Wednesday, November 26, 2008

When At First You Don't Succeed...

As I touched on in my last post, the worst part of being a novice freelancer is that you often feel as if you’re working in vain. Queries get rejected or ignored by editors. Articles written on spec get turned down. Some kick-ass idea you labored over and researched suddenly turns up in your targeted magazine just as you were about to hit send.

But just today I got a little reminder that a writer’s work is never necessarily a waste of time. Last May, I pitched an idea to a small niche national magazine and was duly rejected. Apparently, the rejection had nothing to with my proposed topic – the editor said that she was so backlogged, she was not accepting any new writers at the time. I was disappointed, of course. It was always sucks to get dinged no matter the reason. Plus, I had spent a substantial amount of time researching the subject while on vacation in the U.S., squeezing library time in between breastfeeding the baby and visiting family and friends that I hardly ever see. And because the idea was for a niche magazine I had no clue who else I could pitch it to.

About a month ago, however, I read that the editor of this magazine had changed. I decided to resend my pitch – who knows? Maybe this editor would have things more under control. I hit send and waited. And waited and waited and waited. Nothing. Yesterday, I decided to send a follow-up email before dropping the idea forever. This time, I got an instant response from the editor saying he liked my idea and could I have the proposed article ready by mid-January?

Um, hells yeah.

How cool is that? Good thing I kept an eye on this magazine and followed-up on my query! Two valuable lessons, I think, on how to make sure your work isn’t in vain.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Am I really a writer?

Since I've restarted my career, I'm astonished at how little time I spend actually writing. I have about 12 hours of "writing" time a week, but I spend probably a good 7-8 hours simply researching. Researching topics to write about, researching publications to write for, researching the best experts for a story, or researching the most interesting angle on a subject. And when I'm not researching, I'm not writing articles or essays, but query letters!

Can this be good? Am I doing this write? (sorry) Perhaps it would be smarter to adhere to a more rigid writing schedule? Say, 40% research, 40% query letter, 20% writing. If there are any freelancers reading, I would love to hear about the percentage of time you spend researching vs. the time the spend you spend writing, and whether and why you're satisfied with that.

I have to admit, a great part of me is rankled by the small amount of writing I do, not just because I love to write and want to do it, but because I have so little to show for all the work I do. For example, last week my great accomplishment was to finish a kick-ass pitch letter for a national pregnancy magzine. I was quite pleased with myself because it contained a great quote from an expert, three quotes from "real life" women, and promised quotes and advice from four other experts whom I had already contacted and requested interviews. (I signed up with - a fantastic resource for finding experts!) I even had the query vetted by the very excellent Renegade Writer Linda Formichelli through her phone mentoring program. But now, almost a week has passed without hearing anything from the pregnancy magazine (normal, I know) and with every day that slips by, I feel more and more like I didn't actually accomplish anything at all last week. Sigh.

Anyway, onward and upward. I'm off to the U.S. for the next month, so my biggest challenge will be continuing to "write" while away.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Not Usually So Punny

Really, I'm not. But I couldn't help it. "I'm Doing it Write Now" summed up everything I wanted to say about my writing career at this point. And "Not Usually So Punny"...well, goofy as it is, it makes me smile.

So, with the assurance that I'm now done with the puns, let me introduce myself.

My name is Lola. Or Cleopatra Jones. Or Imani, depending on where you know me from. For the past three years, I have dabbled in freelancing, which is to say, I've been a lousy freelancer. I just wanted to write, you see. Just write about anything that caught my fancy or crossed my mind. And hey - I was doing what I loved, so the money would come, right? Right?

Um, no. At least not in any appreciable amounts. It's taken me awhile, but I've finally wised up to the fact that freelancing is a business, and must be treated as such. It sucks that one can't just focus one's art without thinking of the business side, but unless you're independently wealthy, summoning your inner Mary Kay Ash is essential.

So, here I go, taking a deep breath and restarting my freelance career. But I'm doing it right this time, starting