Beginning writers know that they’ll get bylines without bucks from time to time, free copies of magazines in which their works appear, and a few dollars here and there. No pay and low pay are typical during the apprenticeship phase of writing.
Following the advice of paid writers representing nearly 200 years’ experience can advance your career and compensation to the next phase.
Q: What separates paid, published writers from wanna-bes?
A: Discipline, persistence, hard work and the ability to “get back up on the horse” were common responses from the interviewed writers. Francesca Kelly, Tales from a Small Planet editor (www.talesmag.com), says, “You don’t have to have brilliant talent to be published, but you DO have to have incredible persistence.”
Lucy Clark, prolific medical romance writer for Harlequin Mills & Boon (http://www.eharlequin.com.au), is the personification of persistence. “I received the contract for my first book the same day I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. Life happens! It’s hectic. It’s busy, but if we don’t make time for the things that are important to us, we might have regrets later on. I now have two adorable children who commandeer most of my time. I don’t have time for writers’ block. I don’t have time to waste. My stories have to be planned, the research done, so when I sit down, I can build up word count. There’s no such thing as writer’s block – just lack of planning.”
Q.What rumor about the business of writing turned out to be false?
A. Arlene Uslander, editor of The Simple Touch of Fate (www.uslander.net) which has one of my stories in it, discovered three falsehoods on the road to publication. “Once you have a book published, it’s easier to have the next book published and that when you send out a manuscript, no news is good news. And that having an agent accept your work means you’re going to get published.” Not true. Not true. Not true.
Karen Rose Smith (www.karenrosesmith.com) is a fulltime author with about 40 books to her credit. She sold her first book in 1991. “I thought after I sold the first few books, life would become easier! That’s not necessarily true. After ten books, I remember being stalled and not selling for about ten months.”
Francesca believed that editors were unapproachable. “They’re usually really nice people who are just overworked.” She should know. She’s an approachable and no doubt overworked editor.
Q. What advice do you wish you’d received (or heeded) sooner?
A. Karen Rose Smith learned to “Write to the market. Study the line you want to write for.”
Studying the magazine she wanted to write for had a lot to do with an editor accepting one of Francesca’s articles. Being published in Redbook was a “sudden breakthrough” for her.
“It’s not enough that you have something to say,” is freelance editor and author Karen Schmitt’s advice. “You have to make yourself understood – connect.”
“Rejection isn’t personal,” counsels Megan Hart, an author whose been paid to write for decades. “They’re not rejecting you, they’re rejecting the work.”
“ ‘To be a successful writer, you must write every day,’ ” recalls editor, Dan Case. “I heard this a lot, but really didn’t believe it. When I read Stephen King’s book, On Writing, and he said ‘write everyday,’ I believed it. (Hey, if the King of all writers says it, it must be true.)”
Q. What would you tell a beginner about writing for pay?
A. Writers’ answers ranged from “Don’t write for pay. Write because you love it,” to “Don’t write for FREE!”
Lynn Wasnak, a freelance writer for 25 years, explains that fulltime freelancers urge beginners not to write for free or too cheaply because it allows editors to lower the going rate. Go to https://www.writersmarket.com/assets/pdf/How_Much_Should_I_Charge.pdf.
As for me, I do the writing because I love it. I donate some works to organizations where I volunteer. Otherwise, I sell my work for dollars.
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.