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writers corner

Alternate Markets   :   CC's Writer's Ten Commandments

Writing Short
Alternative Markets:
What, When Where, Why & How

Are you halfway through your book and feel as if you'd like to kill off your hero and heroine? Why not give yourself a break and try writing something short?

What are some alternative markets?

Newsletters, magazines, newspapers. My advice is to get your hands on a Writer's Market. It has endless sources, listing guidelines, editors' names, and other invaluable information. These books sell at most bookstores for approximately $28.00, but libraries have them available as reference material. Carry change to make photocopies.

What should I write?

Write what you know, what you feel, what you care about. If you are health nut, write about health. If you love traveling, write a travel piece. Don't forget about the smaller filler type of articles. I've sold everything from "Kid's Say the Cutest Things," to recipes. And do focus on the odd things, or humorous subjects that cross your mind. One of my biggest repeat sellers is a humorous essay about an ugly shoe. There's a market out there for almost anything.

When do I submit?

I'm sure you already know not to send your manuscript until you're confident it's the best you can do. Yet be careful not to overwork something. If you are prone to mistakes as I am, I suggest finding a fellow writer or an English Buff to proofread.

The second work I sold was a short piece about my family. They paid $500.00 and frankly I don't think my family is that interesting. What sold the story was the timing. It was June and I knew they would be looking for Christmas material. Not only did I write about the holidays, but I included a photo of us with the mall Santa. You should submit seasonal material six months in advance. Most guidelines in Writer's Market list seasonal submission requirements.

Where do I submit?

Again refer to the Writer's Market. If you've written a piece about jogging, look under the health and fitness listings. Or you could check under the listings for women's magazines which run fitness columns. If your jogging article is about a certain trail, look under the regional section for that particular area. Check magazine stands for new markets. Refer to writers' magazines and newsletters for new markets. The trick is to have as many markets as possible for that one piece. Make a list of possible markets for each piece as you write the pieces.

Why write for alternative markets?

Okay, there are several reasons:

Self-esteem: Don't you just hate it when you've explained you're a writer and that dreaded question pops out, "Are you published?" I don't have to tell you how good it feels to answer, "Yes!"

Money: The pay varies but there is nothing that validates you more as a writer than getting your first check.
Credits: It looks great on a cover letter.

Experience: Working with editors and deadlines.

Motivation: The instant gratification in completing a job. It helps with the I'll-never-finish-this-blues when you're working on that novel.

How do I get started?

Study the magazines to learn how to write certain pieces, essays, how-to pieces, feature articles. Research your markets, make a list of possible markets for each piece you plan to write. If you'd like to write for a particular magazine, read at least a couple of issues. Ask yourself who is their audience. Write to their audience. Study the tone of the magazine, send for their guidelines, and slant your writing to them.

If it comes back, refer to your list of other possible markets for that piece and resubmit. Then write another piece for the magazine you want to break into. Persistence does pay off. Don't forget about the small markets. Or about the smaller pieces in the more prestigious magazines. Sometimes getting in the door with a smaller "filler" piece will up your changes of writing for the same magazine with a higher-paying or longer piece. Don't stop writing just because you have something mailed out. The more you send out, the more of a chance you have to sell. Accept that rejection is part of the business. Don't get discouraged. Stay in touch with fellow writers. They can inspire, encourage, and give you insights into new markets. Good luck and be careful because writing "short" can be addictive. And you do have a book to finish, right?


Writer's Ten Commandments

1. Thou shall commit to write.

How many hours a week do you believe you can give to writing? Do not set yourself up to fail! Be realistic in your commitment. Then be committed.

2. Thou shall commit to submit.

The most exciting thing that can happen in your writing career is that you get published. This means that you're going to have to submit. What is keeping you from submitting? I'm not saying a book should be sent out before its time, but I know too many writers who finish a book, stuff it under the bed, and never submit. Is your fear of rejection keeping you from taking a leap of faith?

3. Thou shall stop hitting your head against the same wall.

Have you ever heard the saying? Stop beating a dead horse. When something isn't working, whether it is your schedule in writing time, or a plot, when you've tried and tried, and keep getting the same results, maybe it's time to get a new horse. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. So, shift your writing time from morning to mid-day if you can't seem to thinks straight in the early mornings. If a plot just isn't working after you've readlly given it thought, give yourself permission to put it in a drawer for a day, a week, years if it takes it, but don't just sit there and wait for inspiration to hit. Go out and chase inspiration down, knock it on the head, and drag it back to your desk. In other words, start on a new book or create a new plan of action. Find a way to rekindle the writing passion.

4. Thou shalt not compare thyself to other writers.

I know, so- and-so publishes everything she writes, and what cha'-ma'-call-it's writing is first-draft perfect, and ding-bat over there sold four books to the publisher you want to sell to. Well, get over it! Stop comparing yourself to other writers. We all have our own paths to success. Yes, some may appear easier than others, but sometimes it only appears that way. And even if your path is more difficult, you will never know when the doors will open, when avenues magically appear. Learn to celebrate your peers' successes and let their accomplishments motivate you, not depress you.

5. Thou shall not focus on rejection.

Yes, it stinks, it stings, and I don't like it any more than you do. But I don't hate it as much as whole bunch of other writers who aren't submitting, or writing, because they're afraid of that dirty little R word. Remember, you've only failed when you fail to try. Keep yourself focused on the possibility of selling, on the joy of writing. Focus on the pieces you have written, the kind words you've received from a critique, or a contest win. Just don't focus on rejection.

6. Thou shall continue to improve your trade.

It's easy to get nice and settled in your comfort zone. It's easy to say, "I don't have time to read. I don't have time to attend writing workshops. I know what I'm doing." The truth is, if you stop learning, you grow stale. You stop being aware of the subtle changes in the market. Read other people's work that you admire, read the new first-time authors to see what new talent is catching an editor's eye. Keep studying, learning, and growing to become a better writer.

7. Thou shall be open-minded.

I hear so many writers put down different genres. "Oh, who couldn't write an erotic romance?" Or, "Who couldn't write a novella?" "Who couldn't write for the magazines?" But the truth is, the person saying who couldn't do it, is probably the person who couldn't do it. A publishing credit is a credit. It doesn't matter where it is. Short pieces count, books in different genres count. Don't limit yourself to what you will write. Remember, it might be a long haul before you arrive on the New York Times Best Seller's list. Until then, experiment in different genres, you might accidentally find a path you love better than the one you are on.

8. Thou shall give back to the universe what it has given you.

Don't forget to reach out to someone and give back what you have been given. Has someone taken the time to help you overcome an issue in your craft? Has some just offered to help you achieve a goal? Can you not do the same for someone else? You might be surprised at the return Karma. I sincerely believe the old saying, "What comes around, goes around." I've seen it too many times. When I go out of my way to help a new writer it comes back to me two-fold. When I'm feeling tight on money. I'll purposely go and donate a little money to someone or an organization. It amazes me how quickly I'll see the income double and return to me in a form of a contract, or a photography job. Don't believe me? Try it. I think you'll be amazed.

9. Thou shall find time to play.

Writers write about life. If you're not living, how can you write about it? Sooner or later, all your ideas, creativity and inspiration will dry up if your not living, playing and enjoying life. Make a commitment to play. Try remembering what you enjoyed doing as a child. Did you enjoy card games, board games, painting, coloring? Rekindle an old passion for something that you stopped doing because you felt it was a waste of time. Chances are, that waste of time was the most relaxing moments of your life. Do yourself a favor, take one hour this week and plan to do something wonderful for yourself. Take a book to the park, go buy yourself a new perfume, go out for a cup of wonderful coffee. Put a crossword puzzle together. There's only one rule: It must be fun!

10. Thou shall not be afraid of change.

I know it sounds like an ugly word. Most of us hate change. But the truth is change happens. It's sort of like menopause and crow's feet, it's gonna show up on your doorstep (or face) whether you want it to or not. Ever read the book, WHO MOVED MY CHEESE? The moral of the story is when change happens, don't sit there waiting for things to change back, or feeling sorry for yourself, go find yourself some other cheese. We all know that lines close, publishing houses fold and rejection happens. Don't sit around whining, pull yourself up by your bra straps, yank up your big-girl panties and go find yourself a new chunk of cheese.


Writing Tips from our furry, finned, feathered friends


Hang in there.
Rejection comes.
Rejection goes.
But perseverance leads to publication.

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