Most marketing copywriters are creating a product. Client deadlines, quick turns, and the pressures of producing high volumes of copy require a writer to produce one, high-quality draft, which is then moved through an editorial process to publication. This product-based approach is ultimately beneficial for everyone involved. Editorial staff and clients are usually not the happiest when they’re burdened with writing that’s heavy in process. However, in order to achieve this level of production, your personal writing process must be really dialed in.
For most professional writers, process is almost second nature. But it never hurts to take a step back and think about what your process looks like, and how it might be augmented to improve your writing. Follow along with me as I use my drafting process to demonstrate how you might deconstruct your own. In my experience, this sort of thinking invariably results in better content.
The writing processing plant
So let’s start with my rough draft. Here are three sentences:
There’s nothing better than waking up in the morning to the fresh, clean smell of Coffee Bae’s coffee wafting its way into your nostrils. This fresh arabica blend is brought down one bean at a time by pygmy sloths in the Andes, ensuring the integrity of each bean on the way down. Try it out today for a quick jolt of liquid refreshment.
For clarity’s sake, Coffee Bae is not a real company (that I know of), and I know very little about the coffee growing and roasting process. But let’s pretend for this exercise that everything I’m saying is factually correct. Where do we go from here? Now, I’ve sidestepped many of the structural issues that might be present during the writing process (ideas out of order, factual inaccuracies, etc.) so I can just work on the sound and flow of my little paragraph. Let’s try this:
Coffee Bae coffee is primed to soothe you into wakefulness every morning with its powerful, robust smell. Pygmy sloths bring each bean one at a time down the slopes of the Andes, ensuring integrity and cleanliness. Give it a shot today!
So what did I do in this small process revision? I made Coffee Bae the first thing you see in the first sentence, and I removed some of the “fresh and clean language” because coffee isn’t super clean smelling. It’s more like burnt, brown-colored water. I also rearranged the second sentence to make my sloths more active, and I refined my bit about the Andes to be more evocative. Finally, I end with my standard call to action, but shorter, punnier, and more imperative.
But I’m not done. Why must it be three sentences? Can I be more evocative and succinct? What about this:
Coffee Bae coffee is the perfect kick out of bed in the morning. Pygmy sloths bring one bean at a time down from the Andean slopes, helping ensure every cup is the best cup.
Make no mistake, I’m not saying that this is the greatest bit of copywriting that’s ever existed. Maybe one of those previous two drafts is better. But through rapid and controlled process, it gets a little better each time. Plus, it gives me more options, which is key in the context of a larger piece. I usually do this on everything that I write, so much so that it’s now become second nature.
Process is the writer’s toolbox, and it’s a great idea to always be looking for a new spanner or torque wrench to adjust your writing. Here are some questions I ask myself when examining my writing on a micro level for process adjustments:
- Is this too long? Too short?
- Are there complex ideas buried in here that need more attention?
- Am I being repetitious?
- How are my grammar and stylistic choices? Am I relying too much on one sort of construction over another?
There’s a million other questions you can ask on your way to the final product. Remember that writing doesn’t only have to be a production line, and that you can go back and change things and restructure (often pretty easily). Embracing this attitude can free you up to create better content. As journalist Donald Murray wrote, writing is the “process of discovery through language.” Go discover some stuff for yourself.