What Makes Magazine Writers Successful?

Have you ever noticed that some of the same freelance writers are published in your favorite magazine issue after issue? Have you ever asked yourself why these writers get repeat gigs? Do you ever wonder what it would take for you to be one of these writers?

Writers who are hired to write more articles for the same publication do three things that most freelance writers don’t. They study the market, develop relationships, and over deliver.

1  They study the market

Successful freelance writers carefully study each magazine they want to write for, so they can pitch articles relevant to the magazine’s readership. They understand that by getting to know the magazine’s readers and the types of articles the magazine publishes, they have a better chance of being hired to write for that magazine. They also know that after the editor purchases an article from them, they will have a chance at repeat business from that editor.

Study the last six issues or more of a monthly magazine and the last 12 issues of a quarterly magazine. This will give you a strong knowledge of reader demographics and the types of articles the magazine has recently published. From this, you will know what to pitch and what not to pitch.

2  They develop relationships

The successful freelance writers I know each make it a point to develop an ongoing relationship with each editor they write for. It’s a lot easier to nurture an ongoing relationship than it is to recruit new clients every month. These relationships will serve you well by helping you get multiple writing gigs from the same publications. As a result, you will build a strong client base, so you aren’t in a constant panic to find more work each time you complete an assignment.

Also, in spite of the proliferation of both online and hard copy publishers, the publishing community is still small and editors talk with one another. You never know when an editor may recommend you to another editor. Or an editor may quit one magazine and go to work for another. If you’re one of her favorite writers, she may ask you to come along with her.

3  They over deliver

If you’re writing an article and you can easily add value with a sidebar, graph, or list, go ahead and do it. The key is if you can “easily” create the sidebar, graph, or list. This is a freebie that you’re providing, so it should only take you a few minutes, not hours, to put together. Your editor may not have the space to use it, however, she will remember that you took the time to provide more information.

On several assignments when I’ve tossed in a sidebar or list, my editors have told me that it made their job easier because they needed to fill an empty space on the page and the item I provided fit.

When you do these three things, editors you work with may even seek you out when they’re in a bind and ask you to write a specific article for their readers, which will increase your income.


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How Writers Create

Do you remember creating outlines in sixth grade English class? Well, outlines may have a place in helping you, as a writer, create good prose.

Although I recall intensely disliking having to create an outline for book reports and essays for the teacher to critique, I like creating outlines for the things I am writing.

Studies show that outlines help our brains make sense of jumbled thoughts. They also help writers organize their articles in a way that frees their minds to be creative when they sit down to write.

An outline can help you identify strengths and weaknesses in the premise of the article you are writing. It may also help you develop or combine paragraphs, so the information flows logically.

When you draft an outline for an article you are writing, it may help to build the outline using a two-part process. Try this and let us know how it works for you by leaving a comment below.

Step One in the Outline Process
In step one of this two-part process, create a rough draft of the outline of your article by listing the title and any subtitles you want to include that are relevant to your target audience. Write stream of consciousness and include no more than four or five subtitles.

Step Two in the Outline Process
Go through the outline again, this time adding more detail to each subtitle. You can write phrases or complete sentences to expand the outline. However, remember to keep it brief. You will include more detail when you write the actual article.

I tend to use outlines as a way to remind me of what I want to include in the articles I am writing. So Step Two in my outlines usually looks like an extension of the rough draft I created in Step One. However, when I am writing a lengthy feature article, I usually write in complete sentences in Step Two of my outline.

Experiment with different ways to create outlines that feed your creativity and make your articles easier to write. And please let us know how this two-step process works for you or if you use a different process when you write.

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Why Editors Love Writers Who Know Copyediting Marks

Copyediting is often a thankless job. Writers complain about your changes. Clients want to know why you “scribble” all over their documents. Sometimes you feel like no one takes you seriously.

The truth is, a copyeditor can be a writer’s best friend. Good copyeditors produce work that is almost invisible. Their editing polishes the writer’s work, making it shine. Most writers who work with good copyeditors say that their copyeditor makes them look good in print.

So make an effort to make friends with your copyeditor by learning to speak their language—-the language of copyeditor marks. If you don’t know what copyeditor marks look like or if it’s been a while and you’d like to refresh your memory, check out the New York Book Editors Copyediting Marks.

It’s such a relief to copyeditors, line editors, and proofreaders when the writers they work with understand the meaning behind those strange “scribbles” we make on their documents. It makes our lives so much easier because we don’t have explain every change we’ve made or why we made it. In fact, if we’ve done our job well, most of the writers we work with will thank us for helping them look like writing rock stars.

Although more writers and editors exchange documents online and use Track Changes to edit documents, a lot of documents are still edited in hard copy. If you know how to speak the language of your editors, in the form of copyeditor marks, you will quickly become a favorite of the editors you work with.

What do you think about copyediting marks? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. (If you’re reading this post on the Writers Inkwell home page, please click on the headline to leave a comment, then scroll to the bottom of the post.)

5 Reasons to Use a Style Guide

A style guide can be the salvation or bane of any writing project. When I first entered the publishing industry, I thought style guides had been designed to constrain my creativity. After writing my first couple of articles, I realized that style guides were designed to make my life easier.

The first style guide I used was The Chicago Manual of Style. It’s weight alone intimidated me, but I soon embraced it enthusiastically when it helped me with some thorny issues in a client’s computer user manual, which had been written mostly by engineers. The 17th Edition is now available.

Years later, when I was writing a weekly column for a local, daily newspaper, I used the Associated Press Stylebook. In between, I used several corporate style guides and even wrote a few for myself and for clients. The 2019 edition is now available.

Although style guides offer much helpful guidance for both writers and editors, if I were to list the most important guidance a style guide can provide, it would be how to implement these five things in each document you write:

1. Consistency
2. Punctuation
3. User friendliness
4. Cohesiveness
5. Branding

Why these five things and not the dozens of other great gems that most style guides also deliver? When your writing provides consistency in its look and delivery, contains easy-to-read punctuation, is user friendly (especially for technical documents), guides the writer in creating a cohesive story for readers, and brands the service or product about which you are writing, most of the other style elements easily fall into place.

1. Consistency
When you provide consistency for things like, headlines, use of numbers, and lists with each list item presented in the same manner as, for example, a complete sentence, a phrase that begins with a verb, or using initial caps for the first word in each list item, your readers will feel more comfortable because they know what to expect.

2. Punctuation
Punctuation is another area that not only requires consistency, such as whether you use a serial (or Oxford) comma, or the AP (Associated Press) comma. It also requires the use of punctuation that will not distract readers from the message you are trying to convey.

3. User friendliness
The term ‘user friendly’ may be used most often in reference to technical documentation, however, whether you write technical user guides, fiction, feature or news articles, the best writing is user friendly. That is, it is easy to read and easy for readers to comprehend the message you are trying to convey.

4. Cohesiveness
Disjointed writing is not only distracting, it’s confusing and many readers abandon what they’re reading when they can’t follow the writer’s meaning. Good writing flows from topic to each subtopic and then comes full circle to provide a recap that lets the reader finish reading, comfortable in knowing that what they’ve read makes sense and answers their questions.

5. Branding
Branding isn’t just about marketing. It’s about providing an overall, consistent presentation and cohesive definition of any products mentioned and of the writer’s overall message, whether it be a call to action, confirmation that all is well, or guidance on how to do something.

A writer is the champion of the reader. A good style guide is the champion of the writer, making him or her look good—that is, if they use it.

I invite you to share your favorite style guide with us in the comments section below. Which style guides do you use? Which are your favorite and why?

A Writer’s Love Affair With Writing

“There are all kinds of love in this world but never the same love twice.”

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Fitzgerald nailed it when he wrote this line in The Great Gatsby. Although he wasn’t talking about writing, it seems to apply because writers often write because they love to write and not just to earn an income. Each book, each poem, each article, each short story is a bit of a love affair.

One of the things that stands out for me when I write is that I am deeply focused on each thing I am writing almost to the point of fascination. It’s nearly constantly in my thoughts, much like the object of a first love.

I find myself jotting notes for it. Asking myself how I can make it look and sound better. What I can do to clearly convey my message to readers.

So on this lovely Valentine’s Day, I wish you a beautiful day filled with love, joy, and laughter! May your love affair with writing continue and take you to ever greater heights.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my fellow writers and our readers!

I invite you to share your love affair with writing with us in the comments section below.

Write on!

Remove Roadblocks to Your Writing Success

If you really want to be a writer, or if you already are a writer, but success has been elusive, you do not need to let rejection, fear, lack of confidence, depression, or anxiety stop you from achieving your goals.

Any time you send a query letter to a magazine, make a cold call to a potential client, or attend a networking event, remember that there is at least a 50 percent chance that the editor will buy your article, the potential client will become a client, or you will meet a potential client at the networking event.

‘Begin with the end in mind’ is not just a trite phrase. It’s the key to success. You must see yourself, in your mind, already succeeding.

Unless you enjoy wallowing in the dregs of self pity, there is no need to waste the precious minutes of your life feeling sorry for yourself or worrying about how you are going to reach your writing goals.

Make the initial effort. Believe that you are going to succeed. Trust that you’ve got what it takes——because if you love writing, you probably do.

Then do it.

You will find that once you make the effort, the universe will work in mysterious ways to help you along the path to writing success.

Clear and Simple Prose Delivers

One of my favorite writing exercises comes from Richard Lederer in his book, The Miracle of Language.

When he taught sixth grade, one of the exercises he gave to his students each year was to write a descriptive essay that painted a picture readers could see in their mind’s eye.

The catch? Use only one-syllable words.

Try it. You will be amazed.

Feeling Passionate About What You Write

Some of your best writing will be about the things about which you feel most passionate. It’s often much easier to write about something when you feel strongly about it. The words seem to flow as a result of the intensity of your feelings.

When you know what moves you, it’s easier to pitch article ideas, develop fictional stories, and just overall write. Another plus in favor of writing about the things you feel a passion for is they are probably subjects you know well, so you will be able to easily put your thoughts into words.

There’s no end to the creativity that begins to flow when you expound upon the things about which you are passionate. I invite you to dip your pen into the inkwell and share some of the things that incite your passion to write in the comments section below.

3 Ways to Present Rates to Clients

Most writers, being creative types, are loathe to talk about money. They especially dislike when they have to tell a new client their rates or when they have to invoice a client. I know that side of freelancing can be difficult because I, too, struggled with that when I first began freelancing.

If you want to be a successful freelance writer or editor, you must overcome your resistance to talking about and asking for money. You do like to eat, right? I’ll bet you also like to live in a warm home with heat and air conditioning and, well, all the comforts of home, right?

So, as Cher said to Nick Cage in the movie, Moonstruck, “get over it!”

Here are 3 easy ways to present your rate to clients. Feel free to reword them to make them your own and practice saying them until you feel comfortable. When they ask what your rate is, answer calmly and clearly without missing a beat:

1. “My rate is $xx per hour and on long-term projects such as this one, I will invoice you every 2 weeks.”

2. “My rate is $xx per hour and with first-time clients, I require X percent up front prior to beginning work. The remaining X percent will be due Net 15 days (or Net 30 days) upon completion.

Note: If this is a long-term project, instead of the remaining X percent being due upon completion, explain that “upon completing X percent of the project, explain that you will begin billing every two weeks and each invoice is due in Net 15 days (or Net 30 days).” Make sure you choose an approach that works best for each project.

3. If you’re working for a mid-size to large company that has provided you with a purchase order, you know they’ve signaled their intent to pay you. In these instances, I usually say, “My rate is $xx per hour and since we’ll be working on this project/these projects long term, I will invoice you every 2 weeks beginning on (month/day/year).”

These are just a few ways to present your rate to clients. What are some of the ways you present rates to clients? Dip your pen into the inkwell and share what works for you!

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Writers, Daydreams, and Intuition

Writers are the ultimate dreamers. How else could they create the fabulous fiction and nonfiction works they create? Our daydreams provide a guide for us to that fabulous inner world where creativity resides.

Usually, I find my daydreams are closely tied to my intuition and you should always follow intuition. How many times have you said, “I had a feeling that would happen?” Always listen to your intuition. It’s that part of you that is connected to the greater good of the universe and it looks out for you—if only you will listen to it.

I use my intuition a lot when I’m editing, too. Sometimes what the writer is saying doesn’t quite mesh with the intent of the document or story as a whole. When that happens, my intuition raises a red flag that leads me to look more closely at what the writer is trying to say. More often than not, when I ask the writer for clarification, also suggesting alternative phrasing, my intuition is rewarded with the writer saying, “Yes, that’s what I was trying to say! I just couldn’t figure out how to say it.”

So daydream whenever you can and follow your intuition. You just may find it takes you to some marvelously creative places.

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