Monday, November 19, 2012

One Project, 3 Kinds of Writing, and Some Jello



I used to have a favorite Jello dessert, that was essentially a science project with eatable benefits. You took the Jello packet, mixed in water, poured it into a fancy glass (remember the theme, "treat your family like company...), and left the whole thing to sit. Voila! An hour later, you had a 3-part dessert just like the package said -- 3 variations on a single theme... otherwise known as a Jello base with 2 toppings. Pretty cool, right?

So what does all this have to do with writing? Plenty.
A recent writing project I completed for a client was a perfect example of the Jello 1-2-3 model in action--except, of course, for the automatic part. My client was launching a clothing line and shopping website to go along with it, and needed product descriptions for the clothes, as well as her Bio/About Me page. As simple as this might seem, there was of course more to it, as there always is with any juicy assignment.

What seemed like 1 assignment or project, was actually 3 in terms of the writing. Writing #1 was the About Me page, or her Bio, which I have written before, but of course, writing hers was new. The best tips I have for writing great bios are to write them in third person, keep them short, use relevant details that maximize SEO as much as possible (without being obvious--we writer for people, not computers, right?) And finally, to make them interesting. One of my rules of thumb is that if the person doesn't sound like someone I'd want to meet or hang out with once I've finished the write-up, I start over.

Writing #2 was the listings, or clothing descriptions, which required a completely different approach, more like writing captions or chapter outlines, rather then solid paragraphs of text. Kind of like a sprint, instead of a run.

First, I had to do some research and review photos of the clothing line my client was launching. Next, I did more research to learn how clothing descriptions were formatted and organized. I saw that in most instances, titles for each item were detailed and SEO-rich. Descriptions were as short as a few sentences, and the best of them told a little story, or set the stage. They almost all used bullet points to highlight the product features, and included information on the fabric and materials, and how they could be paired and accessorized.

So when it was time to start writing, I told little stories. I added details about accessories and pairings. I wrote about twirly skirts and retro chic and back zip pockets and silk and lace, get the idea. One of the challenges was avoiding repetition when similar outfits came along, and keeping every description unique and fresh.

Finis! After a few tweaks, the bio and descriptions, writing #1 and #2 were were set, and ready for website launch.

Oh, and what was writing #3, you might ask? That was the proposal writing, including project scope and specifics, timeframe, etc. The business writing part, so that all the details were clear for the client.

So there you have it. One project, three kinds of writing...which could actually be expanded into four if you count this blogpost, and even five if you count the social media links to go with it!

The more I consider this model of "3," the more I see that it holds true for many projects I've worked on Blog posts and e-books typically have an intro, main body, and conclusion. E-news blasts typically have 3 main stories and about as many links. Case studies typically include the project overview and goals, specifics on the process, and reporting of the end result.

And then there's always that Jello...

What about you? Do you have 1 project for your business that is really three? Can it be broken down into 3 tasks or writing processes to make it easier?
Share in the comments.

-Carrie Jaffe-Pickett
writer, editor


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