Whoever the client and whatever the project, one goal never varies: clarity. I believe that good writing is, above all, lucid. The reader should instantly understand what you are trying to say. If they don’t, or have to work at it, then you’re not done yet. Mediocre writing is vague, and full of half-complete thoughts that sort-of-but-not-really make sense. Really good writing is clearer than clear. Bad writing is vague.
This applies to any kind of writing. I’m unique among legal writers because I have extensive experience both in consumer advertising and marketing, and in law itself. I can write catchy eight-word headlines or three thousand word white papers. But whether I’m writing about something complex and technical — post-grant intellectual property practice, say — or something fluffy and fun, it has to be instantly understood. Clarity is everything.
The other essential is organization. In writing, organization is clarity’s foundation, but the concept extends to the writing process itself. It’s my job to keep track of versions and drafts, to make sure everyone connected with a project is informed and up-to-date, and in general, to be extremely organized. Making sure, as Jimi Hendrix put it, that all the jacks go back in their boxes, isn’t the client’s job. It’s mine.
There’s also the need to be both diplomat and sleuth. People are understandably very touchy about what’s written about them, or by them, as in ghostwriting. They often need prompting, or guidance, or reassurance when being interviewed. I’m an excellent listener, and very good at understanding which topics are appropriate, which are not, and how to tell the difference.
Writing is also a LOT of work and very demanding. If you’re writing catchy headlines, you will spend a lot of time staring at the wall and thinking. If you’re writing something long, you spend a lot of time grinding out copy. Either way, you have to be very focused, and bring a lot of stamina to the project. Nobody can write well if they’re tired, or upset, or distracted. You also have to be constantly editing, rewriting and tinkering with your drafts. Rewriting and writing overlap. When the thought of reviewing the same piece of copy one more time makes you feel a little sick, you’re almost done.