How To Write A
|Let's face it; without some great
credentials, editors and readers aren't likely to care what
earth-shaking opinions you put on paper, no matter how well written
they are. How do you get around that, and get published
Back when a dollar would buy significantly more than a gallon of gas, and before starting my own (profitable) web site, I made many thousands of dollars interviewing business executives. Let me add that I had just almost come out of eight years of being broke and homeless at the time I started, I had no fancy clothes, I needed dental work badly, and had many other handicaps, BUT, I survived -- and I thrived -- doing exactly what I show you here.
If I could do it,
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Search Me! Vital Information from ten thousand sources, just type in your query and let it rip!
Do your groundwork first.
First off, there is a Catch-22 here. You can't be a writer until you have been published, and you can't be published until you have written. I've found that it is far easier to write for the big magazines than it is to write for the little newspapers. Your little rags have more to lose, so that is only natural. I skipped the newspapers altogether and went right to work for Simon and Schuster, and my writing was nowhere near good when I started, but it had editors to uncurl my spirals of prose.
Step one: Determine who you want to write for, and what you want to write about. Writer's Market is a great resource for this, except it will dampen your spirits to find out how little you will be working for. Find out if they want pictures, and define how long the article will need to be.
Step two: Now you are ready to find who you will interview. Especially in the Sunday edition of your statewide paper you will find listed the latest leaps forward on the corporate ladders. Buddy J. Simpson is the new vice president in charge of fresh prunes at SillyMart on Markham. Mr. Simpson is still beaming radiant glory at seeing his fair name in print. Throwing him another chance to glow in the limelight will have his heart thudding with joy.
But you are not ready for this yet. The first thing you want to do is send Mr. Simpson a note of congratulations and sign it with something like this: Lin Stone, freelance writer and photographer (if you are)." Add a p.s. Please let me know if your company ever has news that would interest a national audience. -- Be sure your phone number is on the correspondence.
Now, go back to your Sunday paper and find out the big happenings at the company behind Mr. Simpson. Using this information, write a query to the magazine you picked out to write for. End your query: Are there any specific questions you would like to have answered by this company?
Next, go to the library and ask for their help in learning more about the company. Staff will turn up many more avenues of research than you ever dreamed of. I have found that I can write half my articles in this fashion. It also melts a ton of ice at your interview if you can act knowledgeable about the company. (Wow. This guy is really on the ball!)
Take a list of questions with you into the interview, but be prepared to throw them away if the interviewee is champing at the bit to tell you something really new and interesting.
Do you let the interviewee read the article before you send it in for publication? Major writers disagree with me on this subject but I'll throw my opinion in anyway.. I ALWAYS let them read it first.
A lot of fine tuning can go on that vastly improves the article, and anything you misunderstood can be clarified. I still shudder in thinking about the time when I brought an article in and the interviewee said.. "Yes, I am the president of the company, but I am not the CEO."
But, even worse was the time I came in and the interviewee was not allowed to see me, and I was directed into seeing the CEO instead. "Mr. X has exaggerated many elements in his interview with you, stolen credit from other people, and lied to you about several other things. How much would it cost us to have this article dropped?" Oh boy.. my name would have been dirtier than mud if that article had gone in before I got it approved!
So, you can listen to those other people and take your chances, or listen to me and be a lot safer even though you might lose an occasional project.
Okay, because of my health I have been laid up for months at a time on numerous occasions. You can't stop the bills from coming in at times like this, so -- How do you go on writing when you can't get out of bed?
Actually, it is easy.
Remember me telling you about the Sunday edition paper? Well, nationally there are hundreds of thousands of companies that WANT you to write about them. They circulate something called publicity releases that beg for your (writer's) attention.
The worst part of using publicity releases is that some of them are written too well and most of them are thrown together backwards and are therefore useless.
Nonetheless, publicity releases are a great place to start. I usually prefer to use the ones written backwards. You can spot these because they start off on the wrong foot. "Sybil's Party POOPERS HAS LEARNED HOW IT CAN RUIN YOUR PARTY TOO." They mention the company first and usually never get around to mentioning anything the reading public cares about.
My theory is that you may be the only one that ever comes knocking for a story, and they will embrace you when you get there. "Come in, Come in. Did you want to interview the CEO, or will a vice president do?"
The first thing I want to learn from a Publicity Release is the url of the company web site. Then, ignoring the present pr being offered, I go explore the company web site. I'm looking for what they are doing, how well they are doing it, and for free articles.
I am not going to use the articles as they are. I only use parts of them and only as springboards to MY writing. In the next table I have an article by Mr. Simpson acquired just minutes ago from his web site. Study it for a few moments and we'll go on from there. Note the REPRINT PERMISSION granted at the end of the article.
Characteristics of Top Sales Executives