Secrets of Full-time Writers
by Deborah Owen
Creative writers can make a lot of money writing for newspapers. The writing is easy, you don’t have to worry about “Show, Don’t Tell,” and you can resell the articles all over the country with simultaneous submissions.
Most newspapers need a reporter for PTA meetings and sometimes for sports events. You will make about $15 for each article, and $5 for each picture they use. A normal 35mm camera is usually good enough.
Most average-sized cities have a local newspaper that accepts admissions from amateur writers. This is your market. If you have political views you want to share, the Opinion Editor or Op-Ed section is a good place to start. Write with conviction and zest and the editor will most likely accept your piece. He will, however, edit it for grammar and cut parts he deems unnecessary. If they have a guideline, follow it to the letter.
By most people’s standards, $15 to $20 isn’t much, but if you write an article about an upcoming holiday and resell it all over the nation, you can easily make $200 from it.
Make a file on the newspapers that accept your work. This is your gold mine. These are the people you send Christmas cards to – the people you become personally acquainted with – the people you network with – and the people you become friends with. These people are your livelihood – and this is how writers make a living. Maybe not a plush living, but a modest one. It isn’t easy, but it works.
When you write articles, you have to be fast. You don’t worry a lot about how you phrase things as long as you use (near) proper English. Most of the rules you learned for writing short stories won’t apply. You can use passive sentences. You can “tell” instead of “showing”. You don’t have to use graceful sentences, but used jazzed-up verbs.
Send your submissions directly to the editor. Call the newspaper to learn his or her name, and write it down. Be sure you get the spelling right. Google “U.S. Newspapers” and you can select the papers by state.
So where do you get your articles? What do you write about? Have you ever wondered how something works, or where certain things come from? How about people who have an unusual talent or a special hobby?
The secret to reselling a newspaper article is that it needs to have a broad appeal – such as an article on how Father’s Day began. If you were submitting to a magazine, you would have to submit at least three to four months ahead, but not so with newspapers. Send your article in two weeks in advance.
Still having a hard time thinking of what to write about? Check the latest version of Writer’s Market if you have nothing specific in mind. Browsing the nonfiction section will give you an idea of what kinds of articles are being published.
This is enough to get you off to a good start. Have any questions though? I’d be more than happy to answer them for you in the comments below!