I just published “On The Road” of my story “A Cry Too Far”. https://my.w.tt/P7v0xTUVbV

Advertisements

l H

How to Write a Short Story from Start to Finish
by Joe Bunting | 106 Comments

I’m working on a new short story. However, it’s been a while, and I’m feeling out of practice, like I have to figure out how to write a short story all over again.

To some extent, the process for writing a story is different each time. In the introduction to American Gods, Neil Gaiman quotes Gene Wolfe, who told him, “You never learn how to write a novel. You only learn to write the novel you’re on.”

This is true for short stories as well.


You never learn how to write a short story. You only learn to write the story you’re on.
Tweet thisTweet
And yet, there are certain patterns to writing a short story, patterns I think everyone follows in their own haphazard way. I’ll call them steps, but they’re more like general paths that may or may not apply to your story. Still, it’s these patterns that I want to present to you in hopes it will make your own short story writing easier.

At the same time, I’ve been presenting these rough steps to myself as I work on my own story. Good news: It’s coming along!

Requirements to Writing a Short Story
But before we begin, let’s quickly discuss three things you’ll need to write your short story. If you don’t have these, you should think twice before you begin:

Approximately ten to twenty hours of time. We all write at different paces, and depending on the length of your story (e.g. 200 word flash fiction vs. 5,000 word traditional short story) it might take five hours or fifty. But I’ve found that most short stories in the 3,000 to 5,000 word range take ten to twenty hours. Let me know how long yours take in the comments.
An idea. This guide assumes you already have an idea for a story, even if it’s just a basic sliver of an idea. If you’re still looking for an idea though, check out our top 100 story ideas.
Writing devices or utensils. Okay, it’s obvious you need something to write with to finish a short story, but I needed a third point! (By the way, I recommend Scrivener for writing short stories. Here’s my review.)
7 Steps to Write a Short Story
Ready to get writing? Here are seven steps on how to write a short story:

1. First, Write the Basic Story in One Sitting
It may seem silly to begin a list of steps on how to write a short story with a tip to “write the story,” but let me explain.

There are really two different kinds of stories. There is the art form, “short stories,” which comes complete with characters, plot, description, and style.

Then there’s the story, the funny, amusing, crazy story you’d tell a friend over a meal.

The story and the short story are not the same thing. The former is just a story, we tell them all the time. The latter is an art.

The first step to writing a short story is to write the former, the story, that version of the story that you would tell a friend.

And when you write it, be sure to write it in one sitting. Just tell the story. Don’t think about it too much, don’t go off to do more research, don’t take a break. Just get the story written down. Whenever I break this rule it takes me FOREVER to finish writing the story.

2. Next, Find Your Protagonist
After you’ve written the basic story, take a step back. You may feel extremely proud of your story or completely embarrassed. Ignore these feelings, as they bear no relation to how good or bad your story actually is or, more importantly, how good it will be.

The next step is to read through your story to find the protagonist.

Joe Bunting
@joebunting
“The protagonist is the character whose fate matters most to the story.” Stephen Koch

40
12:45 PM – Jul 17, 2015
Twitter Ads info and privacy
25 people are talking about this
Now, you may think you already know who your protagonist is, but depending on your story, this can actually be more tricky than you might think.

Your protagonist isn’t necessarily the narrator, nor is she necessarily the “good guy” in the story. Instead, the protagonist is the person who makes the decisions that drive the story forward.

Your protagonist centers the story, drives the plot, and his or her fate gives the story its meaning. As you move forward in the writing process, it’s important to choose the right protagonist.

Learn more about how to create a protagonist in a story.

3. Then, Write the Perfect First Line
Great first lines have the power to entice your reader enough that it would be unthinkable to set your story down. If you want to hook your reader, it starts with writing the perfect first line.

We’ve written a full post about how to write the perfect first line, but here are five quick tips:

Like the opening of a film, invite us into the scene.
Surprise us.
Establish a voice.
Be clear.
See if you can tell the entirety of your story in a single sentence.
4. Break the Story Into a Scene List
Every story is composed of a set of scenes which take place in a specific place and time. A scene list keeps track of your scenes, helping you organize your story and add detail and life at each step.

Scene lists do two main things:

Provide structure to your story
Show you which parts need more work
You don’t have to follow your scene list exactly, but they definitely help you work through your story, especially if you’re writing over multiple sittings.

For more about how to create a scene list, check out our guide here.

5. Only Now Should You Research
If you’re like me, you want to start researching as soon as you get an idea so that you can pack as much detail into the story as possible. The problem is that if you research too soon, what you find will distort your story, causing it to potentially break under the weight of what you’ve learned.

Other writers never research, which can leave their story feeling fuzzy and underdeveloped.

By waiting until your story is well on its way, you can keep it from getting derailed by the research process, and by this point you’ll also be able to ask very specific questions about your story rather than following tangents wherever they take you.

So go fill in that scene list with some hard, cold facts!

6. Write/Edit/Write/Edit/Write/Edit
It’s time to get some serious writing done.

Now that you know who your protagonist is, have the perfect first line, have created your scene list, and have done your research, it’s time to finally get this story written.

We all write differently. Some write fast in multiple drafts, others write slow and edit as they go. I’m not going to tell you how you should be writing. Whatever works for you, just get it done.

For a thorough process on editing your story, check out my guest post on Positive Writer.

7. Publish!
I firmly believe publishing is the most important step to becoming a writer. That’s why I’ll tell you that once your story is finally written, it’s not finished until it’s published.

Now, you don’t necessarily need to get published by Glimmer Train or Narrative. Instead, what if you got feedback from a writing friend or even by our Becoming Writer community?

If you want your short story to be as good as it can be, get feedback—first from a small group of friends or other writers, and then from a larger community of readers.

The worst thing you can do for your story is to hide it away out of fear or even feigned indifference.

Now, go get your story out into the world.

The Only Short Story They’ll Ever Read
As you write your short story, I want you to ask yourself a question:


What if this is the only story someone ever reads written by you? How will you give it everything you have?
Tweet thisTweet
Annie Dillard said:

One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.

Don’t hold back. Don’t save ideas. Don’t write something you feel you should write.

Instead, write something that is wholly you, a story so bound to your soul that it would be impossible to mistake it for the work of another writer.

In other words, don’t write the best story. Write your best story.

And above all, have fun. 🙂

Do you like to write short stories? What is your favorite part? Let me know in the comments!

PRACTICE
For today’s practice, let’s just take on step #1, write the basic story, the gist of the idea, the story as you’d tell it to a friend. Don’t think about it too much, and don’t worry about going into detail. You have six other steps to do that. Just write.

Write for fifteen minutes. When your time is up, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please be sure to give feedback to your fellow writers.

Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting is an author and the founder of The Write Practice. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let’s Write a Short Story! You can follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

4.6k
Shares4.5k
Focus Retriever4.6k
Shares4.5k

How to write a short story from start to finish

l 

How to Write a Short Story from Start to Finish
by Joe Bunting | 106 Comments

I’m working on a new short story. However, it’s been a while, and I’m feeling out of practice, like I have to figure out how to write a short story all over again.

To some extent, the process for writing a story is different each time. In the introduction to American Gods, Neil Gaiman quotes Gene Wolfe, who told him, “You never learn how to write a novel. You only learn to write the novel you’re on.”

This is true for short stories as well.


You never learn how to write a short story. You only learn to write the story you’re on.
Tweet thisTweet
And yet, there are certain patterns to writing a short story, patterns I think everyone follows in their own haphazard way. I’ll call them steps, but they’re more like general paths that may or may not apply to your story. Still, it’s these patterns that I want to present to you in hopes it will make your own short story writing easier.

At the same time, I’ve been presenting these rough steps to myself as I work on my own story. Good news: It’s coming along!

Requirements to Writing a Short Story
But before we begin, let’s quickly discuss three things you’ll need to write your short story. If you don’t have these, you should think twice before you begin:

Approximately ten to twenty hours of time. We all write at different paces, and depending on the length of your story (e.g. 200 word flash fiction vs. 5,000 word traditional short story) it might take five hours or fifty. But I’ve found that most short stories in the 3,000 to 5,000 word range take ten to twenty hours. Let me know how long yours take in the comments.
An idea. This guide assumes you already have an idea for a story, even if it’s just a basic sliver of an idea. If you’re still looking for an idea though, check out our top 100 story ideas.
Writing devices or utensils. Okay, it’s obvious you need something to write with to finish a short story, but I needed a third point! (By the way, I recommend Scrivener for writing short stories. Here’s my review.)
7 Steps to Write a Short Story
Ready to get writing? Here are seven steps on how to write a short story:

1. First, Write the Basic Story in One Sitting
It may seem silly to begin a list of steps on how to write a short story with a tip to “write the story,” but let me explain.

There are really two different kinds of stories. There is the art form, “short stories,” which comes complete with characters, plot, description, and style.

Then there’s the story, the funny, amusing, crazy story you’d tell a friend over a meal.

The story and the short story are not the same thing. The former is just a story, we tell them all the time. The latter is an art.

The first step to writing a short story is to write the former, the story, that version of the story that you would tell a friend.

And when you write it, be sure to write it in one sitting. Just tell the story. Don’t think about it too much, don’t go off to do more research, don’t take a break. Just get the story written down. Whenever I break this rule it takes me FOREVER to finish writing the story.

2. Next, Find Your Protagonist
After you’ve written the basic story, take a step back. You may feel extremely proud of your story or completely embarrassed. Ignore these feelings, as they bear no relation to how good or bad your story actually is or, more importantly, how good it will be.

The next step is to read through your story to find the protagonist.

Joe Bunting
@joebunting
“The protagonist is the character whose fate matters most to the story.” Stephen Koch

40
12:45 PM – Jul 17, 2015
Twitter Ads info and privacy
25 people are talking about this
Now, you may think you already know who your protagonist is, but depending on your story, this can actually be more tricky than you might think.

Your protagonist isn’t necessarily the narrator, nor is she necessarily the “good guy” in the story. Instead, the protagonist is the person who makes the decisions that drive the story forward.

Your protagonist centers the story, drives the plot, and his or her fate gives the story its meaning. As you move forward in the writing process, it’s important to choose the right protagonist.

Learn more about how to create a protagonist in a story.

3. Then, Write the Perfect First Line
Great first lines have the power to entice your reader enough that it would be unthinkable to set your story down. If you want to hook your reader, it starts with writing the perfect first line.

We’ve written a full post about how to write the perfect first line, but here are five quick tips:

Like the opening of a film, invite us into the scene.
Surprise us.
Establish a voice.
Be clear.
See if you can tell the entirety of your story in a single sentence.
4. Break the Story Into a Scene List
Every story is composed of a set of scenes which take place in a specific place and time. A scene list keeps track of your scenes, helping you organize your story and add detail and life at each step.

Scene lists do two main things:

Provide structure to your story
Show you which parts need more work
You don’t have to follow your scene list exactly, but they definitely help you work through your story, especially if you’re writing over multiple sittings.

For more about how to create a scene list, check out our guide here.

5. Only Now Should You Research
If you’re like me, you want to start researching as soon as you get an idea so that you can pack as much detail into the story as possible. The problem is that if you research too soon, what you find will distort your story, causing it to potentially break under the weight of what you’ve learned.

Other writers never research, which can leave their story feeling fuzzy and underdeveloped.

By waiting until your story is well on its way, you can keep it from getting derailed by the research process, and by this point you’ll also be able to ask very specific questions about your story rather than following tangents wherever they take you.

So go fill in that scene list with some hard, cold facts!

6. Write/Edit/Write/Edit/Write/Edit
It’s time to get some serious writing done.

Now that you know who your protagonist is, have the perfect first line, have created your scene list, and have done your research, it’s time to finally get this story written.

We all write differently. Some write fast in multiple drafts, others write slow and edit as they go. I’m not going to tell you how you should be writing. Whatever works for you, just get it done.

For a thorough process on editing your story, check out my guest post on Positive Writer.

7. Publish!
I firmly believe publishing is the most important step to becoming a writer. That’s why I’ll tell you that once your story is finally written, it’s not finished until it’s published.

Now, you don’t necessarily need to get published by Glimmer Train or Narrative. Instead, what if you got feedback from a writing friend or even by our Becoming Writer community?

If you want your short story to be as good as it can be, get feedback—first from a small group of friends or other writers, and then from a larger community of readers.

The worst thing you can do for your story is to hide it away out of fear or even feigned indifference.

Now, go get your story out into the world.

The Only Short Story They’ll Ever Read
As you write your short story, I want you to ask yourself a question:


What if this is the only story someone ever reads written by you? How will you give it everything you have?
Tweet thisTweet
Annie Dillard said:

One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.

Don’t hold back. Don’t save ideas. Don’t write something you feel you should write.

Instead, write something that is wholly you, a story so bound to your soul that it would be impossible to mistake it for the work of another writer.

In other words, don’t write the best story. Write your best story.

And above all, have fun. 🙂

Do you like to write short stories? What is your favorite part? Let me know in the comments!

PRACTICE
For today’s practice, let’s just take on step #1, write the basic story, the gist of the idea, the story as you’d tell it to a friend. Don’t think about it too much, and don’t worry about going into detail. You have six other steps to do that. Just write.

Write for fifteen minutes. When your time is up, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please be sure to give feedback to your fellow writers.

Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting is an author and the founder of The Write Practice. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let’s Write a Short Story! You can follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

4.6k
Shares4.5k
Focus Retriever4.6k
Shares4.5k

The Darkest Day of my Life

It was the darkest day of my life. The voice on the other end of the phone only said, “your son keeps asking for you, he’s in a lot of pain, hurry”. My son Dwayne had been fighting cancer. I had to wait for my sister to pick me up to drive me to the hospital. While waiting, I placed and paced as I prayed. My sister finally showed up, and as she was driving along the interstate I glanced at the clock on the dashboard. It was in the afternoon. My thoughts were swirling around like a small whirlwind giving me a headache. What happened? Did Dwayne need some kind of chemo? Was he dehydrated? Was his pain beyond what he could tolerate? When we arrived to the hospital, I entered the hospital and was greeted by the nurse who escorted me into a room filled with doctors and other medical personnel. I didn’t recognize anyone, but they all looked sad. Turning to the nurse who was still at my side. I asked her “how my son was and may I see him. The nurse held on to me and softly spoke, I’m so sorry-your son has passed away”. I remember your beautiful brown eyes, which you managed to hide so much pain when I last talked to you. Your eyes the same color as mine. The tears that i wept for you when you was hospitalized. You could not hide your sorrow. The pain in your eyes,matching the pain in your heart as you endured your treatment. I miss…. The sound of your voice. The warmth of your hugs. Your smile…It lit up the night sky. Your handsome face, being your mother. “I love you moma”. I treasure…every step you took when you started walking while pushing your little chair around. The way you spinner your records, and the way you freaked dance. I wish…you was still here without pain, you didn’t have to go so soon and so young in life, you could have still been around for your little sister too, I could hold you once more. But you are with me in my heart and soul. R.i.H my son. Mommy loves you.

Comprehensive Guide

A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners to SEO Content Writing

Copywriting has again transcended from its usual form and practices into the new internet era; Copywriting as utilized by the Professional SEO business is also known as Internet Content Writing, Web Content Writing, amongst other terms.

This article will try to tell you about the basics of copywriting and its advanced application on the SEO aspect. This article aims to provide the beginners in the Search Engine Optimization industry, an in-depth but friendly guide to seo content writing, as well as providing the more advanced copywriters with a guide to remind them of the several tricks they might have forgotten about the craft.

This guide shall be divided into the three parts of the copywriting process: the before, during, and after. This is the first part of the guide dealing with the things a copywriter must do BEFORE writing the copy. Succeeding parts shall be posted separately because of the size.

Before Writing

Before doing any writing you should first know the purpose why you’re writing that content. Your purpose should be clear and definite so no equivocation of ideas will exist that might confound your readers. Is the writing for sports? Is it for entertainment? Is it educational? These things should be clear on your mind before you write your copy, so a natural flow will exist as you write.

Another thing to consider is to know whom are you writing for and who are the people you wish to convey the message to? Knowledge of your audience will give you many benefits: people with different cultures only respond to a specific approach you use, technical terms would be very trivial when talking to beginners while spelled out and explained details would be very time consuming for experts. The internet is used by a vast network of people and your target may only comprise a very small minority. It is important that you address your target effectively if you want more conversions (making site visitors into customers) on your web site.

About the resources

Knowing the right information will certainly give you the right results. Knowing what people want and what they are searching for will be one of the keys to make it big in this business. One of the things that can help you acquire this information is through case studies, surveys and polls that can be found all over the internet. Most of these studies provide general demographic information about internet users. If you’re lucky enough (since it is discouraged), you might even stumble with information regarding the searching habits of different demographics.

Once you have decided to use particular information from the internet, make sure that it is from a reliable author or source. Incorrect and inaccurate data proliferates all over the internet and it happens that you may be misled by others to use them, so, see to it that the articles or studies you are about to use are made and conducted by certified educational institutions or known private companies so you will not have any problems about their authenticity.

Another effective source of information from the internet are pages which rank high among search engines especially those that are related to yours. Analyze and learn the effective things they have done to increase their PageRank and apply them to your work. You could also check out the pages of your top competitors, you might learn a lot from them but be careful not to copy their stuff as it is since they will be constantly checking out their competition. Copyright guidelines are finally catching up with those who replicate content, ending blacklisted by major search engines.

SEO forums are also helpful in guiding you about the latest trends in the Search Engine Optimization business. Experts usually crowd in these forums to discuss the tricks and trends of the business. Moreover, new updates and trends about Search Engine Algorithms and Technology can be found on these forums so it is highly advisable that you check out those forums. However, the forums might be a little too complicated for beginners as terms often become too technical to understand even by seasoned users.

About the words

Now let us go down to business! It is time to know what are the keywords and keyphrases you will use for your copy! The key words and phrases would be the ones that you will use and try to integrate throughout the whole copy. It would be the bait you place in the hook in order to attract and hopefully catch your potential customers.

First of all, you and your client should brainstorm together (face to face if possible) about the keywords and keyphrases you want to use for the copy. It is important that you brainstorm together so that you will be able to stay true to the brand and have an effective choice for use in the search engine optimization efforts. You could make use of different keyword tools found in the web such as Keyword Discovery, GoodKeywords, WordTracker, Overture, etc. (issues regarding their usability and effectiveness will be discussed separately). These tools can be downloaded or used directly over the internet should you choose to utilize it.

In choosing keyphrases or keywords remember to start with and use popular but “not-so-competitive” terms since it would be very difficult to compete with more established websites if you have just been starting. The above-mentioned tools will help you determine which key words or phrases you could use.

One word keywords are very difficult if not impossible to compete with as it would have a more general scope compared with keyphrases. For example, if you are trying to write content for a company selling educational toys, choosing a keyword like “toys” would be a stupid idea since search engines would give around one hundred million hits for that particular keyword, while changing it into keyphrase like “toys for students” or “educational toys” would only have hits of around five million. This means that the chance that a web searcher would actually go to your website would be 100,000,000:1 under the keyword “toys” while choosing the keyphrase “educational toys” means a chance of 5,000,000:1, greatly increasing your chance of being visited. Besides, customers are more likely to refine their searches since using or typing just one word searches would mean being bombarded with a lot of unwanted information than they need, costing more time and effort.

Your keywords should specifically target (1) the product or service that you are offering and (2) what people actually type whenever they use the search engines in looking for products and services like yours. A good example would be when writing content for a company selling kilns for bricks, you should not optimize for the keyword “kiln for bricks” if most people actually type “oven for bricks” when they are looking for such equipment. It is useless to optimize for the term kiln when most people opt to type oven since a few if none will be looking for the term kiln.

You should also identify and discover various words and terms which are closely related to your keyword or keyphrases. Some key-terms and keyphrases are so intimately intertwined with others that one group associates it with a particular field while another choose to associate it with something else. One good example would be Cosmetic Surgery. Cosmetic Surgery is a medical procedure, so, it can be regarded as something related with medicine and surgery, while it is also correct to say that it is related with cosmetics and beauty. Since the fields of medicine, surgery, cosmetics and beauty are popular fields, optimizing for both the cosmetic and the surgical aspect of the keyphrase Cosmetic Surgery would bring more keyword hits for searches from individuals of both parts of the spectrum.

Another thing to consider is to integrate local terminologies or equivalents of your products or services when optimizing with key words or phrases. An “elevator” in the US would be a “lift” in the UK, a “truck” in the US would be a “lorry” in the UK, and the list goes on. When trying to sell products or services for a huge demographically different society, you should optimize for both of the groups as each would tend to search for the more familiar local term. Better yet, you could create different sites for different demographic groups, replacing particular key words and phrases; enabling you to cater to both.

Moreover, it would be wise to consider placing regional information or regional key words or phrases. Integrating regional information along with keywords and keyphrases enables users who prefer more specified searches to visit your website. You would also benefit from the limited competition because of the more specified search. Most people looking for products and services in the internet would certainly prefer to find what they need locally, so adding local regional information would definitely be of great help to you and your potential client. Another benefit is that you could add another keyword, which is the regional information to your existing key word or key phrase. For example, instead of having just “plumbing services” add “Atlanta” before ‘plumbing services’. This would give you an edge over competitors as it would profoundly decrease your competition.

About the content

Now that you have the key words and phrases you would need its time to plan about the general thrust of the content, on what the content should be like.

Generally, the main idea of writing content is for it to be able to provide useful information for visitors in your site. You are primarily writing for the readers, the human visitors of your site, and about the products and services that you have to offer. Secondary to that idea is to provide the search engines information so they could properly and accurately index your site according to its proper category, so anyone who wants to look for something in particular, through the use of search engines, would eventually find what he needs. In other words, your content should be both customer-oriented and search engine friendly.

In order to do that, you need to plan properly on how to do your copywriting. The whole text should be able to give them what they need and want to know about the products and services you have. Hence, it is highly advisable that you read a lot of information about the subject product or service before you write the actual copy. The goal is to become extremely knowledgeable about the product, so you can explore all the possibilities and play with its strengths and weaknesses and write everything that is needed.

One important thing to remember is to write content that is unique. Copying content is not only plagiarism and cheating but is also a serious offense that could cause painful penalties under existing Copyright laws. More and more Intellectual Property Rights watch dogs are reporting cases of content stealing and have gained some grounds over the years. Major search engines are now penalizing sites which illegally acquire content from other sources. Penalties include permanently putting sites under a blacklist, sort of a “permanent not to contact sites” for crawlers. Lawsuits and cases about web content writing are now increasing day by day, with more countries enacting laws on Intellectual Property Rights. The risks are just too great if you plagiarize and copy content. So make sure that you quote or place endnotes when you choose to use parts of other’s content.

And lastly, your content should be written in plain, simple, and natural language so as not to destroy the natural flow of words as you write. Highly technical words and terms should be reserved for highly technical discussions, and should be discouraged for everyday internet use.

About the mood

You might be wondering what a section about mood is doing in a seo copywriting article, well, it certainly has a LOT to do about content writing. The mood of the reader would certainly affect the way he views a certain product or service. If you did not properly take care of the emotional side of your customer with your writing, consider him gone. Individual moods are affected by a lot of factors; although primarily it is internal, external factors could also affect his mood significantly and luckily what that individual reads is one of them.

First of all, you should be ‘in the mood’ for writing. Good copies are mostly written by writers who are either inspired or enlightened with what they are about to write. Content writers should make sure that they are in this special mood because the consequence of the opposite would be a very bad copy. A reader is also likely to be ‘drawn’ by an emphatic copy written superbly which would eventually end up making the reader get what you are offering.

One thing you could do to achieve that is to utilize emotional appeal to the reader. Try to integrate personal articles like “you”, “we”, and “us” more often; try to get your visitors as involved as possible. Avoid being too passive as it would prevent you from establishing a connection or a relationship with your target reader.

Keep your readers or customers engaged with your site. Make them think and interact by asking questions, giving riddles or trivia. All these create an air of friendliness for potential customers, and once you’ve made them comfortable reading, they are more likely to respond positively to you. As much as possible make them do all their transactions within your site, give out all the details about what you are offering so that can know everything they need to know. Trying to get online visitors ask questions and product or service information offline will be too cumbersome for them so be as accessible as possible.

Copywriting Triggers

Does Your Copywriting Trigger What Makes Your Visitors Buy?

You study your website stats and see the amount of traffic coming through. Nice numbers. But when you compare your traffic against your sales, what do you get? A small fraction of 1%? Wouldn’t you love to see those conversions grow? But how can you get them to buy?

The secret isn’t some magic trick or tool. But your Internet marketing is just shooting into the dark if you don’t know the needs that lead people to buy and how to focus your copywriting to tap those needs.

Two main needs drive all people no matter what the demographic: 1) a desire to expand their world and become more than what they are, and 2) a desire for safety. These needs conflict: the desire to grow leads us to head out into the unknown; self-protection leads us to circle the wagons and dig in against unknown dangers.

Each person strikes their own balance between these two contradictory needs. Understanding the way that different personality types balance these needs is the key to effective copywriting for them.

Methodical Personality Type

The methodical personality type balances strongly toward safety. They need facts, lots of details, to assure themselves that they are making the safest, most logical choice. Make no mistake, methodical personality types decide to buy based on their emotions like everyone else, but they feel a need to back up their desire to buy with sound intellectual arguments.

To get them to buy, your copywriting needs to help them narrow their choices. Avoid giving them too many options. They easily get lost trying to find the best option among a series of equals.

One option to offer, though, is between your plain product at a cheaper price or a more expensive price with lots of additional features. Methodical thinkers are much more likely to choose the more expensive version because it reinforces their image of being a wise shopper. And it changes their decision from deciding between buying or not buying into deciding between buying a more valuable deal or a less expensive offer. But either way, their decision gives you a sale.

Give them solid reasons to buy and buy now. Lead them through your sales process in an easy and non-threatening way. Give them the details they need to make themselves feel that they made a rational decision. They want their purchases to be well-reasoned and risk-free, and want to see themselves as smart shoppers.

Competitive Personality Type

The competitive personality type is less averse to risk, but still needs to feel that their purchase reaffirms the way they see themselves. They, too, consider facts in making their purchase, but rely more on gut feelings of how well the purchase puts them ahead of where they were.

The key to copywriting for this personality type is to recognize their need to see the way they define themselves reflected in what they buy. Recognize what types of self-images your product reflects and sprinkle your sales copy with words and phrases that help your competitive types see your product reinforce their self-image.

Cast a wide enough net in fitting your product’s image to theirs, but don’t try to cover every possible self image or you’ll get too generic to appeal to any of them.

Gregarious Personality Type

The gregarious personality type seeks to feel connected to those around them. They are more willing to trust, more willing to venture into the unknown, but are hesitant to assume the full risk until others have proven that the path is safe. They respond especially well to copywriting that shows how your product has benefited others.

Catch their attention by talking about positive results that others have experienced. Testimonials of satisfied customers or pictures that show happy people enjoying your product also are important. Make sure your copywriting provides them with evidence that others have found your product worthwhile. They’ll feel more comfortable taking their own risk with it.

Spontaneous Personality Type

The spontaneous personality type is the most open to exploration. They are the trend-setters, the early adopters, who blaze the trail for everyone else. They will take risks. But not unless you offer to fill the chief need for something better, something that will let them to grow beyond what they are.

Surprise them. Intrigue them with the unexpected and they’ll make that leap of faith with you. Present them with the boring old status quo approach and they’ll move on to something more intriguing.

Understanding what drives these four different types of customers is essential to copywriting effectively for them. In copywriting, as in clothing, one size most definitely does not fit all.

Should You Write a Long-Copy Ad or Keep it Short?

Okay, you’re ready to write the ad of a lifetime. The one that will pull like crazy and leave them begging for your product like Somalians for food. So, do you whet their appetite with a short and sweet ad? Or write a long-copy ad that’s stuffed with information?

The 80-20 rule says 80% of the people only read the headline (and maybe a caption, if you have one). But the fact is, readers will read a long-copy ad. One McGraw-Hill study looked at 3,597 ads in 26 business magazines. What they discovered was that ads with 300 or more words were more effective that shorter ads in creating product awareness, inducing action and reinforcing the decision to buy. Another ad for Merrill Lynch crammed 6, 450 words into a single New York Times page. It pulled over 10,000 responses—even without a coupon! The truth is, the reason people read ads has nothing to do with copy length.

“Nobody reads long ads…” and other urban ad legends

People shun too many of today’s ads—long or short—because several misleading myths have stubbornly remained with us. Things like “negative headlines are a downer since people want to feel good when reading your ad.” Or “show the product or they’ll never know what you’re selling.” Then there’s the stuffy axiom, “there’s no place for humor in business advertising. “ Or the ubiquitous saw, “all your ads should look the same, blend in or be swallowed up.” The list goes on and on. Presented with unabashed hubris by the high priests of advertising. The basic fact is, ads really fail for three reasons.

Your ads are all about you

You’re telling customers what you want to hear, not what they want to know. Impressive sounding features are fine to motivate your sales force, but your customer is only interested in one thing: “What’s in it for me?” This offense is particularly egregious in business-to-business advertising, which is infamous for its addiction to phrases like “the XP90 does it all” or “now with Duo-Pentium Processor”—without a hint of what these features do. Also contaminating many of today’s ads are such chest-pounding headlines as “Taking the lead,” “The promise of tomorrow, today,” or “A tradition of quality.” They sound good but say nothing.

Your ads are boring

You’ve got to break the boredom barrier—big time. Many ad gurus say blend in, be one of the pack and survive. No wonder so many ads look alike, proudly showing big pictures of their products, or worse yet, featuring a giant photo of the company’s CEO—usually with a caption that’s been scrubbed clean of originality or compelling information. If you want people to stop and read your ad, you have to make the ad more interesting than the editorials in the publication you’re in. Give them real news, a fresh new way to look at what you’re offering them. Stand out from the crowd. Start trends, don’t follow them. One of the most interesting car ads I ever saw showed the car only sparingly; instead, it featured an animation of a human heart beating furiously to the soundtrack of an accelerating engine. Breakthrough stuff.

Your ads don’t make human contact

They’re not reaching readers on an emotional level. We all want to be liked, appreciated and loved. We want to feel secure in our lives and our jobs. So be a mensch. Create ads that touch the soul. Use an emotional appeal in your visual, headline and copy. Don’t just show a car on the road; show the guy captivating his sweetheart with the car. If your buyers were on the moon, would they care about your car’s styling? No. They’d get an ugly, crawly vehicle that got them from crater to crater. Selling computers to business? Show the guy getting a raise or promotion for selecting your latest model. You’re selling the emotional end result, the human need-based bottom line, not a box, or vehicle with four wheels and an engine.

So if you’re struggling with the notion of whether to write a long- or short-copy ad, you can do both and still get results. The key is not length or lack of it, but information, interest and involvement in your customer’s needs. These are the ingredients to creating a successful ad.

Copywriting Makeover: Subtle Changes Make A Noticeable Difference

Changing a few words in your copy can lead to double-digit increases in conversions. If that sounds like a bunch of hype from an online infomercial, stick around and I’ll show you how it’s done.

That’s really all that happened with Kneelsit.com, an Australian ergonomic computer chair manufacturer. They had what would be considered a successful site with a continual stream of orders. All the basic information was already included on the home page, but the owner felt as though something was not quite “there” yet. He wanted a fresh approach to the site’s copy, so that’s what he received. And the results were simply amazing.

The Problems

While Kneelsit had great rankings for their key terms (normally #1 to #4 in popular search engines) keeping those rankings high required some attention to the SEO piece of the puzzle. Conversions, however, were not at their maximum. The business was not suffering, but it did have room for improvement. So, after receiving a sample chair to use during the process, I set (or should I say “sat”) out to work.

Once I assembled the chair and rolled it up to my desk, I kept a notepad nearby so I could jot down benefits as I noticed them. In just a few days’ time, I had a long list of features and benefits to refer to.

As I read over the original home page copy (which can be seen here: http://www.copywritingcourse.com/kneelsit-home-original.html), I noticed something else. Many of the benefits I had on my paper were referenced (at least briefly) in the original copy. Some were phrased differently than I would later phrase them, but most were there.

However, in this highly competitive industry, I wanted to be sure to keep the uniqueness of the chair on the forefront. Visitors needed to quickly see that the Kneelsit was superior to other computer chairs available. The changing of some verbiage and providing more details in some areas would help keep visitors reading and help them easily distinguish this chair from others on their comparison list.

Once my list of benefits was completed, I began relating these options to other kneeling chairs and to users of ergonomic computer chairs. I wanted to see which benefits on my list were unique in the marketplace. I also wanted to know about the users of these chairs. After all, the buyer is the center of the process and should also be the focus of the copy.

My research revealed some of the reasons users would need an ergonomic chair and also the biggest complaints about some of the current ergonomic designs. In addition, I discovered which benefits were common to other ergonomic chairs and which were distinctive.

The Solutions

Armed with the research results, I started crafting the copy to speak to that one person who was forced to sit at a computer all day, in pain, and who desperately needed help. This person had tried several other computer chairs before with little to no results and was getting skeptical about finding a solution.

I looked back over my list of benefits in search of the ones that would not be found in the competition’s copy. I focused on one exclusive, patented feature (the axle design) and the fact that the chair was customizable for every body type.

I laid out a plan for the new copy including keyword selection, keyword placement, benefits and key points to be mentioned.

Similar in many ways to the original copy, the new version had some subtle, but powerful, changes. The goal of the new copy was to show the true distinction of these chairs by highlighting the most impressive benefits.

I would also focus on incorporating keyphrases in headlines and sub-heads (where it made sense to do so) and throughout the copy. I had to pay careful attention to making the copy sound natural, as I never want the SEO factors to overshadow the message of the page.

In Part 2 of this series (seen here: http://www.marketingwords.com/articles/articles_subtlechanges2.html), we’ll take a look at what went into the rewrite as well as what type of results were achieved with the new copy.

8 Strategies To Catapult Your Copywriting Skills To The Next Level

I am about to share with you 8 quick ideas and suggestions to dramatically help you improve your copywriting skills as you get going.

You can use these tips when it comes to creating offers, E-mails and sales letters that grab people’s attention.

So without further ado, here they are!

Number one:
Always write your sales letter with the individual in mind.

Whenever you’re writing a sales letter or an E-mail, you want to write that E-mail or sales letter as though you were talking to one person.

Number two:
Pull them in with the first line.

You’ve got to create interest with the reader, the very first line that they read.

Number three:
Use bullets.

People like to scan, they like to quickly read things as fast as they can, and using bullets makes that whole process a heck of a lot easier. So use them.

Number four:
Just let it flow.

When you’re starting to write a letter, it is very difficult to just start from top to bottom and write everything. When it comes to writing it and actually putting everything down in order, I want you to just write as it’s coming out. You’re going to have moments when inspiration hits you and your pen is going to go like crazy or your fingers are going to go like crazy on the computer keyboard, and I want you to just let it flow.

Number five:
Write like you speak.

I briefly touched on this in one of the earlier points. But it’s much easier for you to envision that you’re communicating with one individual as though you’re having a conversation with that person, because when that person reads your sales letter or your E-mail, they’re going to feel like you’re talking right to them, and that’s exactly what you want.

Number six:
Make your communication easy to read.

What I mean by that is use short paragraphs. Use pictures. I want you to bold certain things. I want you to highlight important areas.

Number seven:
I want you to stress the benefits and not the features.

I want you to put yourself in the shoes of the person reading your communication piece
The number one question that they’re going to be asking is: What’s in it for me? You have to address those things, and you’ve got to stress the benefits of your particular communication piece that you’re trying to use.

Number eight:
I want you to keep the reader interested.

How do you do that? On a sales letter there are a ton of ways that you can keep the reader interested, and I’m going to give you a few of them right now.
– You can use graphs.
– You can use pictures.
– You can use audio.
– You can use video.
– Another one that people love to see are testimonials.
– Another one that you can always use is giving examples of proof.
– Do you have checks?
– Do you have screen shots of people registering for certain things?

Whatever you’re trying to sell or promote, I want you to give proof that it works or that it would provide benefit to the person that is reading it – screen shots, pictures, testimonials – these are all great things of proof.

So there you have it… 8 quick tips to improve your copywriting skills. This is not the be all and end all of copywriting techniques but they will definitely help you jump over some of the hurdles that are standing in your way!