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Nonfiction
Neither A Wisher Nor A Flinger Be
By Linda J. Hucthinson
March, 2006, 12:04

Work hard, and smart, at constructing a successful, paying writing career.
T
here are only three kinds of non-fiction writers.

There are those who spend their time wishing to be published, those who make attempts to be published but rarely if ever are, and those who’s byline is everywhere. 
 
Wishers: You can write and wish until the end of time, but if you don’t put forth the effort it takes to be published, it won’t happen. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Be honest and accept that you don’t wish to be published. Continue to write about what fills you with contentment. Writing is good for the soul.
 
Flingers: Most working writers get an idea for an article and write it as quickly as they can. So far, good plan. But things go awry when they see a magazine on the stand and jot down the web address, hit its submissions page and fire it off. They write article after article and fling them out in a reckless mass. They run it through spell-check. They do their research. The check should be in the mail shortly, right? Not.
 
The Published: They write, they get published. And they get paid, because they consistently study markets, devour newsletters, read calls for submissions. Then they target their submissions. They write a professional query letter, and send it. Then they write their best article and submit it — in the correct format, properly proofed and shined up like a little red Corvette.
 
These are writers who’re committed to writing. They own a good computer, get Writer’s Market, have business cards and a website. They read IN.
 
Do as they do and treat your writing as a business. Make a business plan. Write down your goals and review them often to be sure you’re meeting them. If not, revise either the goals or the action necessary to meet them. 
 
To be published consistently, use this checklist:

  1. Scour every newsletter available that pertains to writing. Make a master file in your word processing software of all the submission guidelines you can get your hands on. (Check out http://www.writerswrite.com/guidelines)

  2. Write a professional query letter. Proofread it a dozen times and then have the best speller and grammarian you know proof it again.

  3. Target queries. Don’t fling work willy-nilly into cyberspace hoping it will land in the right place at the right time and stick. 

  4. When you get the go-ahead from a publisher, write the article. Follow the submission guidelines exactly. Don’t go one word over the maximum length requirements. Edit and polish your prose. Format it to follow the style and tone the editor desires.

  5. Honor the deadline! 

  6. Submit copy exactly as specified by the publisher. If they don't want email, don't. It will be deleted without being read. 

  7. The guidelines will specify when payment is to be expected. Respect that. Editors are busy people. 

  8. While you’re waiting for your article to be published, query 10 or 20 or more publications about your ideas for articles. 

  9. Track your submissions. This can be done simply in an Excel spreadsheet, or on a ledger pad, or in any manner that works for you. The purpose is to allow you to follow-up on submission requests, honor deadlines, and to make sure you get paid.

  10. Repeat. Again. And again. 

Don’t let fear get in the way. The worst anyone can say is “No,” and that only stings for a short time. It may even spur you on to more powerful, polished work. The biggest hurdle for most of us is the doing.

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Linda J. Hutchinson is a freelance writer and copywriter living in central Ohio. She has written for magazines, newspapers, websites and e-zines. As at home on a construction site as in an art gallery, she’s been told she “cleans up real good.” Her first novel is in process.  http://www.lindajhutchinson.com Email: linda@lindajhutchinson.com


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