For just about every kind of writing, it pays to absorb as many facts as possible before you start to write. This means doing your research.
When writing advertising copy, for example, you need to know everything you can about the product before you try to write or even start to have ideas.
Doing the reading and research is time consuming, and can seem like an arduous task. On the other hand, it’s something you can do even when you’re not feeling creative or in the writing ‘zone.’
You’ll probably find the copy writing itself.
And doing your research, getting all the facts uploaded into your mind, is one of the best ways to get into the writing zone in the first place.
Let those facts mill around in your mind for a while and you’ll probably find the copy writing itself before too long.
At least, that’s the way it will feel that one one you really get into the swing of things. You should find that the words start to pour out once you have all the information properly sifted in your mind.
In his superb book, The craft of copywriting: How to write great copy that sells, Alastair Crompton says:
You cannot find out too much about your product.
If it is small enough to get onto your desk, put it there. If it’s too big for that, get as many photographs of it as you can. And start to study.
David Ogilvy has written whole books on the need for copywriters to do their research. Similarly, Joe Vitale in Hypnotic Writing: How to Seduce and Persuade Customers with Only Your Words says:
This is the “feeding your brain” part of copywriting. Soak up all the facts before you can write a word of copy. Otherwise, you’re writing fiction.
(Of course, even if you’re writing fiction, you may need to do a lot of research before you’re ready to get going).
An alternative to the reading stage.
Now, having said all of this, there is an alternative way of writing which is not as good, but which can work as a way of getting a job done. This involves simply dumping all the relevant information into a text editor and whittling away at it, moving things around, editing down, deleting and so on until you get it all into a manageable state.
This is really just an alternative to the reading stage. You’re learning about the subject through the editing, rather than simply reading. This is a good way to take in the information, and the bonus is that you might have some workable copy at the end of it.
A lot depends on what you are writing and who it’s for, of course. You’re much more likely to get inspired ideas and sparkling copy through the upload information / download ideas and copy technique.
Photo by frozenchipmunk on Flickr