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Fiction Skills: Not Just for Fiction (We’re Talking to You, Copywriters)

Fiction Skills for Copywriting

Do you want to know the No. 1 mistake I made when I was a new copywriter?

I kept thinking of my fiction skills as a hindrance.

Yep, I want to be a novelist and short story writer. Congrats, you’re thinking. Get in line. About 80 percent of the world wants to write a book.

First of all, that is an actual fact. Pretty much everybody and their pet monitor lizard hopes to one day pen the Next Great Something with Words. Second of all, don’t I know it: wanting to be a novelist just ain’t that creative.

And that worried me. If I’m so dang uncreative as to dream the same dream as everyone else, doesn’t that work against me? Don’t my nighttime scribblings make me less respectful/professional/downright useful during the day?

I say, no. The thing is, I’ve discovered you can put those fiction skills to work for you instead. And here’s how.

Think of It As Training

Don’t think of your creative writing and fiction skills as a disadvantage when it comes to copywriting; start thinking of it as training. I meet a lot of people who have written fiction for a long time, and want to try their hand at copywriting, but don’t think their fiction skills are transferable.

They are.

In fact, most writing skills are transferable to other kinds of writing.

For example, most people don’t realize that being a copywriter takes a lot of creativity. Copywriting is often about taking dry material and trying to figure out how to write about it in an interesting way. If you’re naturally a creative person who can take an idea and run with it, or take a problem and find several different solutions, you would make an excellent copywriter. As I’ve said in other posts, your creativity is what makes you unique, and your uniqueness is what will get clients coming back for more.

Work on Flow

One of the great things you learn from writing fiction is how to make a story flow. Flow is important, whether you’re reading a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel or an email newsletter.

Ask yourself this: how often do you read a magazine article, blog post or manual, and put it down after the first couple of paragraphs? Often, right? It’s usually because the flow of the piece was off or jarring. If you struggle to get into the rhythm of what you’re reading, or you have to reread a sentence to figure out what the author is saying, forget it. There is way too much Candy Crush waiting to be played for you to worry about that.

That’s why fiction writers are constantly working on their flow. Always acknowledging the importance of making smooth transitions, leaving cliffhangers and giving the audience just enough of what they want to get them to turn the page. This is even more important with copywriting, because we don’t usually have the luxury of writing about flying cars or long-lost childhood loves, so honing those fiction skills is just as important for the day job.

If not more, because it’s more likely copywriting will pay your bills than your late-night fantasy. But hey, what do I know?

Put Your Butt in Your Chair

I’m not going to lie: the single hardest thing about being a writer is sitting down and doing the work.

I once heard an awesome quote that said, “I love being a writer – except for the writing.” And it’s so true. Most people don’t have the discipline to sit down at their desk, turn off the internet, silence their phones and do the work. So if you have learned that skill from writing fiction or poetry, then you already have a major leg up on other people.

And once you become a full-fledged professional writer with as much work as you can handle, the ability to stay in your chair will translate directly to dollars. Independent contractors like myself almost always work per project, so the faster and more disciplined you are, the more dollah dollah bills you can bring home.

So bottom line is: the world needs you and your talent, no matter where you picked it up. Just think of copywriting as a writing exercise: someone else gives you the idea, and often the raw material, and you have to make an enthralling story out of it.

Now go!

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