Thursday, October 29, 2009

Real men have died writing long copy

Long copy is a very tricky thing.

Because it’s a horrible fact of life that the more words you write, the more there are for people to disagree with.

Before you know it, you can find yourself embroiled in rounds of amends so endless and dispiriting, they make the Hundred Years’ War look like a small spat with the in-laws.

The copy goes back and forth back and forth until you can no longer remember what you're writing about or why.

Then just when you've become really disillusioned with the whole thing and decide you can’t write a single word more, they ask you to do a complete rewrite.

The client asks for a rewrite not because you’ve lost the original energy and direction of the piece.

It’s because it’s been going on so long, all the people who first briefed you have died.

A whole new generation of people have since grown up and begun working on it. And they have no idea what their forefathers first intended when they began the project.

I have a job like this going on at the moment.

Records suggest that when my great-great-grandfather was first briefed, it was a letter to aristocrats and dandies launching the first ever brand of moustache wax.

But over the years, through endless drafts and redrafts, it’s slowly evolved into an email and microsite for a leading brand of anti-virus software.

What’s most galling about this particular job is that at several points we’ve been so close to seeing it run. Then, each time, something’s come up at the last moment. Apparently at one point we had sign-off from all the clients involved , but then World War II started and the whole thing got put on hold.

Some people could get depressed at the thought their work will still be going on long after they’ve ‘passed on’.

But I realise my project is in good company. Raphael's Transfiguration. Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. Tupac’s R U Still Down?

I take great comfort in the thought that some small part of me will live on through these endless rewrites.

Or at least it will if they don’t change every single fricking word.


  1. I lost interest half way through. Could you do a bullet point version?

  2. Relax, Dave. Rewrites bring opportunities for rescoping. They say the Sistine Chapel started out as a DM piece on a leaf.

  3. Stop whinging Mance. It's character building. And you got to write a faux poem for Rolls-Royce this afternoon. Which almost scaled the heights of quite good. The never-ending job will die. And you will be glad that it was you what killed it.

  4. I'm putting my headphones back in. I can't stand listening to the huffing and puffing on the other side of the desk any longer.

  5. Firstly, try writing it shorter. It'll take twice as long to write but less for the bastards to change. Secondly utilise the copywriter's weasel - which is: Insert a sentence, phrase, para that is totally contentious. then fight tooth and nail for it for a month, then grudgingly capitulate. this will take their eye off the ball and let the other stuff sail through. never knowingly failed.

    (My name's will but posting as anon cos I can't work out how not to. Doh!)

  6. Just remember, real men write long copy just like the aristocracy plant trees. For their grandchildren.

    (Great verification, BTW: 'Scheish')