Monday, July 24, 2006

While We're on the Subject of Magazine Queries

a) How do you get your ideas for your articles? Are you given the ideas like writing about brides buying sleeved dresses or do you track trends? b) Once you get/given the idea, how many words do you approx. write? c) If you have a certain idea, do you pitch the idea to mag editors then write the story or do you write the story then pitch that?

a) I get my ideas from every day life, as simple as that seems. Right now, I do a lot of parenting writing, and one of the easiest ways for me to come up with a story idea is just to observe my son. Now, I touched on this a bit in the previous post, but the hardest part of developing a query idea is coming up with a unique angle for it. Why the italics? Because unique and fresh come out of an editor's mouth as often as oxygen. "What makes this fresh?" "We've covered this before, can you come up with something unique about it?" Etc. Querying is a lot easier in theory than in reality. If you've thought of the generic overall story idea, so too have the editors, not to mention 117 other writers who have pitched it. You need to peg it to a new study or a new trend or a new something to grab an editor's attention.

I'm fortunate enough these days to have many of my assignments brought to me, so I don't query too, too often anymore. But I've been freelancing for a long time: in essence, I'm the actress who finally gets scripts sent to her after years of auditioning for B-movies. But I'm only afforded this luxury because I busted my ass proving to my editors that I'm their go-to gal. I'm lucky to be in this position, but I've also earned it.

b) Editors give you the word count when they assign you the story, whether it was your idea or theirs. An average feature story can run anywhere from 1200 on up (though the major consumer magazines rarely assign over about 2500), while an FOB is usually about 150-400 words.

c) NEVER, EVER write the entire story and send it into the editor BEFORE he or she has assigned it. You're gonging yourself before you've even had the chance to step onto the stage: this is the ultimate sign of a newbie. Editors like to be able to put their own stamp on the story - what you envision is most likely not entirely what they envision. They want to give you nuggets to include, angles to follow, studies to track down. Writing a completed piece before they've even AGREED that it's for them is just totally and completely wrong. I can't really say it any other way. (The exception to this rule, however, is for essays. Essays are almost always written in full and sent in. And occasionally travel pieces as well, though that varies from newspaper to newspaper.)

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