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A writers write

© Lynda Archard

The best compliments you could have, as a writer, is to see your hard work in print and to get paid for it. All of us have a story to tell and we each have a unique style of putting information across to our readers. Too many writers are willing to work for nothing. The first and most essential requirement in selling is to aim for a specific market. Once you have established who your readers are and what publication they read the next step is to give them what they want. If you have answered all your initial questions then you can start writing to sell.

Finding a market for what you have written is time consuming unless you have written it for your family and friends or are extremely lucky. It might be useful to ask yourself what you like to read why and where do you read it. Can you find what you are looking for? If not, why not? Perhaps you are the one to fill that gap or perhaps another subject should be chosen.

During our chats in an email group I have realised that many of our writers write simply for enjoyment. This was something I had never considered. I wanted a career, payment and the satisfaction of seeing my name in print. Now I write for payment and enjoyment. But I still want a job that I enjoy that also pays my Internet bill. Don't you?

Style

Whether you write short stories, novels, prose or poetry. Using story-telling, story-showing using dialogue, first person, second person or third person you must develop a style of your own.

Perhaps, like me, you prefer writing articles. Critical articles, technical writing, informative, how-to. Choose your subject. The list is endless but the best way in is to write what you know about, perhaps your hobby or career. What is your speciality?

Writing fiction was the hardest change for me. I tried articles first, then moved through to writing, editing and selling my own how-to booklets. I decided at the start of my writing career to choose a style that was clear by using everyday language and to write for everyone, using plain English. This was especially my aim with fiction. The last thing I want is to work if I am relaxing and have to get out the dictionary to read a short story. That isn't to say that I don't understand those big complicated words that I can't pronounce. If I wanted to work then I would get out my 'Microsoft network essentials' manual and not sit with my feet up, a cup of tea and a fiction story in my hand. I'll leave the literary writing to other writers. There is room for all of us and you must find your own unique style and subject to compliment all of it.

Selling

If you have aimed your masterpiece at a magazine, and you are sure that it prints similar stuff to your writing and are ready to submit it, then you should write a cover note to introduce your work. A simple note to the editor explaining the contents of your story in one paragraph, why it might be of interest to their readers and who you are with a thank you for their time. If you send the MSS on spec (without a commission) then you do not need to send clips of previous published work. The editor will read it and it will stand by itself. (Some editors will take time to comment or suggest another publication for your MSS, the majority will just send a thank you it is not suitable and good luck note. You must supply a SSAE large enough for a return or, better still, for your payment and/or agreement contract.)

Your story should be double-spaced, with at least one and half-inch margins all round, at least an inch between the title and the start and printed clearly onto clean paper. Ragged copies that have been around six editors, or faded ink, will be put straight into the bin, as will the wrong subject or anything full of spelling mistakes or inconsistencies with your plot.

The most popular short stories in the UK, and the most difficult to write, are around 800 - 1,000 words. A good strong opening, a full action-packed body and a twist in the tale. Payment is from £100 for the first story and, if they like it, future commissions can earn you as much as £400. Longer stories and serials can earn you a lot more £'s but are harder to get published because the editors of these magazines are swamped with unsolicited manuscripts, many will only commission if you have been published previously.

Can you write for your favourite publication? Find out more by typing 'Paying markets' into a search engine. There are millions of magazines, e-zines and publications across the world with editors that are waiting to buy your story or article.

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© Lynda Archard