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Words on Page

Very early in my writing endeavors, I learned two acronyms to frame the writing life–B.I.C. and W.O.P.

B.I.C. stands for butt-in-chair. W.O.P. stands for words-on-page.

You’ve heard the old adage, writers write. And if you’ve ever attempted to be a writer you also know how hard it is to (1) carve time out to sit down and (2) actually accumulate words on a page. I’m intending to compose a few posts here, sharing strategies that have worked (and maybe even a few that haven’t worked) for me in achieving B.I.C. and W.O.P.

W.O.P. first. IMG_0890

A key strategy for me in getting words-on-page is to be intentional about scheduling time. A few years ago I began setting writing windows into my schedule, like appointments. Tuesday and Thursday, late afternoons, for instance. My wife has a regularly scheduled commitment those afternoons. I’ve carved that time out. Weekend mornings–before anyone in the house is really up and moving. I carved that time out. And voila! There I have between ten and twelve hours a week set aside specifically to work on my manuscripts.

A second key strategy, then, needed to be employed–being intentional about a words-per-day target. I found–as I’m sure you’ve discovered–just setting aside time to write doesn’t necessarily add up in word count. I’ve lost many a writing hour staring at a blank sheet, thinking about what I want to write. You know the drill–write a few sentences. Read it and conclude, ‘That sucks!’ and hit the delete key … watching your cursor reverse itself, gobbling up your words right back to left. Gone.

And repeat.

You’ve been there, yes? I imposed a words-per-session target for myself. Each of us will be different–you know how quickly you create. For me, I aim for a minimum of 1500 words a session. And then, in the back of my mind, I aim to double it! I’ll be satisfied at 1500. I’ll be downright giddy to hit 3000. And, on occasion, I might reward myself–‘Hit 4000 words and (morning) stop into Union for an Americano!’ If it’s an afternoon … make that a beer! Evening … glass of wine (yes, I am cultured!). Oh, when it comes to words-on-page, I am not above rewards-seeking!

Let me encourage you–just put words on page. That’s the most important first step in writing. I’ve wasted so many hours thinking, rethinking, evaluating, editing–crumpling up pages and tossing them in the direction of a waste basket. Save that stuff for a later date. If you’re writing a book–get the initial draft done, ugly as it is. Then refine it. Or perhaps, make a strategy for forward progress: ‘I’ll get 10,000 words down and then I’ll spend a few sessions refining that before I move on to the next 10,000.” 

And if you’re cultured like me … at 10,000 words refine a bit AND THEN make that wine a bottle of Bully Hill Winery’s Love My Goat! 

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Wisdom for Writers

Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised. –John Steinbeck

Tip #1 of Six Tips on Writing from John Steinbeck

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Not How It Was Envisioned

Just after I posted a mention of my own coming to Jesus experience involving alligators, I saw this in the news.

Pastor Killed by Giant Crocodile During Baptism Service

I’m pretty sure this qualifies as a bad day in pastoral ministry. When your lakeside baptism service doesn’t go as planned–

Oh my!

Shifting from such a heavy-hearted story to a little lighter-hearted baptism fun … here’s Randy Travis’ baptism-themed tune Pray for The Fish.

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A Development Copywriter’s Biggest Headache? Marketing Folks

Marketing folks want to dictate messaging. All messaging. That, they’ll remind you, is what they do.

True enough. But when your marketing people don’t know what they don’t know… danger! And poor returns for your fundraising or constituent print and digital communication.

What do marketing people know?

They know how to position your organization and its work in the market.

What don’t they know?

They don’t know your donors or constituents. Your copywriter—if he or she is worth what you pay them (and if they’re worthy, you pay them well)—knows your donors and constituents. This, I’ll tell you, is what we do.

Marketing speak trumpets the organization and its work. Marketing says, “Look at us! Look at what we do! Look how long we’ve been doing it! Look at how effective we are!”

Here’s the beef: Your donors and constituents don’t care.

Let me clarify—they do care in that they’re happy to know all those things … but they already know those things. So they don’t care (and will lose interest) when you bloat your correspondence with corporate or organizational hype and hoopla.

handshakeWhat do your donors and constituents want to discover in your correspondence? The impact they are having. Your donors and constituents want to be the heroes of your work. They may not articulate it exactly that way, but their hearts long to see affirmation—they’re making a powerful impact. They want to be recognized, thanked … patted on the back. They need to feel it. They’re wanting to say, “Look at what I’m doing!”

And good storytelling writers, what do we do? We show them. Stories. Testimonies. Emotion.

Marketing folks don’t deal in emotion. They deal in equations; in numbers, stats, facts—market analysis. All well and good. And important.

Writers deal with people’s hearts, emotions, desires and dreams. These are the places where donations and deepening commitment to your organization and its work reside.

If I got a nickel for every time development folks were overruled by marketing folks in donor and constituent copy discussions, I’d be retired on a beach somewhere with an umbrella-drink in my hand.

And if I had a nickel for every time the marketing folks’ copy direction resulted in more donations or constituent engagement than that of a solid development copy writer … I’d be nickel-less.

Grasp the difference between advertising and engaging, selling and inviting, equations and emotion. Your organization and its work—more importantly, those your organization and its work serve—will tremendously benefit.

Hire a good writer. And it’s a real plus if the writer you hire knows how to gently navigate your marketing departments’ fragile egos.