<![CDATA[ Crisp Ink - Blog]]>Sun, 24 Jan 2016 22:10:01 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Something out of nothing: strange things happen in rural areas - how I made it]]>Wed, 04 Feb 2015 12:15:24 GMThttp://chrispinkwriter.weebly.com/blog/something-out-of-nothing-strange-things-happen-in-rural-areas-how-i-made-it
“I can't make a short film, I haven't got any actors,” is a popular statement in the filmmaking community. So is “we can't find a good location.” And there are many more.

While both of these things are valid reasons that make filmmaking difficult, they don't always have to factor. In reality, making filmmaking has, and always will be, about using your imagination.

Don't have any actors? Make a stop-motion animation film, or a nature short. Don't have the perfect location? Make do with an imperfect one, and use those imperfections to your advantage.

At whatever cost...make it work!

It had been in my mind for some time to create a short film which championed imagination and resourcefulness over elaborate plot devices and all the latest gear. And, with that, Strange things happen in rural areas was born. Click the image above to see it on Youtube.

The film explores what is possible with a couple of cameras, free locations available to anyone and everyone, and the director doing everything – acting, writing, producing, etc.

A silent film was the way to go, I decided. Without sound to panic about, I could concentrate my efforts on crafting the best self-filmed short possible, with a real story to match the visuals.

                                                                                                  Location decisions

I chose a location very close to me to cut down on wasted time, and I set myself a limit of one long afternoon to film all the shots, with no going back. The script was based entirely on the locations open to me, without the need for anything fancy, or permission from anyone (like unsettled farmers). The location had to be somewhere with intrinsic intrigue, and there was a black barn just down the road from me which offered the perfect location for filming to take place.


Before taking my tripod to the virtually deserted farm track you see in the video, I storyboarded the short entirely, taking into account the many – and sometimes crippling – limitations of self-filming. From past experience, I knew self-filming and acting would be difficult, so I considered the script as more a basic outline than a solid vision, and made myself understand that if I didn't get the perfect series of shots I had wanted, I would work with what I had.

I always, always recommend people storyboard or script a short to some degree. There is a lot you can do in editing and post production, but having those crucial shots which make the film what it is is fundamental. Always write some kind of script!

                                                                                                    Filming madness

Filming this short was madness in a number of ways. First of all, the wind made things very difficult, and second of all, keeping track of the various shots myself – and maintaining a realistic degree of continuity – was very tough indeed. On top of that, people who made the daily walk up the farm track stopped every so often to talk to me about what I was doing. About half of them thought I had to be filming barn owls, and the other half thought I was a bit mad for doing what I was doing. Which is understandable...if you've watched the video.

At one point, about fifteen people making up a seemingly endless family group – the likes of which I have never, ever seen up there before or since – appeared out of nowhere and made the barn their home. At that point I had to take a break and wait it out (note: I did bump into a jogger who, it transpired, had an interest in filmmaking, and we had a good chat about things. So, there it is, you can make contacts...even out in the middle of nowhere!).

                                                                                                 Character surprises

At first, the wind was my enemy. Everything about it seemed hell-bent on disrupting the filming of my short film! As I recall, I spent about 20 frustrating minutes attempting to keep a can stood up straight while I walked away to press record on the camera. It fell over repeatedly, and then an elderly walker would appear and ask about barn owls...again...

But that's what it's like, so I suppose I should say embrace it. Yes, embrace it. There is certainly plenty to embrace.

Then I realised something: if I set things up right, I could use the wind to add an extra layer of interest to the film. Once this happened, the fun began, and the shoot took on a bizarre new comic dimension. After a while, it became clear that the wind was going to become its own unique character. Looking back, some of the very best things which occurred were things that happened by total accident.


From the moment I came up with the idea for the script, I knew I was going to be using my Go Pro Hero for some of the shots. These little cameras may not have the quality resolution of more traditional cameras, but they – and I am sure you're already aware of this – are incredible when it comes to capturing life in the moment, from a very intimate, personal perspective.

                                                                                                     Equipment basics

As I mentioned early on in this blog post, I scrapped the idea of sound immediately, favouring, instead, unique camera angles and a variety of shots that would keep things from getting boring. A primary concern when there is only one real actor.

I used a Canon 5D mark III to film nearly all of the footage – in Full HD – and mounted it on a tripod for all of the shots. For all the Canon footage I used the Canon 24mm to 105mm F4 lens. It's a basic lens that works very well in daylight, and has a generally good sharpness across the apertures. This enabled me to create a deep depth of field, or a relatively shallow one where necessary. For most of the shots I went with a deep depth of field. First because it is easy to self-film in such a way – less focus issues, of course – and, secondly, because I wanted the viewer to see all of the location – as well as its fairly remote placement in the landscape.

For the self-filmed shots, the Go Pro Hero proved absolutely instrumental. I used it on what some people call a selfie stick, but I call just a plastic stick, because I am 34 and refuse to let this nonsense fashion-speak get to me. I'll never get used to this odd selfie lark.

                                                                                     Props, rocks and great big boulders

Another reason why I decided to film at the black barn local to me was props. It wasn't exactly a film set, but there was a lot of character to the place already, which has stood at this location, in various incarnations, for literally hundreds of years. Bits of rock, boulders and corrugated iron might sound unappealing, but for my short film they all added a distinct level of charm that would have been impossible to produce in a more sterile environment.

In fact, some of the shots blossomed solely out of the accidental props being there, and were never even considered in the script. Another reason why filmmaking is so fun, and addictive: you may have a fixed idea of what you're after, but sometimes, the end result being different is exactly how things ought to be.

Looking to have a short film or promotional video made? There are more details about my work over on the Video page. And remember, if you have a question, you can always Contact me and ask away.

Thanks for reading.

<![CDATA[Long copy, short copy: know the point of your copy!]]>Tue, 30 Sep 2014 15:39:18 GMThttp://chrispinkwriter.weebly.com/blog/long-copy-short-copy-know-the-point-of-your-copyWhen it comes to word-count and written content in general, I think it's fair to say that the business owner who doesn't write much has an awful lot to consider (note: you can read a lot, but unless you actually engage in the ancient practice of writing as well, and unless you're in the supreme minority, you probably won't be using the part of your brain that makes the act of writing easier and more understandable).

To be honest, I don't envy business owners in such a confusing and difficult position. Of course I don't, it is in no way easy. Too long and the writing may not get read at all. Too short and it may indeed get read, but it also may not convey everything it crucially needs to. That can be very bad, of course. In fact, it can be a major bummer. If you leave a lot of unanswered questions, you may end up alienating your reader and partially ruining their day. Major bummer indeed! Nobody wants that. Unless it's a mystery novel or film, we want to know some stuff, and we want to know it know. Quicksmart.

It gets even more murky and difficult, of course, when you consider the age we live in. For the past few years, there has been a rather fashionable tendency for some copywriters to write short, minimalist pieces that leave plenty of white space. Now, I love white space, don't get me wrong, but what I don't like is when written content is short purely because it is trying to be part of a certain trend. Reading between the lines is all well and good, but there is only so far you can push that notion...sometimes it's better that instead of people reading between the lines and getting it all wrong, they read the actual lines you have written and get it absolutely right. That is, that they understand precisely what you mean. They get your point. They are with you and they want to know more, and more...

What I am saying is quite simple, really: sometimes copy needs to be longer and there is no way of getting around that fact. Sometimes, you have to take a bit of a risk and hope that your reader feels like reading more than just a couple of paragraphs. But here's the thing: no matter what anyone says, and no matter what the SEO companies tell you about word-count and Google and all that stuff, there is enormous potential for that risk to pay off. After all, chances are that if someone clicked on your blog, they wanted to read it. That's a good thing, because in a slightly longer post you can really get to grips with whatever you are trying to say.

This is all on the assumption that you're not just writing long copy for the sake of it, of course. That doesn't work, as we all know. Copy must have a point, and that point must always come first, with no exceptions. This isn't about following the crowd: whatever the case, the reader should be rewarded.

<![CDATA[sometimes you don't need copy]]>Tue, 15 Jul 2014 14:11:21 GMThttp://chrispinkwriter.weebly.com/blog/sometimes-you-dont-need-copyMe being a freelance copywriter, it will no doubt appear a little strange that, today, I am writing a blog post entitled Sometimes You Don't Need Copy. Yet it isn't, or it shouldn't be. Not really. The world is a big place, and sometimes (not that often, but there are times) copy isn't absolutely essential. Every so often (and this may seem bad for business), I will say to people "you don't really need copy there. You'd be better off with a video. Or an infographic."

That's correct: I will discourage them. On purpose. Knowing that I could have got money for the job. And they'll say to me "Chris...are you alright?"

I usually say "I'm fine. I'm confident I haven't--"

"Banged your head?"

"Yes. That one."

Does this hurt my business? Not really, not in the end. I wouldn't say so. For me, being a copywriter isn't just about saying "you need copy" every time someone knocks on my virtual door. It's also very much about appropriate use of text. It's about the right thing in the right place. It's about more than a lot of people might first think. And, as copywriters, we should know when things are and are not appropriate. That's why our clients come back to us, over and over again. We are paid to know these things.

In fact, a scenario like this occurred quite recently, which may have been the trigger for today's post. A client came to me and asked me how we could get some benefits across better to his customers. Having just written a page of copy for him, including, very fully, the benefits he was speaking of, I gave it some thought and then concluded that we had said all we could say on that page, without being overly repetitive. Without boring the reader. So I recommended that, instead, he use an infographic. Something to keep things fresh, fun and interesting.

So in fact, I'd say the opposite. Saying No to copy isn't bad, it's good. Because ultimately being a copywriter isn't just about using words. It's about knowing the market you're working in. And in reality, that's the most important thing of all.

<![CDATA[Be nice]]>Fri, 23 May 2014 10:14:40 GMThttp://chrispinkwriter.weebly.com/blog/be-niceCoincidence is a funny old thing. Recently, I've been coming across a lot of websites which lack manners. And, you know, it's not the best first impression a web surfer can have. It may sound pedantic (and in the fast-paced world we live in, it possibly is a bit), but manners are a crucial part of web copy. A few pleases, a couple of well-placed thankyous, and you'll connect with a potential customer in a way that really sticks.

When is nice too nice? Why do people fail to put in those small but powerful words that really do make all the difference? Probably it's about tone. Some company owners appear to be under the impression that if you're writing formal copy, you can't be friendly. Yet this is not true. You can be friendly and you should be friendly, at least to some degree. Consider the following sign-off statements, which might end an About Us page:

Any questions will be answered promptly. Thanks, The Management.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions for The Management (that's us!), feel free to drop us a line. Alternatively, you could go to our FAQ page and try to find the answer there (and if it's not there, definitely do get in touch, because we're here to help).

If you're anything like me, you'll perceive the first example as blunt. Too short. Too cold. The second example, however, packs in a lot. It's friendly, it includes calls-to-action and it encourages interaction. Which has to be the point of it all, surely? Interaction is what you want.
<![CDATA[Being a creative copywriter is about much more than just words]]>Thu, 20 Mar 2014 14:35:03 GMThttp://chrispinkwriter.weebly.com/blog/being-a-creative-copywriter-is-about-much-more-than-just-words When people ask me to simply explain what I do for a living, I usually tell them about how I write blog posts, product descriptions and landing pages for everyone from tiny businesses to large travel companies and vegan food makers. But, in fact, the job of a copywriter runs a lot deeper than that. While I spend most of my time crafting copy, I am often asked to undertake various other associated tasks. One day, a client might ask me for help with proofreading a website's copy, while another week I might find myself giving creative input on where copy needs to go, or how best to revise some existing headlines.

Way before I was a writer, I was an artist. A picture framer and a stone-mason at various points, too. Working in these highly creative fields meant that when I started to get work as a freelance writer, I found myself at a distinct advantage. Rather than just being able to produce copy which could be handed over to designers, I began to become part of the overall process in a way which engaged all my skills. There aren't many jobs where you can say that now, are there?

If you're looking for an SEO copywriter who can provide illustrations to go along with blog posts, or someone who feels comfortable making an executive decision about complex design and copy issues, feel free to get in touch and ask me what I think. Copywriting isn't just about the words, and when it's more than that, the creative process can be even more fun.

<![CDATA[Keywords, key phrases and the SEO copywriter's role]]>Tue, 28 Jan 2014 17:23:11 GMThttp://chrispinkwriter.weebly.com/blog/keywords-key-phrases-and-the-seo-copywriters-role Keywords are a funny thing. Sometimes I'll be given a long list of keywords to integrate in to an article and it'll be quick and easy, while other times, working just one or two keywords in to a blog can be a serious undertaking which takes considerable thought, time and effort. You can be the best copywriter in the world, but if you can't seamlessly ease keywords into text, you'll be in trouble! Good SEO copy makes keywords and key phrases invisible so that the reader focusses only on the message you are trying to get across. At the least, bad SEO copy will confuse them. Worse, it could send them to your competitors...

                                                                                                   Your SEO options

Thinking about doing some SEO copy yourself? I'm not suggesting that's impossible – many people who aren't professional writers are able to use keywords effectively – but what I am suggesting is that it may take time to make it all look and read right. So ask yourself: do you really have the time and the patience to do a solid job? The alternative would be to get in touch and ask me for a quote. Having written more than 3,000 blog posts, articles and press releases for a London publishing company and various other clients, you could say that I've written my fair share of SEO copy.

                                                                        Good SEO copy doesn't cram those keywords in!

Up until quite recently, keyword stuffing was a fairly normal thing to see. Not so much now. Shoving as many keywords as possible in to an article or blog post is now considered very bad news by Google. Better is to use targeted keywords in the correct way: that means with proper placement and the ideal density (something which can vary from job to job).

Have a question? Here's how to contact me.

<![CDATA[Different ways to get copywriting done]]>Sun, 17 Nov 2013 20:01:06 GMThttp://chrispinkwriter.weebly.com/blog/different-ways-to-get-copywriting-doneI've dealt with enough business owners over the past few years to know one thing with utter certainty: obtaining copy from a copywriter can be a frightening prospect! A writer may have written thousands of blog posts and articles in the past, but this doesn't necessarily make it any less true...especially when you're not even certain of what you'd like the end result to be.

While knowing that a copywriter has written a great-deal does take some of the anxiety away, I'm always – and likely always will be – aware that it can never be completely removed. It gets easier with time, of course, but even when you've hired a writer before, it can still be a daunting thing. That's just the nature of the business.

One thing which may help you, if you're considering sending me an email enquiry, is to know that there are several different options available, as follows:

One: you could send me what you've written and ask me to arrange it in a better way, enhance the prose or take a new angle on it. One benefit of this method, for me, is that I have a vague idea of what you're looking for, style & tone wise. It means we're both starting from a good place, and it also means that there is far less likelihood that you won't be happy with what you ultimately get.

Two: no idea what will look good? If you tell me what you're looking for – it doesn't have to be concrete, it can simply be the beginnings of an idea – I'll put together a plan of action. Or we can discuss it some more, until you feel more confident that we can work together. Even better, if you can find some existing website copy that you really like, I can do my best to emulate this style, using the raw information that you'd like me to include.

Interested? You can always Contact me.

<![CDATA[Copywriting and humour: can the two really go together?]]>Wed, 25 Sep 2013 21:24:27 GMThttp://chrispinkwriter.weebly.com/blog/-copywriting-and-humour-can-the-two-really-go-togetherA year or so after I'd first started copywriting, when I was still freelancing for the very first agency I'd managed to get on the books of – those heady days of being paid very little but not minding one bit – I found myself beside a river at the end of a farm track, reading copywriting books, wondering what the hell it was all about. The river was – still is, I should say, at least until Global Warming shrinks its path – a fifteen minute walk from my house. Wild and untouched, with the occasional King Fisher flying past. The perfect place to embrace nature and...well, not exactly get away from work completely, but at least enjoy thoughts running through the mind purely while also remembering that there's a world outside. I once even saw a Kingfisher drop a very small fish while shooting past. He looked at me. I thought I could sense he looked slightly embarrassed.

I thought I knew what I was doing with freelancing back then, yet the books – which were two different guides on the art of writing copy – told another story entirely. Suddenly, a process felt like it was being pushed upon me with intimidating precision, terminology and ferocity of confidence. I'd been happy writing for the agency, and I'd always done OK, yet the books spoke of strategies and online marketing techniques which I knew very little of. In short, I was confused. In truth, I was wondering if it was all really for me.

One of the biggest differences between the books and me seemed to be the approach they took: the books were very straight down the line – well put together and deeply informative – but they seemed to be missing something. Over time, I began to realise that what they were missing, for me at least, was humour. It occurred to me that I felt strange when I read the books because they completely missed any kind of humourism out. As someone who enjoys writing humour, I struggled to comprehend just how the authors had managed to avoid it so comprehensively. And if they had...how was this possible? Was it deliberate? Was this the craft?

If it was, I was scared.

Can copywriting be humourous? Absolutely. Of course. To think otherwise is ridiculous. What the books didn't say was that copywriting can reflect every facet of human personality – after all, if there are no rules, and something makes sense, then why remain so constrained? The conclusion at the heart of this was simple and thrilling: copy must be whatever it has to be to sell the product. To make a difference. To get the job done. That is all that really matters.

When people contact me about my copywriting services, I usually end up replying to them with a variable list of generic questions. One of the questions concerns the style of the writing they are looking for: something along the lines of Do you want the writing to be humorous? Very often, clients are perplexed by this question, and it is understandable. Many of us grew up to believe that writing must always be structured and disciplined and full of academic excellence to truly be of value. That for writing to be entertaining, it must also miss out professionalism or other somewhat necessary things. The thing is...copywriting isn't fiction.

Yet the reality is that the very best copywriting mimics the simple communication speech and vernacular that many of us use every single day. And it does sell things, entertain people and do it all professionally – when it is managed. When a writer really takes care.

Humour doesn't have to compromise anything. When we open our mouths, sometimes, funny things just come out. We all know the effect that a sudden injection of humour can have on a crowd of unsuspecting people or friends, so why not approach copywriting in the same exciting way? Why not surprise people and give them something totally unexpected?

I say, do it.

Of course, as with everything, there's a time and a place. Be brave, be daring and see what happens. Or ask me to and I'll see if I can sort you out. Employ some humour and you just might surprise people. The effect could be better than you ever thought possible! Just go easy on the sarcasm. Google doesn't always know how to handle it...

<![CDATA[Avoiding the whether]]>Thu, 19 Sep 2013 20:54:58 GMThttp://chrispinkwriter.weebly.com/blog/avoiding-the-whether Every so often, I end up having a discussion with one of my friends about words I don't like and words I do. For me, it's nothing to do with the meaning of the words – instead, it's purely the sound of them that matters, or how they feel to write or use or say. One of my favourite words is platypus, and, depending on my mood, I'm also a big fan of nincompoop. Then again, I do love a good turnip and peacock. Smorgasbord is also popular, and I can rarely go more than a week without trying to get bamboozle in there somehow (risky if it's a formal occasion, but always worth it!).

Then there are the words I don't like. The words I try my hardest not to use. I've never been much of a fan of screech and cabbage – in more ways than one – and another word I'm really not a fan of is whether. (Not to be confused with wether; which is a male ram or sheep. Or a castrated billy goat or ram. Depending on your sources.)

I hate whether. It sounds clunky, it's spelt funny – as if it's intentionally trying to be both clever and difficult – and, personally, whenever I use it in a sentence, I cringe and have to change it. Even if that means erasing a few sentences. I have to get rid of the whether, no matter what.

Considering all this, how whether has gained such popularity over the last century is an intriguing conundrum. Let's take the following fictional example that I just made up, which I'd say represents its common usage fairly well:

Whether you're looking for a car that's great for days out with the family, or an open-top sports-car for fun days out with just you and your partner, we have a vehicle to suit all your needs.

For me, whether is lazy. It's what you write when you don't know what to write, or you're in a rush. It's the default option which litters the world-wide-web, turning About Us pages into a copy of a copy of a copy...

Quite simply, we can all do without it.

The problem, of course, isn't really with the word itself. The fact that I despise it means very little – after all you might love it, and there are no rules about how much you are allowed to love or hate a word. Whethers problem is, sadly, more sinister. It's issue, quite simply, is that it can only really be used in one way, as I've demonstrated.

And it wouldn't be so bad if whether wasn't absolutely everywhere. But it is. It's literally everywhere. Which means that if you use it more than once in a piece of website copy, that copy is going to start to look very derivative indeed. There just isn't a way to avoid it, is the thing.

So watch your whethers. By all means use one whether, if you absolutely must, but just be careful about using it twice or three times, please!

<![CDATA[Copywriting essentials: what kind of copy would you like?]]>Tue, 10 Sep 2013 16:15:09 GMThttp://chrispinkwriter.weebly.com/blog/copywriting-essentials-what-kind-of-copy-would-you-like Despite the various problems that can and do occur, I nearly always enjoy the SEO copywriting process – settling on a brief, deciding what needs to be done, then delivering it to the best of my ability. I even quite like the organising part too. There are plenty of other jobs in the world, so believe me when I say that if I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't be doing it! Constantly switching between different writing styles (and briefs in general) can be mentally exhausting, it's true, but at the same time, it's one of the things that keeps things varied, fun and makes you feel alive.

Yes: strange as it sounds, voluntarily spending an awful lot of time sitting on my arse makes me feel alive. I suppose like Nan always says, it takes all sorts. Well, now I know exactly what she means.

                                                      SEO copywriting doesn't happen at light-speed, but it should happen fast enough

Copywriting can at times be a long process – what constitutes long in this case depends on your deadline! – so if there's one solid thing that a client can initially do to speed things up, it's ensure that they know and understand what they want out of it. Aside from the obvious things like I want the copy to make people click on products and buy more stuff, there's the less obvious element of style. For some reason, people seem to often over-look this element, when in reality, almost nothing is more important than the style and tone-of-voice of the finished writing.

It's this simple: if your copywriting has no style, it's generic. In other words, the copy is shit.

I say style and tone-of-voice because they can at times be arguably (trust me when I say that us copywriters could argue for the next hundred years about this) separate things, although they can of course be the same thing. Tone-of-voice is the way you're copy comes across and the personality it has. Style is similar, but can also relate more to the technical aspects of the copy: short paragraphs, long paragraphs, exclamation marks and use of grammar...the list goes on.

                                                                            Decide on the style you need, make your life easier!

In reality, though, the two things are interchangeable. But if you're the client, you don't need to worry about that – all you need to think about is the style you would like the copy to have and the effect you would like the copy to achieve.

Not sure how to do this? Have a read of some competitor websites and see how the copy strikes you. Read some magazines, some journalism, some fiction, some poetry. Is the writing too formal, too overly-friendly, too soft or too salesy? If it's website copy specifically, is the copy persuasive enough or does it talk down to the reader? Does it actually connect? Let us not forget, either, that style is the thing which things simply have. Therefore, it is something which can be hard to pin down. Something that just...exists.

                                                   We have to break it down, because if we don't, your SEO copywriting will not deliver

In a way, it seems a shame to break something as unique as style down to a technical set of principles and conditions – as I did above – but sometimes it's essential. Otherwise, we're going nowhere fast.

Which means that if you're looking to have copy written, you need to do your best to pin it down. Or to at least know what you don't want it to look and read like. It's by no means vital to know all of this before we start – we'll get there somehow, after all, that's my job – but if you have a deadline looming and need that copy fast, it really will help. Plus, it'll be easier, fun and you'll hopefully enjoy the process on the way!