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2008-01-24 14:37

How to Organize Your Thoughts and Ideas


  When you begin to write, your mind may give you random, disjointed thoughts. Your ideas probably won't come out logically or sequentially, but write them down as they appear, without worrying about order or logic. Don't judge and evaluate, simply collect them. Later you'll evaluate, sort, and organize them. At this stage you just want to get them down on paper, on tape, or on computer disk.

  It is easier for most people to write this way, because the creative part of your brain isn't very logical, and the logical part of your brain isn't very creative. Don't expect your mind to perform both functions at once (although some can).

  Use the "card trick" to organize your thoughts

  Sometimes it helps to put all your thoughts on individual index cards, exactly as they come to mind. Later, you can sort the cards to get a finished product, eliminating cards that don't fit.

  This is also a beautiful way to write a magazine or journal article with very little stress——and very little "writer's block," because nothing you write down has to be said perfectly or accurately. Everything can be sharpened up later. Your first goal is simply to collect your rough thoughts. Once you've accomplished that, here's what to do next:

  1. Spend time on your letter. Someone once said, "With part-time effort, you get part-time results." This is especially true in letter writing. You can expect to spend several hours, or even several days, on a letter.

  2. Write a draft, then let it cool off overnight.

  3. Rewrite if necessary.

  4. Use a strong close, like these: "After you have had a chance to review this letter, I will call you to get your reactions." "I will call your office next week to arrange a time when we might be able to get together. If you have any questions before that, please call me at (555) 771-4357."

  5. Avoid weaker endings like these: "Please call me at your earliest convenience." "I believe that a meeting could prove to be mutually profitable, and ask that, if you agree, you contact me so that we can arrange a convenient time." "Thank you for your consideration. I am available for a personal interview at your earliest convenience and look forward to hearing from you." "In the next week or two when your schedule permits, let's meet and discuss my aspirations in more detail. Please give me a call." "I look forward to your reply."

  6. Ask for opinions, advice, and feedback from friends, and from sales, marketing, and advertising experts.

  7. Mail a small sample to test your letter. This is important. A consultant friend once mailed 76,000 brochures at a cost of nearly $15,000, and only got three responses. What a shame! The material was poorly written, badly designed, and poorly tested. Test your letters before you roll them out on a large scale.

  8. If you're getting the kind of response you want, mail larger numbers.

  9. Enclose a response form to increase your response.

  10. Remail the same letter to the same people two or three times. Repetition often helps.

  11. Don't mark letters "Personal and Confidential," unless there's a solid reason why they can't be opened by a secretary. If the letter is persuasive enough, it will get through.

  Give yourself time

  You can't expect to produce an exceptional document overnight. Letter-writing is actually harder than resume-writing because you're starting with a clean slate. In resume-writing at least you have your background——which is definite——to work with. In letter writing, you start with nothing. Letters can be about anything. That's why they're so difficult.

  I once took a class called "How to Market a Book." The class focused on writing query letters to publishers to get a book contract. The course lasted six weeks and met for two hours each week. I spent several hours per week on homework——staying up all night several nights——and the end product was a one-page sales letter to publishers. Lots of work for just one letter.

  I mailed the letter to about 30 publishers and got 13 responses. No one bought the book, but one publisher did offer to publish it for royalties only (no advance), which I declined. That book was the forerunner of this one.

  Writers often say, "I don't like writing, but I like having written." That's how many of us feel. Writing can be hard work. Don't take it lightly, and don't feel bad if you can't write a high-impact marketing letter in half an hour. Neither can professional copywriters! Writing is a profession, like rocket science. Don't expect to learn or perfect it overnight.

  Don't copy someone else's letter

  Take these letters as samples and modify them to fit yourself, but don't copy them verbatim(逐字地). I've found that people who copy someone else's letter seldom get a good response, regardless of how good the letter is. Be original.

  It would be easy to take the letters in this collection and use them word-for-word. That would be quick, but probably not effective. Your letter has to be "you." It should sound like you, feel like you, read like you——because you have to follow it with a phone call, or answer questions about it.

  So, don't send a really "hot," aggressive letter if you're introverted and laid-back. You'll have trouble following up on the letter and you may not come across well. Send a letter that mirrors your style——and only you can write that letter.

  Get professional help

  If you're a skilled writer, fine. The project may be easy for you. But if you're not, you may need help. Consider hiring a professional freelance writer(自由撰稿人) to help you compose and edit your letters, but not to do them for you.

  Where can you begin to look? Call your local ad club for the names of direct mail freelance writers. Read the classifieds in Writer's Digest. Check the Yellow Pages under "Writers." Contact your local writers' guild. Check with local advertising and PR firms. They use lots of freelancers. Newspaper and magazine editors know writers too.

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