Gesture judiciously: Describing gestures adds life to personality profiles and fictional characterizations, but gestures don’t necessarily impart universal meanings. Thrusting fingers upward in a V signifies an insult, victory, two or peace, depending on where thrusting occurs!
When gestures are important, global freelancers include explanations that flow naturally in context. (“Making a circle with finger and thumb, the captain indicated that the trip was successful.”)
Be worldly: I once read a query promoting an area of India as an ideal tourist destination …never mind that two so-called religious factions were killing each other’s devotees. Worldly freelancers demonstrate global awareness and intercultural sensitivity. Being worldly means not sending pork recipes to a publication with a Muslim audience and not using nicknames (Yank, wetback). Lazy journalists use phrases such as “inscrutable Chinese” and “friendly natives.” Being worldly means banishing dogmas, romanticized images, stereotypes and prejudices. Read articles about cultural customs at http://www.executiveplanet.com.
Write the truth: Hundreds of magazine and newspaper editors speaking about what they look for in articles concurred, “We are unhappy with writers who get their facts wrong.”
Don’t assume that a “fact” in magazines, newspapers, online and on TV is accurate. Inaccuracies get repeated. Calling a monstrous hodgepodge “Frankenstein” is a common mistake. Frankenstein was the monster’s creator’s name. The monster killed his creator, therefore, Frankenstein is a person who is destroyed by his own works.
Re-verify facts with interviewed subjects, check multiple and unbiased sources, proofread final drafts against your original notes, and ask a nitpicking, skeptical, truthful reader to review your manuscript. Check on-line reference resources such as http://www.refdesk.com.
Write the right editor: You live in France. You want to pitch an idea about hand-knit sweaters to Gentleman’s Quarterly. A query addressed generically to “Dear Editor” shouts “Amateur!” So you open GQ and see 28 editors listed. Six handle fashion. One is the “European Editor.” Aim for editor-in-chief, and you risk irritating this VIP who’d delegated some of his editorial load to capable sub-editors, and you risk snubbing the fashion editor and the European editor.
Some individuals of the editorial team might have left after the magazine you have on hand was published, so verifying the appropriate recipient is wise in any case. Contact the magazine and ask to whom to address your query. If you send something to the managing editor and an assistant editor replies, continue communications at that level.
Nancy Flannery, an Australian journalist, author, editor and publisher, told “Southern Write” (www.sawriters.on.net) readers, “Attention to detail, visualizing the needs of the reader as well as conforming to the publication’s house style, integrity of one’s own voice, reasonable observance of spelling, grammar and syntax rules are surely still important. If text doesn’t flow and doesn’t have entertainment or information value, then it won’t be read.”
She ought to know. Nancy received her first check (that’s cheque Down Under) for writing when she was 12 years old.
Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”
When teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War
“Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.