Posts Tagged ‘Writing tips’

writing tips for the criminally inclined

May 2, 2013

Great writing takes guts and danger and an edge of crazy. Not for the faint of heart. If you want to plunge into that world, here’s what you need to know.


Hemingway said, “Write drunk. Edit sober.” Martinis aside, he meant don’t hold back in your first draft. Dump every insane, half-baked, inspired, stupid idea onto the page. Later you can carve it up with the exacto knife.


 2.     STEAL

In his book, “Steal like an Artist,”  Austin Kleon claims that no original ideas exist. So seek inspiration everywhere: from that pop song, to the Chagall exhibit, to that trailer that blew you away. Don’t be afraid if something’s been done before. Steal, then transform.


 3.     PUNCH

Forget soft, wimpy words. Seek out action verbs. Make your sentences brief and direct. Use short words—they get into the brain faster. If your sentence starts with “there is” or ‘it is” then, pal, your punch lacks power.

Screen shot 2011-07-29 at 3.22.29 PM


Engage in identity theft. Try on other personalities in your writing. Personality inspires word choice, cadence, and can transform something dull into entertainment. Just ask Randall, the guy who turned a film on Honey Badgers into 59 million YouTube hits (and counting)!

  5.     MURDER

Once you’ve spilled your guts onto the page, go in for the kill. Axe those extra words. Strike out adjectives. Murder those ideas that you love, but don’t fit the goals this time. Kill your darlings. Only the strong survive.

What are some of your favorite writing tips?


Bare your assets

July 6, 2011
The room was buzzing at our Promax session in New York.
Were we in the buff? Nah.
We were stripping spots down to their bare essentials:
Message, Ideas, and Words.
The pictures were just a tease.
Click the bra to see what we showed.
Give it time to load. Chock full of fun spots!

Write with 3 Balls

June 28, 2010

This year the Promax/BDA conference in LA brought in great speakers from around the world and smashed last year’s attendance numbers. We felt honored to be included.

We had a blast presenting “Write with 3 Balls” to the audience of marketing executives, and they returned the feeling. Loved seeing that SRO crowd. As promised, here’s what we showed. Enjoy and please let us know what you think!

[The presentation is packed with good stuff and videos–please give it a few moments to load up.]

Promax Presentation

Add New Post ‹ sharpen your tools — WordPress, posted with vodpod

writing bootcamp

May 26, 2010

This June we’re packing up our gear and heading to bootcamp in the tony jungles of LA.

Promax/BDA, the organization of TV promotion execs, invited us to put TV novices and honchos through some basic writing drills. Because, frankly, promo writing has gotten listless and lazy. Time to lose the love handles around the verbiage.

Ready for a bootcamp preview? Check here over the next few weeks. You’ll find out how to:

-Kick your spots into award-winning territory

-Pack muscle onto your prose

-Settle the showdown between pictures and words

-Tell a competent story, soldier.

And if you’ve got a spot that you think would be prime example of any of these topics, we’re paying attention and we love showing you off.

At ease.

lingo stars

March 8, 2010

Give me fifteen minutes with a new on-air talent. I’ll tell you if they have breakout potential. How? By listening to them talk.

Breakout talent speak a different language from the rest of us.

Cruise the top ranked personalities of 2009. Rush Limbaugh? “Dittoheads” know their leader. Oprah Winfrey has her “aha moments.” John Stewart, “Not so much.”

One of my favorites, Rachael Ray, brings a whole new vocabulary to cooking. When she calls olive oil “EVOO,” or declares “Yummo” after tasting a “spoonola,” she’s telling us that food isn’t serious. It’s fun and colorful and just us guys hanging around the counter.

What’s your brand lingo telling everyone?

reverse the suck

June 26, 2009

“I try to think of things that suck.” That’s what inventor David Levy says—he helped to create the PowerBook. In other words, confront the problem—that which sucks—head on. Then use it for the basis of your solution.


When Henry Ford went into the car business, the typical factory floor was peppered with workstations and folks mulling around. Toes were stepped on, coffee spilt, and time wasted. So Henry, efficient man that he was, thought to bring the work to the people. He invented the assembly line and carpel tunnel.


Even the Middle Ages had it’s share of “aha” moments. During the Black Plague, it wasn’t always easy to tell who was holding on to dear life and who was actually dead. Huge issue here when folks started being buried alive. So, one clever soul stood up and said “Hey, let’s make sure people are dead before we bury them!”  A cheer rose from the crowd and they began systematically driving stakes through the coffins. From that day forward, no one was buried alive. 


So, what’s the worst thing you’re dealing with right now? Turn it around, stick a stake through it, and be willing to look at it in an entirely new way. It works, cross my beating heart.

soft landings

June 3, 2009

Anything new takes guts and a soft landing. 


When I was nine, my brother and I pooled our money to buy a unicycle.  It arrived with no instructions–just a banana seat, a wheel, and two pedals. 

“You first,” said my older, street smart brother. 

I planted my right foot on the pedal, pushed up, and–in a graceful loop–arced over the wheel. The unicycle squirted out the other direction. I splatted onto the pavement, face first. 

My shins still have those scars.


Now, maybe for you, a blank sheet of paper is scarier than a unicycle. But I guarantee you’ll never skin your knees writing. 

Here’s what you don’t do: sit down at the computer, format your page, and try to reel off that perfect first draft. Way too risky. That’s like learning to ride a unicycle on a high wire. 

Write where you’ve got a soft landing and no one’s watching you. Start a slop page.  


On a slop page you’re allowed to put anything down at all. Terrible ideas, half thoughts, bad words. 

Why do we call it a slop page? Because slop is messy and soft. You can try things out with no risk at all. Try out sentences. Ride ideas around. No risks, no scrapes. That’s the safety of a slop page. And step one for good writing.


May 22, 2009


Ever run a marathon? I did a few years back. Logging those miles always reminded me of writing.  

One training technique is called Fartleks. Jog for ten minutes or so. Then run as hard as you can for five minutes. Slow. Then fast. This builds endurance.

footprints“Fartlek” is Swedish for speed play. You can add speed play to your writing too. 

Every once in a while, as you’re writing, time yourself for five minutes and write as fast as you can. Don’t worry what you’re  putting down–just make tracks across the page. 

footprintsWhenever you’re in a rut with your writing, change something: even the speed you work at. 

It could unlock greatness.

Ready? go!



give yourself an accident

May 9, 2009

Every creative effort could use an accident. 

ChainSaw_whiteCartoonist Gary Larson, of the Far Side, tells this story on himself: One day a newspaper in Dayton Ohio accidently swapped the captions of The Far Side and Dennis the Menace. The most embarrasing part, said Larson, was how much both cartoons were improved.


If you’re feeling stuck, give yourself an accident. Go into the kitchen and pull two things out of your junk drawer. Maybe it’s a stapler and a rubber band. Put them into your next project. Or go to Wikipedia, close your eyes and point to a word. Use it in your next sentence.

Accidentally on purpose — at Tooth+Nail we help top media brands express their personality.