What do Allen Ginsberg, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Dorothy L. Sayers have in common? They all worked as copywriters. Many published creative writers have worked in copywriting at some point. Why? Because copywriting and creative writing aren’t all that different.
People often put poetry on a pedestal, assume nonfiction is boring, and believe the only thing worthwhile is novel writing. And oh, how wrong those people are. (And how much fun they’re missing out on!)
I write this as an MA Creative Writing graduate, a content marketer, a novelist, a poet, and of course, a copywriter. If you remember this one thing, you’ll be able to write anything and everything: the execution may change, but the basics never do. Creative Writing is a versatile degree. I like to think of it as a degree in communication, because that’s what it is: it teaches you how to better communicate with those around you, both in written and spoken forms. How can that not help with copywriting?
Let’s take a look at the skills you learn as a creative writer, and how they translate to copywriting.
How to create an emotional connection with your reader
This is the most important part of any writing. You need to be able to create an emotional connection with your reader or they just won’t listen to (or read) what you have to say. When it comes to copywriting, that emotional connection can be the difference between someone buying your product or going to your competitor.
We make decisions based on our emotions. Your product may technically be the best, but if your reader doesn’t care about you, they’re not going to want to buy from you. It’s the same reason certain politicians get more press coverage than others – it has nothing to do with their policies and everything to do with how much of an emotional reaction they trigger in people. The stronger the emotional reaction, the more attention the news outlet covering them gets, and the more money they’ll make.
Style vs substance
Style is just as important as substance in writing. If people don’t like your writing style, the substance won’t mean anything to them. You want to get the message across, of course. If your copy doesn’t say anything, what’s the point in it existing? Your copy should be clear and concise. There’s no room for purple prose here. If you don’t get to the point and stat, you’ll lose readers.
I like to compare copywriting to writing for children or teenagers. Children’s and YA fiction doesn’t have the space to spend two pages describing the history of a sword (I’m looking at you, George R. R. Martin). It needs to keep moving. If it stops or slows down too much or for too long, readers may well put it down, never to return.
If that happens in the world of business, you can say goodbye to those sales you wanted. If people don’t read what you have to say, they won’t know enough about your product to spend money on it.
How to use literary techniques
People assume that copywriting is bland and boring. But the best copywriting isn’t. It’s shiny and sparkly and it’s memorable. You already know how to make your writing sparkle thanks to your amazing creative writing skills. Now you just need to translate that into copywriting.
You can use techniques like rhyme, iambic pentameter, alliteration and more to make your copy more interesting. Most copywriters don’t use these – or don’t use them effectively – which automatically gives you an advantage. Don’t be afraid to use techniques you’ve been taught for poetry, fiction, or even script writing when crafting copy. These all help to make your writing memorable, meaning that even if someone doesn’t buy today, when they are ready to buy, they’ll remember you.
People’s eyes gloss over when they read lazy copy. It’s no different than when they read anything else. Cliches, overused words or phrases, and bland language all turn your reader off. Colourful language that experiments with punctuation and brings scenarios to life draws readers in and holds their attention. Changing one word can change your conversion rate. Creative copy is that powerful.
The importance of audience
Don’t worry about people not liking your writing style – you want to isolate people. That’s right. I said it.
You shouldn’t write for everyone. You should write for one person. That allows you to get super specific with your writing style, right down to the one shot decaf soya vanilla latte they drink every morning. (Yes, that is my obnoxious coffee order.)
If you try to cater to everyone, you end up being vague. Vagueness is boring. It doesn’t sell, either.
Audience is everything. Your audience dictates what you write about and how you write about it. When your audience changes so, too, should your writing style.
You can tell a story
The most effective copy tells a story. No exceptions.
You know what the most boring copy does? That’s right. Nothing. No story. No colour. No personality.
So, instead of writing something super boring, use those storytelling techniques you’ve been honing. Tell the story of what your reader’s life is like now, then fast forward to what their life could look like if they use your product or service. Describe – in graphic detail – the life they’re missing out on by not using your product. The more specific you get, the better they’ll be able to see themselves living in that scenario, and the more likely they’ll be to give you their money.
The one thing you need to learn
How to sell.
Most writers feel uncomfortable selling. I get it. It’s like wearing a pair of jeans that don’t quite sit right or flatter your figure but you can’t work out why. Turning your creative writing skills into a selling tool is possible, though. All you need is a pair of scissors, a sewing machine, and a little initiative. Those jeans that once felt too tight will sit just right in no time.
Ready to get started?
Then join me on 11 May 2019 at Nottingham Writers’ Studio, where we’ll explore how you can write kickass copy! For further details about this course, see here.
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