My two favorite writing books are On Writing, by Stephen King, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. While they share certain elements – mainly, that they both contain excellent advice on writing, but also wonderful insight to life in general, and the writing life in particular. Inspirational, beautifully written, and in moments profound, it’s hard to believe that these two little gems were penned by such disparate authors – The King of Horror and the quirky queen of spiritual writing who touches heartstrings in unexpected ways.
Want to be a successful writer, no matter what your goals are? Follow the example of these two.
Understand who you are. Use that understanding to your best advantage. Be creative!
When I first considered branching out into freelance writing, I was attracted to the idea that you could write almost anything – yet, often the difference between one story and another was as simple as voice, or details. Find your voice – it’s as important in article writing as it is in novels. And your voice can be the ‘it’ factor in whether or not a story sells. Sometimes your voice is reflected in the way you tell a story – even a non-fiction one – or the choices you make in what you highlight.
Think about the way Anne Lamott and Stephen King tell stories. Think about the stories they choose to tell.
Each of these writers has made an enormous impact on the literary world, because they wrote to their strengths and their interests. And they took risks (that’s part of the creativity piece).
In magazine articles, any topic can have a thousand different slants, messages and take-aways. A piece you write on “Taking Control of Your Money” will be very different for Ladies Home Journal than for Forbes. It would also have a very different message if the author’s husband died suddenly and she realized she’d never paid attention to their finances — and she had to sell the house she’d lived in for thirty years because he was in debt up to his ears and she didn’t know it.
So, you consider audience (magazine) and you consider the story you can tell with the greatest impact, given your experience and your interests. (Maybe the above nightmare scenario happened to a friend or an aunt – you still know the horror, and you’re probably able to write that story, with a healthy dose of zeal: “Come on ladies! Protect yourselves!”)
Everyone has a story to tell, and the way you tell the story will be distinctly different from the way anyone else will. What makes your angle distinct? What can you do to flesh out a story that makes it fresh or unique? Figure out the answers to those questions, and you’ll be on your way to a successful freelance career in no time.
(Common Sense Advisory: Before you ever send off a query to any magazine, make sure you’ve read at least a year’s worth of recent back issues. It’s the best way to ensure the tone of the article you’re pitching actually matches what the magazine is looking for. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read that advice from editors, and how many times they add, often in the next sentence, how clear it is that so many people don’t follow it.)[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://howtowriteshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/bobbiColumn.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Bobbi Dumas loves good writing. Of all kinds. She also loves romance, a mesmerizing story and the company of friends. When she’s not in the virtual world or one of her own making, she can usually be found in Madison, WI with her husband, two boys, and a clan of great writers she feels grateful and honored to know (some of whom you get to meet here, too). Lucky you! [/author_info] [/author]