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Beware the curse of ‘zombie’ copy: does your writing lack the spark of life?

Does your writing lack the one vital ingredient?

Whether you’re writing blogs, advertising copy, a novel or a sales letter, there’s one essential element you must have: without it, your words will fall flat, and no amount of editing will be able to reanimate the lifeless corpse.

The key is enthusiasm. If you’re not enthusiastic, it’ll show. It’s hard, if not impossible, to fake it. Without it, your words will do no more than trudge along, a pale imitation of more passionate writing.

Your words will do no more than trudge along, a pale imitation of more passionate writing.

Enthusiasm, as they say, is infectious. If you are enthusiastic when you write, it will transfer to the reader. You will probably write fast, with an urgency to get the words down before the moment passes, before anyone can interrupt, before you lose your flow.

This is good. As John Caples points out, in his copywriting classic ‘Tested Advertising Methods’:

‘The human brain is like an automobile engine. It works best when it is hot.’

So how do you get your brain warmed up? How do you get into flow? How do you get enthusiastic and fired up?

1) Start writing – write anything
Get writing something, anything. If you’re writing an advert or piece of marketing copy, just start putting down thoughts and words around the product. If it’s a blog post or chapter of a novel, start out with practice copy or dummy copy. Write for the trash can. Tell yourself you’ll write for ten minutes and then throw it away.

2) Don’t start at the beginning
The start of any piece of writing is critically important because the opening sentences have to be good, or you’ll lose your readers. That makes is intimidating to start at the beginning. So flesh out the middle sections first, or even start at the end. You might just come up with sentences or paragraphs good enough that they can later be used in the introduction.

3) Write fast and furious
Write fast and furious with little thought to how good it is, then go back later and edit, edit, edit – while making sure you keep that enthusiasm and energy within your writing.

4) Forget critics
Forget about other people and critics. Don’t worry about anyone who might be judging your copy at a later date: clients, editors, account managers, and so on. Forget about them, and write with style, pizzazz and enthusiasm.

5) Forget rules
Forget about you can and can’t say, what you must or musn’t include. Write fast, let the words pour out of you.

The big benefit of writing in this way is that you’ll include more emotion in your copy. And it’s emotion that will stir a reader into action.

It’s emotion that will stir a reader into action.

Remember, if you write with fire in your belly, you can always tame the copy later, taking out any excesses, correcting any errors. But if the beast is dead to start with, you’ll never breathe life back into it.

If you’re faced with zombie copy, it’s time to break out the shotgun, chainsaw or old vinyl LPs, and put it out of its misery.

Then get fired up, and try writing it again, this time with feeling.

Photo by hep-cat via Flickr

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  • Mary | Write to Done May 3, 2010, 10:56 am

    Very nice post! I especially like, “But if the beast is dead to start with, you’ll never breathe life back into it.”

    I’m going to recommend this post to members of the A-List Blogger Club that Leo Babauta and I run.

    It’s a pleasure to find a blogger who can write 😀
    –Mary

  • Simon May 3, 2010, 3:14 pm

    Thanks for stopping by Mary. Thanks for the praise too. And I appreciate all the recommendations I can get, so please send as many people from the A-List Blogger Club as you can 🙂