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Writing for Magazines --Part 6

By June Campbell

Part 6: Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Once you have reached an agreement to write an article for a particular magazine, your actions from that point forward determine whether you are likely to be considered for future writing projects. To sum up, editors look for two things when they decide whether to work with a writer. They look for somebody who has the writing skills to do the job and they look for somebody who won't be a pain in the butt to deal with.

Here are some tips for making a good impression:

1. Meet the deadline. Submit your article on time. No excuses. Magazines have a tight editorial schedule to follow. Their content must be delivered on time or they face serious challenges getting the publication out on schedule. This in turn affects their relationship with advertisers, their printer, suppliers, etc.

2. Submit your writing free of spelling and grammatical errors. When your article is finished, be sure to run a spell check. Then, set the writing aside for several days. Read it with fresh eyes and you will be surprised at the things you want to change. If possible, have a third party read the article before you submit it.

3. Deal with unanticipated changes directly. If something changes while you are writing your story, let the editor know and discuss how you might change the article's slant. For example, suppose you pitched an article profiling a revolutionary new one-of-a-kind product/service -- but before the deadline, another, similar product was launched. At this point, you let the editor know of this happening and suggest another slant for your article.

4. Observe the word count. As I mentioned in an earlier article, word counts are cast in stone when writing for print publications. Do you think you cannot tell your story in the allotted words? Yes, you can. Shorten it, tighten it, eliminate some of the extraneous details and get it down to the correct size. If you believe you cannot do this, consider newspaper headlines. The headline tells the whole story in a few words. Even without reading the article, you know the gist of what happened.

Once upon a time another writer contacted me and pitched an article idea for my online ezine. I agreed and gave him a word count. Nobody reads huge long articles in ezines, so most publishers keep the articles short to better hold reader interest. When this writer submitted his article, it was almost twice the word count we had agreed upon. I emailed him asking him to shorten it as agreed. This man refused, debating hotly that the article could not possibly be shortened and that he had shown it to "two professional editors" who agreed with him. Guess whose article never got published? Oh, and incidentally, I took one look at it and immediately saw how to shorten it without significant loss of storyline.

5. This leads us to another rule of thumb for getting along with editors. Don't try "B.S.ing" to get your own way. Editors weren't born yesterday. I know full well that no "professional editors" ever assessed the article discussed in point four. Your brother-in-law does not count as a professional editor (unless he actually is one!)

6. Realize that the editorial staff can and will change or modify your writing before they publish it. That is what "editing" means. Sometimes you can see an obvious reason for the editing. Sometimes you can't. Sometimes it's purely a matter of personal preference. Either way, it is their right. Personally, I am not married to my words. So long as the editors don't change my content to the point of making factual errors, they can do whatever they want with it.

Remember, editors are human. Given a choice, they prefer to deal with co-operative people who aren't difficult to manage. If you're the only living human who can provide an authenticated story about being captured by space aliens, then go ahead. Be as difficult as you want. You'll get away with it. Otherwise, consider the competition!

Now for the next step on your way to writing for magazines. ... Observing the Word Count

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