As we mentioned in the post “Let Professional Video Content Do The Talking For Your Brand”, using video is one of the best ways to keep audiences engaged. With audio, visuals, and editing, video can appeal to all senses. And according to Wyzowl, 87% of consumers prefer to learn about products, services, and brands through video content. No other medium is as immersive, which is why commercials have long been a popular way to promote brand identity.

But what tools do you need to create great commercials? First and foremost, you need to know how to write. Fortunately, these days there are many resources that can help aspiring writers get started. One of the most popular resources of the past few decades is, without a doubt, “On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft”, written by the popular horror novelist Stephen King. The work is part autobiography, and a part written list of practical tips, supported by anecdotes from King’s experience in the field. Though the book’s primary audience is prose writers, many of King’s tips apply to any type of storyteller — including video and commercial writers.

Below, we’ll go over some of the most important lessons video and commercial writers can learn from Stephen King’s “On Writing.”

Read As Much As Possible

According to King, those who don’t have time to read won’t have the tools to write. It sounds like common sense; if you’ve never read a book before, you wouldn’t know how to start writing. You wouldn’t know your competition either. The ideas you think are unique might have already been produced.

The same goes for commercials. Writers creating video advertisements need to see what’s been done before. By studying existing works, you will be better at identifying the elements that help certain commercials succeed. And you shouldn’t just stop at commercials. Consume stories from all forms of media to expand your imagination. The more you take in, the more you’ll develop your thoughts and voice until you find yourself producing far more clever and engaging work.

Your First Draft Is Meant To Be Imperfect

Striving for perfection in the first draft is counterproductive. As Stephen King explains, first drafts are for getting all your ideas out. According to The Writer, an online publication for creative writers, this is sometimes called a “vomit” draft, wherein you lay everything out on paper, saving revisions for later. Anne Lamott’s beloved writing advice book “Bird By Bird” famously includes an essay referring to the same concept as a “sh*tty first draft.” Simply put, when you write without worrying about mistakes, you get to ride the high of spur-of-the-moment brainstorming and reach your creativity’s highest potential.

Inevitably, through this method of writing, you will produce as many bad ideas as you will good ones; you may jot down sentences so clumsy you later can’t believe you ever produced them. That’s okay! That’s what editing is for. And that brings us to the next point….

Kill Your Darlings

Among writers, there’s a saying known as “kill your darlings.” It means that, no matter how attached you are to your writing, you have to ruthlessly discard anything that doesn’t serve the story. King’s advice is the same. To make your story more coherent, everything non-essential must go. If every single one of your ideas makes it into the final draft, your readers (or viewers) will have a harder time identifying what your work is trying to say.

This advice is especially applicable to commercials, where you only have a limited time to convey your message. The average TV commercial is about 30 seconds long. Most internet video ads run between 11 and 20 seconds. You need to keep your audience hooked in those limited spans of time. They won’t have the patience for anything unnecessary, and clutter will confuse the message.

Find Your Ideal Reader

To keep your stories focused, Stephen King recommends identifying your ideal reader. King’s ideal reader was his wife, Tabitha, who provided feedback for the majority of his books. When King writes, he thinks about what Tabitha would think of the finished product. Because he knows what Tabitha is looking for, it’s easier for him to come up with characters, story beats, and themes.

As a commercial writer, you must write with an audience in mind, especially since your viewers will be the same people buying your client’s products and services. Identify your client’s target market by asking yourself the following questions: 

  1. Where do they come from, and what do they do?
  2. Why do they need what your client is selling? 

Flesh these details to determine what your target audience will like and what kind of story will have them hooked.

Of course, the best way to learn is ultimately by doing. So take these tips and see how they help you with your next project. You might find that by incorporating more of a writing process like the one conveyed through the tips above, you produce far more effective work. 

From concept to delivery, we love storytelling through video. We can talk about it all day long. To learn more about Bottle Rocket Media’s video production services connect with us to start your video project.

Writer Ashlyn Jourdan for