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Taking the Me Out of (Me)diocre Writing
by Jennifer Brown Banks

Back in the day when I began my career as a “professional writer,” gas was $1.12 per gallon, a first-class postage stamp was 25 cents, and Michael Jordan and the Bulls defeated the L.A. Lakers to win the N.B.A. Championship.

And back then actually knowing someone who was a “paid” professional writer was as rare as steak. 'Dem days are gone. Enter 2010.

The Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate and the writing industry in general. With the mere click of a mouse, we can connect with editors from Texas to Timbuktu. In a nano-second... Add to this rampant unemployment, an unsettling economy, blogging, and the ease of entry. Given these dynamics, writing has become as competitive as professional sports! It seems that everybody including the butcher, the baker, and the candle-stick maker is doing it. Which leaves editors overworked with less time to “nurture talent” and do their “manuscript magic”.

What does this mean for today's writer? You've got to stand out to stay in the game, and stay in the black!

Here are seven ways to up your game and your bottom line:

  1. Remember that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Write tight. Write well. Opt for active over passive voice. And get to your point quickly.

  2. Know which rules to break and which to embrace. Forget what your English teacher told you about not starting a sentence with “and” or “but.” But make sure to do so sparingly.

  3. Let go your ego! Recognize that knowing your creative weaknesses can help to actually make you a stronger writer. For example, though I have a great deal of admiration for scribes who can pen pieces for the children's market, it's not my strength, nor my passion. I also struggle with fictional work. So instead of being in denial, or being frustrated, I devote my time and energy to projects that are more likely to make me profitable and prolific. And you should too.

  4. Never stop learning. Whether you've published five pieces or 500, never feel that you can't get better. To hone your craft and increase your cash, www.coffeehouseforwriters.com provides online classes for writers of all levels and genres. Classes are also offered at www.writingclasses.com.

  5. Learn from the best; there's a reason that they're so successful. Study the major players in your chosen genre. What's their approach to writing? Their style? Their draw? Assess and apply.

  6. Give editors more bang for their buck! This can include submitting photos to accompany your story, or side bars, or a list of websites and additional resources.

  7. Identify the obstacles that prevent you from achieving your best---be it fear, poor time management, or doubt, and resolve to overcome them. Keep a journal to chronicle your creative highs and lows and the related circumstances for clues.

Follow these seven savvy tips to distinguish yourself, and success is sure to follow you in 2010 and beyond!

© Copyright 2010, 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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