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Writing Etc. – November 14, 2013

ISSN: 1545-5580

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In This Issue:

Notes from Minnesota: Good news!

The Fine Art of Swiping by Beth Ann Erickson

2013 Action Plan to Jumpstart Your Writing Career

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Notes from Minnesota:

Hi Writing Etc. subscriber,

I’ve heard that flexibility is the hallmark of mental health. I’ve also heard that as writers, it’s always handy to possess good mental health. After all, this job is tough. However, when you toss in normal (or abnormal) life challenges… it can get difficult to write. And if you can’t write… well that’s exactly how writers go out of business.

Which brings me to these past few months.

First, I want to thank you for your support. I’ve always said that writers are some of the nicest people on this planet. I really mean that.

Secondly, after my cancer diagnosis, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to write again. It often felt like a mixer had engaged inside my brain, swirling terrifying thoughts, dredging up nightmare scenarios, potential ghoulish outcomes cackled gleefully as my writing imagination sparked. I have no memory of a couple months, just flashes of images, all fuzzy in a Vicodin haze.

Unfortunately, every single writer I know has told me that they didn’t choose this profession. When you’re a writer, the profession chooses you. If you’re like me, you can’t help but write. It’s not just what you do, it’s who you are. Non-writers don’t seem to comprehend this phenomenon. For example, one day my carpenter father tucked away his tools and retired. I recently asked if he missed his profession and he said, “Nope. Not a bit.” I can’t put writing away. I’m forever forming sentences, typing on an imaginary keyboard, digging for new ways to utilize ordinary words. It never stops.

So, you can imagine the enhanced terror realizing my thoughts were jumbled beyond all recognition, I couldn’t write, yet the compulsion persisted. It’s a special kind of hell only a writer can know.

But much of that changed this past week. My new lab results arrived.

After reviewing three pages of numbers, not one, but two of physicians have proclaimed me “In Remission.” Not only that, I’m one of the lucky folks who have the words, “Surgically Cured” added as a tag line.

The storm in my head instantly calmed. It was almost magical.

It’s been a difficult six months adjusting to the removal of half my colon (as well as infections and such), but I can’t complain. I know far too many people who have endured more than even I could imagine. They’re the real heroes. They’re the brave people.

But today I feel thankful. Also, it’s my birthday.

So, to celebrate all this good news, I decided to eat a piece of wedding cake. I love wedding cake. Then I awoke this morning and realized I don’t really crave cake right now.

I decided to skip my walk. Then I realized I like walking. So do the dogs.

I decided I wouldn’t answer the phone. Then I realized I like talking with clients, friends, and family.

I figured I could eat something really “bad” for dinner. Then I realized I like my food. It nourishes me in every way.

I decided I’d skip writing. Then I realized I love stringing words together. I especially like the fact my mind has calmed. 🙂 Today, I’ll write.

That’s when I realized how precious an ordinary day is. And to work in a profession that feeds your soul is priceless. Routine is comforting. So, with all the quirks and costs a writing profession brings, it also carries many gifts. I need to remember that.

So, my hope is that you’ll enjoy your day and live every moment on your own terms. I hope you find a way to enjoy every mundane moment that passes. I hope you build a life so that when your “day” arrives, you’ll leave this planet just a little better than when you arrived.

With that in mind, I’m pleased to announce that Writing Etc. will go back to its regular publishing schedule starting in December.

That feels very good. I’ve missed all my dear writing friends..


P.S. At 4:00 Central time, I’ll celebrate my new year at the local Caribou. I’d love if you’d join me by raising your own coffee cup at that time. Ponder how precious you are. Feel good, for just a moment, savor what’s good about your current health. Then let the people you love know how wonderful they are.


Dawn Colclasure’s 365 Tips for Writers is now available on Kindle. Check it out, download it, and get writing. Here’s the link:

~~~~~~~~~~~~ Feature Article ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Fine Art of Swiping

By Beth Ann Erickson

Copywriters write advertising materials. Often, to get their creative juices flowing, they’ll review successful ads and “swipe” it.

Article writers will often engage in a similar activity. They’ll read everything they can on a subject, then apply their personal twist on the information while they form it into an article.

Either way, every author needs to be very wary of not crossing that fine line between “swiping” and plagiarism.

Here’s a perfect illustration. I recently spoke with a fellow writer about to take on a new client. It was a very important project… one that could easily net him at least thousands per month.

He led me to his web page and I started laughing. “You so totally stole (writer’s name omitted) sales page,” I said.

“I swiped it,” he replied.

“I see that,” I answered. “That’s one heck of a swipe.”

And his version wasn’t pretty.

First, let’s talk a bit about swiping.

It’s fairly routine for copywriters to turn to successful sales pitches and model new ones after them. After all, if a particular website generated a huge profit in one field, the general sales structure will often work again.

However, what this guy had done was copy and paste the entire web page into a document and simply changed the product name, revised a couple bullets, and slipped his name at the end.

That, my friend, wasn’t a swipe. It’s called plagiarism.

Worse yet, it resulted in a really bad sales pitch.

You see, every product, service, whatever you’re selling has what’s called a USP, Unique Selling Proposition. This USP represents everything that’s unique, different, awesome about your product.

When you plagiarize a sales pitch, you run the very real risk of not illustrating your USP in a compelling, dynamic way.

And this is exactly what this marketer did.

His copy ran flat. It didn’t sell. No zing. No magic. Nothing.

Plus, by stealing a highly recognizable website, he lost all credibility with me… someone he was hoping to hire to help him sell more product.

So, how do you go about elegantly swiping a successful sales piece?

Well, you don’t plagiarize or blatantly steal the content.

You analyze why the piece worked, who the audience was, what the state of world was, the date the piece ran, what patterns response followed… there’s far more than cutting and pasting involved.

You also have to analyze you own business. What is your USP? Who is your audience? What kind of tone do they respond to? What are their price points and why? How have you pitched them in the past and how does this fit in with the puzzle that is your marketing plan? What have you done to lead up this pitch?

See… there’s an art to successful swiping.

An elegant swipe slips into your business plan like a hand into a velvet glove.

A great swipe is utterly unrecognizable from the original. Your customers shouldn’t look at it and gasp, “I’ve read that before.” You certainly don’t want them to laugh at your ad and think it’s a joke.

Somewhere along the line, you want your swipe to glide away from the original and become something utterly unique… a web page that’ll work for a very long time. A sales message that’ll bring in mucho profits without any controversy. (And if you plagiarize, believe me, you’ll face controversy.)

I mention all this because many newbie writers are just now drafting their own websites. Be very careful when you craft your webpage that you don’t blatantly swipe someone else’s style.

After all, if you write your own web copy and have been told that all you need to do is “swipe” a successful letter and you’re on your way to huge readerships… well I think you know the answer to this outlandish claim.

As for my potential client, he’s still running his swiped web page. Lucky for him, the person he swiped from is very kind and doesn’t intend on contacting his lawyer. The client says he’s planning on re-writing the page on his own.

I wonder who he’ll “swipe” next.

It’s really too bad because if he simply invested a fair amount of thought into the project he could really make a dent in his unique niche, easily netting tens upon thousands of dollars every month.

As is, unfortunately, he’s not even breaking a few hundred a month.

But I guess that’s what happens when you try to swipe without understanding even a few of the complexities of the persuasive process…

Perhaps I’ll expand more on that next time.


Want a ton more ultra-effective techniques that’ll give you an incredible edge in the over-crowded freelance world? Click this link .


2013 Action Plan to Jumpstart Your Writing Career

Dig through your local yellow pages and five five large ads promoting companies you like. Examine the ad to see if you feel you can improve it. If you can, draft a polite letter advertising your writing biz. (Never criticize their existing ad, though. You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot.)

Just let them know you’re available to write newsletters, ads, letters… whatever they need.

Do this daily and before you know it, you’ll have a client.

Try it.


To subscr*ibe to Writing Etc. and receive the fr*e e-book, “Power Queries,” surf here:

Forward Writing Etc. to all your friends! They’ll be glad you did.

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You can use any of these articles free of charge on your own website or zine. Just don’t make any changes and be sure to include this byline:

This article is courtesy of Filbert Publishing. Make your writing sparkle, write killer queries, get published. Subscribe to Writing Etc., the free e-mag for freelancers and receive the e-book “Power Queries.”



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