Sunday, June 6, 2010

Three Random Writing Tips

I'm celebrating my tenth year as a freelance writer, and recently I've been thumbing through old clips, queries and other stuff that stacks up in those file folders over time. This made me think: what have I learned in my years of freelancing that I could pass on to new writers? These completely random tips are simple things that paid for themselves, and I hope they can help you as well.

The SRSASE (Self-Returning, Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope)

This tip was passed on to me when I attended my very first writing conference as a fresh-faced newbie. Although hard copy queries and submissions sent through snail mail are becoming a thing of the past, some markets still insist on the postal method. When you send a SASE, use your own name and address as the return address. If you’ve misjudged the number of stamps required, you’ll still get that response back from an editor, even if it returns with postage due. Under my return address, I’ll add a code (like Re:Grit or Re:SEP for Saturday Evening Post) so I know which publication is answering my query before I open it.

Clip Worksheet

Keep a list of your published clips and update it frequently. Your list should include the title of the clip, the publication it appeared in and publication date. Even better, create an Excel spreadsheet for your clips, add in genre (short story, essay, article, interview, etc.) and publication rating (1 for national, 2 for trade, 3 for regional, 4 for local, etc.) so you can sort your list any way you need. This isn’t just for your own record-keeping; publications and other writing gigs will occasionally request this information, and if you keep it up to date, you won’t waste hours pulling it together at the last minute.

Professional Is As Professional Does

Some publications accept submissions from their readers as well as from freelance writers. With most of these pubs, submitting as a reader pays far less. When you send a query or submission, be professional. Don’t go on about how many years you’ve read the magazine, or how you would love to see your name in print. Research the magazine so you know which editor should receive your query, prepare your letter in standard business format and present yourself as a professional freelancer. Use standard query language (here is a great primer on queries if you don’t know the basics) and mention your previous writing clips if you have them. I can tell you from experience this means the difference between a $50 check and a $400 check. Acting in a professional manner always pays off in freelance writing.

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