Create copy that’s as page-turning as a novel

NaNoWriMo LogoNovember is National Novel Writing Month, and NaNoWriMo is the annual novel writing competition that unites writers from around the world.

Beginning on 1st November, participants have 30 days to try and write a 50,000-word novel. The idea is to go hell for leather (don’t worry too much about plotting) and just get as much down as you can in a month. It’s great fun to take part, even if you don’t achieve anywhere near your desired word count.

I must admit I stalled fairly early on this year. When you’re writing all day, it’s hard to switch your focus to fiction and start writing again in the evening. My word count was abysmal, but it did give me some fresh ideas. That’s why it’s always worthwhile taking part.

Whenever I’m struggling for a new slant on a piece of copy, I randomly write. Any old rubbish and you soon find that concepts and ideas start to form. Just get it all down on paper (or screen) and edit it later when you decide on your main theme. Copywriting is great training for a novelist. When I’m writing copy for a client, I try to make the words so engaging the reader wants to keep on reading.


I’m planning to write an old-fashioned crime novel. My plot currently has more holes in it than a piece of Swiss cheese. However, the characters are coming along well, and the tone of voice and pace of the book has improved since I first started writing it.

We’re not talking highbrow literature here. I want it to be fun, relatively fast-moving and above all, page-turning. I’m using some copywriting techniques in order to bring a certain style and speed to the writing.

Firstly, I’m trying to show rather than tell. I want to avoid overlong descriptions of background scenes or a person’s appearance. Instead, these facts can reveal themselves naturally during the course of events. Dialogue is a good way of imparting information without slowing up the tempo of the piece.

Secondly, I’m using relatively short paragraphs and simple language. I don’t want to labour points or get weighed down with long words. I’m using plain English with a few lively phrases and purposely old-fashioned terms to add colour and charm.

Finally, I’m leaving a trail of clues and information throughout every chapter. The narrative structure follows a pattern that entices the reader forward with questions that need answering. I close each chapter by highlighting the main unresolved dilemma. Subsequent chapters resolve some mysteries whilst creating others.

This is a ploy that can be used when writing long copy. End a paragraph with a query that leads the reader neatly into the next. Subsequent paragraphs then disclose further information until you reach a concisely summarised conclusion.

Hopefully, the suspense is so great readers will be powerless not to carry on reading...

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