- Books, Literature, and Writing
Attention All Writers: Do You Want to be More Successful?
Just an Average Monday
Rested and refreshed from a wonderful weekend, I sat down at my computer this morning and scanned the articles waiting for me. Oh, yes, there is one on how to make a grilled tuna sandwich. Oh, look, there is one on what to see in South Carolina. Oh joy, someone wrote how to homeschool your child.
Boring, more boring, and incredibly boring!
And if I find them boring, then can you imagine what a magazine editor must think?
Let me tell you about an event that impacted me greatly.
I wrote a perfectly lovely article two years ago about the history of a 150-year old barn in western Washington. I had interviewed the current owners of the farm, done my research, taken some great pictures, and wrote what I considered to be a brilliant article.
The next step was to pitch the article to some local and state magazines, and because the query letter was adequate, I received a couple responses asking for the article, always a good sign when dealing with busy magazine editors. Much to my dismay, however, the editors decided against the article, and I would like to share one of the rejection emails with you:
Thank you for your query and submission. Although the story is well-written, I’m afraid what we have here is one of thousands of articles written each year about barns. What I need is a new angle, a fresh approach. If you discover that approach, feel free to submit once again.
Ms. Too Cool For Words
A new angle? A fresh approach? It’s a barn for God’s sake! What do they want from me? How am I supposed to make a barn interesting when everyone and their mother has written about barns before?
Or, to put it another way, how am I supposed to make a grilled tuna recipe interesting when millions of writers already shared their same recipes?
There, my friends, is your quest! There is the holy grail of an article writer.
Are you up for the challenge?
Great resource for magazine article writers
Attention Magazine Writers
If you are just writing for passive income on a site like HubPages or Bubblews, then maybe you just don’t care about a fresh approach. Maybe you are happy making fifty bucks each month. Hey, pay for your cable bill and be happy, right?
But, and this is one huge but (not butt), if you are planning at some point to raise the bar and be published in a magazine, then you need to get creative with your approach.
Do you write travel articles? Then write about something nobody else writes about. Maybe France is your specialty….you and about 100,000 other writers…what can you write about French tourism that hasn’t already been beaten to death?
Do you write recipes? Then for the love of Betty Crocker, find a way to approach recipes that has not been done before.
Otherwise, start practicing saying “Baaaah” so you can fit in with the rest of the sheep.
Attention Novel Writers
I am a mystery-novel junkie. I can’t get enough of them, and I’ve been reading them for about twenty years now.
Having said that, there are a great many mysteries out there that are mundane at best, and, at worst, downright insulting in their simplicity.
Is that how you want to be remembered as a novel-writer?
I have raved about James Lee Burke in the past and I will continue to do so. There is a writer who has, and does, approach writing like a craft. If there is a writer out there who paints a scene better than Burke, then I really need to start following that writer.
Either invent a truly memorable character, or develop a truly unique voice, but do something that separates you from the masses.
Attention Non-fiction Writers
In 1980, while doing research for a Civil War unit I was going to teach to my middle school students, I came across a trilogy about that war written by Bruce Catton. Up to that point, I had never read creative non-fiction, but after reading “Glory Road” by Mr. Catton, I was hooked as surely as a mainline addict in search of his next fix.
How many books have been written about the Civil War? I would venture to guess the number is in the thousands, and yet Mr. Catton had managed to approach that subject and breathe new life into it.
By the way, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his efforts.
A good non-fiction writer does not re-write history. A good non-fiction writer makes history so interesting that it seems alive. If you do not understand the difference, then don’t even go there.
Fifteen years ago, while vacationing in Yellowstone, I discovered a book written by John Muir called “My First Summer in the Sierra.” It is a transcending piece of literature. His descriptions of nature were, and are, like a symphony. Now I ask you, how many books have been written about nature and the environment? The answer would be thousands, and yet Muir’s stands as a masterpiece.
Find a unique approach to non-fiction and readers will find you.
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- William Holland | Helping Writers to Spread Their Wings and Fly
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Attention All Writers
During a conversation with a good friend last week, I was asked how I define success in writing.
Obviously, the definition will be different for every writer, but the question was asked about me. How will I know when I am successful?
I thought long and hard about that question, and finally realized that I will consider myself to be successful when readers look at me as talented in a unique way. I want my work to stand alone, to rise above the mundane, and to be easily recognizable as my work and no one else’s work.
And that is what I want for you, and that is the purpose of this article.
Do you want to succeed as a writer? Then find your uniqueness!
Practice your craft and yes, writing is a craft. Put in your time, learn the nuances of the language, and then develop a voice that literally screams for recognition.
Once that voice has been developed, then start blazing a new trail. Get your pick and shovel and start chipping out a path. Clear the brush and allow those vistas to show.
Hundreds of thousands made the trek along the Oregon Trail during the 1800s. In many places along that trail, the original wagon ruts still show, so great was the traffic. One had only to set the wagon wheels on the established ruts and point the oxen west. It was literally impossible to get lost despite the great distance and the lack of road signs.
Day after day, week after week, and month after month, the pilgrims moved forward, one weary step after one weary step, dust so thick that it would still be settling on the campsites hours after the train had stopped for the night. Despite the bone-aching weariness, there were certain spots along the trail where the travelers would detour, sometimes for miles, so see a site like Independence Rock, and there they would climb to the top to carve their names.
They wanted to be remembered.
Do you want to be remembered as a writer?
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”