Monday, October 22, 2007

Freelance Writing Like It Should Be

The truth is, I'm not even a freelancer anymore. I made my living for many years stringing for newspapers and selling articles and copywriting for the occasional small business and writing curriculum for the occasional very large one, but those days are gone. I have a fabulous day job now, where I write / edit / manage content full time.

Still, a writer is a writer is a writer, and so sometimes writing and editing fifty hours a week at my day job and maintaining four blogs just ain't enough. That's why I always have a novel or two in progress, and also why I sometimes still bang out the occasional freelance article in my (non-existent) spare time.

Last week was one of those times. I was browsing writing blogs when I happened across an online magazine that was unfamiliar to me. It had a regular column in it that sparked an idea. I checked the submission guidelines and discovered that it was open to freelancers, and that the pay was acceptable (though by no means earth shattering). The publication accepted both queries and full submissions.

Now, I've heard many a seasoned writer turn up her nose and say, "I don't write on spec," and it's a reasonable position. Once you've established yourself, there's no reason to do the work if you don't know that you're getting paid, and most editors won't expect you to. Personally, though, I prefer to complete the article before submitting wherever that's feasible. The writing is the good part for me, so I don't have any fear of "wasted" time if it doesn't sell--and odds are there will be another market, anyway. What's more, my writing often takes unexpected turns. I can control it if I have to--if I'm writing an assigned article with a particular focus, for instance. But I'd rather let it flow naturally, and writing the article up front ensures that I'm not pitching an article that turns out not to be the one I want to write.

It was late on Thursday night when I had the idea, and I forced myself to go to sleep even though that idea was just bouncing around inside my brain begging to be written down. On Friday, I wrote the article out by hand on a legal pad during my morning commute. Friday night, after my daughter was asleep, I typed it up and submitted it by email. I got an acceptance by email on Sunday night.

Is it always that easy? Of course not. It happened that I had a story waiting for an opening and the magazine I ran across had the perfect forum for it. Certainly, my previous publications helped. But the thing is, sometimes it is that easy. And sometimes we worry and agonize and question whether this is really exactly right and list ideas and write and rewrite query letters when the thing to do is really just to write it down and send it off and see what happens. Will it sell every time? Of course not. But sometimes it will.


Champ said...

First of sorry for not coming to your site earlier and thanks for your comments on my page. Went through your posts and found it interesting one. Though I dont' know what is freelancer, but way of spelling about yourself is nice. Do take time to visit mine. thanks.

suburbancorrespondent said...

Oh, c'mon - aren't you going to give us the website of the mag? Play nice!

sean said...

I like these thoughts alot, because if we write from the heart, then doesn't it seem more purely us, and in the end the market will come to the soul, the soul need not come to the market. Who can be original when trying to fit their square key into a round keyhole anyway? Things written from a non-external source will shine in the dark next to canned writing 'to order' in my experience.