People love to give advice. Mention any topic from changing a tire to how to get your teenagers to appreciate you and immediately everyone begins to tell you what to do. Most step forward in order to help you avoid the pitfalls of life that appear at the most inopportune times as you try to navigate the sinuous path to success.
It’s usually a good idea to listen to what these advisors say. While it’s true you will invariably hear conflicting opinions on every subject it is also true that you will always walk away having learned something. Even if that something is the fact that you need to ignore everyone else and find your own way.
Here are some tips that didn’t work for me. Please note that I don’t attribute my lack of success with any of them to bad advice. I know that when it comes to writing for publication there isn’t any one magic formula that will guarantee a sale every time. What didn’t work for me just might be the key to your next byline. Give them a try and if they work….or even if they don’t … feel free to share them with others.
1. Write every day.
I don’t have time to write every day. I’d like to but I can’t and I know it. It might be kids or a job or an elderly in-law that keeps you from the keyboard some days. Accept it and write when you can. Write when the voices in your head won’t be quiet and the story demands to be written. That’s when your best work will appear anyway. Don’t succumb to guilt if you miss a day or two. It won’t change your circumstances but it will sap your creativity.
2. Write what you know.
Once of the best pieces I ever wrote was for a magazine for musicians admitting I have no musical talent at all. My husband is a gifted drummer who started playing in grade school and still rocks out between stints with the local symphony. My two sons play five instruments between them and my daughter sings a mean karaoke. I wrote about being lost in a sea of notes, left behind unable to decipher the language of music. Lots of musically challenged relatives of musicians wrote to tell their pitiful tales in response, leading to another article on trying again to play an instrument. (I failed… again)
A friend of mine was so bedazzled by a deadly chocolate dessert served at a local restaurant she wrote a hilarious article about how she could never make such an elaborate dish. She sold it to a local magazine and (even better) got free dessert for month.
3. Keep your family out of your writing.
One of the industries best known editors provided this advice at a conference recently. On the surface it makes absolute sense. Beginning writers often ask friends and family to critique their writing. This method won’t provide you with the most unbiased opinion on your ability but it can be valuable if you don’t stop there.
I can’t proof my own work. I skip right over punctuation and spelling errors and fill in missing words I intended to use. I see what I thought I said rather than what my fingers typed. Since I’m a self taught typist that can result in some very odd looking sentences. I ask my family to do an initial read through to catch technical errors before I let anyone else see it.
Family is also a fantastic resource for material. Your catty cousin can become a model for the villain in your next romance. The bearded fat guy who ripped off your Aunt Martha could inspire an article on consumer fraud. And don’t forget that family stories are often what Chicken Soup for the Soul and other anthologies are looking for. Keep your ears open and your fingers typing.
The list above could be much longer, but you can see where I’m going with this. Listen to advice when it’s offered then apply what works and adapt what doesn’t until you make a sale. What’s not right for one editor today may very well be perfect for someone else tomorrow. And if your piece doesn’t sell at all, that’s okay. One day, when you least expect it, the tide may turn and a previously rejected article may be the subject of the latest hot topic on Letterman. If it does, open up your saved files, dust it off and write a query letter.
This leads me to the one rule you must never break if you are going to be a successful writer. Never give up!
Please let me know when you make a sale. It will inspire the rest of us.
- Freelancing Tips: How to Write a Query Letter (queercents.com)
- Submitting Your Work to Publishers (brighthub.com)