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    Earn Money Writing Short Fillers for Magazines

    For anyone wanting to make a good part - time wage from home, writing short fillers for publication in news-stand magazines is an ideal way. We all have half an hour here or there which could be utilised for writing, so here I briefly outline how to present work and give you a few ways to generate ideas for your short fillers.

    The most crucial factor when submitting work to magazines is to act professionally. Competition can often be fierce in this business so you want to be on a par with all the other freelancers don't you? When you are new to an Editor, you must show them that you have made an effort to present yourself properly. Never hand write submissions or query letters and never, never, never send letters or articles with spelling mistakes or crossings out in them.

    Always check who the current editor of the publication you are targeting is. These positions change so rapidly it is always worth a call to reception to find out if you have the correct contact name. And spell his or her name correctly; make sure you have addressed your letter correctly too. An address which has spelling mistakes or errors in also reflects on you. It shows that you may be 'slap-dash' in your approach.

    Always enclose an SAE when approaching a publication or sending manuscripts, otherwise you will not get a reply, and don't be in too much of a hurry to receive your reply. Magazines work through their mail very slowly and a wait of three or four months is not out of the ordinary.

    When you submit any manuscripts, always use only one side of white A4 paper and print in black ink. Put your name, address and telephone / email number on every page and leave generous margins all around the page. If you use more than one page for your feature, number each page. Double space your work and use around size 12 font size.


    Generating ideas

    If your mind cannot generate ideas to write about, your typing fingers certainly won't be able to get into action. Therefore it is a good idea to start an 'ideas file' in which you should save cuttings of anything you have seen that fires your imagination. Start collecting news snippets, facts and figures, humorous news items - in fact anything that will get your creative juices flowing. Try to talk to as many people as you can in your day to day life and don't be afraid to eavesdrop either! You can pick up some fantastic stories listening in to other people's conversations. No really! Just don't make it too obvious.

    Keep in mind the timing of your submission too. Yearly events or special occasions can be worked into short articles very nicely However most magazines work quite a few months in advance, so if you are wanting to submit something topical for Christmas, don't bother sending it in November or even October. If I was wanting to submit something for possible publication around Christmas time I would submit it around June or July. This may seem a bit over the top but you really do need to send things in this early.

    Look through a dictionary of dates and look for anniversaries; famous battles, shipwrecks, music, politics, entertainment. There are many starting points to set you off on the road to an interesting piece of work.

    If you are still stuck for ideas, why not write what you know about. Do you have children? What are your hobbies? Do you have any employment experience that can be turned around and used as material for your writing? Where do you live? Are there some interesting snippets of information that you could pass on in a short feature? It is quite easy to generate ideas when you look at your own life and experience.


    Features

    There are many types of feature that are a page or less when published. If you are wanting to write medium length articles aim for the 1000 word mark. Shorter articles can go right down to around the 350 word mark. These are called short, shorts. They are still viable as features in their own right however.

    When you are writing short pieces, you really can focus on anything. If you want to talk about miniature dolls houses, why not? What about pollution, transport, animals? The sky's the limit. These subjects could be made into fillers, quizzes, humorous anecdotes or factual pieces. On the other hand, there are certain types of features that are designed to be short by their very nature - all excellent openings to the freelancer.

    Lists; where the writer gives a list of facts or tips, e.g. "You know it's Christmas when ....." you would then follow with a list of reasons why you know it's Christmas when ....or something like "20 ways to beat stress".

    Book reviews; or indeed music, theatre or cinema reviews. You also find reviews about restaurants and clubs and pubs in some local publications. What could be better than getting paid to write about a pleasant evening out?

    Profiles; of famous people, or not so famous ones. Profiles of interesting people who are not actually celebrities can be fascinating to read too, sometimes more so. Do you know someone who has a fascinating hobby? Maybe you could submit a profile to a specialist magazine on that particular pastime?

    Humorous essays; the type that you get in some of the large circulation weeklies. With these, the writer just tells of funny things that have happened to them in their own lives. These pieces are written as if the writer is chatting to you over a coffee. There are plenty of columns like these published in many magazines every week from both male and female freelancers.

    Readers' letters or tips pages; which appear in numerous magazines and newspapers. They are there specifically for readers to submit their letters etc. However, if you are going to submit to these pages, don't present your work as you would a manuscript - just send a letter, as you would to anyone. It's as simple as that! Often the payment for these very short pieces is very, very good. If you divide the payment you get per word in your letter, you will be commanding a higher rate of pay per word than an article writer would receive.

    Questionnaires and quizzes; which are very popular in many large circulation magazines. The ones which say something like "Are you a bitch or a babe?" or "Are you a good liar?" The reader then has to fill in the questionnaire and pick an answer from each multiple choice question. The marks are added up at the end and a 'psychological' assessment is given for that score. These articles are fun for readers to do and a good market to aim for, especially in the 'teen' magazine markets.

    Writing for children; If you can think as a youngster thinks, the you have a good chance of breaking in to the children's publications market. Because these pieces will be read by children, they have to be short anyway. If you can write activity based features then all the better.

    Poetry; a difficult market, simply because poetry goes in and out of fashion, and you don't often get that many poetry features in magazines these days. However, if you feel that a particular magazine would benefit from the addition of some verse, then by all means approach them. You never know, you might get a regular spot!

    Well there it is. Writing for magazines can be a great way to earn a part time, or second income. However, you need to be able to adopt a thick-skin and not take rejection personally ... it's all part and parcel of the job. Someone once said that the only difference between a professional writer and an amateur one is persistence, and this is absolutely true. If you are serious about writing for magazines you have to keep at it until you get your first acceptance. Then there will be no stopping you!

    Copyright © 2002 Gail Miller

    Gail Miller is a writer and artist. Her websites include Gails Gallery, Stage Your Home To Sell and Cash For Crafts.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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