Not every nonfiction writer dreams of writing a book. Some dream of bylines in glossy magazines or in newspapers or even on popular websites. I know; that was my dream when I began my writing career. I went to college to study magazine journalism. While there, however, my professors told never to write a word unless I knew I was getting paid. So, where does that leave those of you who want to write articles as part of the WNFIN challenge? In today’s guest post, Linda Formichelli, author of The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock: The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Selling More Work Faster, offers a query writing plan for freelance journalists wanting to land assignments they can work on (hopefully) in upcoming months. NA
Your plan is to write articles for magazines. So how does Write Nonfiction in November apply to you? After all, you don’t want to write articles without an assignment, and it’s unlikely you’ll get 30 assignments in one month.
Participate in the fun—and blast your way to success this month—with a query challenge: Write four queries and send your completed pitches off to at least one magazine per day for the month of November.
1. Make time.
Guess what? You don’t find time, you make it. If you’re waiting for time to magically appear in your busy day where you can do nothing but interview, research, and write, November is going to come and go without a single pitch leaving your email account.
Schedule time for writing into your calendar daily, because if you don’t make this time a priority, I guarantee something else will come along to fill that slot.
You may have to get up early, stay up late, or say no to some obligations—or even to some fun stuff. But don’t worry—it’s just for 30 days, so keep your eyes on your goal of succeeding as a freelance writer.
2. Batch your tasks.
Avoid feeling scattered and work faster by batching similar tasks. For example, generate all of your ideas at once, then research markets for all of them. Schedule your interviews at one time, and try to group them together so you can bang them out.
3. Don’t over-research.
Too many writers get bogged down in piles of notes and hours of interview tapes. Do only as much research as you need to do to write your query.
For the query process, limit interviews to two or three, and keep them to 10 minutes each. Do just enough research to help you formulate intelligent questions for your interviewees and to gather stats for your pitch.
The thing many over-researchers forget is that if it ends up you don’t have enough info, you can always go back for more. So take a chance, stop researching, and start writing.
4. Transcribe as you talk.
Transcribing interviews can be one of the most time consuming aspects of writing query letters. If you can type fast, try transcribing the interviews as you do them, using abbreviations and made-up shorthand where necessary.
If you’re not much of a typist (I’m not), it may be worth it to hire a transcriptionist for just this challenge. The one I use charges about 90 cents per audio minute, so a 10-minute pre-interview for a query would cost just $9. Worth it to get those pitches out there!
4. Write fast.
If you’re the kind of writer who agonizes over every word, the query challenge will overwhelm you. Try this: Read your notes, read your interview transcripts, and write your query all in one draft. If you can’t think of a word, want to add a quote, or need to add in a bit of research, type in “TK” (a placeholder used in journalism circles) and move on. You can go back and fill in the TKs later.
The trick is to just get that first draft done as quickly as you can without getting bogged down in making difficult decisions on word choice and so on. You’ll be surprised at how much you can get done this way.
Then, put the draft aside for a few hours and come back to it with fresh eyes—and your red pen.
5. Beat the fear.
For new writers, getting one query out is scary. Getting out one a day for a whole month can be terrifying!
Remember, the writers who succeed aren’t necessarily the ones with the greatest talent for prose. Even the most talented writers fail if they keep their writing locked up on their computers. The ones who succeed are the ones who send out their writing despite the fear—and keep doing it, learning from their rejections and developing a thick skin.
So take the Write Nonfiction in November query challenge, and let us know how it goes. We want to hear about your first sale!
About the Author
Linda Formichelli has written for more than 130 magazines, from Pizza Today to Redbook, and is the co-author of The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success and The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock: The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Selling More Work Faster ($2.99 on Kindle). She offers phone mentoring and e-courses for freelance writers and runs the Renegade Writer blog, where you can get two free goodies: a packet of 10 query letters that rocked and a free copy of her e-book Editors Unleashed: Magazine Editors Growl About Their Writer Peeves.
Photo courtesy of nokhoog buchachon