2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006: Named one
of the 101 best Web sites for writers by Writers Digest Magazine.
In the Meantime...Paying the Bills
All writers have their dream jobs, the book that sells a million copies, the article read the world over that leads to that interview with the network producer, etc.
But while waiting for all those big breaks to happen, we all have eat, right?
And I for one, don't relish the idea of having no paycheck at all, so I found a way to make a living writing, in the meantime.
Writing is a multi-faceted experience, and while most writers think that their skill lies only in one genre, or only one area, they are usually wrong. The same aptitude it takes to capture interest in a novel or short story also gives most writers the aptitude to write catchy phrases that are of use to businesses and magazines in many forms.
And these, my dear, pay the bills.
Seven Projects Anyone Who Writes Can Sell
An editor at a publishing house, when looking at your previous work, is looking for three primary things: he's looking at your work to see how much work he, as an editor will have to do to your manuscript to make it salable; he's looking at the cost of it and the prospect of it selling profitably for his house; and he's looking for the unforeseen possibility (which is always present) that you will turn into a "devil-writer" who argues about every decision, every comma moved, and calls constantly as if you are in fact the only author the publishing house represents.
So, to write and sell successfully, both now and later, it is essential to create a clips file. And in the process, pay the bills. Now we'll talk about some ways to accomplish that.
Since a clip file, which is a little portfolio or book of clipped articles out of magazines and newspapers where a writer's work has appeared, is of primary interest to an editor sizing up a potential contributing editor or staffer, you must build it with those kinds of pieces of work that will indicate to that person that you are a good risk.
The service piece is the most sought-after piece of writing in a magazine. It tells how to accomplish something, or in the case of an industry or trade publication, tell readers something essential to their field. And since these are proven to be best-read items that most readers read in every magazine, magazines pay more and seek more of this sort of writing than any other kind. It is also, generally, less fun to write for the writer, and so more freelancers get these pieces assigned to them since staffers get very tired of writing service items day after day and freelancers can often invoke a fresh view or idea on the topic.
There are several other ways to get good clips you can use that do not involve the service piece, or rather, involve a different kind of service item: the direct-to-consumer service piece.
The Seven Prime Candidates
1. The magazine service piece
you know something about.
2. The magazine service piece
you know nothing about.
But then I had an idea. I found out who the top three farms in the nation were that were showing at that level, contacted them and told them about my article and that I wanted them to be a part of it. I titled my piece "Grooming Tips from the Pro's" and sent out a questionnaire to each of the three farms. I took their answers and segmented them into the different aspects of grooming horses (bathing, brushing, and actual show preparation) and quoted each verbatim, which in fact added punch to my article anyway. The trick in that sort of piece is knowing what questions to ask.
And there's always someone willing to tell you if you don't know. Just Ask.
3. Typing work for other
4. Local Companies
5. Local Lawyers
6. Local Theatre Companies
Well, that's my list for in the meantime. It pays my bills, keeps me motivated and active in writing. It can work for you, too!
Carolyn Burch is a full-time freelance professional writer, columnist, and author, and mother of four from Phoenix, AZ. She has her masters arm-band in distractionary tactics for children, and a minor in birth control.
With a background in addition to writing in Marketing, Sales, Time Management, and Human Resources, she has written for five National and three International print magazines and journals, several newspapers, and more than a hundred online E-zines and sites, and is the lead instructor for 2001-2002 at the Cornerstone Creative Writing Workshops. Her writing archives can be viewed at http://www.cornerstoneconsortium.com.