September 27, 2016

Ever Thought About Writing Speeches?

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief for Southern Writers Magazine 

Have you ever considered writing a speech for someone? As writers, we normally don’t think in terms of anything but fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays, memoirs, and short stories. But with the elections going on I decided to look into speech writing.

If you can write fiction you can write speeches. That’s my attempt at humor. In all seriousness, speechwriters are employed not just for politicians but for many senior level executives both in the government and private sectors. Did you know they also are hired to write for weddings and all kinds of social occasions?

Now in case you didn’t know these speechwriters work with the person they are writing the speech for to determine the theme, points to cover, the message the person wants to get across and what position he wants to take.

Executive speechwriter Anthony Trendl writes, “Speechwriters specialize in a kind of writing that merges marketing, theater, public relations, sales, education and politics all in one presentation.”
So now we know those speeches we here are written to get us on the side of the speech giver!

As writers we are used to getting comments, good or bad…in other words criticism, on our writing so we will not be surprised that this also happens in speechwriting. Each draft you write will go through this procedure until you have it just the way the person wants it. And don’t be surprised when they started wanting it to go in one direction and then change it after they see a draft or two to go in a different direction.

You also have to work with tight deadlines. Well, authors work with deadlines when they are writing a novel for their publishers.

One of the things a speechwriter must know up front when writing speeches for other people, they have to be able to accept anonymity. A speechwriter is like a ghostwriter. They don’t officially get acknowledgement.

We all remember John F. Kennedy’s words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Who should get the credit? John F. Kennedy or Ted Sorensen (the speechwriter) or to both?

Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Duties of American Citizenship” one of the
35 greatest speeches in history as is Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight on the Beaches.”

There is a speechwriter’s guild, “The UK Speechwriters’ Guild” for professional writers who specialize in writing speeches. From what I can find, speechwriters do not usually have specific training in the area and/or the field in which the speech is written for. Oh, and most speechwriters don’t have specific training in the writing craft, at least not that I have been able to find. Check with the Guild.

You will be glad to know a lot of research has to be done on the topic. And if you are an outliner you will waltz through writing the framework for the speech. Remember what we’ve been told…know your audience…who are you going to market to? Same for a speechwriter.

Well, who knows, with all our experience writing should we offer our services to writing a speech?

What are your thoughts?

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