Episode 4 marks the end of our Copywriting 101 series and covers several topics that aren't just vital to ad copy writing, but to any creative writing venture. In this final interview with Senior Copywriter, Nathan Spell, we will discuss the messiness of first drafts and the importance of editing, which is the true meat of any writing venture. Other key topics include editing tips and tricks such as timeblocking, taking notes from previous projects, and learning to lose your ego.

Podcast Transcript

Editing can be a thorn in any writer's side. And more often than not leaves us feeling as if we actually can't write first drafts are messy versions of the ideas in our heads, which is why every writer should approach editing with an open mind in our final installment of Copywriting one Oh one Nathan Spell, and I discuss why editing is important as well as sifting through the nuts and bolts of editing Ad Copy. So let's get start. That's the Great thing about stamps.com. They grow with You as much as I had to wait to get back to my sleep number bed. I love my third love bras. They're hands down the most comfortable bras I've ever owned.

And I love making blue apron. I love it. It's my me time. This is Episode marks the end of our Copywriting one Oh one series. And I think that this is the Episode that I've been most excited for prior to moving into Advertising and theater. My main focus was on creative writing and one of my biggest fears was that I couldn't write. So when I saw your initial notes for the episode, it really resonated with me. Yeah. I'm glad to hear that it resonated with you. And I think a lot of people struggle with the Writing process as a whole and maybe the editing process in particular. So I'm excited to kind of break it down a little bit more. So yeah, let's start by talking about why editing is important and, you know, I think that kind of goes into why people think they can't write, because when you think about Writing, most people think of the, the front end, your thinking of brainstorming or getting those ideas out on paper in the first draft, whether you're literally picking up a pen or more likely nowadays, I think we're probably going to a keyboard and starting to get some initial ideas out and maybe tossing in a pun or two.

(1m 49s):
That's what everyone's sort of thinks of it. And I think a lot of people will get locked up to like, Oh, I'm not, I don't know. I'm not creative or I don't know how the process works, or, but the reality is that if you only looked at a writer's first draft, like no matter how good they are, every writer writes bad for stress. And the fact is that the first draft is supposed to be bad. 'cause the first draft is only the beginning of the process. It's all about getting the worst ideas out of the way. So it's natural that the first draft is going to kind of suck to be honest. And I mean that seriously, like a really good book about writing for those that are interested in, you know, doing more writing or getting into Copywriting is Stephen King's book.

(2m 29s):
Writing gets one of my favorite books and he talks a lot about that process. And anyway, so I would encourage everyone to like do some research into what authors have to say about their first draft and the editing process. And you'd be surprised how many of them will really encourage you to just write, write, write, write, write, and toss out a lot of really bad first drafts with that in mind. You know, most people who say, Oh, I can't write. The fact is if you can think, if you can speak, if you can communicate in any form, you have the capacity we're talking about. And beyond that, it's a skill, just like any other skill it takes you get better over time. And it's about improving from where you start, what you come up with little by little. And the craft of writing comes from doing that over and over again.

(3m 12s):
And learning as you go along, what works, what doesn't, the process gets smoother and it gets faster. So with that in mind editing and, and not the first draft editing itself is actually the meat of Writing. And the reason is that wordiness is the bane of good Writing and editing is the process of chipping away at all of the material that doesn't fit the vision you have for your project, whether that's an ad or a resume or whatever else you're writing. The point is that you're trying to say the right thing, and you don't really want to say anything else. And getting rid of all of the ELLs are all the words that get in the way that's really the, you know, that's really what separates a great piece of writing from the kind of lackluster piece of writing.

(3m 55s):
The other important thing to remember is whether you're editing an ad or a resume, as I said before, you know, whatever your editing, but especially whenever you're editing copy that you've written for an ad. You're trying to get a really clear message. And the editing process is essential because it creates the clarity that's needed to have a strong, powerful, and impactful emotionally resonant Ad. 'cause the fact is that most people use too many words and not too few. It's rare that a writer is going to sit down with the page and have trouble because they couldn't come up with enough to say, and maybe at first, maybe at first you think, Oh, I have writer's block.

(4m 35s):
But in reality, once you get going, once you see what you have in your first draft, you're going to find that there's like at least 10 to 25%, if not more, that doesn't mean to be there. So that's the way that's why editing is so important because we're, you know, if you think about the sculptor taking this honk of material and whittling it away into the final form, that's really what we're doing. Whenever we come to our first drafts, we're looking at what we have. We've tossed out of a lot of ideas. Some of them worked, some of them don't, some of them are strong. Some of them need to be removed completely. Some of them need to be beefed up a little bit.

(5m 15s):
We're sculpting the final piece. And I mean, that is Writing. So I think that that's really good feedback. I know that personally, I would really get hung up on, On like the first draft and wouldn't spend any time to actually editing it. I would just read it and be like, well, this is garbage. And yeah. And, and then I could just give up. Yeah, it's really easy to do that. It's really easy to get stuck, especially I think if you don't, I think if you're writing for a personal project, it's really hard. Obviously, like if you're writing professionally, like there's, there's things like deadlines and expectations that will like maybe force you to find that like will to push through.

(5m 58s):
But the reality is that no matter, no matter why you're writing, like it's really easy to get hung up on a first draft. And I think it happens to everyone at every stage. You know, the goal is just to learn how to deal with that. And the editing process. I think when it works well is designed to help us, you know, prevent getting hung up. So let's maybe talk a bit about how to edit in general and look more specifically about how to edit ads later on. But no, first of all, let's talk about how not to edit because sometimes starting with what not to do is a little bit better. There's lots of right. Ways to edit, but there's a few key wrong things that we want to avoid.

(6m 40s):
I like this quote is actually a misquote. I've seen it like printed on merchandise if you've ever been to like a bookstore. Oh yeah. Yeah. I know the exact quote that you're going to say to you. I drunk edit sober falsely attributed to Ernest Hemingway. He did not say this. You can look it up, but the point is not only is this bad advice, if we take it literally, and not only did he not say it, we're not trying to sound drunk. We're trying to write a good piece of material, but there is something about this quote and I, this is why I think it resonates with people despite the fact that it's problematic, you have to separate the processes. And with that said, the first do not do is, do not edit when you're in the drafting process.

(7m 24s):
It's the number one issue for people that struggle with their writing in general. And I think it's also, if you're trying to write it as a professional level, you're going to produce a lot of writing. And if you're constantly stopping and starting to edit yourself as you go, you're just not going to write enough. You're not going to work as efficiently as you could. If you had actually edited a chunk that you'd written prior. So we want to write in a stage and then edit later. So that's the first one. Yeah. That's definitely part of the process that I struggled with a lot in the beginning and I can never figure out, like, why am I moving so slowly? I felt like I was never getting anywhere. Totally. But it was because I was very addicted to that backspace button.

(8m 5s):
And if you think about that, What is what's going on with that backspace button we're caught in this like internal war with ourselves, between the two stages of the process? Cause we were trying to do them at the same time and you know, this is something I really still struggle with, but especially early on, like I really struggled with this. So I mean, I'm right there with you. Like I would go over and over and over sentences to the point where, you know, I'm writing and editing myself into just a dizzying state of, I have no idea what I was even trying to say at the beginning of this sentence. So I think the reason is that Writing the mindset of writing is all about openness and exploration and editing is actually polar opposite of that.

(8m 46s):
Editing is about saying no to bad ideas, even though you came up with them, editing is about finding the phrases that those pet phrases you'll write, make your ego, feel all warm and fuzzy and you're keeping them for all the wrong reasons. It's because you feel good when you look at how nicely worded that sentences, but it's not the right sentence. It's not the right, the, not the right place, probably not the right pun, whatever it is. You know, if it, if it's something you're super proud of, be wary of it, be sure that you're proud of it for the right reasons. And that's what the editing process is really all about. So you don't want to constantly be stopping and starting editing as you write. You want to write in chunks, writing the whole draft if possible, and then go back, preferably over the whole draft or over a chunk.

(9m 32s):
Number. One thing that we can do is if you're working on a project, separate the editing process and even more so if you have some time, take an actual like break as much as the day, if you have a deadline, obviously you can't always do that. But if you can take a walk, you can take a breather. You can take 10 minutes to come back. You will have something more like an objective view of what you've written. If you, you know, take a walk, come back. And you're like, Oh, this sentence that I wrote that I was really proud of. I'm just proud of it because it makes me look good, but it doesn't actually help my client. And it doesn't help them connect with the customer. And you know, that that's something that happens a lot. I think, to, to writers who are, who work really hard and want to be good, they get hung up in their ego a little bit.

(10m 16s):
And the editing process really requires you to be objective. And another thing you have to try to do this is everyone has to find your own way to do this. You have to change it up on yourself. So what I mean is, you know, let's say you're sitting down in the computer, you're writing, you're staring at the screen, you're typing, you're working on a draft. You've written it in the trunk because you took that advice and you're coming back to the edit right after you wrote it, you're staring at the same screen. So you're still in Writing mode, even though you said, okay, now it's time to edit. Yeah. So change it up on yourself. Somewhat that could be printing it out on paper and looking at over physically with a pen to make notes that could be reading it out loud to yourself. And depending on if you're what environment you're in, you don't want to obviously be disruptive to people.

(10m 59s):
If you can avoid it, if you have a dog nearby that you could recite your copy to, that always works. It's objectively different. Like I'm not staring at the same screen, I'm slow or reading or quickly skimming little things like that to just like, try to change your perspective because essentially you're trying to catch little pieces that you might be missing that that could actually kind of tank your piece of copy. Reading out loud has always helped me, especially in like script writing or in the Copywriting that I have done, because it has helped me identify points that maybe sounded pretty good in my head, but it felt very strange in my mouth. And so, you know, saying it out loud, I was like, Oh no, that's a very awkward, It's so much more important.

(11m 44s):
I think for us Writing Ad like Audio Copy, because it's going to be spoken there. There may be times when you can get away with writing an ad that doesn't need read well out loud. I don't actually think that that's common. Like I think more likely you want to actually write it as close to how you would speak. So it it's generally better to, especially with ads. I mean, it's generally better to speak it out loud to make sure that it's somewhat conversational. If that's the tone you're going forward, or if it's more formal than it, doesn't completely derail the whoever's going to end up reading the copy. So with that in mind, maybe we should talk about some of the nuts and bolts to editing Copy. And more specifically, as opposed to just editing overall, as we've already discussed, like editing is bringing clarity.

(12m 28s):
Editing is killing the ego, the objective, like what is going on to this Copy of what is working, what's not working. So editing is about asking questions and whenever you're writing an Ad, that kind of the questions that you need to be asking are who is this for? Who is the audience of the ad? So you need to be thinking about the customer and if you don't know that well enough, then you need to get clear on that first before you can do a really good job of editing, you need to ask, okay, who is the brand? What is the voice? What is the tone that's appropriate? And most importantly, what is the gap that we're trying to bridge for the audience? In other words, what stage are they at in the process of their interaction with this brand and how can we help connect them when they're ready to the next stage, whether that's making a purchase decision, whether that's finding out more information, whether that's going to explore the brand on another platform, maybe social, maybe elsewhere.

(13m 25s):
We have to ask ourselves, what's the gap we're trying to bridge and does this Copy do that? That's why it's so important to make that space and to set aside the time. So one skill that I think everyone could use is timeblocking, timeblocking essentially means I'm going to set 30 minutes in my day right now, too. Right? And then I would recommend maybe even doubling that for your editing. If you don't think you need that much time, you might be right, but you might not be editing yourself as thoroughly as you could. And that's the question. So I think it takes a lot more time to edit. So I would say block out twice as much time to edit something as it took you to write it. If you're struggling to fill that time, then you probably need to spend more time looking for weakness in your writing.

(14m 12s):
It takes, it takes a lot of time to look at something that you wrote critically to analyze it, to break it down. And that's not even counting the actual rewriting of what you wrote. That's just the analysis. So I would recommend over budgeting with the amount of editing time that you think you need. And I think that the final product ultimately is going to thank you for that. And with that in mind, we were discussing like printing it on a paper. I know you said that worked really well for you. I would say, look at it a little, a little academically. I mean, not, you know, you don't have to write a dissertation on a piece of copy you wrote, but you should write some notes down right here. What am I achieving right here? What is not working well right here? Who am I speaking to? As you start to really turn over that piece of Copy, you'll start to see new facets and you'll come up with new ideas or at least stronger ideas.

(14m 59s):
That's something that works for me. I would recommend if you don't do that already, it's a really good way to kind of take your editing process to the next level. So Is that something that you would just do personally or would you advise people to get that same feedback from, from their peers? I think that it works both ways. I guess I'm thinking if you're editing for yourself, that's something that you can do to substitute for having the ultimate separation between the process of writing and editing is actually having someone else who's their role in the process is the editor, right. But as a writer, you're constantly drafting and then having to edit what you wrote. So I think if you want to get better at editing yourself, you have to start treating yourself as something separate.

(15m 44s):
You have to start treating your writing as if you didn't write it. And then you can kind of become your new favorite editor, at least maybe one of the kinder editors that you work with, or actually, maybe not all of us are harder on ourselves than on anyone else. It just kind of out of curiosity, as far as like making notes on your own writing and kind of like, you know, stepping outside of yourself, do you ever go back and like reread your old stuff from like a year ago? It's hard. I mean, it's something that I try to do and not just with Writing, but like photography as well. Cause I've definitely found that if I come back to it later, it really does feel like a completely different person. Yeah. And, and I do feel like it is, it has been useful to me to kind of make notes on like my style or, or, you know, what I was trying to say in that moment.

(16m 31s):
And some of it I can learn from, because some of it's really awful, but every now and then I feel like I can pull some, some nuggets out of it. Yeah. I think I say, I said it was really hard, I guess. Why is it so hard? I think it's because you're coming up face to face with yourself. Like, you know, it's something you did, but it doesn't feel like it feels so separate at the same time. And it's this jarring like, Oh, that's I wrote that, but that's, you know, that's kind of just a Testament to how hard it really is for us to, to be objective and to separate from our work and how helpful time can be. So to me, going back to like taking a break, you know, you can't always take a year, But literally, you know, a day will surprise people who have not tried this.

(17m 18s):
I think too, like to compare their editing process before and after some of these tips, if you're taking some time between, it really will be like putting on a new, a new set of glasses or something and completely seeing differently. And I, I try to avoid reading things I wrote a year plus ago just because I find it so hard to reincorporate like that version of me, but I think it's a good to do it. I just, it's hard. It's difficult sometimes. Yeah. Yeah. I think that it can be an interesting exercise and it's, it's kind of on the end of the spectrum, you go to your advice about taking a break, but I completely agree with, with sometimes taking a day. Yeah. Yeah. And I think just like as general Writing advice, like it's, it's good to do some tips maybe for some, some of you out there who are writers that hate editing.

(18m 6s):
Just a reminder that I think writing and editing in general is sort of this process of losing yourself and, and whether are writing professionally for clients or whether you're producing something to engage with others for, you know, on a personal level or, or professionally and other passages removing yourself from the equation is the goal. So your not your work. And that's, that's what I think we all struggle with is realizing that cutting out a sentence shouldn't feel like surgery. And sometimes it does. So another thing to remember as you're editing yourself is to constantly keep the goal in mind, you know, your working with a client and they're trying to reach a customer.

(18m 47s):
Who's a real person with real pain points that your ad is supposed to speak to you. So you have to ask yourself at every word choice that every sentence and every paragraph at every level is the Copy addressing the client and the customer. It's not about you as the writer, it's about everyone else. And with that in mind, you also need to remember that your copy should be engaging. So if it's boring to you as the writer, you can be guaranteed that it's boring. Someone who is reading it or listening to it, to be honest with yourself, if you are reading through something you wrote, you suddenly are like, well, where am I? I do. I just drifted off to think about something else that was distracting me.

(19m 27s):
Chances are you're boring yourself and you need to rewrite that sentence and that's okay. Like this happens. It's important to really be honest and look for those areas. Another thing that you want to look out for is, you know, redundancies, we are talking about being clear and being concise. Well, if something is said at the beginning of the piece and is a really clear and powerful repeating that doesn't always work, repetition is important, but you know, you have to find ways to freshen up points that you want to repeat so that they don't seem redundant. Another thing that people I think really get tripped up on is, and this goes back to the ego, motivating a lot of what we do. And a lot of our worst Writing is going to be driven by ego being witty just for the sake of being witty. You know, it's one thing if it's entertaining and if it's memorable and if that works great, but if your being witty just to be witty and it's distracting the person who's reading or listening to what you wrote from your ultimate goal than that wit has actually failed you as a writer.

(20m 23s):
So that's a big pitfall to keep in mind. You want to ask yourself, have I answered all the questions that needed to get answered? Have I thought about what sort of objections the customer might have to this product that they might be thinking what's getting in the way of them making the decision that we want to make? And that's what we mean by bridging the gap between stage of awareness to stage interested. What is the obstacle from someone being interested, maybe haven't been entertained or they haven't found some memorable hook about the brand, but you know, that obstacle is going to be very different for someone who's already interested, but they haven't made any sort of decision. And you want to obviously make sure that you're editing at the sort of superficial level of grammar, spelling, any sort of errors of just the most superficial nature might not be a huge deal, but they also might be obviously like at a professional level, it's just terrible to, you know, find yourself consistently putting out work that hasn't even been looked over.

(21m 20s):
So you spellcheck guys, it comes down to use the tools that are out there. I really like Grammarly as a first pass. It's a really great browser extension and they also have an integration with Google and with office. So the cool thing about Grammarly is that they'll actually, I think they do a better job than most of the standards Spell checks, but they'll also sort of make suggestions about some of your wording and sentence structure that can be helpful. Don't use it as a crutch, but use it as a first pass so that whenever you go back through it later, you know, you've got the machine's of done the first pass for you. And you can come in with the skill of a human writer and actually look more analytically and think more deeply about what you wrote.

(22m 2s):
And then if you're a writer who hates editing, this is my final kind of words of advice for you. I think most of us hate editing because honestly we struggle with letting go of our ego. We hate admitting to ourselves that the things we produce aren't us, right, that we are not our work. And we get really, really hung up on that. This is getting maybe a little philosophical, but the fact is cutting out a sentence should not feel like surgery. And if it's the right sentence to be cut out, then it should feel like surging in the sense that it's vital and it's useful, but it shouldn't feel like you're harming yourself. It should feel like this sucks successful move forward for the peace, for the copy that you're writing, needing to rewrite something that you wrote doesn't mean you're a bad writer.

(22m 48s):
It means you're a writer. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe for updates on future episodes and leave us a comment with your feedback, questions, or ideas for future segments. Be sure to join us next time for our interview with the award-winning documentarian and host of what really happened and gangster capitalism, Andrew Jenks, if you would like more info on Ad Results Media in what we do be sure to visit our website at Ad Results, Media dot com. This podcast was written and produced by Nathan Spell and Lindsay boy with sound mixing and editing by Freddie Trey Hill. This podcast is an Ad Results, Media production.