Writing Tips

Guest Blogger: Freelance Copywriter and Nonfiction Writer Faye Rivkin

FayeWhat do you write, and what, specifically, are you working on now?

As a freelance technical copywriter, my work is pretty much 100% non-fiction. I take highly technical concepts and turn them into more accessible pieces using language appropriate for a specific audience. That means I might take information from a product’s data sheet that only an engineer or scientist would understand, and turn it into web copy, using completely different words, tone and voice to deliver the message.

Much of my work is covered by non-disclosure agreements, or is ghost written, so if I showed you anything, I’d have to kill you. But, I can tell you that I’ve written and edited web copy, marketing materials, white papers and books for organizations ranging from technology start-ups and mature software companies, to hospitals and universities, environmental companies and the MTA.

In addition to my day job, I find time where I can get it, to write those pieces that are important to me, and tell those stories that needed to be told, such as those I wrote late last year for the Wharton Healthcare Quarterly about discrepancies in healthcare.

What do your first drafts typically look like?

A mess, unless it’s a topic I’m intimately familiar with.  If I’ve taken the time to develop an outline, which I prefer to do, the draft isn’t quite so ugly. I try not to censor that first draft; almost anything is fair game. Think about it. Who reads the first one but the author?

What is your revision process?

I used to do everything online but a while ago I started to feel like some of the pieces weren’t getting the detailed revision attention they required. Now, an online edit – both high level thought and line by line editing – is followed by an edit of the hard copy.

Where do you like to write? What tools do you use?

I can write pretty much anywhere. I do well with music, so if I’m somewhere loud, I put on my headphones and turn on Pandora. I usually write on my laptop, sitting at the desk in my office, but sometimes you’ll find me typing while sitting cross-legged on my bed, dog at my side. I’m writing this sitting at my desk. The TV on in the next room, and my dog is asleep behind me on the floor. It works best if George the dog is close to me, snoring away. His snoring is often the best sound to write to.

Who is your favorite author and/or what is your favorite book, and why?

I think to be a good writer you have to read a lot of different writers, in a variety of genres. I can’t say I have just one favorite author; although when I was in my 20s I read everything by Stephen King. Now, many years later, I’m part of a book club and we read all kinds of books, both fiction and non-fiction, some of which I never would thought to read otherwise. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is one of my recent favorites, and the web site Goodreads is a great source of titles, ‘cause I get to see what my friends are reading.

What was the first piece you ever wrote, and what made you decide to start it?

It wasn’t so much something I wrote but rather something I edited. I was a sophomore in college, and my roommate was a nursing major. I’d often come in and find her in tears as she worked on a paper for one of her electives classes. I became her editor, which was pretty unusual, considering I was a chemistry major, and it’s a known fact that most scientists can’t write. The rest of that semester and the next one went a whole lot smoother, and there were a whole lot less tears.

That was, I think, when I first realized I wasn’t the typical scientist. It took me another 15years to realize that my role was to help scientists and others who’d rather not write become better writers.

Where can we read more of your work?

The online journal Outside In Literary Magazine, the anthology Whereabouts:  Stepping out of Place, a manufacturing journal called Industry Market Trends (A publication of ThomasNet News) and the Wharton Healthcare Quarterly, an online newsletter. For links to other pieces, check out my web site ( and find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Oh and I have a blog ( but I’ve been very, very, very, lax about blogging.


Faye has been turning thoughts into finished products since 1999. With an MA in non-fiction writing from Johns Hopkins and a BS in Chemistry from the University of Delaware, she writes, edits, tweaks, rewrites and revises, stringing together the right words to describe everything from the exact shade of red on an embarrassed woman’s cheek to the complex technology used in 3D printing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *