Writing to a Brief
for money is a job … just like any other job where you want
It requires self-discipline, focus and total
dedication, as well as talent and desire.
And just like any other job, there are a set series of
tasks you must be able to complete before you can add the
creative touches that turns your work into a masterpiece.
One of the most fundamental tasks a writer must
accomplish to earn their taxable dollars is writing to a
brief. If you
want to write for money then you must to be able to write to a
brief. If you
want to write a jingle, article, story, novel, poem,
screenplay or song then an elementary requirement will be your
ability to write to a brief.
may think you’ve never been taught how to write to a brief,
but you’ve been doing it all your writing life.
It is not difficult.
Back to Basics
Do you remember when
you were in school and the teacher asked your class to write
an essay on “What I Did During the Holidays”?
You were given a few guidelines such as “your essay
must be 500 words” and “your handwriting must be
teacher, most probably, also gave you the general directions
your essay should navigate, such as “think about the best
part of your holidays and tell me the reasons that made it
special” or “Write down all the fun things you did”.
wrote your “What I Did During the Holidays” essay
following the instructions you were given – your 500-word
essay was written as legibly as you could make it and the
theme flowed around the directions you were given.
You wrote to your teacher’s brief, and you did it
every week you were at school. Every pupil in your school wrote to a brief and every written
piece was completely different from every other written piece.
You Love to
You have been writing
to a brief for as far back as you can remember.
It is not hard. It
may have been a bit boring, depending on certain teacher’s
requirements, but it was still not a difficult task.
You are, after all, a writer and you love to write.
Writing to a brief comes almost naturally to us all,
because we are merely giving the information we’ve been
asked to give. As
writers, we are merely doing it more creatively than most.
even write to a brief when we are only writing for ourselves.
For example, after a break up from a relationship, you
may set yourself an internal brief to write a passionate poem
describing the pain you are experiencing.
You then write your poem, and through your pen or
keyboard, you tell your tale of woe.
If you successfully expel some of your grief onto the
page than you have successfully written to your own internal
A Brief Letter
We write to a brief
when we write a letter – whether it be business or personal.
Letters, and all
writing, has to clearly convey a message to a target audience,
even if that target audience is only a relative, or yourself.
Imagine you are writing to your
favourite aunt, let’s call her Aunty Jean, and you want to
tell her all the latest family gossip.
You also want your favourite aunt to understand your
letter so you instruct yourself to write legibly.
You know approximately how long you want the letter to
be. You also know
the general directions your letter will navigate which, in
this case, are the main events and people you want to talk
even know the sort of emotion you want to convey – in this
case, it might be upbeat, friendly and caring.
Your letter is complete when you have finished writing
to your brief.
When we write to a
brief we are presenting the information we have been asked to
provide within the stated requirements.
Those requirements may have been given by yourself or
someone else, or both. Those
requirements are your frame of reference.
Imagine a painter choosing a canvas for their art, or
being told the measurements of the canvas – the limitations
of the canvas does not limit the genius of the painter, it
merely gives it a finite space to place that genius.
As writers, we have unlimited creative potential within
the parameters of a brief.
The written piece is given its boundaries by the brief
we impose on it.
writing for a specific purpose, such as for a contest or for a
client, a writer needs to write to the requirements of the
contest or client. This
is “writing to a brief”.
The closer you write to the brief, the closer you will
come to winning a contest, or a client’s approval.
Want to Win?
For a writing
contest, ensure that you not only read the guidelines but also
highlight words and phrases that might assist you in
“writing to the brief”.
It is also a good idea to know a bit about the company
running the contest – if they have a website, peruse it and
pick up the general “feel” pervading the pages.
If they have a vision statement read it – become
familiar with their general ethos, so that you can tailor your
entry to their value system.
If asked for a specific “feel” to your work, ensure
that your work fits within that parameter.
Do not go against the obvious directions given.
Read the work of previous winners and see if there is
anything obvious for you to emulate.
what they want”
If you are writing
for a client the same rules apply.
Note key words mentioned in a discussion with a client.
Take copious notes whenever visiting a client or
advertising agency, either during the meeting or soon after
the meeting. Ensure
you catch key words, phrases and emotions.
Does your client want the audience to cry, laugh, feel
angry or loving. If
the client doesn’t know what they want, talk to them about
the product, incident or experience you will be writing about
and uncover their feelings on the product, incident or
experience … then play their key words and feelings back to
them. Those words usually describe the way your client wants you to
write your project, and your client will appreciate your quick
understanding of their intention.
Where are the
If you are given a
broad landscape for your creativity, still peruse everything
you can from the company or competition providers requesting
your work. Discover
every clue you can from the information they provide.
Every hint you catch from their guidelines, visions,
previously published works, and everything else you can find
is another piece to the jigsaw puzzle that sees your work
become admired. If you can write well to a brief, you’ll be surprised by
how smart people think you are.
Be a Winner!
You can practise
writing to a brief right now.
Set a series of guidelines for yourself to
follow for your next creative writing session, deciding
exactly how many words you will write and in what style, as
well as giving yourself a specific topic to write about,
revealing some sort of predetermined emotional flow which
leaves your audience with a certain predetermined feeling.
Alternatively, find one of the many writing contests across the web.
Discover how closely you can write to a contest’s requested
guidelines, while still conveying the story in your heart.
Your chances of success will improve with your skill of
writing to the brief. Train
yourself to give your audience, or client, or contest
provider, exactly what they want while also encouraging your
creativity to splash its bright colours onto your canvas.
Sue Hohman United States
this article to be very helpful to me. I understand that one
must write within the boundaries set by the client, or the
author, and still show his creativity. It was helpful to think
back on all my stories and articles and wonder if I do this."
the next to review this article - click here.