The 10 Question Topic Test

As writers, we are always on the lookout for new ideas, fresh topics and original stories to tell. Effective writers are those who can not only find a topic, but determine if it will sell, to whom they should sell it and how to develop this idea to pitch to editors. There are several factors to consider, and some writers have trouble separating the salable topics from the rest. They’ll wonder just how to know their unique slant, how to pitch the idea to a publication and how to develop the idea into a full article.

As I have begun to get my bearings in the writing world, I have developed a list of ten questions that should be applied to any topic. These questions test the topic’s suitability for a particular market, help determine the particular slants that could be applied, and flesh out the beginnings of an idea into a fully developed topic. Below are the ten questions.

Who is my audience? – It’s important that you figure out who you’re writing for, or the main market of the publication you’re thinking of pitching. Are they men or women? What age group are they in? Do they have a specific locale in common? Who are they? Regardless of your topic, you’ll need to know your audience before you can sell your article for publication.

How does the topic relate to my audience? – Once you’ve figured out who you’re writing for, figure out how the topic relates to them, if it does. If you can’t figure out this relationship, chances are high that your topic won’t sell to this audience.

What does my audience care about? – Go more in depth in understanding your audience. For example, assume that your audience is made up of women, ages 18 to 35. What do they care about? Chances are high that they will have strong feelings on specific issues such as breast cancer, marriage, motherhood, as well as such general issues like career, politics, music or religion. Because of the age range, they won’t necessarily care about new kid’s shows or about nursing home administration, unless of course those issues are tied to them. Relate these issues to their concerns, such as choosing kid’s shows for their children or how they can find the right nursing home for their parents. They have specific cares, interests, causes and concerns, and you need to know what those are.

How does this topic address or relate to these cares? – Once you’ve found out what your audience really cares about and responds to, you can tailor your article to meet those tastes. Make a list of all these cares, then determine ways that your topic can somehow tie into as many of those cares as possible. The more relevant an article is to your market, the better it will sell.

What will the audience learn about this topic? – What information are you going to cover? What information is new and what is simply rehashed? Look closely at what facts your topic relies on then decide the best ways to approach those facts. Remember, your information doesn’t have to be new, it just needs to be presented in a fresh way. New information has the benefit of being new, but even those bits need to be presented in an appealing way.

What information resources are available to me? – Before you can approach a topic, you’ll need to ask yourself this very question. Before you approach an editor, you’ll do well to have answered this question, at least in a general way. Where will you go for information? Will you consult experts in the field? Who are those experts? Are they lawyers, doctors, accountants, garbage men, manicurists, stunt men, rodeo clowns or babysitters? What books are there out on the subject? What websites, college classes, museums, or information hotlines can you use? Figure out where you can turn for information before you ever even query the topic. Maybe you’ll realize that there is little or no information available on this subject and you’ll need to rethink your topic.

What questions can I ask about my topic? – What do you want to know about it? What will your readers want to know? Start with the Six Questions of Journalism; who, what, when, where, why and how. List as many questions as you can think of, and then select the few that are most pertinent for your article.

How will I catch reader’s interest? – If you can’t grab the interest of a reader, they may never read your piece. More importantly, if you can’t catch the attention of an editor, you may never sell your piece. How will you hook them? What will grab their attention and fill them with a desire to find out more? Perhaps it’s a catchy title, an eye-grabbing picture or a shocking lead. Whatever it is, figure it out – that’s your ticket to a sale.

How will I keep that interest? – So you’ve gotten the reader to give your article a glance. Now what? Will they keep reading or will they just flip to the next page? Maybe you’ll start them off with a gripping anecdote, or a chilling statistic. Maybe you need to raise questions in the reader’s mind that will cause them to eagerly read on for answers. However you do it, you’ll need to keep their attention once you’ve got it. While this may not influence the sale of this particular article, it will influence the editor’s opinion of you as a writer. If you can keep interest on one topic, you’ll be more easily trusted the next time you query them, or when they need a writer for a topic of their choosing.

What is the core message or theme of this article? – Once all is said and done, what does your article really say? Does it simply inform? Does it entertain, or even inspire? Is there some deeper truth you want to convey, some sense of purpose to the article? This is the question that can take your writing from good to great. Understand the answer will give your writing depth and make it more than simply words.

By applying these questions to your own article ideas, you’ll weed out the ideas that don’t work, you’ll find the ones that do work, and you’ll flesh out your idea into a topic ready to query!


Top Gift Books for the Freelance Writer

For the average freelance writer, there is a common problem when looking at books that will enhance your writing career – you don’t have the money to buy them! Even a great investment is hard to justify when you’re between writing gigs, trying hard to make your last $5 buy a week’s worth of food! So for all of you folks that know a writer in just such a predicament, I’ve found the five best books a freelance writer can own so that you can give them the gift that keeps on giving; an improvement in their career.

The Elements of Style Illustrated - William Strunk Jr., E.B. White

The Elements of Style has long been a must have for any serious student of writing. First published almost 50 years ago, the book’s overriding lesson – to make every word count – is one that guides writers to this day. The advice it contains on writing is timeless, delivered with wit and wisdom. This new illustrated version includes artwork by Maira Kalman, whose vivid artwork brings a fresh new dimension to this classic manual. Buy it in hardback for your favorite writer, and you’ll have made one writing friend for life.

Writer's Market 2007 (Writer's Market)– Writer’s Market

Any freelancer serious about making money needs to own an up to date copy of Writer’s Market. Filled with pages upon pages of market listings, agents, publishers and contests, Writer’s Market is the quintessential resource for the writing professional. In addition to detailed market listings, Writer’s Market includes articles filled with helpful insights from seasoned professionals, interviews with editors and publishers and educational how-to pieces for the new writer. In the Deluxe Edition, you also gain access to the Writer’s Market online database of market listings, as well as helpful online tools, like submissions tracking software. This is one book that no writer can do without.

How to Write Irresistible Query Letters – Lisa Collier Cool

Written by someone who is both a freelance writer and a magazine editor, Lisa Collier Cool’s no-nonsense approach to writing tightly focused, highly professional query letters is a must have for both the novice and the seasoned professional. Filled with examples of queries that sold and queries that didn’t, each with a clear dissection of why one worked and another didn’t. Though a good book for the new writer, this book will help even long time writers improve their querying skills.

The Freelance Writer's Bible: Your Guide to a Profitable Writing Career Within One Year – David Trottier

Writing is not an easy business. The freelance writer is part artist, part teacher, part reporter and part salesman. It’s a rare writer that fills all of these roles well, and it’s all the more rare to find a book that so clearly teaches you to do just that. The Freelance Writer’s Bible covers everything from writing mechanics to the writing process. It covers how to develop ideas to sell and then teaches how to effectively sell them. As a book that is both a useful reference volume and an immediately helpful guide, this is an essential for the professional writer’s bookshelf.

The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success (The Renegade Writer's Freelance Writing series) – Lisa Formichelli and Diana Burrell

Dubbing itself “A totally unconventional guide to freelance writing success”, The Renegade Writer is just that. Authors Formichelli and Burrell approach the oft repeated conventions of the freelancing world with a unique approach, one that defies such conventions and brings writers their much deserved paychecks. Think that you need ‘connections’ to land an article assignment? Think that editors are there to bring down writers dreams? Ever wonder why following the rules you’ve learned never seems to get you anywhere? This book will show you how to ignore the rules by doing what works. Filled with examples of highly successful authors and freelancers, The Renegade Writer is an inspiration that will spell the difference between mediocrity and success.


Brainstorming Techniques - 12 Surefire Techniques

Writers, students and anyone else will occasionally need an idea or two. While you may have times when ideas come with little or no effort, there will be times when the fountain of creativity seems to have dried up. Have no fear, however. Even if you’re not feeling particularly creative, you can still think and reason. By thinking clearly and using the following techniques, you’ll find an endless supply of ideas.

Free-writing – Just write. Don’t worry about format, topic, or anything else. Just write, about anything at all. It might be a description of your kitchen ceiling, or a diatribe about the lack of parking spaces at your local veterinarian’s office. The important thing is that you get writing, and keep writing. Let one thought lead to another, or just write on one thing, in ever increasing detail. Maybe you’ll write for a set amount of time, or maybe your aim is to fill a page or multiple pages. Pick out individual topics, ideas, names or anything else. Whatever you do, you’ll soon have many ideas to work with.

Breakdown – Take your initial topic, and write it at the top of the page. Divide the topic into subtopics, questions, themes, and such, listing them below. Continue to break down and list those subtopics as before.

Listing/Bulleting – List everything about the topic, then list any related phrases, keywords, questions, sources, etc. If you can think of it, add it to the list. Then take each item from the list, and do it again.

Cubing – Cubing refers to taking your topic and examining it from six different sides, like the six sides of a cube. Consider the topic in the following six ways:

Describe it
Compare it
Associate it
Analyze it
Apply it
Argue for and against it

Now, examine your answers. Are there any connections between them? Do any themes emerge?

Similes – Complete the following sentence: [Blank] is/was/are/were like [Blank]. By comparing your topic to another, seemingly unrelated word, you’ll begin to see new ideas about your topic, better understand different aspects of it, and new ideas will emerge.

Clustering/Mapping/Webbing – This technique allows you to expand on a topic in a freeform, organic manner. Write a keyword or words about your topic in the center of a blank page and draw a circle or box around it. Branch off in as many ideas as possible, connecting them visually to the topic. Then branch off from there. Go as far as you can or want to, continually branching off.

Parts – Look at the relationships between the whole, the parts and parts of parts. Make the following lists on opposite margins of a sheet of paper:

Part..............................Parts of Parts
Part..............................Parts of Parts
Part..............................Parts of Parts

Apply these labels to topics and subtopics, words, etc. Then draw conclusions about relationships, patterns, connections, etc.

Journalistic Questions (The Big 6) – Ask yourself the 6 important questions of journalism:


List related questions for each one, then seek out the answers; repeat as many times as you need to.

Outside the Box – Try approaching your topic from a totally different angle. Ask questions from a seemingly unrelated viewpoint. You might think in terms of occupations, academic subjects, demographic groups, cultural groups, etc. Examine it fully from each new perspective, jotting down every thought, question, commentary, interpretation, etc.

Charts/Shapes – Instead of words and phrases, think visually. Put things in terms of charts, shapes, tables and diagrams. If you can find photographs related to the topic, use them as well. List anything you see, any thoughts that come to mind and any conclusions drawn from the images.

Slanting/Re-slant – Examine an idea or topic in terms of purpose and audience. If stuck, think about a different purpose or a different audience. For example, if you’re writing about married couples with the purpose of entertaining couples with at least five years of marriage, try looking at the topic from the newlyweds.

Referencing – If you have a basic idea or topic, look it up. Go to the dictionary, the thesaurus, the encyclopedia, an almanac, quote collection, any other reference. List any information. If you don’t have a topic, open to a random page, pick any topic, then go from there.

Combination of Techniques – Start with any technique then apply another technique to the results. For example, after listing and bulleting on your original topic, try referencing each listed item.

Once you have used these techniques, you should have a list of the ideas produced. These ideas must then be organized in some way. You may start by listing them neatly, then categorizing them. Group them according to subtopics, put them into an outline, or try to sequence them in some way. The idea is simply to impose some sort of order on the disorganized results, giving you a clear collection of ideas to work with. Now equipped with these ideas and some related information, you’ll have a better idea of what to work on in your writing.


Author Angela Booth has posted an article about the basics of getting published.

101 Best Writer's Sites

I just thought I'd post a great little link to a whole mess of awesome resources: The Writer's Digest 101 Best Sites for Writers It's a quality listing, with a ton of excellent stuff. They're actually compiling the 2006 list now, so if you want to nominate or vote for WriterSpot, then be my guest.


Plato and the Perfect Pitch – Elements of the Query Letter

Plato and the Perfect Pitch – Elements of the Query Letter

The Greek philosopher Plato said that in any interaction in which we must appeal to someone else, there are three appeals we can use, Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Each represents a separate element of appeal, and each one of these also corresponds to the elements of a successful query letter.

Pathos – Appealing to the emotions and passions.

Whether it’s the title of your story, the opening paragraph or an eye catching graphic, the reader needs to be pulled in to read the whole of your article, and this is especially true of an editor. When a query letter goes before an editor, you have perhaps a sentence or two in which to grab their attention, snap them out of their current state, and get them interested in your article. This is done with a hook or lead.

In order for your article to see print, the editor has to not only consider it, they also have to like it. If they never consider it, you have zero chance of getting published or getting a paycheck. Thus, it is essential for you to arouse in them a passionate response – one that leads them to keep reading. Maybe it’s a major current event. Maybe it’s a shocking statistic. Perhaps it’s just a well worded question, or a clever quote. The bottom line is that you must initially catch their mind, and get them involved in your query.

Logos – Appealing to logic and reason.

Once they’ve begun to read your query, you need to then appeal to their sense of logic. Give them solid reasons to want your article. Explain what it’s about, why it’s a good fit for their magazine and why their readers will want to read it. Include information about your expert sources, include statistics, include anything that will logically convince the editor that this is a good idea and will be a great article for them.

Ethos – Appealing by way of credibility.

Lastly, once you’ve sold the idea of the article, you need to sell yourself as a writer. This begins the moment they open your letter. Is it cleanly organized? Is it well thought out? Is it free from spelling and grammatical errors? The overall professionalism of your query will say volumes about your level of professionalism as a writer.

Lastly, you need to include some information about yourself. What have you written before? Where have you been published? What qualifies you to write on this specific topic? The main thrust here is credibility. If an editor loves your article idea but you appear to be an untrained novice, your chances for publication are slim to none. You must convince the editor that you are the right person for the job, so act accordingly.


Before You Write

A writer writes, by definition. We often imagine that professional writers sit down and simply write, with beautiful strings of elegantly crafted words simply streaming onto the page or screen with an inhuman grace. Such a mental image couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality of it is that writing is real work, a labor of care and love and obsession, with anything remotely graceful coming only after hour (if not days) of painstaking, plodding work. Even for most professionals, the art of writing is one filled with multiple drafts, numerous revisions and countless edits. Despite all of this, a few simple steps can reduce the time lost to labor and increase the speed with which completed articles go out the door.

The keys to efficient writing aren’t necessarily used when you’re actually writing the article or polishing it for publication; instead, efficient writing begins before the writing even starts. The two keys to more efficient writing are planning and preparation. While such words may cause the artistic free spirit to balk, these two elements will often mean the difference between an extra week of writing the same article, or a fat paycheck for an article that’s in under the deadline. The steps are simple, and just need to be followed.

Selecting a Topic
Before you can write effective non-fiction, you must select a topic. Without a topic, you don’t even have a direction in which to go. Very often, when a non-fiction writer speaks of writer’s block, that writer is really speaking about a lack of topic. Once a topic is chosen, fleshing it out is more a matter of cold logic than anything else.

Clarifying the Topic
Once you have a topic, you have a broad, general direction to go in. While this may be enough to get you going, it’s rarely enough to base an article on. Often, our topics may be either too broad, encompassing too much information, losing any potential impact, or it may be too narrow, not leaving enough room for development. Ask yourself the following questions, with example answers given describing the article you're reading now:

- What is the general topic? (writing)

- What differentiates it from the rest of that topic (the pre-writing process)

- Who is my audience? (writers, mostly experienced amateurs, non-professionals)

- What is the purpose? (instruct writers on pre-writing)

- What does my audience need to know? (Details regarding the steps of the pre-writing process)

- What questions are there about the topic and the needed information?

Doing the Research
Once you have clarified what your topic is, you’ll now have the beginnings of your information gathering. Continue asking yourself questions, looking at your topic from as many ways as possible. Looking at this list of questions, identify potential sources of information that you can turn to for answers. These may be individual experts, reference books, websites, and many more. As you answer the questions, look for additional questions that the audience wouldn’t even know to ask, but still should know. As your information accumulates, you may find that some questions become unimportant, or unnecessary; other questions, like the original topic, may be either too broad or too narrow. Continue to research and revise until you are satisfied that every base has been covered.

Thinking and Planning
Looking now at your clarified topic, your refined list of questions and the information you’ve accumulated through expert research, it’s time to think about your article. Bearing in mind both the intended audience for this article and the purpose, how might this information meet those needs? How should it be presented for maximum effect? How can this raw information be shaped into a marketable work of art? Now is the time to ponder these questions, and to find answers.

Making a List
Finally, with all your prior work completed, make a list of the points that must be covered in your article. Sequence this list in the most effective manner you can so that it won’t confuse readers or misrepresent your topic. List the points again, this time in sequence. Ta-da! You now have a step by step blue print for your article, with all of the necessary information laid out for you. Without a single visit from your ‘muse’ or even one case of artistic distemper, you’ve built the majority of a great article, and you’ve done it quickly, and effectively.

Brian Westover is a freelance writer. In addition to writing articles for publication in standard print venues (such as magazines and newspapers), he is also a skilled copywriter, offering a variety of services to anyone who needs great online content, polished business writing in a professional format and editing and coaching to improve your own writing. In addition to his professional site, Brian also runs WriterSpot, a website dedicated to finding and organizing online resources for either the beginning writer or experienced writing professional.


Basics of the Writing Process

In following the advice I received from the Renegade Writer's Blog, I'm posting my writing articles here, and will then be removing them from the site they're currently on. Enjoy the article, and feel free to comment!

At one time or another, it will be helpful (if not essential) that every individual knows how to write. The ability to develop a message and present it to others in an understandable fashion is one of the most important skills to be had in our media rich culture. Anyone can write, and write well. It’s simply a matter of knowing how, knowing the processes involved. Here, in a step-by-step format, that process is explained, from start to finish.

This process tends to be a cycle, one of gathering and refining until a finished product is created. Brainstorming gathers many ideas and these ideas are then refined into one single topic. Information is gathered about the topic, then reviewed and put in a sensible order. The first draft gathers your own thoughts and words, which are refined through edits and rewrites. Finally, you gather outside input by sharing your article for review, further refining your article to create a finished product.

In one way or another, every author needs to find and develop ideas to base their writing upon. These ideas may come to you naturally, without any prompting. Many times, however, these ideas need to be sought out, through a process known as brainstorming.

Selecting a topic
Once you have developed a list of possible topics, you’ll need to select one to work on. Evaluate each idea according to what you want to achieve. Are you writing to inform? Perhaps the aim is to entertain. Whatever the purpose of the article, some topics will be more suitable than others. It’s important to select the topic that works. A few questions to ask yourself:

- Is this topic going to yield enough material?
- Will the topic interest readers?
- Will the topic accomplish the article’s purpose?
- Is there enough information available about the topic?

Information Gathering
Having selected your topic, you must now begin gathering information about it. In non-fiction writing, information is the basic building block of any article or piece of writing. Gathering this information will be crucial to the success of your article.
To begin your information search, you’ll need to ask questions about your topic. These questions will correspond to the 6 basic questions of research, known as the 5 W’s and an H. They are as follows:

- Who
- What
- When
- Where
- Why
- How

These very questions will be had by your readers. Only in answering these questions can you satisfy them. This will be the best place to start your research.

Once you know the questions to ask, you can begin your search for answers. There are many sources you can look to for this information. The internet makes wide ranging research a simple matter, but don’t limit your search to the internet. There are still several sources of information that can’t be accessed online, such as archived documents, eyewitness or expert accounts, and other materials. Though much can be found online, it’s usually not enough by itself. Seek out every applicable source of information you can and be sure to take detailed notes, not only about the information they provide, but when, where and how this information was found.

Thinking and Planning
When you have gathered enough information, review it in light of your topic and the desired effect of your article. What information is important? What will interest your readers? You will need to determine how to approach this information in a manner that will be appropriate and effective.

Once all of this information has been collected, you must give it some sort of sequence. Taking your research material, make a list of each important point, in order. This may be a simple list of keywords or a detailed outline. Often, this listing will let you see where your research was lacking, showing you where further research is needed. Review and revise as necessary until you have all of the needed elements to convey your message.

Drafting the Message
This list will provide you with a guide or a blueprint to follow when actually writing your article. At first, you shouldn’t be overly concerned with things like grammar and punctuation. Don’t get wrapped up in neat phrases and tight prose. Just get the basics all out and in writing. This draft will be perfected and polished later. Think of this draft as a lump of unformed clay. It’s the raw substance that is important; the finer details can be worked out later.

Having collected your thoughts and ideas on the information already gathered, you can now perfect it. Read it and reread it, finding areas that should be fixed and things that were done well. This is more than fixing grammatical problems and punctuation errors. The rewriting process may require entire paragraphs to be cut, rewritten from scratch or moved to another part of the article. It’s not unusual for an author to rewrite a piece multiple times during this stage. Generally, this stage is the most time consuming, requiring more hard work and thought than any other. As a result, this stage is also the most important. It is during the rewriting process that an article goes from good to great. It is the rewriting process that distinguishes a piece by an unskilled amateur or a solid professional in the writing craft.

After all of your research, writing, editing and rewriting, you will finally have a completed article that you feel is complete. Your work is not done, at this point. It is now ready to share with someone else, be it an editor, a spouse or a friend. After so much thought and work, you’ll need a pair of eyes other than your own to find any rough patches or problems in your article. Find someone to critique your work, and they’ll help you find the weak spots. Some authors avoid this stage for fear of needing to rewrite their article yet again. Don’t be afraid; be grateful. Anything that your reviewer noticed your readers would notice. It’s better to catch these problems before they are noticed by your readers.

After you’ve had your piece looked over by a friend or two, it’s time for the final changes. If you have the time, set it all aside for a day so that you can review it with fresh eyes. Even if you can’t do this, take the time and care to look over it again. Don’t just look at the words; look at the theme, the impressions left afterwards, the format. Pay attention to the white spaces between paragraphs, to the size of the font, to the overall readability. Look at anything and everything, because this is your last chance to fix it. Change anything you need to, and once you’re satisfied, it’s done.


Brian Westover is a freelance writer. In addition to writing articles for publication in standard print venues (such as magazines and newspapers), he is also a skilled copywriter, offering a variety of services to anyone who needs great online content, polished business writing in a professional format and editing and coaching to improve your own writing. In addition to his professional site, Brian also runs WriterSpot, a website dedicated to finding and organizing online resources for either the beginning writer or experienced writing professional.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Brian_Westover


Clip Question Answered

The Renegade Writer's Blog has responded to my question!

“I’m still new to freelance writing and am fairly inexperienced, and by inexperienced I mean lacking in clips. I’ve written a few things online, but only for article sites and websites that accept open submissions. While the articles themselves are done well, I’m worried that including these as clips would just scream ‘amateur!’ to any editor who looked at them. What should I do?” (See the full answer...)

As they so perfectly rephrased it, my clips stink! Because they're mostly for crappy article sites, they've been lumped together with whatever crappy drivel gets posted there.

Thier suggestion? Pull my articles out of these wannabe corrals, focus on writing for real publications and learn to write a killer query letter.

This sounds like excellent advice - I'll get right on that.

On a further note, the RWB has also added me to the list of 'Blogs they Like'. Yay for links!


Query Letter Cheat Sheet

Research First
At the very least, you’ll do some measure of research before you send off a query, even if it’s only to look up the address. While you’re at it, increase your opportunities to get published by finding out what the publication’s submission guidelines are, which editor to send your work to, and determine before hand whether a topic is appropriate for the publication.

What you’ll want to know:
Contact Info
Editor Name
Submission Guidelines
Study Market

While there are as many format variations as there are writers, there are some key pieces of information that you need to have in your query.
Editor Name
Basic Info about the article
Author Bio

If you are missing any of these elements, your initial query to an editor is probably incomplete.

Because a query letter is essentially a business proposal, many writers suggest using a business letter format. Whether that format works best is up to the writer, but you absolutely must be business-like and professional. Make sure it’s easy to read, clearly organized and is complete.

When your query letter is being read, it’s often the only thing an editor has to go on regarding your writing skills, your dependability and your professionalism. If you’re not already fanatical about doing things right, now would be a good time to start.

Mistakes to Avoid
Here’s what not to do:
Include spelling errors, grammatical problems or sloppy language
Put in an unusual font/color/paper/etc
Include unimportant personal details
Get long winded to make your short query longer

Some Great Articles on Query Letter Writing:

How to Write a Query Letter - John Hewitt

The Stuff E-Mail Queries are Made Of - Mridu Khullar

From Thought to Query - Teri Pilcher

The 5 Paragraph Query Letter - Terri L. Main

Tips for Query Writing - Jessica Ramirez

Finally - Published in Print!

This semester at school, I joined the staff of the Scroll, BYU - Idaho's student paper. It's an excellent paper, one which frequently wins serious awards for everything from content to layout to business practices. As far as student papers go, it's one of the best there is, and I got to join the staff.

I was excited about this all summer because, in addition to the invaluable experience I knew I'd be receiving, this would also provide me with those oh-so-important published clips for my portfolio.

Needless to say, I've been anxious since the semester started to finally get something published, and to have some real clips to include with queries and the like.

Naturally, I was thrilled when they wanted me to write something for the first edition - that week, most of the new reporters were just given their style guides and told to brush up on things. I was being asked to write something right away, because of my prior experience, and my familiarity with the format they needed. Ah ha! Already my talent and professionalism were getting attention. I was feeling pretty smug when I handed my piece in well ahead of the deadline.

I was still smugly smirking when I opened up the paper to see my words printed there in beautiful black ink, done up as an impressive half-page infographic. It was so lovely - my own words, lovingly crafted, there for all of the university to see. But wait... where was my byline?

Turns out, in the rush to get the paper off to press, they just forgot to include it. Because it was a graphic and not a story, they hadn't even thought about it. So, my first 200 printed words for the Scroll went uncredited. I was a little miffed, but not overly so - surely, having impressed themwith my speed and professionalism so early in the game I'd get plenty of opportunities to get my name in print.

I wasn't disappointed. The very next week, they assigned me a story on local political events, and wanted twelve inches within a week. I jumped on the opportunity, and gave them a great story.

Unfortunately, the day before this story went to press, a student who works for one of the political groups mentioned in my article came into the Scroll offices, saw the article already in layout, and started picking at every detail of the article, calling some of it inaccurate, other parts poorly researched and on the whole saying that it was full of politically slanted editorial commentary.

Now, let me say upfront that this article was meticulously researched, and I spent hours removing anything I could even imagine being perceived as bias in any direction. However, he had pointed out one actual mistake, and raised enough questions over the article's content to get it pulled from the paper that week. Instead of my article, I opened up the paper to find an advertisement.

That was two weeks ago. I've since improved my source attribution in the article, fixed the one legitimate mistake and editted my story even further. In the mean time, I also wrote a second article which unfortunately wasn't quite newsworthy enough to run. They didn't run either. Hopefully, you can understand how a little bit of frustration might begin to seep into my efforts?

This last week, I've been busting my butt on another story, trying to get it done without neglecting either my classes or my wife too terribly. Unfortunately, I could already tell that it wouldn't be ready for this week's paper, so I talked to my editor about giving me another week, which he is.

The only problem is that, as of yesterday, I had written three and a half articles, printed only one, and still not even gotten a clip that had my name on it! Arrrgghh! I was more than frustrated, I was getting pissed off. Was my work going to get me anywhere?

This morning, I was pleasantly suprised to find, nestled nicely amid the other articles on the News page, my first article, the one that had been pulled at the last minute. Apparently, my revising efforts had not been in vain, and I am now feeling a bit more validated as a writer. So, there you have it. I've finally gotten into newsprint, and it feels great. Hopefully, not every writing endeavor will be so infuriatingly frustrating.


Someone in Cyberspace Likes Me!

I've got a small confession to make. I Google myself. I'll search for my name, I'll search for my articles, my websites, my comments on other blogs, and anything else I can find out about myself. Maybe it's the result of insatiable curiosity with just a bit of ego thrown in. Maybe it's more like a handful of ego, with a pinch of curiosity. Either way, it's not a daily thing. Once in a while, just because I'm bored, I'll Google Brian Westover, just to see what pops up.

It turns out that there are about 10 different people named Brian Westover in the USA, including myself. There's a dentist, a real estate agent, a computer programmer, a blacksmith and one devilishly handsome freelance writer. But I digress.

Today, I discovered that I've gotten a wee bit of recognition from another auther. Anita Hackley Lambert, author of the biography F.H.M. Murray: First Biography of a Forgotten Pioneer for Civil Justice and has on her site a collection of selected articles about the writing profession. Included on the site is my own article Before You Write.

Any recognition goes a long way, and I'll happily take what I can get. Thanks Anita, and good luck in your writing career!

Query Letters as Content

I've just recently stumbled across a great little blog that seems to share a few aims with my own. Query-a-Day follows Donna, a freelance writer as she queries different publications. It's a great idea, and I'll shamelessly admit, it's one I'm going to use here as well. I hope she doesn't mind.

Honestly, it's an idea I was already considering. The thought of blogging about my queries, the follow-ups, the rejections, the acceptance letters, all of that - it seems to me to be an area that's ready-made to blog about. It would keep me steady with the query letters, and it would add some flavor to the blog. (Hmmm... the flavor of the blog - that doesn't sound very appetizing!)