Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Every Writer Needs This Critical Skill

These days almost everyone writes with a computer. Because producing words is so easy, you can be lulled into the idea that anyone can be a writer. Yet the specific words you write are important. Which words are you selecting when you write and are you using the right combination?

Whether you are writing a children's book or a novel or nonfiction or a personal experience magazine article, your word choice is critical. How do you learn this skill? You will use it in many aspects of the work—from the title for your book or the headline for your article. Or the words on the back cover of your book which helps a reader know if they should purchase your book or press on to the next one.

In the writing business, creating words which sell is called copy and the specific skill is called copywriting. The good news is you can learn this skill as a writer. 

First, you need to be aware your word choice is important and can drive sales. Years ago as a young journalist, I learned the power of writing great headlines to draw readers. When you write a headline or the words on a website, what is drawing readers? Be aware of the response. Do people click your button and buy your material or do they breeze past it? Awareness is a critical step.

Second, practice. When you write a blog post or a magazine article or a book proposal or a book manuscript. Think carefully about the title or headline. Are you telling a story that pulls the reader into your writing? What are the words doing and are they achieving what you want? This type of internal analysis will help you be more deliberate about your word selection.

Third, there are skilled teachers who teach copywriting. One of the best in this area is Ray Edwards. Recently Edwards has published a new book, How to Write Copy That Sells. The book is less than 160 pages and covers key topics like headlines, emails, bullet points, irresistable offers, secrets of product launches and much more. Each chapter begins with an inspirational quote like the one for chapter four, “Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” — Leo Burnett

As an acquisitions editor, I read a great deal of unpublished pitches and manuscripts. Some writers have learned their words have power and they pull me into their manuscripts. Others lack this critical storytelling skill. If you learn this skill, it will increase your sales potential. It doesn't matter what you are writing at the end of the day you are selling something. The sooner you can learn this skill, the sooner your writing will be published and sell.


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4 Comment:

At 5:58 AM, Blogger Linda Perkins Left a note...

Great post, Terry. I used to have a book called Words That Sell, which I used to help me write advertising copy. As a journalist and blogger, despite improving my storytelling, I still struggle with writing headlines. If that book specifically addresses that topic, I may have to check it out!

At 5:35 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


Thank you for this comment. I love Words That Sell and still have a copy on my bookshelf that I use from time to time. The key on writing headlines is practice and yes the Ray Edwards book gives you some help in this area. Persistence and practice will pay off for you.


At 6:24 PM, Blogger Smoking Man Left a note...

Great post. As a first time fiction writer with OK sales but amazing reviews I found a little trick. After its done play it with read out load. You instantly see where the gaps are and even bad punctuation.

It works.

At 7:43 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...

Reading aloud is a great way for every writer to catch things. Good point. Thank you,



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