Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sing Praises for AIDA

AIDA is one of my favourite operas. Coincidentally, it's also the simplest, yet most effective methods of converting visitors to buyers.

Attention: The first thing to keep in mind when writing copy is – grab the reader’s attention. You do this by writing striking copy and making your product or service as attractive as possible. Your copy does not need to be long; in fact, short copy is often more attention grabbing than long winded sentences.

Interest: Get their interest going. You can do this in a number of ways- offer a bonus, a discount, a limited time offer, a guarantee. Whatever you offer, it has to be something of value to your potential customer.

Desire: This refers to their desire to have what you’re offering them- a product or service that they feel they must have, and must have now.

Action: And finally, their desire leads them to take positive action- visit your shopping cart, click on a subscribe to link or pick up the phone and call a toll free number.

While reading Jonathan Gabay’s Teach Yourself Copywriting, I learnt an expanded version of AIDA, which is AIDCA.

Convince: With all the given competition, you need to work extra hard at convincing your client that they do indeed need your product or service. This is in fact one of the most important steps in any sales pitch, and even if you’re not face to face with your prospect, your website should have an in-built convincing tool in it.

Get your copy of Teach Yourself Copywriting here:
Teach Yourself Copywriting

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dramatically boost your writing!

Content is king, but what happens when you find it hard to write as much as you should? The following are quick and easy ways to get into a set routine, without the boredom that’s often attached to it:

1. Pick a time and stick to it
. If you can manage to get up early, it’s probably the best time of the day to write. The world is quiet and ideas can flow freely without any distractions. After a good night’s rest, you also have the energy to jump-start your thoughts. If you are however not a morning problem, this could be a problem. I know a lot of writers who say they prefer working till 2 or 3am! I certainly am not in that category, but I have no qualms about setting my alarm for 4am to wake up and write. Pick a time which suits you and stick with it. Even if you have no work at the moment, continue to get up early (or work late) and fill this time with freewriting exercises (http://writechoiceforyou.blogspot.com/2008/12/freewriting.html), drafting query letters or even writing the first draft of a short story/novel or poem . Just keep writing.

2. Make your writing zone a private zone. You’ve heard of writers penning their bestsellers in cafes and parks, but for the most part, writers will prefer working in a quiet environment. It’s said that Stephen King wrote for days in isolation, and this is not an exception, but generally the rule to producing good, quality stuff. Shut yourself up in your office, den or any private room and get to work.

3. Forget 15 minute gurus. These are the clients who ask for 4 easy blogs per hour or writers who claim they can produce them! No one can write a draft or even a short blog in 15 minutes. Pencil in a decent number of hours per day to write and work your schedule around these hours. If you have limited time, set a timer for one hour. Use it to write. Not check emails or get distracted by the shelf that needs dusting or the plant that needs watering. Write until the timer goes off. Take a 10 minute break and if you still have time, get back to writing for another 1 hour.

4. Aim for perfection but know when to stop
. There’s no such thing as a perfect article, simply because perfection in writing varies from person to person. The trick is knowing where to stop. I usually write, print and edit and make the changes, and then give it to someone to read it. If they come up with changes, I take those into consideration and then add them in if I feel they need to be included. I then read and re-read my final piece. Definitely not a 15 minute process, and it's what clients (and readers) pay for.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Interview with upcoming novelist Melissa McNallan

I'm ashamed to say I did this interview almost a month ago, and haven't had the chance to post it. But now that it's up, I hope you'll read, enjoy, and share it. Melissa is writing her first novel, and I can't wait for her to complete it. She has some great advice to offer other first time novelists. You can learn more about her work here: http://melissamcnallan.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/i-a-m/

What will your book be about? Can you give us a sneak preview?

My book, tentatively titled Independence, is about a pool hustler's daughter named Independence (Indy for short), who is desperately seeking her own independence. On the way to finding it she opens a lot of wrong doors. She leaves life on the road with her Dad behind for Billy, Billy for Patrick, Patrick for home - only to find that home doesn't fit either. For a sneak preview, the flash fiction version of a section of the novel can be viewed at http://www.facebook.com/l/07644;melissamcnallan.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/i-a-m/

How did you get started?

Ten years ago I had the idea and started writing it down. I joined a writer's group. I've been an avid reader since I was five and a dedicated journal writer from the age of 12. I had little experience beyond that back then, so I struggled to put the words and punctuation down right. My tenses switched and slipped easily.

Laurel Winter, author of the award winning book, Growing Wings, was a member of our writing group back then. She encouraged me a lot by telling me that I had a strong voice. She said that punctuation and tenses can be learned but voice is hard to teach.

I still ended up shelving the book for a while. I'd get to a certain point and just get stuck. I began to read writing magazines. I started getting work writing newspaper articles for our small town paper, getting work in a local women's magazine and finally writing a flash fiction version of I.A.M. I love revising and synthesizing, breaking a piece down to its essentials. I entered it into WOW! Women on Writing's Spring 2009 Flash Fiction competition and placed in the top 25.

Then I earned an Artist's Grant to work on a revision of my book with the assistance of a mentor during the summer of this year. If I don't complete the revision, I have to pay them back.
I highly recommend working with money on the line or as if it is.

Probably the number one reason most writers don’t write a book is because they find it hard to make the time to get started. Did you find it hard to make the time, and how did you overcome this obstacle?

With money on the line, I have come to discover the lack of time to be a bullshit trick we let our mind play on us. I've had that trick played on my mind for years! I wrote 15 chapters in six weeks while: working 30 hours a week, taking two college courses -earning A's in each, being a Mom and wife, writing a 10 minute play for Olmsted County's History Center and serving as a member of the editorial board for the Yellow Jacket Review (a community college literary magazine). Be tenacious. Keep your fingers on the keys. If you don't like sitting down, stand. I do that a lot. The laundry suffered. Those 15 chapters have organic, lovely moments in them that I'm really proud of. There's plenty of rewriting to do yet. Once I realized that I could pound out 5,0000 words in one day, the idea of revising a whole novel became much less intimidating.

Did your inspiration for this book come from a particular situation, or did you have to sit down and think up a unique idea around which to create your story?


The biggest piece of inspiration I had for this piece came back in 1996 when I took a bus from Rochester, MN to Orlando, FL to help a friend move back home. I couldn't afford a plane ticket, so I took a Greyhound bus down. I am a huge fan of Kahlil Gibran and was obsessed with Beat and '60s literature and culture. I was big into the idea "you're either on the bus or you're off the bus" as espoused in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, so I stayed engaged and talked to people. I kept myself open. I met a man who was going to be bartending for a while in Florida and then moving back home to Portland. He was laid back, had a sweet disposition and he talked like I'd never heard anyone talk before. I gave him my address and he sent me a letter from a hotel in Portland. He served as inspiration for Indy's main guy.

That summer, on his advice, I started waitressing in a bar that was rough around the edges and had a pool table in the back. I was 18. I did my best to listen, observe and take things in. I did a lot of journaling at that time. Indy grows up in the bar scene and that comes from me kind of growing up in that scene myself. Like many 18 year olds I didn't know nearly as much about life as I thought I did.

Any other words of wisdom?

Listen to people, really listen. I think developing an authentic voice and strong dialogue comes from that. Then listen to your characters. Be patient, they'll talk. Everyone has the ability to hear their characters talk and to be lead by them, you just have to stay relaxed and open to possibility.

Actors have to really listen to each other when they're working or they come off as being generic and 2-dimensional. I think the same is true for writing.