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3 Things Editors Don’t Want Writers to Know

I’ve been both a writer and an editor. Sitting on both sides of the hiring desk has provided me with an insight that most writers don’t have access to. What’s more, there are three things editors don’t want writers to know because if writers knew these things, editors fear they would lose their negotiating power.

The three things that editors don’t want writers to know are:

1. They Need You.
Editors need writers. Writers provide editors with job security. Without writers and what they write, editors would not have jobs.

2. Editors Depend on Writers.
Editors know that they can depend on professional writers to meet the deadlines they set for them. This is important because if a writer misses a deadline, the editor may have to come up with a replacement article at the last minute. And editors do not like to have to do this. So they depend on their stable of writers to meet their deadlines on time or even early.

3. Editors Have Favorite Writers.
Editors, like teachers, have favorites among the writers they work with. Their favorite writers meet their deadlines and often over deliver. That is, they provide sidebars, graphics, and backup information that editors can use to enhance page layouts and provide filler. All of this makes the editor’s job easier. Who wouldn’t like working with someone who does this?

Do you have a story to share about a favorite editor? Please share it in the comments section below.

Why Writers Write

Writers are compulsive. They write because they have to. Most professional writers write because they have a compulsive need to share their thoughts, experiences, research, and knowledge with others. That’s why they started writing in the first place.

I think true writers are born to be writers. I remember wanting, desperately, to go to school so I could learn how to write. (Child prodigies who learned to read and write at 2 were rare when I was growing up.)

I cannot begin to describe my dismay, disappointment, and impatience when I realized that I would have to wait until first grade to learn how to write because my kindergarten teacher was only going to teach me the letters of the alphabet, numbers, and how to write my name.

The compulsion to write continued and once I did learn how to write, no birthday, Christmas, or holiday was complete for me if I didn’t write a poem or special message in the accompanying greeting card. I simply had to write.

That compulsion grew as I entered middle school and high school. I kept a diary. I wrote poems and short stories. I wrote commentaries about what was happening in the world and I dreamed about someday writing my own column for a newspaper or magazine (all of which  I’ve done).

Most of all, I dreamed about writing something meaningful. I wanted to make a difference and I believed that writing was the way to do that. I still do.

Character Is the Stuff that Stories Are Made Of

Most of the people who know me are unaware that I am a writer. Oh, sure, my business associates and my clients know I am a writer. However, most of my neighbors and several of my acquaintances have no idea that I write for a living. Why?

I stopped telling people that I’m a writer several years ago because I got tired of hearing 18-year-olds say they wanted to write their autobiography because they’d “had such an interesting life.”

“At 18?” I want to ask, scoffing derisively. Since I’m polite, I don’t usually scoff, derisively or otherwise. However, I do find myself immediately growing impatient with young people who think the world wants to hear their story just because it fascinates them. Certainly some young people have lived lives that others may want to read about, however, that number is miniscule.

Do I sound jaded? I hope not, however, I fear I may. And, yet, each time someone says something to me about how fascinating or interesting their own life has been, I find myself recalling a conversation I had years ago with one of my university professors, a celebrated artist in her native country.

She said that in her twenties she’d met and had become friends with the famous painter and sculptor, Pablo Picasso. A few years after they’d met, she asked Picasso if he would paint her. Picasso refused with a gentle, yet meaningful explanation. He told her to ask him again in 10 years when she was in her mid-thirties because then her face “would have character.”

When 18-year-olds tell me their life story is book material. I want to tell them to wait until they’re 50 or 60 or older to write their autobiography — when their life has more character.

Steve Jobs died this month on October 5th. He was 56. Now Steve was a man whose life had character. He and Steve Wozniak had a dream about putting a computer on every desktop worldwide. And with just that dream, they built an empire. Apple computers, iPads, and iPhones are just about everywhere. Jobs and Wozniak changed the way people worldwide do business.

Jobs, in fact, went on to build several empires. He will, perhaps, be remembered as one of the most amazing innovators of our time. Think different is an Apple mantra.

The Macintosh computer changed the world and the lives of many millions of people when it was introduced in January 1984. And Steve went on to become a living legend.

When we speak about a life that has character, Walter Isaacson’s biography of
Steve Jobs is one that is well worth reading, especially for those 18-year-olds, so they know to aim for the stars.

Character is the stuff that stories are made of. Develop that and you have a story worth writing—and reading.

Rest in peace, Steve, and thank you for changing the world for the better.

A Cure for Writer’s Block—Part 3

Failure will never overtake you
as long as your determination to succeed
is strong enough.

Those words were penned by my favorite motivational writer, Og Mandino, in his classic book, The Greatest Salesman in the World.

I first read them when I was 12 years old. I’ve carried that book with me ever since, reading it in good times and in times of distress. It’s always served me because if anyone needs determination, it’s writers.

The standard words of encouragement that many new writers often hear from their more experienced counterparts is that they have to be ready to paper their walls with rejection slips (and not let the rejections defeat them) before they can begin to succeed.

I don’t believe the situation is quite so dire. Although writers must have strong egos, so they can deal with rejection easily and move on because writing is subjective. You can write an article, give it to 10 different people, and get 10 different responses from good to negative.

The Greatest Salesman in the World is the story of the persistence and determination of Hafid, a young camel boy, who dreams of becoming the greatest salesman in the world. When the caravan leader learns of Hafid’s ambition and recognizes his potential, he gives Hafid the gift of 10 scrolls of wisdom, each of which comprise a chapter in the book. Hafid carefully studies the scrolls and eventually achieves the greatness and wealth he desires.

Whenever I find myself wondering how I can possibly write because the words don’t seem to be flowing easily or how I can possibly achieve a goal I’ve set for myself, I remind myself of Og Mandino’s words: “Failure will never overtake me as long as my determination to succeed is strong enough.” Then I sit down and start writing.

If you’re looking for a way to strengthen your determination and persistence in building your writing career, I encourage you to check out The Greatest Salesman in the World. It’s one of my favorite pick-me-up and kick-me-into-gear books.

As an inspirational side note—this book was not only Og Mandino’s first book. It was the book that catapulted him to fame and inspired him to write 18 other books. His books have been translated into 25 languages and have sold more than 50 million copies. Although it takes most writers a while to achieve a modicum of success, I hope this book, if you choose to read it, and Og Mandino’s success, inspire you.

What inspires you to persist in writing? Please tell us in the comments.

(Note: If you do not see the comments section, click on the title of this post, then scroll to the bottom.)

Good or Bad, Writing Is Subjective

In my last post, I wrote, “…the opinion that something written is good or bad is subjective” and I promised to explain what I meant by that statement, so here it is.

Many writers give up at the first sign of rejection. They let their emotions take over, yet this is the time when you, as a writer, need to let your business head remain in control and start looking for some answers that may help you avoid rejection in the future.

While I’ll admit that some editors help fuel the sense of rejection by merely sending a form rejection letter, writers add fuel to those rejections by supposing that it means their article isn’t any good.

If an editor writes a rejection letter, your first clue about why the article was rejected may be there. If you’re really lucky, the editor may mention why she rejected the article. Or she may suggest a different slant. A suggestion like this may be an invitation to rewrite the article and resubmit it. So start looking for clues in each rejection. They may lead to future writing assignments with that editor.

Dip Your Pen into the Inkwell and tell us what you learned from a rejection letter you received.

The Writers Inkwell Muse