The pre-writing process.
Posted: 10th Sep 2013
Before you put pen to paper....
With every new project comes a whole new attitude. Some projects make you want to jump right in and get busy, while others take a little longer to get flowing. Regardless of your enthusiasm, I would rarely recommend getting stuck in straight off the bat. We all know the importance of research and planning but there's always more you can do to make sure that your scheduled writing slot goes swimmingly.
Demand a brief.
Yep, it seems like an obvious thing to say but I've lost count of the amount of times I have had to tell clients that I need one, as well as the designer. A brief isn't just an outline of what is needed or expected, it can be a real indicator of the scope and planning your client has done. For copy to be as effective and engaging as possible it has to be relevant, don't start creating copy for an audience that you presume your client has established already.
Do your own research.
Don't take anyone else's word for it, always conduct your own research. A bit of background is a good starting point but research performs more than one function. Yes you will come across ideas as you go, but hints at tone, keywords and existing thoughts are far more useful to me at this stage. Everyone interacts with information differently so undertake your own research your own way.
Create a schedule.
Again, it may seem a tad obvious but scheduling is about more than deadlines and drafts. Figure out how you are going to create and work with your copy. There's no point spending days on research only to be left with a day to draft. Limiting yourself can be effective in focusing your energy towards ideas that aren't fleeting. Round up each section of your schedule with key points or milestones so you can easily get yourself on the right track if you wobble.
A proposal for your eyes only.
Some may see it as a waste of time but I always create a proposal of sorts, whether for me, the client or both. It's pretty much a summary of the money makers. It consists of a project overview, tone of voice run down, key themes / ethos as well as a proposed structure. Not only does it set my mind straight but it makes sure all parties are on the same page.
Drafting is a whole other kettle of fish but if you put in the man hours at these stages, your copy will take shape quicker and be of a better quality. Actual copywriting can takes up but a fraction of your time so get the pre-writing practices down before embarking on the content climb.