What You May Not Learn In College... (Part Two)

If you become a writer for any publication, private business, public entity, non-profit organization and/or large corporation that employs more than one editor, you may find that your job description, expected contributions, desired writing style and similar "guidelines" for your position - are subject to change daily/weekly/unpredictably - according to each editor's mood and/or personal preferences.

It takes time, but eventually you will learn how to satisfy everyone to the best of your ability. You can help yourself by recognizing which editor you seem to "connect" with from the beginning and then make it your business to go to him/her with questions and/or to send your articles directly to her for editing.

Although editors can sometimes seem to not care about anything but "getting the story," you will probably find one or two, who like your style, see your potential, want to help you LEARN to improve your writing - instead of screaming at you for your inadequacies without supplying any advice to make you a better writer.

Be warned - Editors do not usually "play favorites" as bosses in other professions may do. If you try to become "the pet" not only will you hamper your professional relationship with your editor - you will also lose the respect of your colleagues - which you should truly want to earn - particularly when you are first starting out.

There are some very important things you need and can only get from your fellow reporters, who are "veterans" at the game - compared to you.

Their trained eye proofreading your story before you send it off to the big editor can catch errors that could send your boss into a fury.

The rolodex of phone numbers that they store in their head can help you contact good sources, public officials at home, informants, anonymous - but reliable tipsters...

Their words of wisdom will usually mean a lot. So LISTEN when they talk.

Try to develop a positive relationship with GOOD reporters by working your butt off, requesting their input(without bugging them to death), by treating them with RESPECT.

This means NOT

  • stepping on their toes
  • stealing their story ideas
  • ratting them out for taking long lunches
  • eavesdropping on their conversations
  • and unless you are 150% positive you're right NOT arguing with them over topics (like grammar, spelling, issues, quotes etc.)
  • Remember what they're telling you comes from more experience writing, reporting, interviewing, dealing with people, understanding editors, deadlines, etc...

    5 - If your writing job includes conducting interviews and writing articles/reports/profiles etc..... based upon your interview, you may be shocked by the reactions you get from your sources and/or their colleagues when they read your published work. Some people will be offended by comments the interviewee made and some interviewees will complain about the "accuracy" of your writing and/or accuse you of "misquoting" them.
    This can happen to the best of us regardless of how well we compile the facts and/or how "correctly" we quote our sources.

    Even if you tape record your interview (with the interviewee's permission) and type their quotes in word for word from the tape, you may still be questioned about your published work at some point by somebody who's unhappy, upset, and/or irate about how you wrote your story.

    Many people do not realize how what they say sounds until they see it in print and/or read it aloud.

    Defend yourself to the end when you know you're right.

    Admit it immediately when you realize you did make a mistake. Always offer to print a retraction and/or correction if your article was truly inaccurate in any way.

    Your credibility is on the line. If people do not trust you, you will find it difficult, if not impossible, to become a successful writer.

    6 - If you choose to become a professional freelance writer, you will at some point complete an assignment for an employer, who fails to fulfill his promise to pay you $X by a specific date.

    Contracts are a MUST for freelancers.

    READ all of the tiny print in every contract you're offered BEFORE you ever sign anything. If there is any wording/legalese you do not understand, get clarification from the employer and/or request the advice of an attorney BEFORE you sign the contract.

    It's more likely to cost you less money to hire on a legal professional to review the contract and/or answer your questions than it will if you sign a bogus contract and/or have to pay a lawyer to represent you in your fight to get an employer to compensate you for your work.

    7 - Writing is not a profession for the weak-hearted or people seeking fame and fortune.

    Professionals in almost any field of writing (journalism, PR, advertising, marketing, creative writing etc.....) will probably find that criticism comes quicker and more frequently than praise or big fat paychecks.

    I believe that you have to believe in yourself, your writing ability and your goals before anyone else will give you credit for what you do.

    If you expect pep-talks from your bosses, support from your peers, and/or positive feedback from your readers, you will probably be disappointed rather than delighted by a day in the life of real writing professional.

    © Danielle Hollister (2004) is the Publisher of the Free Ezine for Writers featuring news, reviews, and continuously updated links to the best resources for writers online like - freelancing & jobs, markets & publishers, literary agents, classes & contests, and more... Read it online at - http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art157.asp

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