Sunday, 27 January 2008

Cut the C**p!

Whatever you write, make every word count. Don't waffle. Don't write as you would speak with ums...and...ahs...and...well. Tell it as it is.

Whether we're writing a letter, a short story or an article for publication, our words have to fit the alloted space. If all the letters on the Letters page you are targetting are no more than 75 words, then your letter needs to be 75 words or less. Use simple language.

What led me to write this? Why am I telling you to use 2 words instead of 7?

A few minutes ago I plugged a piece of equipment into my laptop's USB port. Windows installed the necessary drivers and then proudly declared:

Found New Hardware: USB Human Interface Device.

Hello? USB Human Interface Device?

It's a MOUSE!

So, cut the c**p and tell it like it is! Your readers will appreciate it!

Friday, 4 January 2008

Don't be disheartened by Rejection

Don't be disheartened when you hear the tell-tale thud of a rejected manuscript as it hits your doormat. You are not being rejected personally. And I can prove it. I want to tell you two stories.

I once wrote an article for Norfolk Journal magazine about Norfolk's coastline. It was rejected, and because I had targeted it at the local county magazine, there wasn’t really anywhere else that I could rewrite and send it to. Six months later, I read that the magazine had a new editor. So I reprinted my article and sent it off. It came back rejected. Then, just over a year later, I heard that the magazine had another new editor, so I printed it off again and sent it off. This time it was accepted. Now, not one word had been altered from that first submission to the third submission, yet it resulted in very different outcomes. Everything in the publishing industry is subjective. Perhaps the first two editors got out of bed the wrong side on those days my manuscript arrived. Perhaps they’d both just accepted pieces about the coastline and couldn’t use mine for some while. I don’t know. But the article did sell, which in my view proves that there was nothing wrong with my writing skills, and that I was right with my target market.

Similarly, I have sold an article to the very editor who’d rejected exactly the same article ten years previously. Again, it proves that there wasn’t anything wrong with my writing or marketing/targeting skills. However, this publication was a quarterly, and the first time it was rejected, the editor had just accepted a piece on the same topic which he used two issues later. Because it was a quarterly magazine, plenty of time had to pass before the editor could run with the topic again, so as not to annoy his regular readers.

So you see, I personally wasn't being rejected. My work just wasn't right at those particular times, and the reasons were not apparent at the time of rejection.

Next time you get rejected, don't kick the cat or throw something at your computer monitor. It might simply be that you were a little ahead of your time. Like my second example above, perhaps I was just ten years ahead of time? I can live with that!

Good luck!