Tuesday 31 March 2015

Eights Steps to Becoming a $100,000 a Year Freelance Writer

"But if you want to consistently make $100,000 a year as a freelance writer, you need to avoid the poverty mentality that holds so many writers back from earning a high income.  A doorman in New York City earns around $30,000 annually.  If an unskilled laborer can make $30,000 just for opening a door, surely you can earn $50,000 to 100,000 for your skills." (Michelle Ruberg)

So, you want to make a living at freelance writing.  Is it possible?  Or will you just be another starving artist trying to make ends meet?  According to Michelle Ruberg, author of the Writer's Digest Handbook of Magazine Articles, it is possible.  You first have to distinguish the act of writing from the business of writing.  Robert Bly decided to become a freelance writer in 1982.  For the first two years, he struggled, but he kept tapping away at his typewriter.  By the third year, he was raking in $100,000 a year and he's never looked back,  Read about his experience in his book Getting Started as a Freelance Writer.

Here are Michelle Ruberg's eight steps to follow to become a lucrative freelance writer:

1.  Get serious about money

As Michelle Ruberg states:  "But if you want to consistently make $100,000 a year as a freelance writer, you need to avoid the poverty mentality that holds so many writers back from earning a high income.  A doorman in New York City earns around $30,000 annually.  If an unskilled laborer can make $30,000 just for opening a door, surely you can earn $50,000 to $100,000 for your skills." 

2.  Set daily revenue goals

Imagine you set a goal of $100,000 per year.  That's $2000 per week or $400 per day (for a 5-day week).  Keep in mind that some days you will be sending out query letters or participating in self-promotion.  However, on average you should be earning $400 per day.

3.  Value your time

Time is money.  Make a timeline.  Figure out how much you will be paid per hour rather than per word or per assignment.  Keeping in mind the $400 per day figure, aim to make $50 per hour.  Remember that you get paid to write, research and interview.  If you can find someone to do the other tasks better and for a cheaper fee, do it.  Time is precious; it's a non-renewable resource.

4.  Be more productive

Rise an hour early to work uninterrupted.  Nancy Flynn, author of The $100,000 Writer (http://www.amazon.com/The-100-Writer-Nancy-Flynn/dp/1580622658), avoids meetings and uses the telephone or e-mail instead.

5.  Nix Writer's Block

Write daily to ensure a constant flow.  If you do encounter writer's block, make sure you have many projects about various subjects on the go.  If you're stuck on a headline, set it aside to work on another article.  If all else fails, go for a walk to clear the cobwebs from your head.

6.  Get Paid More

Don't haggle over nickels and dimes.  Rather than asking for a five cent a word pay raise, target the high paying magazines to start with.  It will be much easier to meet your $400 per day quota if you are paid $2000 per assignment rather than $200 per assignment.

7.  Create a demand

Try to remain busy most of the time.  The way to do this is to specialize.  For example, write about subjects like gardening, waste water management or investment.  Specialize in format by writing only how to articles, children's articles or online venues.  The more in demand you are, the more money you will earn.  If your demand exceeds your supply, you will eventually be able to pick and choose your assignments.

8.  Get repeat business

When you get repeat assignments you become familiar with your client and organization.  A working relationship develops which saves both you and your client time.  Michelle Ruberg recommends three tips towards achieving this goal:  give each job your best effort; provide excellent customer service; and ask the editor for another assignment (ask and you shall receive).

Above all, believe that you can do it!

Monday 30 March 2015

Breaking Into the Magazine Market: Become an Idea Machine

"Once you're known in the industry, publications will use you over and over." (Michelle Ruberg)

You want to break into the magazine market.  Where does your writing fit best?  As I mentioned yesterday, there are 700 to 1000 new magazines launched every year in the United States.  On the other hand, there are a plethora of old magazines which continue to attract tens of thousands of readers.  Here is a breakdown of American periodicals.



Women's Magazines

The six sisters are Family Circle, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, Women's Day and Better Homes & Gardens.  According to Michelle Ruberg, Redbook, launched in 1903, features articles with short, spunky words.  Ruberg recommends pitching a small article of about 350 words to start for this magazine.  Ladies Home Journal, founded in 1883, features a First Person column, a good place for a new writer to debut.  Women's Day, launched in 1931, focuses on finding time for yourself, saving money, parenting and relationships.  Good Housekeeping, founded in 1885, offers articles about home, health and beauty.  Better Homes & Gardens, which debuted in 1922, focuses on decorating, gardening and home improvement.  Study the content, angle and tone of each of these publications.  Which one is the right fit for your article?

Trade Journals

You're in luck.  Trade journals' pay rates rival those of big time magazines.  Check out magazines like Trucking Times, Knitting Digest and AntiqueWeek, to name a few.  Michelle Ruberg makes four points about writing for trade journals:

1.  Select an area of expertise.  Write what you know.

2.  Once you are established, you can be certain of a steady income.

3.  You face less competition, if you zero in on your field of expertise.

4.  Once you've shown you're a pro with the smaller articles, there's a good chance your editor will give you features to write.

Travel Writing

Are you planning a trip in the next six months to a year?  Did you recently go on an amazing vacation and take some beautiful photographs?  Do you have an angle ex. the restaurant scene in Brooklyn, a runner's guide to Chicago, shopping haunts in San Francisco?  Approach a travel magazine and pitch your idea.

Don't forget to research the magazine you have in mind.  What is their word count?  Are you pitching a story about Bali when they only specialize in European vacations?  What are the current hotspots for vacationers?  Track recent trends at the Travel Industry Association of America.

Find your niche.  Do you enjoy writing about family vacations?  Do you love snow sports?  You could write about Vail, Colorado, a hot spot for skiing.  Are you a gourmet cook?  You could write about new chefs.  Put a new spin on an old idea.  One writer wrote about how her fear of roller coasters affected her trip to Disney World.  Another writer visited Yosemite Park and rather than focussing on the famous waterfalls, he wrote instead about the families who visited there at Easter time.  You could write about a destination from the viewpoint of the locals or other tourists.

Be realistic with your expectations.  An editor will likely start you off with a short rather than a lengthy piece.  Also, you will not likely be given an exotic locale, at least not to start.  Read about Brat Packer Andrew McCarthy who changed careers from acting to travel writing at http://www.andrewmccarthy.com/.

History Magazines

"The history market began taking off in the 1960's, with the centennial of the Civil War, and it's been going gang busters ever since," says the editor of the MHQ:  The Quarterly Journal of Military History.  Whether you want to write about a narrow topic like lighthouses for Lighthouse Digest or a broad topic like Americana for American Heritage, there are a wide variety of opportunities for history buffs.  The Smithsonian magazine devotes at least one third of its content to history.

History magazine editors like to see writers with experience in consumer magazines.  However, 30% to 40% of the articles run by The Quarterly Journal of Military History are written by new contributors.  As a history writer, you should research newspapers, documents and even interview old-timers rather than relying solely on books, which are more apt to have errors, according to Michelle Ruberg.

Health Magazines

"Writers who can interpret scientific studies and make them understandable to laymen would be worth their weight in gold, according to Let's Live editor Beth Salmon.  In recent years, Americans, fed up with bad treatment, exorbitant health insurance premiums and bureaucratic tape, have started to take their health into their own hands.  A number of niche oriented magazines have been launched in recent years including Let's Live, devoted to nutrition, Health, devoted to a healthy lifestyle, and Men's Health, devoted to men's issues.  MAMM talks about mammary health and Diabetes Health talks about living with the disease.  Health magazines pay a decent rate for articles, starting at $50 for a short piece in MAMM to $5000 for a feature in Men's Health.

Home & Garden Magazines

Research your article first and write later.  Collect brochures about home decor.  Visuals are everything in this market.  When conducting interviews, ask questions from the consumer's standpoint.  Be aware of trends. Avoid terms like "first", "the best" and "the biggest".  Attend home shows to get ideas for your articles.  Notice the difference between a do it yourself presentation and a coffee table display. Keep your article simple, but informed.

Ethnic Magazines

As the United States is a "hyphenated society", it has a growing appreciation for ethnic culture. Magazines like Upscale (http://upscalemagazine.com/), an African-American publication, accept 90% of their submissions from freelancers.  Vista magazine (http://www.vistamagazine.com/) focusses on Americans of Hispanic origin.  German Life (http://germanlife.com/) talks about German food, life and organizations.  Totally British Magazine focusses on television, entertainment and celebrities.

Michelle Ruberg recommends that you pick a magazine and study at least three of their latest issues. Write an article capturing the voice, flavour and spirit of the magazine you wish to submit to.

Children's Magazines

Do you like to write about science?  Check out Odyssey or Dolphin Leg.  Are you a Christian?  Read Clubhouse or Guideposts for Kids.  Do you like to write about topics boys are interested in?  Read Boy's Life or Boy's Quest.  Do you prefer to write about girls' topics?  Read Girl's Life or American Girl.  Teen magazines include Cicada and Seventeen.

Children's magazines are a good starting point for new writers.  Michelle Ruberg suggests the following steps to break into the children's market.

1.  study the magazines that interest you
2.  study theme lists ex. Cobblestone tends to run history articles like "Inventions of the 1800's"
3.  send non fiction (100% of the magazines publish some non-fiction compared to only 40% fiction)
4.  holiday stories put a fresh spin on an old idea ex. write a Valentine's Day article about the origin of making paper hearts
5.  go beyond science and nature ex. historical events, world culture, the arts
6.  include photographs
7.  submit crafts, jokes and puzzles (Highlights, Hopscotch)

For more information, visit http://boostblogtraffic.com/write-for-magazines/.

Sunday 29 March 2015

Finding a Market for your Articles

According to University of Mississippi journalism professor Samir Husni, 700 to 1000 new magazines are launched every year (visit www.mrmagazine.com).  If you are a beginner writer, it is best to check out the smaller magazines first, with a smaller circulation.  Likely, they do not have a large network of writers to work with and they are limited to a small editorial budget.  They have to take their writers where they can find them.

Michelle Ruberg suggests that you check out the local newsstand for new periodicals.  One writer received an issue of Yankee magazine in the mail.  Tucked inside was an ad for a spin off magazine for Collectibles Illustrated.  He mailed the publisher clippings of his previously published articles and  offered his services; within weeks, he had an assignment.

Ms. Ruberg also suggests seeking out old magazines with new owners.  New editors often have a new approach which might mean a new opportunity for you.  How do you know if ownership has changed?  Look for a new logo or new design for the magazine.  Perhaps the magazine is going through an expansion from six to twelve issues per year.  That also means work for more writers. Maybe the magazine is changing its focus.  A new direction could spell new opportunities. Investigate the smaller magazines which tend to be more open to new writers.  With a smaller budget, they take talent where they can find it.  It's a way to gain experience and build your resume.

"As the baby boom moves into what has traditionally been thought of as senior citizenry, it will represent a once in a millennium opportunity for writers.  Not only are the seventy six million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 the biggest and richest generation in U.S. history, they are also a generation of readers."

Baby boomers grew up reading magazines like Famous Monsters and Tiger Beat; now they read Forbes and Travel Holiday.  They have magazines specifically geared to their age group like AARP The Magazine and More.

How do you as a writer capitalize on this opportunity?  Michelle Ruberg suggests two ideas.  First, make sure you are an expert in one or more areas of interest to baby boomers.  Second, master the tone with which this generation wants to be addressed.  Avoid "seniors", "mature" and "golden". Don't patronize them.  "This generation is in no rush to trade the Rolling Stones for kidney stones," explains Michelle Ruberg.  Remember that your 50's and 60's are some of the best decades of your life.  Third, be aware of cultural references ex. Herman of the Hermits versus Herman Munster; Gidget versus widget.

Here are the hot topics for baby boomers:

1.  health:  nutrition, exercise, prevention

2.  money:  investment, tax tips, estate planning

3.  entertainment/travel:  books, movies, videos, websites
 (over 50-somethings travel more than any other age group)

4.  family:  reunion, sick parent, travel with a grandchild

5.  essays/humour:  reflective stage of life; generation grew up on Soupy Sales, Saturday Night Live

Note:  Visit http://www.writersmarket.com/ for ideas.

Saturday 28 March 2015

Ten Tips on How To Grab the Reader's Attention

Michelle Ruberg says that when you write an article, try to grab the reader's attention.  While you want your article to have a level of respectability, take a page from the tabloids, who are so good at grabbing the reader's attention, they sell three million copies a week.  Here are ten tips to keep in mind:

1.  Never Be Boring

Here is a line from a tabloid:

"Cats may have nine lives -- but dogs go to heaven!  Just ask Stephen Huneck who spent $200,000 building a church for dogs."

The reader immediately wonders how a dog would need a church, and for $200,000, no less.

2.  Find the "Hey Martha" quality

When you read an opening like the one about the dog church, it makes you turn to your wife and say "Hey Martha, get a load of this."  That's the quality you want for you opening.

3.  Use your Best Shot

"Kirk Douglas put a pistol in his mouth determined to kill himself and only an accident of fate prevented him from pulling the trigger."

The questions swirl in the readers head after reading this line.

4.  Make a long story short

Fill your paragraphs with lots of details

"The Queen, seventy five, has been on the throne for fifty years, and married to a grumpy husband for fifty four,  Even palace insiders admit she shows more affection to her beloved pet corgis than to her dysfunctional family.  Personal fortune of $2 billion has not bought her happiness."

5.  Make Effective Transitions

Write tightly and make effective transitions.  When referring to the heroes of 9/11 who rerouted the plane intended for the White House, into a Pennsylvania field, the Star used the transition:

"Glick and the other heroes stormed from their seats into history."

6.  Pace yourself

While your sentences should vary, some long, some short, for the most part your paragraphs should be short.

7.  Keep it Simple

Write to express first and to impress second.  Your writing should be easily understood.

8.  Use Active Verbs

ex. "6.0 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Chile" is more effective than "Chile Struck by 6.0 Magnitude Earthquake".

9.  Have Fun with Puns

Harrison Ford dated a much younger woman and the headline read:  "Raider of the Lost Cradle", referring to his movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark".

10.  Come Full Circle

Return to the lead in your conclusion.  When I wrote a Maranatha News article about the black settlement of Africville on the fringes of Halifax, I introduced it with the following statement:

“Where the asphalt ended and the dirt road began, that is where Africville started”, recounted Gus Wedderburn, after investigating the black community of Africville at Halifax’s north end in the 1950’s.  Mr. Wedderburn, who wondered why Halifax was  largely devoid of 'coloured people...'" 

I finish the article by tying the ending to the beginning:

"While Halifax is no longer devoid of coloured people, Africville is."

For more information, read Writer's Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing (Michelle Ruberg).

Friday 27 March 2015

How to Finish Off Your Article with a Bang

"When you've found your concordant ending, you'll know." (Michelle Ruberg)

How do you finish off your article with a big bang?  Michelle Ruberg, author of Writer's Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing, recommends that you end with a quote.  Do you have a statement that sums up the issue while adding a touch of pathos?

Despite resistance from the city's gaming commission, Dr. Ellen Parker and other ecologists continue to search for a safe home for the endangered birds because they believe each creature plays a vital role in our ecosystem.  'If this creature were to disappear, it would cause an explosion in the insect population and that could have a disastrous effect on local agriculture,' Parker said.  'Then it's not just about the birds.  The problem will affect all of us.'"

In order to pack an emotional punch, respond briefly to the end quote, ideally including the reader in the story.

Another way to end your article is to bring it full circle:  revisit a word, phrase or idea that you included in the introduction, often in a different or humorous way.  Lauren Mosko in the Louisville Eccentric Observer does this effectively.

The Rudyard Kipling.  It's a restaurant, it's a bar, it's a playhouse, it's a musical venue...it's a garage. You're out of luck if you're looking for an oil change, but if it's garage rock you're seeking, you've come to the right place.

Three bands, three chords, one night.  It may sound like a garage, but if you're not there by nine, don't expect to find a decent parking space.

Michelle Ruberg suggests reaching a higher ground by introducing a provocative statement or unexplored question at the end of your piece.  "Plant a seed of curiosity in the reader's mind."

Today, The New Yorker featured Sarah Larson's article "East Village Fire:  Love Saves the Day".  She ended it with this paragraph:

"The East Village has long intermingled love and loss:  signs of bygone eras and heroes are everywhere.  The loss of these buildings;  the places we loved, the relocation of the people who lived and worked there, the memories of what used to be, as of yesterday -- is painful.  Not knowing what happened to Nicholas Figueroa and Moises Locon is unimaginably so."

Speak a common language.  Break one of the rules of writing by including a cliche at the end of your article, part of your reader's collective knowledge bank.  During the Gulf War, there was a national press blackout.  An article about the issue could have ended like this, according to Michelle Ruberg:

And so, for twenty four hours, the country received absolutely no news on the conflict.  Whoever said that's good news couldn't have been a journalist.  Or the parent of a soldier."

The reference, of course, is to the maxim "No news is good news".

Lastly, trust your gut; end your article at a logical place.  You've said what needed to be said; now it's time to end it.  As Michelle Ruberg says:  "When you've found your concordant ending, you'll know."

For more information, read Writer's Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing (Michelle Ruberg) at http://www.amazon.ca/Writers-Handbook-Magazine-Article-Writing/dp/1582973342.

Thursday 26 March 2015

How to Flavour Your Article with Anecdotes

"Anecdotes are like raisins in oatmeal cookies.  Sure, you can eat the cookies without them, but you'll miss out on the added flavour, contrasting texture and enhanced nutrition." 
(Michelle Ruberg in Writer's Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing)

Anecdotes don't just fall out of the sky onto your page like "manna", according to Michelle Ruberg. As a writer, you must search for them during your research and interviews.  While you are recording your names, dates and places, don't forget to include an anecdote or two.

Michelle Ruberg suggests that you draw them out of your subject by asking open-ended questions ex. "Tell me what happened when..." or "Describe what you saw when..."  Ideally, a face to face interview is the most productive.  Much of what we say is non-verbal, conveyed by our gestures and facial expressions; these are thing you can't pick up in a telephone conversation.  Don't forget to look for cultural distinctions and nuances as well.

As part of your research, documents can be a good source for anecdotes.  Eric Freedman, author of Pioneering Michigan, used a letter written by Jefferson Gage Thurber to his New England family to illustrate the panic following the 1832 cholera epidemic in Detroit.

"The panic at the time exceeded anything I ever imagined.  The timidity of our border settlers from sudden incursions of the Indians forms but a faint comparison.  I have no doubt from what little experience and observation I have had that fear has killed as many as the cholera." 

Where does an anecdote go in the article?  According to Michelle Ruberg, anywhere that it fits.  Steve Wilson's Folio magazine profile started with an Evel Knievel anecdote.

"One evening in 1973...Bob Bitchin pulled his chopper up to a stoplight on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.  He made eye contact with a man in a fur coat behind the wheel of a Ferrari.  When the light turned green, they raced.  The driver (who won) turned out to be Evel Knievel, and their late night of partying and entanglement with the law later made it into a Rolling Stone article."

Immediately upon reading this anecdote, your interest is piqued.  It pulls you in and makes you want to keep reading.

You can also put an anecdote at the heart of your piece as William Goldman did in his New York magazine article about wrestler turned film star Andre the Giant.  After being treated to several meals by Andre the Giant, Arnold Schwarznegger invited him out to dinner.

"...late in the meal, he snuck into the kitchen to give his credit card to the maitre d'.  As he was about to do this, he felt himself being lifted up into the air.  'When he had me up in the air, he turned me so I was facing him and he said:  'I pay.'  Then he carried me back to the table and set me down like a little boy.'  Oh yes, Andre was very strong."

The image I have of Andre the Giant lifting up former body builder Arnold Schwarznegger like a little boy is a powerful one.

An article can also end with an anecdote to drive a point home.  Douglas Preston included one in his National Geographic article about Cambodia.  He touched an ancestor stone, then:

"ran my finger through the cool grove of a lotus tree.  Here, broken soldiers from an Angkor temple had been put in the service of an even more ancient religion.  One of our soldiers, a skinny, barefoot teenager with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder, stopped at the shrine,placed his hands together and bowed deeply in an act of veneration.  A gecko called twice, and then the forest fell silent in the stifling noon day heat.  Life went on in this strange, timeless land."

Note the sharp words and vivid imagery Mr. Preston uses, just as you would see in a fiction piece.

Michelle Ruberg reminds you to write tightly when including anecdotes.  "An overly long and wordy anecdote detours readers".  If your word count is 1000, and you include an anecdote of 350 words, that only leaves you 750 words for the rest of your article.  However, if your word count is double that, you might have room for such an anecdote.

Think like a fiction writer.  Use devices like plot, dialogue, characterization, sharp words and description when writing an anecdote.  Remember, your anecdote should bolster your point; it should be more than just "window dressing".  If you have too many to fit in your piece, save the remaining anecdotes for future writing assignments.

Note:  For more information, visit http://resources.writersonlineworkshops.com/resources/using-anecdotes-to-flavor-your-articles/.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

When an Editor Wants a Rewrite

"Editors are frantically busy -- single-working-mother-with-eight-kids busy -- they don't have time to make every piece into exactly what they want it to be.  By delivering a rewrite and otherwise leaving the editor alone, you turn your editor's time poverty to your advantage."  (http://www.helpingwriters.com/newsletter-archives/when-an-editor-wants-a-rewrite)

When an editor requests a rewrite of an article, it's usually a minor rewrite, where the bulk of the piece can be saved.  While it's frustrating to have to rewrite your work, keep in mind that an editor is trying to anticipate the needs of the magazine.  It doesn't necessarily mean that your writing is poor; it might just mean that you and the editor are coming at the piece from a different angle.

Keep in mind what Online Health editor Kathleen Donnelly advises:  "Writers who are intractable and fight with us probably won't get another assignment".  Unless you are Pierre Berton, who flew in the face of editors, you have to have at least some respect for the process.

What steps should you take to rewrite your article?  Michelle Ruberg suggests these steps.  First, re-read your query to see what you promised the editor.  Second, re-read your assignment to see what the editor requested of you.  Third, re-read your article and look for the following.  Did you do one of the following?

-overshoot/undershoot your word count?
-write news that already appears elsewhere in the newspaper or magazine?
-cite too few sources?
-conduct garbage in/garbage out interviews?
-write a piece that is too close to what the competition is publishing?
-come at the article from the wrong angle?
-under/overwrite the piece for the target audience?
-use too many qualifiers, digressions or prepositional phrases?
-use too many quotes regarding a point already made?

What happens if you rewrite the piece and the editor still doesn't like it?  Michelle Ruberg recommends asking the editor to rework one of your paragraphs.  You follow the model for the other paragraphs.  Use the three P's:  patience, persistence and adherence to procedure.  Don't focus just on the structure of the writing.  Brian Smith of Indianapolis Monthly warns:  "Some writers worry so much about getting individual facts straight that they don't hear the flow and what it does to the cadence of the story."

Michelle Ruberg says that any extra calls or extra trips on behalf of the magazine should be compensated.  Request to see the galley of your piece before it goes to print.  That way you're not attaching your name to something that you don't agree with.  Stop at three rewrites.  Enough is enough!

Blogger Scott Edelstein recommends that you don't mindlessly follow the editor's suggestions. Make changes that seem reasonable, but at the same time, do what's best for the piece.  "Editors are frantically busy -- single-working-mother-with-eight-kids busy -- they don't have time to make every piece exactly what they want it to be.  By delivering a rewrite and otherwise leaving the editor alone, you turn your editor's time poverty to your advantage." 

Note:  For more information, read Writer's Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing (Michelle Ruberg).

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Editing Your Article: Get Ready to Roll Up Your Sleeves

"When you have the first draft of your article done, then revision begins.  Get ready to roll up your sleeves, because this is the real work, and often, the real fun." (Michelle Ruberg)

Michelle Ruberg cites the example of Marge Simpson who sets out to write a story.  She writes the first paragraph and then clicks spell check.  That is her first mistake:  writers should separate the writing process from the editing process.  When writing that first draft, "Let it flow; get everything on the page," says Ms. Ruberg.  If you listen to your inner critic at this stage, you will stifle your voice and your creativity.  

With the first draft complete, take a break for a day or two.  Let it digest.  Work on another writing project or putter in the garden.  Come at if from a fresh perspective, with new eyes.  Pretend you are looking at your writing for the first time.  Critically re-read your piece with a fine tooth comb.  It's not a once over, it's a process.  Ms. Ruberg separates the process into four parts:  focus, organization, style and grammar.

1.  Focus

What is the major impression you want to make on the reader?  Summarize your theme in one or two sentences.  If you can't, it must not be strong enough.  As you re-read your article, make sure that everything points towards that central theme.  If not, take it out or rewrite it.

2.  Organization

Does your article flow?  Are your points presented in a logical sequence?  Do you link your points with easy transitions?  Do you repeat the same points or words?  Have you left some paragraphs sparse?  Re-read your piece twice.  Print it out and read it aloud, giving you more of an "outside reader" perspective.

3.  Style

Is your style interesting and easy to read?  Do you use your own voice?  Does it shine through?  Does your lead ex. quote, anecdote hook the reader in?  Do your paragraphs flow?  Have you tied your ending to your beginning?  Have you left the reader satisfied or have you left him or her hanging?  Is your content style and tone reflective of the current market?  Is your word count under the maximum amount?

4.  Grammar

Have you peppered your piece with strong verbs?  According to Ms. Ruberg, "strong verbs equals strong writing".  "To be" is one of the weakest verbs; replace it with a more interesting choice. Change the passive voice to the active voice.  Again, this makes your piece more convincing. Change nouns to verbs, especially those that end in "ing" (gerunds).  Eliminate adverbs and replace them with stronger verbs.  Replace noun/adjective combinations with stronger nouns when possible. Ms. Ruberg says this will strengthen your writing and lower your word count.  Make sure your tense is consistent as well as your point of view.  Use a good grammar reference to check punctuation. Make a checklist of your most common mistakes.  Finally, re-read your article backwards to find errors you missed.  Here is a chance to catch repetitions and overused words.

Happy Editing!

Note:  For more information, read Writer's Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing (Michelle Ruberg).

Snoopy is breaking the first commandment of editing:  "Thou shalt not combine thy writing and thy editing" courtesy http://arnoldzwicky.s3.amazonaws.com/PeanutsEditing.jpg.

Monday 23 March 2015

Ten Tips on How to Write an Effective Event Report

Blogger Samantha Gluck (http://www.freelancewritingdreams.com/secrets-to-writing-about-an-event-like-a-pro-journalist/) recommends that you attend the actual event that you are writing about to get a genuine feel for what happened.  Here are some steps to follow when reporting on an event.

1.  Choose your event ex. historical anniversary, sports game, concert, writer's convention, parade, charity fundraiser, first date, birth of child, act of kindness.

2.  Include the vital statistics on the event such as the number of attendees, the location, the date and time, the theme, the atmosphere.

3.  Describe what preparations have gone into making the event happen?  Observe special details like visuals, sounds, tastes, smells.  What makes this event special?  What conversations do you overhear?

4.  Take photographs of the event.  Take closeups of the MC and/or speaker and a wide shot of the crowd.  Try to capture the action of the event and the reaction of the crowd.  Make sure you take more than you need and you can pick and choose.

5.  Chat with the attendees about the event.  What were their impressions?  What surprised and/or disappointed them about the event?  Talk to any experts who attended.  Jot down quotes from both attendees and experts.  Make sure to get more quotes than needed.

6.  Compile your information three hours (enough time to allow the information to digest) to three days (no longer so you don't forget what happened).

7.  Write your report.  Remember that showing trumps telling.  Avoid cliches and tired phrases like "selling like hotcakes".

8.  Include a main paragraph summarizing the events of the day.

9.  Compare the event to similar events you have attended.  What are the similarities and differences?

10.  Speculate as to how the event will fare in the future.  Make a statement for or against holding the event again.

Note:  For a sample event report, visit http://www.wikihow.com/Write-an-Event-Report.

Crowd reacts to Apollo 11 liftoff on July 16, 1969 (President Johnson & Lady Bird front & centre) courtesy http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/07/05/article-2011459-0CE08BDF00000578-707_634x362.jpg.

Sunday 22 March 2015

Bon Appetit: How to Write Like a Restaurant Critic

How do you write a restaurant review for a newspaper or magazine without sounding like an amateur?  Here are some tips offered by former food critic David Farkas (http://www.cleveland.com/dining/index.ssf/2014/02/how_to_write_like_a_restaurant.html).

1.  Avoid superlatives

Don't use words like best, awesome, incredible when describing each dish.  Instead, compare the dish to one eaten at another restaurant.  It's all about setting the context for the reader.

2.  Assess Food

Don't write down every dish you and your group of friends scarfed down.  Concentrate on a few dishes, the ones that stand out.  Pick the ones that you really enjoyed and the ones that you did not like.  What is the presentation like?  How about the temperature of the food?  How was it cooked ex. to perfection, under-cooked, overcooked?

3.  Observe the Staff

Are the servers having a good time?  Are they dressed professionally?  Are they distracted?  Are they attentive?  Have they set your table neatly and promptly?  Can they answer your questions competently?  Do they know the ingredients of the dishes?  Are the vegetables organic\/  Is the beef grain fed?  How do they respond to your compliments or complaints?

4.  Describe the Ambiance

Describe the restaurant's decor.  Is it comfortable ex. air temperature?  Are the other guests enjoying themselves?  Is the restaurant half empty?

5.  Eat on behalf of the customer

Put yourself in the customer's shoes.  Rather than filling your review with the pronoun "I", use "you" to include the reader.

6.  Write frankly

Did the hostess size you and your date up before she seated you?  Did she give you a lousy table?

7.  Write succinctly

Use vivid description when explaining your dining experience.  Avoid vague language ex. "The Caesar salad was boring" or "The chicken was bad."  Instead, try "The Caesar salad lacked flavour " and "The chicken was dry."

8.  Turn a clever phrase

Avoid cliches ex. "There's atmosphere in spades here."  Use unique words and phrases.  Read critiques of the professionals like Pete Wells of the New York Times, but at the same time make your own personal voice through.

9.  Eat dessert

Dessert can either be a disaster since many customers forego dessert or a thing of beauty.  It may be an experience well worth having.

10.  Remain anonymous

Try not to record your opinions at the table.  Staff will pick up on it right away.  Instead, wait until you get home to start writing your review.

For more information, read Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob.

Saturday 21 March 2015

Bon Voyage: Writing a Travel Article is Part Craft, Part Art

"Writing a travel article is part craft, part art" says travel writer Martin Lee (http://www.transitionsabroad.com/listings/travel/travel_writing/how_to_write_perfect_travel_article.shtml).  Such a piece is classified as a feature, but it uses some of the traditional elements of a news story.  Martin suggests that you include two-thirds to three quarters of colourful description along with one-third to one-quarter facts.  It should answer the following questions early in the story: where, when, who, why, what and how.  At the same time, you want to give the piece a light and lively tone.

Martin Lee recommends that you adopt a clear writing style without affectation.  The reader should get a strong sense of your personality.  Set the scene by detailing the season, climate and topography of your destination.  Share your personal experiences and anecdotes using vivid reporting.  Provide meaty, practical, accurate information.  Include quotes from the locals.  Edit your work for high literary quality:  your grammar and syntax should be correct.

Examine the travel article from a fresh viewpoint.  Move from the familiar to the unfamaliar or foreign as you write.  Incorporate humour in your piece.  Share your mishaps which could serve as potential comic material.  Surprise your reader with unusual activities that you partake in or new people you meet.  Think like a reader.  What are your reader's travel aspirations?  What is on his or her bucket list?

Don't forget the big picture:  focus on a central theme which you introduce at the beginning and remind the reader about again at the end.

Courtney Carpenter (http://www.writersdigest.com/tip-of-the-day/breaking-into-travel-writing-the-5-elements-of-writing-travel-articles) recommends the following tips for a beginner travel writer:

1.  seek out travel publications
2.  no one starts at the top; find your own level and work your way up
3.  start with local newspapers & magazines, regional travel magazines & small publications
4.  don't give your work away for free;  if no fee is forthcoming, ask for a free subscription, free advertising or free print services

For more information, read Travel Writing:  See the World, Sell the Story (Peat O'Neil).

How to write travel article

Friday 20 March 2015

How to Write an Awesome As-Told-To Article

An as-told-to article is written in the first person by a writer about another person.  You may know someone with a great story, but who lacks the know-how to tell it.  Therefore, you can approach them and ask them if they will share their story.  Interview them and then write the account in the first person.  Because the story is told in the first person, it lends it more intimacy, more of an emotional component.

According to Michelle Ruberg in the Writer's Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing, there are three rules to writing an as-told-to article:  first, you must use the first person to get the intended emotional effect.  Don't interject your own thoughts into the article.  You must become the subject when your write the piece.  Second, act as both writer and editor.  Put the subject's account into chronological order and make sure that it all makes sense.  Third, before having the article published, ask the subject show the piece to the subject for final approval.  That way there are no surprises when the story is published with the subject's name underneath it (ex. "by Suzy Subject as told to William Writer").

Where do you find ideas for an as-told-to article?  Michelle Ruberg suggests opening up your local newspaper.  A local resident might be mentioned briefly in a column and you realize there's a story to be fleshed out there.  Contact the person mentioned and ask them if they would be willing to share their story.  Who knows where it will lead?

Who publishes as-told-to articles?  Michelle Ruberg points out that Guideposts for Kids often publishes this type of story.  Women's magazines like to focus on as-told-to articles about woman who have accomplished something or overcome an obstacle.  Prevention magazine has included several as-told-to pieces shared by Amy Purtel's blog at http://www.amypaturel.com/articles/list/category/7/ctitle/As-Told-To/.

Thursday 19 March 2015

How to Write a How-To Article That Gets Attention

How-to articles, or service pieces, provide the reader with instructions on how to accomplish a task. A common faux pas with how to articles, is presenting the steps in the wrong order, according to Michelle Ruberg in the Writer's Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing (http://www.amazon.ca/Writers-Handbook-Magazine-Article-Writing/dp/1582973342).  Use words like when, then, now and next, as you present your instructions.  Write with authority and use the imperative voice ex. "Press the flowers.  Grab the stem."  Summarize your information as the project progresses.

Give the reader a general idea of what the project entails before beginning.  Provide a list of tools and materials that the reader will need for the task.  Use succinct captions underneath photographs. Remember, clarity is of the utmost importance.  Be aware of unstated assumptions on your part.  For instance, one writer was explaining how to press flowers.

"Turn the book sideways and start by placing the flowers in rows, with the stems pointing towards the outside edge.  Gently close the book and place a heavy object on top.  A couple of bricks will do.  It will take up to two weeks for the pressing to be done."

If you followed the writer's advice, you would have to lug bricks to the field and then wait two weeks until the flowers were pressed.  That's where the editing comes in.

Put yourself physically in the picture.  Include appropriate warning when explaining instructions. Define unfamiliar terms and use adjectives and adverbs sparingly.  Sometimes words are not enough: include a diagram or photo when appropriate.

Inject some humour into your article.  One writer who penned a piece for Single Parent Family magazine about the tedious task of clearing your house of clutter, titled her piece "Showdown at the OK Corral", complete with cowboys and tumbleweed.  If you do frame your article around a metaphor, make sure you return to it at the end to tie the piece up nicely.

For more information, visit http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-How-To-Article.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Writing an Inspirational or Self-Help Article

"The key to writing art of living articles is to write an article that will make a difference in someone's life -- to provide the reader with something to hold on to and take away into her own life." 

(Michelle Ruberg, Writer's Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing at http://www.amazon.ca/Writers-Handbook-Magazine-Article-Writing/dp/1582973342)

According to Michelle Ruberg, there are four types of art of living articles:

1.  Inspiration

The inspirational article uses life events to entice readers, to make them feel connected.  Angela Adair Hoy writes inspirational articles in her popular column "News from the Home Office", part of her newsletter Writersweekly.com. One example is her story "How Small is Bangor, Maine?  Well, I'll tell ya..."

2.  Faith 

Twenty-five years ago, the circulation of faith and religious magazines was down.  However, since 9/11 and the war in Iraq, the demand for such magazines has increased.  Michelle Ruberg says that Americans remain predominantly Christian and that 6 out of 10 Americans reports attending church on at least a semi-regular basis.  The journal Commonweal (https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/) publishes articles which draw a link between worldly concerns and religious beliefs.  

3.  Self-help

Self-help articles provide help for those going through a similar experience to the author.  There is power in sharing your story, in showing others they are not alone.  These articles often include sidebars with interviews with experts, statistics, tables and charts.  Ladies Home Jounral (http://www.divinecaroline.com/ladies-home-journalfeatures) self-help stories about beauty/fashion, food/nutrition, home decor, parenting and current events.

4.  Personal Essay

The personal essay ties a personal experience with a universal truth.  Michelle Ruberg warns you not to "wander into the realm of the cliche" when writing the personal essay.  Rather, strike an emotional chord by using descriptive sentences and visual images.  Don't forget to choose a theme which ties the essay together.  You might pick a familiar object, phrase or song to be the centre of the piece and work your ideas around it.  Since it's a self-help topic, Michelle Ruberg suggests the Beatles' song "I Get By with a Little Help from my Friends".  More than 400 American magazines publish personal essays including Guideposts (www.guideposts.org) and The New York Times Magazine (http://www.nytimes.com/pages/magazine/index.html).

Note:  Here is my inspirational article from 2012 that I wrote for the Christian Courier about adoption and infertility called "Battling Infertility:  Three Couples Stories of Hope" at http://www.docstoc.com/docs/140255167/May-14_-2012-Issue-_2936---Christian-Courier.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

How to Break into the Burdgeoning History Market

"History is a strong seller and offers a great way to break into magazine and book writing."
(Sean McLachlan)

American author Sean McLachlan states that local history offers only a small market for writers, but state history "flies off the shelves" (http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/history.shtml).
While military history is of interest to Americans, it depends on the war:  the Civil War and World War II attract the most attention.  Important historical figures are a popular topic; however, if you're going to write about one, find a new angle.  For instance, rather than writing about the explorer Sir John Franklin, write about his ship which was just discovered at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.  

Use primary sources (letters, diaries and documents) as much as possible.  For example, who knew that the city of St. Louis, Missouri was planned by a 14 year old boy?  Sean McLachlan says that such odd facts add "zest to narrative and are remembered long after most of the names and dates have faded from [the reader's] mind".

What topics should you write about?  Choose subjects that you are passionate about, but at the same time are broad enough to be examined from different angles.  For example, Sean McLachlan decided to write about the state of Missouri for Missouri Life magazine.  He started with the state's general history; followed by a collection of tales for young adults; next came a book about outlaws; then he wrote about Civil War guerrillas; he based his next novel in Missouri.  He derived at least five major writing projects out of one subject.

Look for spin-offs for your initial writing project.  How can you make use of your surplus material after you've written an article?  Maybe you can write another article.  Perhaps you have enough material to write a book.  Or how about an article to promote the book?

Make sure you exhaust all potential resources for you article.  Visit your local library or university library.  Request material through inter-library loan.  Visit local historical societies.  Read widely to learn what has already been covered on the subject, what sources are reputable, and who is publishing on the subject.  During his research about Missouri, Sean McLachlan learned that Carolyn Bartels is the Civil War Book Lady.  

Build off your magazine reputation.  Writer Lise Hull wrote a piece about castles for Ninnau , a North American Welsh newspaper.  This article led to the first of many book contracts about the British Isles and castles.  Now publishers are approaching her.

Be aware of controversy surrounding certain subjects ex. Islamic history, labour history.  Make sure you back up your opinion with solid research.  

Note:  For an example of a historical article read Linda Ward's "Africville:  The Lost Town" at http://hrsbstaff.ednet.ns.ca/waymac/African%20Canadian%20Studies/Unit%208.%20Afro-Canada/africville.htm.


Here are five possible websites to peruse if you are considering submitting a query for an article:

1.  Smithsonian Magazine 

The following columns are open to freelancers:  Phenomena & Curiosities (science & nature); Points of Interest (Americana); Presence of Mind (opinion essay).  Features are up to 4000 words.

2.  American Heritage

This magazine promotes American history ex. prominent figures, military, technology, entertainment, culture.  Features are a maximum of 6000 words.

3.  Canada's History (formerly The Beaver)

Recent articles include:  "John McCrae's War", "Freeing the Netherlands", and "Viola Desmond:  An Unlikely Crusader".

4.  Canadian Historical Review

This periodical features stories about:  Native-European contact, society & war, Canadian and Quebec nationalism, class and gender.

5.  BBC History Magazine

Recent articles include:  "9 Things You Might Not Know about Anne Frank", "5 Strange Causes of Death in the Medieval Period", and "6 Myths about Richard III".

6.  British Heritage

Recent articles include:  "C.S. Lewis:  The Lion in Oxford", "Join Pilgrims on the Mayflower Trail", and "King David's Border Abbeys:  The Architecture of these Great Scottish Churches"

Monday 16 March 2015

How to Find a New Angle on an Old Idea

"There are no new stories...every story is a variation on seven different plots." (Rebecca Solnit)

As a feature article writer, it's tough to find a new idea.  Your task is to find a new angle on an old idea.  Blogger Krista recommends five different ways to do just that.

1.  Look for elements of your experience that couldn't possibly be present in someone else's story. Author David Bergen writes about working as a truck driver for Canada Packers in Winnipeg as a young adult.  He used his spare time to write what he thought the stereotyopical writer wrote.  In retrospect, however, he says he should have been writing about the characters he met at Canada Packers.  Often the story is right under your nose (read my post "Underneath the Ordinary Lies the Extraordinary" http://alinefromlinda.blogspot.ca/2015/03/underneath-ordinary-lies-extraordinary.html.

2.  Look for original details to your story.  As Lisa Moore explains, she searches for "original details that she collects during the day from what she calls the 'glimmer of a beginning'".  If you ask a group of people all to write about the contents of their closets, each one will approach it in a different way.

3.  Mine your personal history for the right angle.  Author Annie Dillard (http://dcrit.sva.edu/view/readingroom/seeing/) used to hide pennies for others to find.  She drew the literary analogy:  "Always be on the lookout for small treasures that surround us."  

4.  Once you discover a small detail, look closer for a new angle.  For example, examine a familiar item.  Re-read your diary and compare the past and present you.  Or research an event that you once attended to gather the big picture details.  Immerse yourself in the memory.  

5.  Use an inanimate object as way in to the story.  Describe what it looks like, how it feels, how it smells and how it sounds.  Andrea Badgley andreabadgley.com/ talks about how a rolling pin led her to write about "old kitchens, the musings of grandmothers and favourite family meals".  As blogger Krista says, "use an inanimate object to put a unique spin on a universal story".

For more about finding new angles for old ideas, visit https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_assignment/whats-your-angle/.

Sunday 15 March 2015

Letter to the Editor Published as Feature Article

The first article I ever had published in a newspaper came about by accident.  In July of 1998, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Brantford Expositor about the trials and tribulations of the adoption process.  He was so pleased with its contents, he published it as a feature article.

I wrote the letter in the how to format, comparing the adoption process to an emotional roller coaster. I talked about the pain of infertility, something we had been battling for six years.  I talked about how Rob and I had come to the decision we wanted to adopt a baby.  How we completed a home study conducted by a social worker to prepare for adoption.  How we scrubbed the house clean.  How we spent hours talking over our potential responses to the questions posed by the social worker.  I talked about the difference between a public adoption, a free procedure conducted through Children's Aid, and a private one, a procedure that required a fee, done through a private adoption agency.  I outlined the difference between a domestic adoption, one conducted here in Canada, and an international adoption, one that takes place overseas.  I pointed out the emotional turmoil potential adoptive parents can experience:  the heart-wrenching moment when  a birth mother changes her mind and takes the baby back.  I mentioned a woman's biological clock, something most of us are familiar with, and her "adoption clock", something most of us are unfamiliar with.  A teenage birth mom thinks that anyone over 30 is ancient.  Ideally she wants her child placed with a young couple, not one that look like grandparents, rather than parents.

Unfortunately, I never kept a copy of the article.  But the Brantford Expositor did do a follow up story six years later.  They sent a reporter to our house to interview us, along with a photographer who took a family photo.  By this point, our son Thomas, whom we adopted through Beginnings Adoption Agency, was five years old, and our daughter Jacqueline, whom I gave birth to, was one. Thomas took the article to school for his show and tell.  His classmates couldn't believe that he was so famous, he'd gotten his picture in the paper.

I share this story with you to inspire you to grab a pen and paper, or your laptop, and write a letter to the editor.  Let your heart do the writing.  Your local newspaper's editor may be so impressed, he runs it as a feature article!

Saturday 14 March 2015

The Rise & Fall of Photojournalism

"A picture is worth a thousand words."

"Only 5% of readers read the entire article but almost all photos get noticed," according to photographer Juha Kivekas (see "It's All About the Images" at http://alinefromlinda.blogspot.ca/2015/02/its-all-about-images.html).

Photojournalism employs images to tell a story.  The photographs are the predominant medium for imparting information.  Roger Fenton is considered the first war photojournalist, capturing images on the battlefield of the Crimean War.  

In the 1870's, John Thomson pioneered the social documentary by photographing haunting images of Victorian London in his book Street Life in London.  His photographs were essentially engravings 

John Thomson's photograph "The Crawlers" courtesy en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photojournalism#/media/File:Thomson,_The_crawlers.jpg.

In 1880, The Daily Graphic debuted the first halftone photographs.  Seven years later, flash powder was employed, enabling photographers to capture their subjects indoors.  Jacob Riis used this technology in his photographs for How the Other Half Lives.

Photo of children sleeping on Mulberry St., New York City circa 1890 taken by Jacob Riis courtesy  

From 1880 to 1910, French agencies Rol, Branger and Chausseau-Flaviens syndicated photos worldwide.  Yet many photographers still used engravings until as late as 1927.

By 1921, the invention of the wire photo enabled photographers to transmit pictures as quickly as news.

The appearance of the 35 mm camera in 1925 ushered in the Golden Age of Photojournalism.  Flash bulbs gave photographers more flexibility by the late 1920's. 

News magazines debuted the photo essay including Germany's Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, followed by France's Vu, the United States' Life and Look; newspapers followed suit like Britain's Picture Post and Daily Mirror, and New York's Daily News.

Life magazine cover from September 2, 1940 on the occasion of the first communion of the Dionne Quintuplets courtesy http://www.lifemagazineconnection.com/images/9-2-40.jpg.

With the photo essay came the official photojournalist.  Henri Cartier Bresson is considered to be the father of modern journalism.  Others followed in his footsteps:  Robert Capa, Romano Cagnom, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Marg Bourke-White and Dorothea Lange.  

Robert Capa, a war photographer, captured pivotal images on Omaha Beach on D-Day.  See my post "Capa's Camera Captures Conflict" at http://alinefromlinda.blogspot.ca/2013/09/september-24.html

Dorothy Lange's Migrant Mother photo became the seminal image of the Great Depression.  Read Dorothea Lange:  A Life Beyond Limits (http://www.amazon.com/Dorothea-Lange-Life-Beyond-Limits/dp/039333905X).

Dorothea Lange's Depression-era Migrant Mother courtesy 

The magazine that became the "standard by which the public judged photography" debuted in 1936.  Life featured oversize 11 x 14 pages with fine engraving screens, high quality inks and glossy paper.  Its photographers often achieved near-celebrity status.  Alfred Eisenstaedt captured a famous image of a woman and child sitting in a desolate Hiroshima after the atom bomb was dropped in 1945.  For more of Eisenstaedt's work, visit http://time.com/3491299/unforgettable-eisenstaedt-22-amazing-photos-by-a-master/.

Alfred Eisenstaedt's surreal image of a woman and child in a desolate Hiroshima after the dropping of the atom bomb circa December 1945 courtesy http://life.time.com/history/wasteland-mother-and-child-hiroshima-1945/#1.

With the invention of digital photography. taking and sending photos has become faster and easier than ever before.  Photographers are no longer limited by a roll of film; a single memory card can hold thousands of images.  With the help of a phone or a laptop, a photographer can send a digital image across the continent in seconds.  

The decline of photojournalism came when the magazines could not compete with other media for ad revenue to sustain their high costs.  Read "Lament for a Dying Field:  Photojournalism" at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/10/business/media/10photo.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0. However, the public had received a strong message from the photojournalists:  the power of still images cannot be denied.  

Mother and child in war torn Chechen capital circa 1996 taken by Laurent Van Der Stockt courtesy http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/10/business/media/10photo.html?pagewanted=all.

Friday 13 March 2015

How to Write Irresistible Query Letters

"The recipe for the perfect cover/query letter is simple:  give editors and agents what they want, no more and no less." (Christine Harrell)

You have a great idea for a feature article.  Grab a pen and paper and write it down immediately.  As Henry David Thoreau once said:  "Write while the heat is in you.  The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.  He cannot inflame the minds of his audience."

Now that your idea is recorded and your brainstorming has begun, it's time to write that query letter to an editor to sell your idea.  Christine Harrell explains:  "you need to prepare a letter that provides what the editor/agent requires and then gets out of the way so your writing...stands on its own."  (www.freelancewriting.com/articles/article-cover-query-letters.php)  

The query should be no more than one page in length.  It should be typed on 8 1/2 x 11 paper in Times New Roman with a font size of 12.  Contact information should be included in the letter including your name, address, phone number and e-mail.  Your publishing credits, education and any pertinent personal information should also be shared.  Don't forget to thank the editor for his or her time at the end of the query.  Make sure the paper has no smudges, tears or bent corners.  

Blogger Laurie Kienlen describes the query letter as persuasive, professional and realistic. 
Remember "it's a call to action, not a list of benefits and features" (http://theadventurouswriter.com/blogwriting/how-to-write-query-letters-for-magazine-articles/).  It should get specific immediately.  Don't mention money in the query; that's a conversation for later.  Remember to follow up with a short polite e-mail mentioning the original query and date and asking whether or not it was received and if a decision had been made.

To read more about drafting query letters read How to Write Irresistible Query Letters by Lisa Collier Cool at http://www.amazon.ca/How-Write-Irresistible-Query-Letters/dp/1582971552.