This morning I ran the workshop for my writing critique group, coordinating the exercise I suggested last week. Here’s some feedback and changes. I had an hour, but with late arrivals, repeating directions, and transitions, not all of that time was spent working.
STEP 1: Write in some detail about your ideal reader/target demographic. (5 minutes)
I added in a SUBSTEP after this:
STEP 1B: Think about the story you are going to write copy for. Write down the elements/aspects of this story that this ideal reader would especially like. (5 minutes)
For example, if your ideal reader doesn’t care about romance subplots, don’t mention them in your ad copy. If your ideal reader loves macho heroes and you have one, play that up.
STEP 2: Write ad copy that would entice your ideal reader. (15 minutes)
I read out some examples from book ads I found on Amazon to give everyone an idea of the format and brevity of ad copy. It would have been an interesting activity to critique those we found in Amazon ads, but with limited time, I figured it would be best to write down a few of our own. In about 12 minutes, most people wrote 2-4 examples, which is pretty good. Mine were extremely rough. I just tried to get the idea out, knowing I’d be polishing it later. It was painful to share something so rough, but ultimately worth it.
STEP 3: Choose 3-5 examples and share with a partner. Discuss what works and what doesn’t. (10 minutes)
Most people had fewer than 5 to begin with, so there was no choosing. Ideally, we would have come to the meeting with a pre-made list and used the time there to critique one another. My partner, though nothing like my “ideal reader,” was a pro at writing ad copy. His first example was short and sweet, and well written. It conveyed his world and the stakes in 10-15 words, giving nothing away, explaining nothing, but pulling the reader in. I didn’t think to get permission to share his, but I can show you what he did with one of my messy drafts.
Mine: After getting stuck on Kepos, at first Dione was terrified. When she sees the carefully engineered life all around her, the mystery of the planet takes over.
His: Terror turns to wonder when Dione begins to unravel the mysteries of a new world.
I knew mine needed work, but it would have taken me many iterations to get close to the flow that his version has. Mine is clunky, has a tense shift, and isn’t appealing. His version? It makes me want to read my own book.
STEP 4: Take the feedback and improve what you’ve written. (5 minutes)
Most people did this with their critique partner, and just seeing what mine did with my drafts has helped me understand better how to write this kind of copy. At the end, some shared what they had written, and got additional feedback from the group.
We never got to STEP 5, which was writing copy for audiences other than your ideal reader, but that’s okay. It was a good first dive into writing ad copy, and I think most people found it useful to some degree. I’m still not an expert, but I learned a lot today.
What I learned:
- Activities always take longer than anticipated. This seems to be the lesson I keep failing to learn when I plan things like this. Though it’s better to have too much planned than too little. Less awkward silence.
- The feedback portion is critical. I thought it would be useful, but I think we could have spent a lot more time critiquing and rewriting. If I did this again in the future, I would try and get people to bring in several samples we could work on, rather than creating them at the meeting.
- My biggest issue was making it too long. Ad copy definitely needs to be edited and polished into a streamlined final draft. My critique partner for this exercise was exceptionally good at cutting to the core of what I wanted to say and making it “punchy.”
- I enjoy hands-on activities in workshop. While I love to learn from my peers, when the topic allows, I find I learn best through actively trying something.
We never got to elevator pitches, but I’d like to come back to these at some later date. It’s something I need to work on, and getting feedback from others proved so incredibly valuable for this exercise, I’d definitely want to run my pitch by a few people before using it.