Be a Proactive Writer Rather Than a Reactive Writer
It Happened Again Today
Yes, it did. Memorial Day arrived, and with it a flurry of articles written about remembering our fallen soldiers. All were beautifully written, all heartfelt, and all about three months late for online success.
True, some were written simply in the spirit of the holiday, and that is all well and good; but for those freelance writers who write for a living, and who actually want to make money doing this writing gig, reactionary writing will not pay for the groceries.
We see it with every holiday. A flurry of articles arrive three days before Halloween, three days before Christmas, and three days before the 4th of July. How to have a great 4th of July picnic….how to save money buying Christmas presents….how to cook a memorable Thanksgiving dinner….all well-meaning, most well-written, and all…..you got it….late for the party.
I call this “knee-jerk” writing. Writers are comfortably seated at their computer, pouring out copy, and then they glance at the calendar and realize that a holiday is mere days away. So they quickly write an article about that holiday and then sit back and sigh with relief that they made it under the deadline.
Well What’s Wrong with That, You Ask?
What is wrong is a basic misunderstanding about how online writing works.
Attracting the Google gods, and working one’s way up the Google search engine, takes, at a minimum, three months….not three days.
In other words, to gain maximum advantage and to see maximum results, an article about Christmas should be written no later than the first of October.
This concept of advanced planning becomes more important if you are a writer hoping to score big with magazines. Most magazine editors plan their yearly schedules at least six months in advance, so if you are a writer, and you want to pitch a Christmas article, you should be sending query letters by July at the latest, and in many cases by January for the following Christmas.
So How Do You Avoid This Pitfall?
It’s really rather simple. Sit down with a calendar and plan ahead. Count backwards at least three months from major holidays and schedule to write articles for those holidays at that time. Count backwards at least six months from the holiday if you plan on pitching an idea to a magazine.
If you do not have a calendar, then get one. I cannot imagine a freelance writer without a calendar and a schedule, but if you are one, then it is time to change your approach.
Another Aspect of This Proactive Approach
The “next big thing” in novel-writing is the Young Adult Fiction genre. That’s where it’s happening, baby, and you are either with the “in crowd” or you are outside looking in.
Baloney, of course, but thousands of writers think so.
It’s called “jumping on the bandwagon,” and it can be effective in the short run….but…..
The problem with being a reactionary is that it automatically labels you as a follower. You are simply one of a crowd, all moving in the same direction. That may be all right for you, but it isn’t for me.
The great writers of the past and present were not and are not reactionary. They go their own way. They carve their own niche and let others follow them.
If you are a novel writer, or a non-fiction writer, wouldn’t you rather have others follow you, rather than you eating the dust of those who are leading the stampede? Of course you would.
And yet Another Aspect
Another practice I see often is when magazine or online article writers jump on the latest trend. Maybe it is a new clothing style, or maybe it is some new technological wonder. They will sit patiently until they notice an abundance of articles being written about a topic, and then they will saddle their horses and ride along for as long as the trend continues. Then back to the easy chair they go and wait for the next hot trend.
The problem with trends, my friends, is that they are short-lived. They are always changing. Writers who follow trends are like chickens with their heads cut off. They flap around wildly with no definite direction, and quite frankly, that seems exhausting and rather futile.
Rather than chasing trends, why not establish your own niche and built upon it slowly and steadily?
Do some market research and predict the next big trend before it gets here. That makes infinitely more sense than being a follower.
I Can Hear the Naysayers from Here
There are always those who disagree, so let’s face them head-on and deal with their objections.
“What’s the big deal, they say? I’m doing all right, so why should I change?”
Well, I would say, if “all right” is what you seek, then you have my blessings. However, if you want a bigger piece of the literary pie, then “all right” is not going to deliver for you.
If I say name an innovator in the history of automobiles, who would you say? Henry Ford? Most likely, right? If I say name an innovator in the history of computers, who would you say? Bill Gates? He would likely be among your top five, right?
And if I say name me a successful writer of western novels, who would you name? Louis Lamour? How about fright authors? Stephen King?
Now name ten western novel writers. Now name ten fright authors. Take your time….I’ll wait!
I would be amazed if you can do it, and yet there are thousands of writers who write in the western genre, and thousands more who write in the horror genre.
Who would you rather be?
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- William Holland | Thoreau of the 21st Century
A blog/website for writers, about writing, written by a writer
Let’s Wrap It Up
Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just tossing ideas out there and hoping some of them stick to you and eventually help you. If you are a reactionary and happy, then by all means keep waiting for the next big wave to sweep you up and take you for a ride.
If, however, you search for something more, you really do need to get out in front of the crowd so you don’t get trampled, and the only way to do that is to be proactive.
Go back to the original discussion. If you want to see a multitude of views on one of your Christmas articles, then inundate the market with Christmas articles in July.
If you want to dazzle magazine editors, give them a new twist to an old topic, or give them a completely new topic.
If you want to blow away the reading public, then develop your own style of writing novels, a style never seen before.
Choose a path, stick with it, work hard at it, and if you do, you will never have to eat the dust of the leaders again.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”