Monday, February 4, 2013

Writing About Writing

When I was a stay at home mom 27 years ago (wow – has it been that long?) I attempted to write and sell magazine articles.  I say “attempted” because I got far more rejection slips than I got sales, but I did sell a few articles and had a few more published without compensation.  In fact, my most prized acceptance was Network Magazine, a local publication focusing on women’s issues.  I still have the note from the editor telling me, “You write well.” That was all the compensation I needed.

Back then I bought, studied, and took to heart Shirley Biaggi’s book, How to Write and Sell Magazine Articles.  Just for fun, I re-read it.

The book was published in 1981.  Much has changed in the art of writing since then.  The Internet wasn't mainstream; we did research by going to the library and rummaging through the card catalogs.  Laptops weren't invented yet; we took notes on 3 X 5 cards with careful headings so they could be easily indexed.  Digital photography wasn't invented; we took photos with our 35mm cameras and had them developed.  Word processing was in its infancy; and while many writers had word processing programs (anybody remember WordStar?), many magazines explicitly stated in their writers guidelines that they would not accept manuscripts printed on a dot-matrix printer.

So we broke out the typewriters, typed our manuscripts in double-space with one-inch margins, and sent them, with photographs and the required self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to the magazines we wanted to consider our articles.  Of course, we wanted to focus on primary markets, which paid more than $400 per article. 

Much has stayed the same in the art of writing since then.  Then, as now, content is key.  Writing style and organization are important, but if the article isn't interesting, all the polish in the world won’t make people want to read it.  

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