Artwork for podcast Rough Draft
038 The 8 Rules of Ruthless Editing from David Mamet
14th May 2015 • Rough Draft • Rainmaker.FM
00:00:00 00:09:00

Share Episode

Shownotes

No one wants to write dull, lifeless copy that lulls even the most hyper people to sleep. Certainly not you, right?

But why do we find it so hard to write what we want to say in the least amount of words — and still maintain potency?

It s not easy because we tend to fall in love with what we write. We fear cutting out anything important. No matter how dead it is.

But how do we distinguish between the living words and the dead words? How do we identify the enticing sentences from the repulsive ones?

It s almost like we need someone to get in our faces and tell us like it is.

Luckily, for you, America’s greatest living playwright is about to drill you.

In this 10-minute episode you’ll discover:

  • If your copy is compelling but too slow, this is what to do
  • What happens when you confuse features for benefits
  • How to keep your first sentence from sabotaging your article
  • The one rule about your hero you can’t forget (or people will neglect what you write)
  • What silent films can teach you about great copy
  • The only question that really matters

Listen to Rough Draft below ...

The Show Notes

The Transcript

The 8 Rules of Ruthless Editing from David Mamet

Demian Farnworth: Howdy friend, you are listening to Rough Draft, your daily dose of essential web writing advice. I am Demian Farnworth, the Chief Content Writer for Copyblogger Media.

And thank you for spending the next few minutes of your life with me.

So, this is episode 38, and we are calling it David Mamet s 8 Rules to Ruthless Editing an episode brought to you by Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network built on the Rainmaker Platform — a platform that empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform.

And here s the thing: you can try the Rainmaker Platform for 14 days, free of charge. Just visit RainmakerPlatform.com. That s rainmakerplatform.com.

Now, onto the show.

No one wants to write dull, lifeless copy that lull even the most hyper people to sleep. Certainly not you, right?

But why do we find it so hard to write what we want to say in the least amount of words and still maintain potency?

It s not easy because we tend to fall in love with what we write. We fear cutting out anything important. No matter how dead it is.

But how do we distinguish between the living words and the dead words? How do we identify the enticing sentences from the repulsive ones?

It s almost like we need someone to get in our faces and tell us like it is.

Luckily, David Mamet is about to drill you.

Don t be afraid. You want David to drill you. You want him to show you how to “figure it out.”

But how do you do that without paying him your annual salary (which he could easily command)?

Well, you could have him write you a memo.

If you haven t seen it yet, David wrote an all-caps memo to the stable of writers for his CBS drama The Unit shortly before the show was canceled.

It s not a hissy fit. Or curse fest.

In fact, except for the occasional “sh*t,” he minds his manners. In the end, it s a masterpiece on how to write “genuine drama.” But more importantly, cut dead weight.

Without further ado.

If Your Copy is Compelling But Too Slow, This is What To Do

1. “THE AUDIENCE WILL ONLY TUNE IN AND STAY TUNED TO WATCH DRAMA”

What is drama? It s “the quest of the hero to overcome those things which prevent him from achieving a specific acute goal.”

You, dear web copywriter, must figure out what your reader wants is it losing weight, buying a used iPad

Whatever it is, paint a picture for your reader describing how what you have will fulfill their every desire.

That is drama. And everything you write must carry the scent of those desires.

Your online reader has a one-track mind. He s bent on satisfying a need. And the moment he loses the scent in your copy he s gone. Which brings us to Mamet s next rule.

2. “IF THE SCENE BORES YOU WHEN YOU READ IT, REST ASSURED IT WILL BORE THE ACTORS”

I mean, need I say more? If your copy bores you, it will bore your reader. If it bores your mother, it will bore your readers.

Another way of phrasing this rule is: Don t write boring copy.

What Happens When You Confuse Features for Benefits

3. “EVERY SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC”

Listen, if you keep rule number one in mind, every word you write will captivate the reader. You can t help it.

But when you break rule number one — which is usually because you confuse a feature with a benefit — your copy will go stale.

If you want to grow and evolve as a writer learn how to question every single sentence you write: Does it give the reader what he wants? Does it fulfill his simple, straightforward pressing need? Is it essential? See the last rule.

If not, cut it.

How to Keep Your First Sentence from Sabotaging Your Article

4. “PROPEL US INTO THE NEXT SCENE”

Do you know what the single, solitary purpose of your headline is? It s to get you to read the first sentence.

Do you know what the single, solitary purpose of your first sentence is? To get you to read the second sentence.

And so on.

Every word you write must muscle, tantalize or flat-out lure your reader down the path to your call to action. In fact, after reading your copy people should feel manhandled. And beg to read it again.

Any sentence that does not propel the reader along is useless. Cut it.

5. “THE JOB OF THE DRAMATIST IS TO MAKE THE AUDIENCE WONDER WHAT HAPPENS NEXT”

Listen: gratification is a reading buzz kill. You, dear copywriter, must leverage the potential of both premeditated restraint and the human imagination.

In other words, tease, taunt and fascinate. Withhold satisfaction until your reader is in a lather. And then taunt him some more. I ll tell you more about this in the next episode.

The One Rule About Your Hero You Can t Forget (Or People Will Neglect What You Write)

6. “EVERY SCENE STARTS BECAUSE THE HERO HAS A PROBLEM”

People who use the web are looking for a solution or an answer. That means they have a problem or question. It s your job, dear web copywriter, to figure out what that problem is

And then solve that problem or answer that question in such a way that the reader thinks you are the only person in the world who has the solution to his problem or answer to his question.

Forget this rule and people will neglect you.

What Silent Films Can Teach You About Great Copy

7. “WRITE A SILENT MOVIE AND YOU WILL BE WRITING GREAT DRAMA”

Great copy is active copy. It s copy that breathes. Caresses. Calms. Stabs. Pokes eyes. Pulls hair. Draws one to his knees. Or forces you to belt out a laugh.

Great copy is about action. It s like a tractor about to run you over. Or a carpet that lifts you above the roof of your house.

Great copy demands you respond. It gets you to grit your teeth and pace the floor until 4 a.m. Bad copy ignores you and sits in the corner talking to himself about himself.

Kick bad copy out the moment you notice it.

The Only Question that Really Matters

8. “IS IT ESSENTIAL?”

This is the one question you must be asking yourself over and over again. “Is it essential?” Does this paragraph advance my case? Does this sentence push forward my argument? Can I live without this word?

Whether you are a blogger, online journalist, or copywriter, you must be ruthless with your copy. If you re not, your reader will be and that will cost you time, attention and sometimes money.

So, what are you waiting for? You got some editing to do, friend.

Until then. Take care.

Follow

Links