Thursday, May 14, 2015

Writing for Writers

Zestful Blog Post #106

One of my favorite things to do is write articles for Writer’s Digest magazine. At a Q & A recently, someone asked whether the magazine assigns me topics, or I have to come up with them myself. And what’s a ‘contributing editor’, anyway?

The answer to the second Q will answer the first as well. In general, a contributing editor is a freelance writer who has contributed frequently to the publication, who is thought to have something of a fan base, and who has demonstrated reliability, both in generating new ideas and executing them. The term ‘editor’ in this case is usually an honorific, and I've begun seeing the term ‘contributing writer’ on magazine mastheads instead of ‘contributing editor’.

[Now that's what I call a masthead. Photo by ES]

In the case of Writer’s Digest, in exchange for the credential, I agreed not to write for other magazines that might be considered directly competing with WD, such as The Writer and Poets & Writers. Besides getting your name on the masthead, as a contributing editor your ideas get special consideration by the editorial staff. The top editor at WD, Jessica Strawser, and I have become friends over the years, which is a very nice side benefit.

But yeah, I’m expected to come up with ideas for articles I’d like to write, and pitch them in some cogent form. I send Jessica two or more at a time, a practice that worked to get me my first assignment at that magazine 10 years and several editors ago, and to which I cling superstitiously. If the editor likes a particular idea, there might be some back-and-forth as the editor gives input. You work together to refine or shift the focus or whatever, and then you agree on length and payment.

Once I was asked to write an FOB (front-of-book, meaning the magazine) column on a particular subject on short notice when some other writer had to bow out for some reason. That was fun, and I felt honored to be trusted to execute the piece fast and well. But that was an exception.

Needless to say, when you agree to a deadline, you must meet it. Given the long lead time of most monthlies, you usually get weeks, sometimes even months, to deliver. Having started my career at a small newspaper, deadlines have never bothered me. I've never missed one, whether for the magazine, or contributing a story to an anthology (which by the way see below), or turning in a book-length manuscript. [Sound of vigorous knocking on wood.] And I’m always shocked when I hear of some writer missing a deadline. I’m like, what? You have this great opportunity, multiple other people are counting on you, and you fail to get the job done? Being busy is not an excuse. I guess somebody dying might be an excuse, especially if it’s you.

I want to write more about coming up with ideas for magazines, but will save that for a future post. Meanwhile, I’d like to plug a new anthology I'm honored to have a story in (along with a buncha cool women):

These tales of murder, mayhem, and suspense by some of today’s finest crime writers will keep you up way past your bedtime!
The lesbians on the loose in this collection are an entertaining mix of protagonists: cops, amateur sleuths, a PI, a judge, a bounty hunter, and one very insightful dog. There’s even an intrepid high schooler and a mystery writer.
Despite greed and grief, rage and revenge, secrets and lies, many of the stories feature humor from a variety of characters trying to find their way in a difficult world—cops who’ve seen too much, revenge seekers, and women who want justice for themselves and others.
You won’t regret going on the lam with these terrific writers!
Stories by: Elizabeth Sims, Carsen Taite, SY Thompson, Andi Marquette, Linda M. Vogt, VK Powell, Kate McLachlan, Lori L. Lake, Lynn Ames, Sandra de Helen, Jen Wright, Sue Hardesty, Jessie Chandler, J.M. Redmann, and Katherine V. Forrest
Available here:
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