Now for instalment number fourteen in my writing workshop series. I’ve covered the short story ending as well as the opening. I’ve guided you through dialogue and focused on the importance of taking time to do things properly. I’ve also given you a competitions refresher and some general advice on the art of the short story. The seventh instalment was about tips on writing humorous pieces and the eighth helped you with generating ideas. Then I turned to the art of copywriting followed by writing anniversary pieces. I’ve shown you how to generate more ideas – but in a different way and covered the true-life story. Last week I argued that you can write anywhere and this week looks at how to please an editor:
How Not To Annoy An Editor
Editors are extremely busy people, with hundreds of submissions to look through. Therefore, if something’s immediately wrong with your script or you haven’t taken the time to make sure your work fits in with the editor’s requirements, he’s likely to put it straight on the reject pile and turn to another writer’s work that’s more suitable. Here are ten tips to keep the editor happy and to ensure he considers your work carefully:
- Use the editor’s name. It doesn’t take five minutes to put a call through to the editorial desk to find the information you need. It shows that you have an interest in the magazine and that you have made an effort to find out his name. ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ or ‘Dear Editor’ looks like you can’t be bothered. Even worse is to address your letter to an editor that left three years ago. This clearly shows that you haven’t even looked at a recent copy of the magazine. If you can’t be bothered with the editor and his magazine, why should he be bothered with you and your work?
- Make sure your work is clearly presented on clean A4 paper, typed on one side only. If you’re sending your work by post, place the paper in the paper tray carefully and check that the type isn’t slanted or the ink smudged. If your work has been rejected and you’re sending it to another magazine, print out a fresh copy. A script that’s covered in creases and stains from several postings will be returned to you straight away.
- Don’t write what you want to write, write what the editor wants you to write. For example, you may think a magazine could benefit from a fiction story in each issue but if it’s not already featured in the publication, the editor won’t welcome your story. An editor is looking for work that fits in with his current requirements, including content and style.
- In order to ensure that you know exactly what the editor is looking for you must analyse the publication carefully. An up-to-date copy is essential. It’s no good borrowing a two-year-old copy of one of Aunty Jean’s women’s weeklies. Slots come and go all the time. If you send work aimed at a section that’s no longer there, your offering will be rejected without even being read.
- If the publication you’re writing for only uses articles or stories up to 1500 words, don’t send the editor a 2500-word piece. Editors have a certain amount of space that they can devote to stories and articles and so they want pieces that will slot right in. Even if your work is a masterpiece, if it’s too long, it won’t be used.
- Make sure any facts and details in your work are accurate. An editor won’t thank you for making him look silly with information that’s not right and he’s unlikely to accept anything else from you again.
- There’s no excuse for sloppy work. Put your work aside for a few days, then print it out and read it aloud. This is an excellent way for showing up any missed words or for highlighting a sentence that doesn’t sound quite right. Any omitted full stops or speech marks are also easy to spot this way. A script peppered with simple mistakes is sure to get the editor’s back up.
- Even though we live in an electronic age where more and more publications are accepting work by e-mail, some still prefer postal submissions, especially from someone writing for them for the first time. If this is the case, don’t think you can prove to be the exception and that the editor will take a look at your work. He’ll either ignore your e-mail or delete it.
- Whatever you do, don’t offer your work to several magazines at the same time. It may seem like a good idea and perhaps you’ll only end up with one magazine taking interest anyway, but what happens if three editors want to use your work? You will have to turn down two and those two editors won’t be very impressed. You may have something else to offer them but they won’t put their trust in you again.
- Even if you have followed all the rules, your work could still be rejected. Don’t be disheartened; know that you gave yourself every chance and so you can again. You may have come very close and the next time might be the time you succeed.