differing kinds of prose.

Those writers of Literary Fiction or Serious Non-Fiction often look down on genre writers as being hacks. Truth be told, there are some published crime writers who are hacks, but for every one of those, there are others whose skills are easily as good as “serious” writers. I’ve read some exceptionally well-done books in the Dummies series that could stand up to any number of award-winning non-fiction books I’ve read over the years.

Look at it this way: only the audience is different. The bottom line should always be: within the framework in which it’s being written, is my prose as good as it possibly could be?

All the rest is just attitude.

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