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5 Ways to Break the Rules and Break the Bank
by Jennifer Brown Banks
Most scribes I know adhere to the “cardinal rules” of writing
more strictly than the 10 Commandments! Because experts and how-to gurus
often give the impression that it’s the only path to publication.
However, it’s not long before these wordsmiths discover that there
are many roadblocks when venturing down the “traditional path.”
Perfectly crafted queries get them nowhere, and wild goose chases often
leave them frustrated and questioning whether or not they have the talent
to make it in this business.
Perhaps it’s even you. Take it from someone who knows—there’s
a better way.
When I became a freelance writer 15 years ago, there were many obstacles
facing me. At the time, I had never taken a class in writing, I had no
college degree, no contacts or connections, and I hadn’t discovered
my passion until much later in life!
What I did have was a business background and the realization that I
had to be strategic in order to overcome what I viewed as potential setbacks.
To compensate for lost time and less experience, I learned to be more
creatively clever than the next person. And it worked big time!
What I figured out along the way, is that sometimes “rules were
meant to be broken” Here are a few that can increase your productivity
and enhance your bottom line!
1. DON’T QUERY, BE HAPPY! Would you believe that I’ve sold
about 400 articles, commentary pieces, short stories, and poems without
ever once having written a query? Not one. Nada. The trick here is to
request writers’ guidelines, produce your best work, research the
publication’s archives, be unique, and know intimately the audience
of the publications for which you target.
2. DON’T BE AFRAID TO “PUSH THE ENVELOPE” A LITTLE!
Last year, an anthology publisher posted guidelines on an online bulletin
board for an upcoming book that really bowled me over. I feverishly went
to work, and submitted what I thought was a fantastic piece. There was
just one problem. No matter how much weeding and revising I did, I couldn’t
stay within their specified word count. For me, to dissect my story any
more would take away some of the true essence of my work. My solution?
I wrote a nice little cover letter to the editor explaining my dilemma.
Guess what? The piece was purchased and was ultimately selected from out
of more than 600 entries around the country.
3. KNOW THAT “NO” DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN NO. As an avid
reader, I sometimes enjoy writing book reviews. A local magazine that
previously did not accept book reviews bought mine. The reason? It was
well written, featured multiple titles, fit the slant of the magazine,
and I had previously established a good working relationship with the
Sometimes you never know until you try! But don’t be pushy or disrespectful.
There is a difference.
4. WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW, BUT ALSO WRITE WHAT YOU’D LIKE TO DISCOVER.
Never limit your creativity to things that you have prior knowledge of.
You’ll miss out on some great fun and the opportunity to expand
your knowledge base.
5. WRITE EVERYDAY? I wouldn’t dare dream of it! Truth is, sometimes
my muse acts as rebellious as a teenager. The more I force, the more she
holds out. Still, I do something each day to support my writing career.
When I’m not crafting a piece, I read or research markets, or turn
on the boob tube to be inspired. You should too!
Rules were indeed meant to be broken. And my long, successful career
as a columnist, features writer, instructor, award-winning poet, and author
is positive proof that it pays!
© Copyright 2006, Jennifer Brown Banks
Jennifer Brown Banks is the former senior editor of Mahogany Magazine. She holds a B.A. in Business Management and blogs at Penandprosper.blogspot.com
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