Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Smoothing the Rewrite Road: Advice for Copywriters and Copywriting Clients

Here’s a quote from H.G. Wells, who knew a thing or two about writing: "No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft."

I don't know whether Mr Wells was speaking from some hard-earned personal bitterness, but few writers can completely avoid the occasional going over with a red pen (or its digital equivalent). In my work as a freelance marketing copywriter, I don't usually get a lot of rewrite requests. That isn't necessary boasting; for all I know, clients are rewriting my work themselves without mentioning it to me. But I've found that there are certain things both writers and writing clients can do to make the revision process less painful.

Writers: Ask questions, no matter how dumb they may seem. You may be the writing expert, but your clients are the ones with all the industry knowledge and inside data necessary for your project. Get clear on the basics and fill in the informational gaps as needed by asking questions. A quick email or phone call can prevent some major misunderstandings, not only on details but on the overall direction of the entire job.

Clients: Collect your notes -- all of them. You may be tempted to shoot some revision requests to your writer the moment you receive the draft. But if you do, be prepared to fire off another email, and another after that. And then there's your marketing person, and your CEO, and whoever else may care to pile on with suggestions. Nothing confuses a writer worse than dozens of emails, each with different and possibly conflicting rewrite requests. Make sure you have collected everyone's comments and parsed them for consistency before sending that ONE email to your writer.

Both parties: Be prepared and responsive. For writers, that means listening closely and making detailed notes right from the initial consultation. Before launching into the first draft, go over the job with your client to make absolutely sure you're both on the same page. For clients, it means answering the writer's questions and providing additional information in a timely manner. Work together to make that first draft as compelling and accurate as possible, and you may not need to go to a second draft at all. H.G. Wells would approve.