No More Blank Screen Blues
“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.”
Neil Gaiman—author of Coraline, American Gods, The Graveyard Book and other outstanding books—said this. And since he isn’t a copywriter, he probably can’t benefit from the secret to overcoming the blank screen blues you’re about to learn.
Many times I’ve sat at my table, pen in hand, and stared at the blank, yellow-lined pages. I’d scribble something on the page … anything … just to get the juices flowing.
Sometimes I’d write something not even vaguely related to what I was supposed to write. All too often, the words I’d written lead to dead ends.
I’d switch to my computer in hopes the change of scenery would jar some words loose. Still stymied, I’d feel frustrated and like nothing I do will work.
New hope from a master copywriter …
But as of last week, I have a new strategy, thanks to master copywriter Carline Anglade-Cole.
Carline spoke at this year’s Bootcamp on “How to Write Faster Copy … Cut Writing Time in Half and Double Your Income.” In this dynamic, exciting presentation, she gave seven secrets for making writing copy easier and faster.
Secret Number 4—her solution for overcoming the blank screen blues—hit me as one of those “aha moments.” Her solution is simple … beautifully so. I’d never heard or thought of it before, but I wished I had.
Her solution starts with your doing all the necessary research into your product and your prospect. You must know the product’s benefits and the promise you’re going to make to your reader. You also have to know the offer: that is, the price, any premiums, any discounts being offered, and the guarantee.
Once you’ve done all this crucial pre-work, you’re ready to use Carline’s secret. Her secret is …
Never start writing with a blank screen …
How can you begin writing without staring at a blank screen? Isn’t that the problem to start with? That the screen is blank.
Before you begin putting new words and ideas down—you add what Carline calls the static elements of a sales letter. These include the order device, testimonials, and your guarantee.
These elements probably won’t be exactly like they’ll be in your final letter. But they give you a good place to start filling up the pages.
Let’s say you’re writing for a natural-health newsletter. You’ve studied past promotions and have a good sense of what their standard order device looks like. Copy that structure and put it at the end of the promo where it’d normally go.
Of course, you’ll change the words to reflect the product you’re selling. You’ll add new premiums if they’ve changed. You’ll change the price and discounts if appropriate. But most of the work is already done for you.
The order device is the perfect place to start Carline’s process. Many successful copywriters—including Don Mahoney and Paul Hollingshead—suggest writing this element first also. When you do, you focus on your core promise, benefits, and the offer. In itself, this process helps get your creative juices flowing.
Don’t stop yet …
After you put the order device on your no-longer-blank page, put the guarantee approximately where it would go in the promo. Look at the client’s previous guarantees and follow that general format.
Do you have testimonials? Scatter them throughout the copy. You’ll probably move them around once you start writing, but putting them in your promotion early like this fills up even more real estate.
Once you’ve added these elements, your page is no longer blank. What you see is a promo well on its way to completion. The writing you’ve done … and tapping into what’s been said in the testimonials … stimulates those parts of your brain that were reluctant to swing into action when first faced with a blank page.
Next time you feel overwhelmed by a blinking cursor on a blank screen, use Carline’s Secret #4. I know I will. And I know it will help me overcome that sense of overwhelm.
I’ll be talking about some of Carline’s other secrets for writing faster and earning more money in future issues of The Golden Thread.
Until then, please remember the most important two secrets of successful copywriting: Read every day … and write every day.
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