Shock and horror! Stephen King on (copy)writing
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
American universities have been studying the subject for years, but it doesn’t take a degree from Harvard to understand that reading is an important exercise for anyone. Especially for a writer.
No one knows that better than worldwide bestselling author Stephen King. For King, as he explains in his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, reading and writing copiously are the two essential habits for any writer.
And even if the job of copywriter is different from that of the writer of essays or novels, they share a lot in common, from the importance of a solid knowledge of how the language works to a real understanding of form.
The tools to write
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time (or tools) to write.”
More than just essential habits, for King, reading and writing are two tracks that always travel in parallel.
Whether or not you’re a fan of It, it’s true that reading sharpens many skills, starting from an understanding of your target audience. Just like successful novelists, web copywriters should always keep their audience in mind, whether it’s a small niche market or a wider audience, the drafting of a technical data sheet or a global mass marketing campaign.
When you read different books by different authors it’s clear that there are infinite styles of writing depending on the genre and the audience, and that each author chooses the tone of voice she considers most appropriate for her readers. Reading teaches us to use these different styles and become more flexible.
Novels of different genres can serve as manuals on how to write for different occasions.
Does Valentine’s Day make everyone swoon with romance? Not necessarily. Which is why Sophie Kinsella’s romantic comedies, which their ironic tone and a hint of reverence, could be seen as an inspiration for the healthy cynicism toward love in our eBay Sell Your Ex campaign.
Our video advertising for bank Creval, however, aligns more with Classic Greek epics or adventure novels. Mortgage and life insurance products, for example, address important needs such as buying a house and protection from unwelcome surprises. And the script we wrote for the campaign was accordingly both reassuring and inspiring.
It starts with the full page
“Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life”
Together with the exercise of reading, you’ve got to throw yourself into the arena to apply what you’ve learned. Finding the right style for the target group is no piece of cake – and you often don’t get it right the first time. As with everything, you’ve got to try and try again.
Here at Moskito Design, the everyday challenges always keep us on our toes and in fighting shape. B2B communication or B2C, colloquial language, technical language, social media or SEO – everything changes, except the goal: to communicate the message in the most effective way for the final user.
From the contents of an institutional brochure such as those edited for the innovative work hub Le Village by Crédit Agricole, to the SEO texts for landing page optimization on eBay, through the storytelling for the rebranded, family-run Pastificio Di Lella, there are many ways to tell a story, convey information, and promote products and concepts to customers from very different backgrounds.
Today’s spaghetti package is tomorrow’s coworking space. Everything changes. But that’s what makes this job so fun.
Everyday lessons in storytelling
What else helps a good writer besides reading? Obviously everything around us: our everyday lives, the people we talk to, the films we watch. Everything can serve as a lesson in storytelling, no matter what the subject is.
And just like writing fiction, copywriting is about delighting your audience with words that seek solutions and show how to achieve what we want with our lives. As King writes: