Professional Writing

This was one of the ecourses offered at Suite101 University. The site is taking down this section, sometime soon. I wanted to keep the content available. It’s well worth keeping.

Professional Writing

By Sara Quest

Introduction

Do you long to call yourself a professional? By taking this two-week course, you will be. This course will provide you with enough resources and contacts to keep your career as a professional writer going long after you’ve stopped reading.

The rewarding career is about to begin: you will be creating your own free websites, which will be nothing short of an online party for professional minded writers. The site will reveal the services you aim to offer future clients. This is an efficient and necessary avenue for displaying and updating services, and for allowing potential clients to view them.

But let’s not forget “the basics:” we will explore facts pertaining to copyright and “use rights,” keeping abreast of trends via leading sources like Editor & Publisher and Writer’s Digest, and learning “the write etiquette” when it comes to dealing with clients.

You will learn ways to hone skills through intimate study of professional writing samples, from Writer’s Digest insiders to professional author websites, and you will learn how to “imitate the best,” finding new ways to develop your own successful style!

Additionally, through examination of public demand, you will be able to incorporate into your personal agendas a knowledge of which writing sells.

You will soon discover your writing is worth more than pennies on the professional pay scale, and top local and national editorial contacts will gather under your belt within two weeks’ time. Through our study of top professionals and trends, you will gain resources that will allow you to produce resalable work able to pass tests of time. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from learning these quality ways to market work so you can sell to markets over and over again, for many years to come, allowing you to gain quality contacts and higher pay.

Once you’ve learned how to become a polished writer / businessperson, you will have begun your prosperous path as a professional.

The popular notion that “it is hard to break into the writing business” is mere fallacy. Editors are ALWAYS willing to read writers’ offerings, and they will accept them if they are clean, concise products appealing to the overall public.

All you have to do is take a two-week course that shows you how.

So rejoice, fellow writers! You are about to learn everything you need to know in order to write for a living!

What Students Are Saying…
Informative, refreshing, inspiring. I’m ready to tackle the writing world again

A quick, convenient way of getting more familiar with a topic. Prompt instructor feedback the most useful feature along with the suggested links, which have already proven helpful.

Anyone looking to start a new professional writing career, or enhance the one they already have, can benefit from this course. Hilary Williams

Thank you Sara…it’s been such a pleasure to take this course, and I just know we’ll all be better writers with fewer rejection letters after taking it! Jodi Wetherup

 

Lesson 1: Basics of Writing Professionally

Professional writers today benefit from having their own websites. A writer’s website should contain services you wish to offer clients, along with a sample list of personal works. You will be creating a writer’s website.

You will be learning about copyrights and “use rights.” This way you won’t unwittingly sell your prized Shakespearean equivalent to one measly publication. After learning your rights, you’ll instead sell it to fifty or one hundred high-paying ones.

You will also examine professional resources, markets, and pay rates. Online resources, like Writer’s Weekly, will serve to inform you of the professional markets and rates in today’s industry. In examining such publications, you will learn to distinguish professional markets from unprofessional ones.

In order to be hired, you need to know where public interest lies. Articles written by professionals contain details designed to steer you in the right direction.

For example, Writers Digest contains a “Market Watch” column to keep today’s writers abreast of trends. The magazine also contains monthly advice from career writers. Examples of advice include everything from capturing an editor’s attention to ways to prolong a career.

The reason it is necessary for you, the writer, to have a website, know your rights, and keep track of the markets is to have a platform where you will develop a career, gain instinct for how rights will work for you, and gain ideas for writing pieces that will be in-demand.

 

 

 

 

Create a Writer’s Website

As mentioned, your writer’s website will contain services you wish to offer clients, along with personal works for viewing.

The website will serve as an easy platform for directing potential clients to your writing credentials (don’t worry, everyone has skills that dub for credentials). It will also serve as a fun tool for updating and marketing your list of works published, and for using as a cover letter guide when submitting writing.

Let’s begin the lesson by investigating the website of a professional writer: mine! My website is located athttp://www.authorsden.com/sarawebbquest You may use my information and writing samples as sources of inspiration. My site’s format and style can guide you in the following assignment.

“Authorsden,” a service you will use to develop your own website, is very user-friendly. Its functions are easy to manipulate and your page will contain no irritating banners for visitors and clients.

Using your search engine, type in – or click – this url: http://www.authorsden.com/ In the upper-right corner, click “Click Here to Join AuthorsDen” to begin your free author’s website! You’ll be brought to a description of what your personal site will offer. Read through, then click on “Sign-up Today,” and follow instructions from there.

Complete the “Bio” page, also by using site instructions. Although inserting your photo is optional, a smile is worth a thousand clients. A photo of yourself – a headshot of you in your best demeanor – is of enormous benefit to clients who will be thankful they can link a face to the words. Your choice of photo should be as error-free as your writing: it should be a sharp image of yourself wearing your best presentation.

You should complete any writing pages where you can post samples of what you consider to be your finest work (articles, published works, poetry etc). Keep in mind it is helpful if the samples you post reflect the services you wish to offer on your “Bio” page. For example, beneath “Background Information,” you might have written “Freelance Writer/Editor (10/99 – present): Writing and editing of newsletters and literary journal content. Education: B.A. in English, Bridgewater State College, 1995.” According to this information, you would post samples that reflect your newsletter and literary journal content. This way, prospective clients perusing your website will be alerted to your interests.

To answer the inevitable question about advertising your service over the den:

You can do so via the following link I found by clicking “Company” at the bottom of www.authorsden.com:http://www.authorsden.com/village/join.a…

The result will be that your service will show up within the “Village” (linked from Authorsden homepage) specialties!

You should also know you can freely announce your events and news – whenever you do so for your website, the information automatically appears in the site’s community “Events” and “News.”

Also, the authorsden newsletter tool has been my amazing tool for gaining clients. First I noticed many students popping into this course from there. Second, recently I announced some quotes from “clients” in the newsletter (that is, tutoring-student quotes and local editor comments about writing I had done for them) — in addition to announcing my authorsden to be my official writing business site. The owner of J.M.H. Creative Solutions, an online book-promoting business, asked if I would like to edit manuscripts. Pay is high at about 40 dollars per hour, so I accepted.

Another free, professionally-formatted website you may want to play with is located athttp://writernetwork.com/signup.htm

* Additionally, http://www.suite101.com/links.cfm/18321 will take you to my “Parents Addicted to Writing” page with a Website Development Resources link that will take you to a great source of free (and pro) graphics.

Happy designing!

 

Lesson 1: Basics of Writing Professionally

Learn the “Rights” Facts

Another necessary, preliminary step for becoming a professional writer is to know your rights as a writer and how you can make them work for you.

The term “copyright” refers to the right to claim ownership of a particular, personal writing piece. This means publishers (or anyone else) need your permission in order to copy, sell, or distribute it.

The common myth concerning copyrighting is that you need to register your unpublished gems with the Copyright Office. This is not true. Today, there is little need to protect homeless treasures as it is explicitly understood a writer’s material is their own. If you still insist on feeling protected all you must do is type or write “Copyright 2003 by (your name)” – minus quotations – in the upper right corner of your document. Be forewarned: nowadays the symbol is considered the mark of an amateur.

You can grant copyright permission through “use rights” – which is where publishers’ guidelines for writers come into play. They are usually found on a publication’s website. When investigating a publisher’s writers’ guidelines, you will notice what rights it typically acquires from you, the contributor.

Each print and electronic publisher typically offers writers one or two of the following rights:

1) First North American Serial Rights. These rights mean you will be giving the publication the right to reproduce your work in a serial (example: newspaper, magazine), for the first time in North America.

2) First Rights. This means the publication has “first use” of your material. This term does not indicate how material may be published. Electronic markets tend to use this loose term.

3) One-Time Rights. This means a publication may use your writing piece once (for one issue). The work might have been previously published elsewhere, which is fine. It may also be resubmitted elsewhere.

4) Second, or Reprint Rights. Both terms are often used but they are one and the same critter. In this case, you are agreeing with the publication that your work has been previously published. The terms are more liberal than they sound. You may offer “second rights” to more than one publication!

5) Electronic Rights. This is a vague and general term for whatever electronic rights a publication decides it wants to use (e-zine or CD-ROM, for examples). If a magazine aims at displaying your work on its website, you might consider stating to its editors you are granting “one-time non-exclusive Internet use.” In other words, the piece will be seen online for one issue, then you may submit it to other publications.

6) All Rights. The publication claims all rights, including electronic, over your material.

The most known, beneficial way to make the most of an article, essay, or other piece, is initially to offer First North American Serial Rights, so you can then proceed to offer One-Time and Reprint rights. This way, you can sell to as many non-competing markets as possible.

Selling “All Rights” does have its occasional reward. An article that has a very limited market, for instance, might fit comfortably within the pages of an offbeat publication. For example, a sophisticated scientific theory might be accepted by a publication specializing in scientific theories. It would then be wise to say “yes” to, say, $10,000.

You might at this point be asking, “How am I going to break into professional markets? Don’t I need to be ‘already published’ to do so?”

This is not true. You have two “basics” under your belt already. Now, you need to study the third and last, which is coming up. Then, you’ll be one-quarter of the way down your exciting new career path!

 

Lesson 1: Basics of Writing Professionally

Keep Track of the Markets

The final “basic” you’ll need to know is how to familiarize yourself with the markets. A vital component of writers’ guidelines is the information they provide concerning reimbursement. The pay offered is one way of telling if a publication or client is professional.

It has been reported in recent years that minimum professional pay is $0.05 per word. This is somewhat ludicrous, considering most of these publishers can afford to pay at least a dollar per word. You’ll soon discover “standard pay” for top writers varies. It truly depends on how much YOU decide to charge potential clients, and how concise and thorough you feel your writing is. As I’ve said, the only “experience” you need to begin this career is skills – and this is, of course, what this course will help you develop.

Three websites that contain all the information you’ll need in order to learn market facts are as follows:

http://www.nwu.org/journ/minrate.htm

http://www.writersweekly.com

http://www.writing-world.com

“Report on Pay Rates for Freelance Journalists” is the first. This article reports on rates magazines can afford to pay versus rates actually paid. I think the article is extraordinarily helpful. It gives a writer’s perspective on going rates and what you CAN charge.

Writer’s Weekly, the second, “the highest-circulation freelance writing ezine in the world,” offers articles, markets, and jobs for top freelancers. I’d like you to go to the site, then sign up to receive it via email, freely each week!

Writing-World.com is the last goody. Its content includes unique articles designed to aid writers in their careers, along with beneficial resources, not least of all job markets. I’d like you to sign up to receive this one, too.

Each week, in addition to your subscription to Writer’s Market (or Writer’s Digest), you will have enough possible jobs to satisfy your writer’s taste buds!

In consideration of all discussed, please keep in mind each of these sites are legitimate sources for your study of actual, professional writing – and most offer guidelines.

I do encourage you to explore and study the sites, consider creating an appropriate article for submission, then submit (when you feel confident).

 

Lesson 1: Basics of Writing Professionally

Bibliography

http://www.authorsden.com http://www.nwu.org/journ/minrate.htm http://www.writersweekly.com

http://www.writing-world.com http://writernetwork.com/signup.htm

Lesson 2: Hone Those Skills!

In this lesson, you’ll be imitating writing styles you admire, becoming involved with local and national publications, and learning trends of acceptance.

Hone Your Skills

Recently, a woman doing a study on children’s authors asked me several questions. The last was really a statement: “Please make any comments about the writing process that you would like to pass onto new writers.” I replied something as follows: “Find a trusted someone who will do cartwheels to edit your work, and imitate writers you most admire.”

When I say “trusted someone,” I mean yes, even a parent. The only requirements a good editor needs are, being capable of offering brutally honest criticism and having a lot of experience reading.

I have just now included this bit on editing because it is easy advice to follow, yet crucial to your career. Much has been said regarding that.

This lesson will primarily focus on the second part of the advice: Imitate writers you most admire. It will also focus on using trends. In order to guide you, you will be given suggested resources.

We will also look at getting involved with local and national publications. There is no better way to begin your career as a professional than to work locally with other professionals. It is also beneficial to submit your work to national publications. You will learn unique ways to accomplish these duties.

What forms of your work are being accepted? What forms of your work, given past and present trends, will be accepted?

It all boils down to what the public wants!

 

Lesson 2: Hone Those Skills!

Use The Trends

Staying aware of current events means staying at one with the publishing industry. If you know what is making news, then you know what the public wants to read about.

Now you have a number of sources that offer professional opportunities, we will examine one responsible for reporting on North America’s newspaper industry: Editor & Publisher, found athttp://www.editorandpublisher.com/editor… This publication will help you focus on patterns of acceptance.

Editor & Publisher informs its readers about topics like how current events affect press freedom, reporters’ access to court documents, and society.

Examine today’s “Editor & Publisher” headlines. Read any that interest you. After reading the headlines for a while, you’ll come to learn what sort of news is likely to be accepted by businesses seeking writers, given any date.

Another way of learning is to notice patterns of acceptance in your list of works published. Whatever form of your writing has been repeatedly drooled on and grabbed up before the dust could settle (be it speculative fiction, nonfiction, silly commentaries, or any other form of writing), this is the one that responds to human needs. This is the one that can define your career.

For instance, perhaps your bio reveals the personal essay to be your forte. This means you excel in vivid portrayals of your life. Upon closer scrutiny, it probably also means your essays offer intimate peeks into humanity as a whole. It is this timeless quality all writing must possess in order for it to last for all time. So, in this case, you can continue to submit your defining essays, thus building your reputation as an insightful essayist.

Perhaps poetry is one of your fortes, but you know finding a four-leaf clover is easier than finding a high-paying poetry publication. Think of another genre you feel you excel in that is marketable and pays consistently, such as the local editorial (more on this later). Apply yourself to this endeavor, but continue writing poetry that can add a unique dimension of creativity to your day-job AND pay for gas.

For most, writing is a tool for raw emotion. Use that emotion in informative ways, and you’re sure to achieve prolonged success. If resourcefulness and universality is present in your work, you will have pieces to be proud of and products that withstand the test of time.

In examining current trends of acceptance – including personal ones – you’ll find a special pattern of acceptance that will remove the leaf from the bud that is uniquely you.

Each writer has his/her niche, and it’s each of your contributions that allow society to become a colorful kaleidescope. When all’s said and done, you may have thought you were walking the path of the next E.E. Cummings but instead emerged into a peaked version of YOURSELF.

 

Lesson 2: Hone Those Skills!

Imitate the Best & Get Involved

A perfect example of this is your analysis of Catherine Wald. When you studied her writing, you were incorporating its qualities into your being. Unbeknownst to you, you have added her concise lingo to your own, and are a more capable writer. You can do this with anyone you admire.

You might ask yourself, “How did my writing role models begin their careers?” Use the answers to provide yourself with some new career possibilities.

Once you’ve decided, study your role models’ styles. Some styles might be harder than others to incorporate. Technical jargon used by the computer wiz is one example, depending on whether you are interested in computer details or not. Nevertheless, if you make even the slightest effort, you will still be a better writer for it, and your reward will be a sophisticated appreciation of professional language. In fact, the more diverse your interests, the more likely you will study a plethora of styles, the greater your chances at being hired regularly by professional companies.

A less complex form of writing that is easier to understand than any form of technical writing is that which you find in your local newspaper. Local journalism offers a number of rewards for beginning (or advanced) professionals:

1) It uses everyday language so the general public can grasp newsy concepts. This means it is easy to incorporate into your own lingo.

2) Local newspapers are always looking for journalists ready and willing to research local people and events for articles. It is therefore an easy way to break into the business.

3) There are many local papers in your area looking for people like you to write for them. Therefore, you can establish a prolific reputation as a top writer in your geographical area, gaining you more contacts and clients.

4) Because local publications are close to where you live, you can arrange to interview with editors, thus establishing relationships with people you’d like to work closely with. Additionally, during interviews, you can add personal input you think might help the publication attract a wider audience. For instance, you might suggest a column idea, such as, “Charmingly Haunted Places to Stay on Cape Cod” (I actually used this idea already). Columns are beneficial for writers since they mean regular paychecks!

5) Speaking of pay, local newspapers pay relatively well, and more often than not, once you’ve proven your talent in one article, they will allow you to become a regular contributor! As long as you do the field research and interviews that create exciting content, your chances are good the article will be accepted AND edited.

7) Most papers allow you to resubmit articles elsewhere, so not only do you get paid for professional pieces, but you can be paid repeatedly.

Local journalism is just one avenue for your career, but it is an important one that I personally feel is necessary.

Other examples of professional work you might study are in publications like Writer’s Digest, Woman’s Day, or Good Housekeeping. Once you’ve established a foundation and reputation in your local area, it is likely you will be accepted by national publications like these. Such publications pay rather well. Often, these magazines pay one dollar per word. It is likely they will pay for your interesting local stories or informative writing, and then you can move onto publications that pay handsomely.

“Writing for Dollars,” found at http://www.writingfordollars.com/Guideli… is where I suggest you go to compare medium and high paying market guidelines. You are about to discover there are many opportunities (keep in mind once a publication accepts your work, 10 times out of 10 it will accept it again and again).

Fabjob.com is located online at http://www.fabjob.com/writers.html and was named the number one place to get published in 2002 by Writer’s Digest. The site offers step-by-step instructions on writing a guidebook to be offered at the site (20,000-30,000 words) that the company publishes, sells, and pays handsomely for ($100 up front then expect to make approximately $5,000).

You can even view their “wish” list of career guidebooks or propose one that isn’t being offered. All you have to do is write to the editorial address given and propose the idea. Many who have written for the site have gone on to acquire book contracts with big publishers like Random House.

All the ideas mentioned are ways to jumpstart a career. Use them, and you’ve made it almost halfway down the path to becoming a “professional!”

 

Lesson 2: Hone Those Skills!

Bibliography

Charmingly Haunted Places to Stay (column), CapeCodToday.com, May 2002:http://www.capecodtoday.com/features/col…

Writing for Dollars: http://www.writingfordollars.com/wfd.cfm…

Editor & Publisher: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/editor…

fabjob.com: http://www.fabjob.com/writers.html

 

 

Lesson 3: Market (and Market)

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to resell to non-competing markets, vary your writing, and practice the “write etiquette.”

Gain Editorial Contacts

There are three ways to gain editorial contacts (clients):

1) Resell your published work to non-competing markets.

2) Vary your writing experience.

3) Practice the “write etiquette.”

When a work has been published, writers can send it to markets vastly different from one another (ones that accept reprints). Kathryn Lay, author of the book, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer, says in her article titled, “Reselling Your Writing:” ‘Of the 330 articles, essays, and short stories I have had published, at least one-third of those have been reprint sales…one of my Christmas essays about sharing Christmas with others has resold and been reprinted every year since 1990.’

We shall examine this.

The second way to gain contacts is by varying your writing. You will gain a wider audience, a variety of contacts, and more jobs. Keep in mind you must continually update your author’s bio each time a work has been published. This way, prospective clients can view your recent works, you can confidently dish out the url knowing your best is there for the taking, and you have avoided future overload.

Then, there is the third method: practicing proper etiquette when doing business with clients. To be welcomed back by an editor or organization, you need to address them by getting quickly to the point. I’ll offer some concrete examples.

Marketing your work is about making as many new contacts as humanly possible. By following the three suggestions in this lesson, you’ll have entered a new world: the world of professionalism.

 

Lesson 3: Market (and Market)

Resell Your Work

In order to resell your work and establish a clientele, you need to write for at least one high-traffic website. Suite101.com is an example of one. It is an organized directory, so search engines locate its components, columns and writers before many other websites. This means the rest of the world will too.

After I began writing book reviews for my own Suite101 topic, “Alternative Writing,” authors and publishers began contacting me via the email I provided at the site. So many review requests came in – exacerbated by a submission of my services to BookZonePro.com – I decided to begin charging at least fifteen dollars per review.

Since, I’ve volunteered to write a book review column for a site that receives about one million five hundred visitors per month (CapeCodToday.com).

Clearly, the reason high-traffic sites are beneficial to review clients is because the whole purpose of reviews is to present them to as many eyes as possible with the aim of gaining widespread interest for the book or product mentioned.

On Reselling:

Reselling your published works means more money. What you must keep in mind when resubmitting a piece is you’ll need to make minor changes to your accompanying query letter. Query letters are EVERYTHING.http://www.poewar.com/articles/beginner…. will take you to the best query letter format. It gives an example of a query letter along with an explanation of each section. The only thing about the example I don’t find necessary is the snail-mail addresses at the top (why include them when querying by email?).

Query-Changing Examples:

You might stress the writing elements in a review about a book that focuses on overcoming odds in this business when submitting to a writing publication. When submitting the same piece to a female-oriented publication, you can instead mention your own career path as a female writer (if you’re female). Editors can then see how the essay belongs within their pages. Like Lay, you too can sell one-third of your works, bringing in more contacts and more paychecks.

The idea is to resubmit to as many non-competing markets as possible. The results are more contacts from all walks of life, works that draw a wider audience, and unique experiences with a variety of businesses.

Think about your published work. Can you come up with a business plan for any of your pieces? You might be inspired by a personal piece that suggests a course. You might then approach Suite University reps with your idea!

It is key to keep marketing as your priority. By keeping the “marketing ball” rolling, you’ll have future projects galore. For instance, you could market a “Suite” course by following it up with an e-book based on its course teachings: Authorsden.com offers e-publishing for free.

Even a wonderful piece that hasn’t yet been published can have superb potential. Let’s say you wrote a heated letter to the editor of your local paper in response to a major world event, but never had the guts to submit it. Now is the time. If it gets published, or the editor responds with her/his own thoughts, use the piece and the editor’s feelings to come up with a new article or story that you can resubmit to an appropriate market or publish as a new column, newsletter, or e-book. There is a whole world of marketing out there.

You can use any ideas in this month’s Writer’s Digest – a career article, the markets, whatever enlightens you – to come up with a business plan for a particular work of yours you feel has widespread potential.

This section is an apt prerequisite for the next: “Vary Your Experience.”

 

Lesson 3: Market (and Market)

Vary Your Experience

Varying your writing experience offers numerous benefits. For starters, it aids you in actually having enough experience with the various writing forms to satisfy the needs of any business that knocks on your door. Your aim is to gain as much experience as possible, be it editing two-line company philosophies to writing best selling novels to writing corporate histories. This will hopefully allow you to combine ideas so you can soon live off your own business. And it will make updating your bio exciting!

As you’ve just learned, efficient marketing is the catalyst behind variation. You must train yourself in a potpourri of techniques to successfully market your work. Word programs like “Microsoft Works” provide writers with ready formats for the designing of business oriented gimmicks – newsletters and brochures, for example. The program even helps with direct marketing strategies via resume and cover letter formats. All these things equate to a number of learned tricks of the trade that are desirable in professional writers.

If you don’t have a program like Microsoft Works, you may use colored or automatic fonts and shadings in word programs like Microsoft Word while using hard copy examples for guidance. Such examples might include free pamphlets and newsletters found in doctor’s offices and grocery stores.

Read a career article in the current Writer’s Digest. The article most likely reveals the life of a writer who started doing one thing and ended up doing another. Notice the different experiences of this person, and how they came to be a successful professional writer.

This will be you, as long as you use all mentioned ideas to fulfill the needs listed in the job markets found in your weekly/monthly resources.

 

Lesson 3: Market (and Market)

The “Write” Etiquette

You will regularly find how-to articles concerning query letters in publications like Writer’s Digest. While I do recommend reading query articles that suggest a writing standard you feel is of vital importance to your own career, I’d like you to concern yourself mainly with my personal approaches, as follows:

1) Get to the point – politely.

2) Respect yourself and others.

At one time or another, you will read and reread a company’s guidelines. Nonetheless, you haven’t the faintest inclination what a particular word or phrase means. This situation, or querying about an idea, column or otherwise, is easily solved through the use of email. These circumstances call for blunt – yet respectful – tableside manners. Following, is an example:

“Dear Editor –

I would love to write for your publication. I have carefully studied your guidelines, and have one question: when you say you’re ‘open to column ideas,’ are you referring to content for existing ones or suggestions for new ones?

Sincerely – Adel Vice”

This example brings the editor directly to your point by concisely stating immediate intentions and questions. In cover letters, you will use a similar format:

“Dear People’s Professionals,

I am responding to your ‘freelance writer’ job offer. I have had a good deal of experience in the field, and feel my qualifications suit your needs. Below, is my resume, or you may view its information (along with my personal works) at my “authorsden:” (url) I look forward to your reply!

Very Truly Yours, (your name)”

Again, in the example, you have directly stated your intentions with respect. You may use both examples as formats, if you like.

There was a time when respecting others was priority. Some amateur writers think groveling is necessary. I have certainly done my fair share in the past. Many intense rejections later, I have new advice.

It will happen to you: at the height of your newfound success, a sour egg will unleash its odor into your rosy email collection. Although you have had your fair share of rejections, this one will come as a swift hit to the groin because you’ve worked real hard to get where you now are. My husband made a suggestion, which has helped me ever since: instead of taking it on the chin, respect yourself and reply with your own professional opinion.

This advice stems from an email letter I received from an editor of a well-known writing publication. The editor responded to my query in a condescending reply. My query had asked where she thought a particular article of mine might be submitted (the article even mentioned her background). I respected this person: her articles about writing were informative. I’d even once offered to help her in editorial duties, free of charge. Nonetheless, here was her critical reply:

“Dear Sara,

Thanks for sending this along. However, I’m not sure how helpful I can be! Frankly, I don’t see much market for a piece this short and this general. I wouldn’t accept it myself, and I doubt any other paying writing market would — we’re looking for articles that offer a much more in-depth look at some aspect of the writing business (or craft). Think ‘how-to’ — and focus on answering the questions that you might ask if you were reading an article on a particular subject.

The articles featured on [publication name] will give you a good idea of the type of material that most of the writing publications are looking for at this time. Of course, we’re all different; magazines like ‘The Writer’ tend to look for more author-focused material (i.e., interviews with authors, and subject matter that leans toward the ‘literary’). ‘Writer’s Digest’ looks for shorter pieces, often articles that cover four or five brief points (but still with a good ‘how-to’ emphasis). ‘Inscriptions’ uses a lot of interviews; I use very few. So there’s no substitute, in the long-term, for studying the publication first!

Best, [name shall remain anonymous]”

While the editor was helpful enough to offer expert advice, the letter doesn’t exactly encourage one to be creative. Taking my husband’s advice, I replied with my own philosophies:

“[editor’s name],

As your opinion is one I value, I have read your ideas and suggestions carefully. I never intended for the article to be published in your wonderful publication for obvious reasons. You have given me a healthy indication of what various notable publications are accepting. Thank you so much. Upon recent scrutiny of the article, I feel I may have been trying to cram too much of the best advice into one space! Perhaps that is why the article appears ‘general,’ though I’d have to disagree with you on it being too ‘short.’ A lot of decent articles are 800 words. I do think there is some valuable info…in addition to your intriguing expert advice.

A bit of advice: you might try offering encouraging words to fellow writers, rather than focusing solely on the negative.

Best, Sara”

The editor didn’t reply, but they now have some evidence fellow writers prefer doing business with thoughtful people. It seems there is an unspoken rule by the savvy: “Don’t waste my time.” No matter how the picture is painted, this is poor professionalism. Fortunately, there are just as many respectful people as there are ones who can’t dish out the respect they command.

Stay Nice!

 

Lesson 3: Market (and Market)

Bibliography

“Reselling Your Writing,” Kathryn Lay: Writing-World.com Archives

“The Killer Query,” Jenna Glatzer: http://www.poewar.com/articles/beginner….

Lesson 4: Manage to Write!

This final chapter tells how to manage your new career through productive reading, time spent, and filing.

Foster It

In order to claim what is yours (your career), you must foster it. You have already done this by taking this course. To continue along the rewarding path, you need to stay inspired and organized. You can do so by following three simple steps:

1) Continue reading the works of others. Prolific horror writer Stephen King says, “Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life…the trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows. Waiting rooms were made for books…so are theater lobbies before the show, long and boring checkout lines, and everyone’s favorite, the john” (On Writing 147-148). This quote is from King’s year 2000 autobiography. He even reads at the dinner table each night (poor wife Tabatha)!

2) Allot time. Not to be confused with “a lot of time,” ha! Some of you have kids. Love them first. Get your beauty rest second. Then, in the wee hours (1-3 a.m.) following, work on a writing project. Consider restful moments as potential writing ones. Budget hours by deciding when you are mentally capable for a job and which ones need doing.

3) Log. For instance, keep a daily reminder of what you need to focus on (research, updating a bio, writing, reading). You will thus be able to prioritize, making hourly budgeting easy. Online diaries make great reminder spaces. They make recording seem less like a chore than a free writing store!

 

Lesson 4: Manage to Write!

Read!

The only way to master your readers is to be one. Make a point at hunting for topics you enjoy. Reading is the only research you need as a writer. As you’ve learned, reading the work of others allows you to add new words to your vocabulary – and new twists to your writing. It is the source of inspiration master of horror Stephen King uses to create his novels. King reads everything from Science-Fiction Ray Bradbury and Graham Joyce to legal-thriller John Grisham books. Elements of each style have shown up in King’s own.

Now think of some calm place where you are isolated from the world. Fifty percent of a typical person’s day (sometimes more) is spent in the car. Why not buy an audio book? Bookstores like Barnes and Nobles offer this form of reading for sale. You can just slip the audio book into your car player and enjoy a crafty story while you drive. I can’t think of a better way to stay focused on the road AND your career. King does it!

Suite University offers several meaningful reading/writing courses you might like to investigate. Each one can be checked out at http://www.suite101.com/suiteu/school.cf… and each is taught by a talented instructor. For example “Introduction to Creative Writing” is instructed by well-known Children’s author Sally Odgers — who has, by the way, taken the course you are now taking!

One course in particular should stand out, since its instructor has already finished the reader’s hunt for you. “The Joy of Reading” http://www.suite101.com/suiteu/school.cf… is geared toward writers and book lovers alike. It discusses works of fiction, non-fiction, short stories, poetry, and essays. It is a chunk of professional pie you ought to taste, since it teaches students how to speed-read, build vocabulary, start book clubs, develop book-club newsletters, make money reviewing, and promote clubs and reviews. A quick way to satiate your writers’ taste buds, it covers a world of topics, and you will have become a professional reviewer and editor by course end.

You can also stay inspired by professional writers and their riveting subjects on the Internet. Think of a subject you find fascinating. Type it into your search engine, and begin a search. Read any intriguing articles that catch your eye. When you are through reading, reread a piece that had a certain style that seemed to flow. Think of how you might incorporate a similar style into your own writing.

You have probably already thought of a subject that interests you. That’s wonderful! If not, how about, fittingly, “book reviews?” If you type this into your search engine, you will be taking a new career direction! The exciting thing about writing is you can put new visions and goals into written expression!

Read a book review. Is the writing concise? Look at the top or bottom of the review to see who wrote it. Search the net for the particular author. Study their style.

Or, continue to study Catherine Wald’s work. From her writing diversity, it is easy to see she won’t be fading from the net – or the professional world – any time soon. Her work will always serve to inspire other writers.

By reading the works of professional book writers, reviewers, corporate writers, essayists, and poets, you will keep your career alive.

 

Lesson 4: Manage to Write!

Allot Time

Allot time for writing. I know, I know. You are saying, “But I write all the time! It’s what I love!” Believe it or not, you can have too much of a good thing. About a year ago, I’d become addicted to the high of pumping out story after story, essay after essay, book after book, and the subsequent high of wondering who was going to respond the next day.

Like any other addiction, the addiction itself can take over, causing the writer to stray from his/her professionalism in two ways: by shirking quality (and acceptance) and by burning out, eventually avoiding writing altogether.

Quality is THE most important attribute of good writing. If you love the highs of spotting a zillion awesome publications on any given day, then of submitting any work that may or may not suit publications’ needs, you will be moving two steps behind. Quality is not something you pull out of your hat of works published.

Focus your time and energy on a few carefully chosen projects per week. Weigh your odds with various publications, businesses, and clients. Whichever ones seem desperate for your expertise, write or query them. Take on one or two projects at a time. This way, you won’t be throwing weak punches into the wind only to give up the fight.

Budget time. Example: you know you need to take care of the kids today and the grandmother tonight. The house needs cleaning. Worst of all, you have given yourself two writing deadlines, both due within one week. Solution: during the kids’ daily hour nap, spend a half-hour on the most urgent one of the two projects. Spend the remaining twenty or thirty minutes sleeping. Visit gram for one hour before dinner. Come home, eat, leave the dishes and cleaning till the next morning. Put the kids to bed around nine, then work at completing the project for two hours.

As you can see, balance is key. If you learn to schedule a life regimen in with work, you will be rested, happy, and focused enough to create writing products solely for clients who are your career soul mates!

 

Lesson 4: Manage to Write!

Log

Managing your career goes from disastrous to docile in one last way: by keeping records. If you’re unwilling to buy an inexpensive file cabinet where you can label folder sections for acceptance letters, rejection letters, and hard copy forms for resubmission of your various works, you have some choices:

Save reminders in a personal email folder. Programs like Outlook Express offer such folders whereby a drag of the mouse inserts private e-messages. The messages are then categorized according to who they came from, what the subject, and what the date and time. When you receive an acceptance or rejection note, record the fact in a typed e-note to yourself then move it to your personal e-folder. Of course, in direct email cases (as opposed to snail mail), you simply have to move the note. Always save actual works on disc.

All these methods allow for quick retrieval when you need to know where you’ve sent particular works, what editorial comments are educational for your career, and where each of your works reside.

A method of recording necessary to daily writing (and research, updating, and reading) is by way of free sites like Diaryland, located at http://diaryland.com Here you can keep an attractive, online diary of writing goals.

Keeping a file of substance still beats cyberspace. Hard copy is protected from energy surges that might delete e-folders given “appropriate” circumstances. You also don’t have to write anything down: just put a rejection letter into the “rejection” section of your tangible cabinet, alphabetical by client. The same would go for your “acceptance” section. For hard copy work, a third section in your cabinet could be labeled “my hard copy,” alphabetical by titles.

Before you know, you’ll be using more files: for each subsequent year your fame as a professional grows!

Through budgeting of time and space, you will be able to juggle the colorful potpourri that is now your career.

Congratulations!

– Sara

 

Lesson 4: Manage to Write!

Bibliography

Suite University’s Writing & Publishing Courses: The Joy of Readinghttp://www.suite101.com/suiteu/school.cf…

On Writing, Stephen King, pp 147-148

Diaryland: http://diaryland.com

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