The setup is simple.
A family—mother, father and daughter—sit around a dinner table. The father reaches over and pushes a plate of broccoli to his daughter.
“Just have one broccoli.”
The daughter pushes it away.
A shove of war begins between father and daughter.
And then a stranger walks in; a woman in a red dress.
“The solution is here,” she says to the camera.
You’re browsing for books on Amazon and hit the Look Inside button. How long do you give an sample before you move onto the next selection? Ten pages? Five? One?
In bygone days of traditional publishing, many authors thought it was downright unfair for an agent or editor to reject a submission after reading only five or ten pages. They didn’t realize most manuscripts are like digging in a dumpster—it rarely gets better as you go deeper.
Today, I suspect we’re lucky if a browser reads more than the first page. We must hook them in seconds. Given the choice between a great story that glides like ice cream over the tongue, or a great story with bits of nut shells to spit out, guess which one the reader will pick.
Here are ten self-editing tips so readers will glide through your prose straight to the Buy Now button:
The foundation of good copywriting is good storytelling.
There’s a reason John Caple’s article They Laughed When I sat Down By the Piano, But When I Started to Play! is still considered one of the most brilliant pieces of copywriting of all time.
Caples didn’t simply make a pitch. He told a story. A story that spoke to his readers—their desires, their hopes, their dreams. And that allowed him to turn those readers into customers far better than any pitch could.
And that, in short, is the essence of copywriting.
There’s an ancient fable (as in, one I definitely did not just make up on the spot) wherein a young lad, foolish yet daring, seeks out an old, wise man for help.
Eventually (feel free to fill in here chapters of challenges, suffering, and brushes with death) he finds him. He collapses by the wise man’s feet and looks up at him with wide eyes.
“Answer me, wise man, for I have sought long and hard. How do I know how much description is too much and how much is too little? Where do I draw the line?”
The wise man, following in the footsteps of all wise men before him, raises a frail hand and slowly strokes his beard. “That’s a good question, my son. Fortunately, I know the answer.
“It’s all about intuition.”
I first “met” Tom Starita several weeks ago on LinkedIn. He shared with me that he’s a two-time novelist—that his second book, Growth and Change are Highly Overrated, came out in December, 2016. Recently, Tom and I sat down to talk about his books, his experiences, and the lessons he’s learned.
This is his story.
The Quintessential Writer
Picture, for a moment, the quintessential writer. The sort of writer that we all grew up wanting to be; the type of writer that doesn’t answer what he or she does with, “I’m a writer,” but, “I’m that writer.”
Maybe you picture someone specific. William Shakespeare, quill in hand, poised over a play; George Orwell, writing the title of Animal Farm. Perhaps you see Harper Lee, writing the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, or JK Rowling, sitting on that crowded train, the plot of Harry Potter developing in her mind. Maybe all you see is a faceless form, head tilted away from the light so it can’t be seen. At some point, however, I think all those images start to take the same path. The writer reaches for a writing tool—a pen, a laptop, a vintage typewriter—and writes.
One thing I don’t think anyone sees the writer doing is pausing. Putting the pen back down. And reaching for a rulebook to check that he’s doing things right.
Eli Landes is one of those weird writers who just can't get enough. A marketing writer by day and a fiction writer whenever he can squeeze in the time, he spends his spare time working on his novel, writing short fiction, or daydreaming (I mean, researching). His main genre is Jewish fiction, but he's been known to dabble in the weird, the absurd, and the truly dark.