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Political Writing Is a Different Discipline for Book Authors

Political Writing Is a Different Discipline for Book Authors

Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think I would get involved in political writing. A tight race changed my mind. The candidate I was supporting asked for my writing help and I accepted. I wrote fundraising letters and radio spots. Political writing can also involve writing door knockers (those tags volunteers hang on your front door), television commercials, and billboards.

The candidate I supported previously is running for the 2012 state senate and asked for my help again. Though my book marketing experience has been helpful, I discovered that political writing is a different "animal" altogether.

My first question for the candidate: What is your slogan? She didn't have one yet, so I brainstormed on slogans for several days. Slogans are philosophy stated in a few words. In some ways, writing slogans is like writing poetry. The candidate approved several slogans and is in the process of making her final choice.

The first writing assignment I was received was to draft a letter to previous donors. It was tricky to write. Linda Elizabeth Alexander cites some of the challenges in her article, "How to Write a Fundraising Letter," posted on the Fundraising Help website. You need to make your case quickly, according to Alexander, and appeal to donors' hearts.

"Lose the hype," she advises, and I followed her advice. When I was drafting the letter, I imagined that I was drinking coffee with the recipient at my kitchen table. Alexander thinks fundraising letters should suggest donation amounts. We printed these amounts on the return envelope enclosed with the letter.

When I researched fundraising letters on the Internet I came across conflicting advice. Several websites thought long letters were better because they gave the candidate more room to make his or her case. Other websites thought short letters were more apt to be read by busy people. I wrote a one-page letter and listed the reading time at the top.

"Fundraising Letters that Get Results," an article on the Better Fundraising Ideas website, says a headling at the to of the page tells readers what letter is about. Instead of a headline, the re-election committee decided to use this space for the candidate's slogan. According to the article, you should tell the reader about your organization, (or candidate), "but don't go overboard."

Discipline for Book Authors
Political Writing Is a Different Discipline for Book Authors

I included a bulleted list of some of the candidate's accomplishments during her short term in office. If you tell a story, the article continues, you should make sure it is a good story. We didn't include a story in the first letter but may include one in forthcoming letters.

If you get involved in political writing, make sure you have a review process in place. Despite several proof-readers, the letter went out with some errors. This was an embarrassing mistake and it can't happen again.

Every fundraising letter should contain a thank you. This sounds like an amazing grasp of the obvious, but it isn't. I added a short thank you paragraph to the second draft of my letter and a postscript asking for action. Political writing is hard, darned hard, yet I'm glad I volunteered for it. This writing is an exercise in conciseness, something that carries over to my book writing.
As with all writing, the goal of political writing is to get your message across. You may wish to support your candidate with political writing. In the long run, this donation may count more than money.