My Top 10 Writing Tips
February 8, 2013
‘Aren’t you getting a bit old to be getting into this writing lark Leece?’ One helpful friend asked me. Another said ‘You need to specialise in something, and there is too much music writing out there anyway….you have to be REALLY good, so you know. Do something else.’
Lucky for me, I’ve always been horribly stubborn when I’ve been told I can’t do something. So I did it anyway [My friends knew me well...talk about reverse psychology!]
The point is, so do have to be really good to get paid [and sometimes, not that good when I see some of the drivel that is printed in the papers these days] but you can improve. The more you write, the better you get. As long as you have a good editor behind you who is willing to guide you and give constructive criticism, you can only improve.
Here are my tips. No doubt people will disagree with me on some points, but this has been my experience in the last 2 years.
- Start a blog. I know EVERYONE has a blog, and is suddenly calling themselves ‘writers’ but this is a good way of getting initial thoughts down before you start sending your work out.
- You need to have a portfolio. At the beginning, most of those pieces will be unpaid work, but until you have something to show, you won’t have a chance of getting paid
- Don’t be arrogant. This really pisses editors off. You may think you are a ‘great’ writer but there will always be room for improvement. Say ‘I think this is one of my stronger articles’ Never ‘This is a brilliant piece’
- Be tenacious…but never annoying. Keep contacting the publication, don’t give up….but not every day. Leave it a couple of weeks, maybe even a month. But be slightly more assertive is your description of why you want to write for that publication each time you contact them. [P.S It took me 6 months to even get the courage to write to The Quietus. It took another 6-9 months to be published by them. It was worth it]
- Listen to your editors. They have been doing it a while. They know what they are talking about. If you honestly think you know better, then maybe you are writing for the wrong publication.
- A good editor will give you feedback. A really great editor will give you constructive criticism. As they are so busy, most of the time they will send you a style guide and just let you get on with it. If an editor has taken the time to read a piece and critique it properly, take that info and apply it fully. Do not waste good advice. And do not let them get away with saying ‘write what you want’ Ask them for tips, advice structure and writing style, do not let them fob you off. A good editor will respond to you.
- Do not take criticism personally. A cricket journalist friend of mine [who is also the youngest editor of Wisden in Post War Britain] describes writers/journalists as ‘shy egotists’ This is very true. You are writing to get published are you not? You WILL get criticised. Deal with it. Just as many people will love it…believe me. Ignore the ignorant troll like comments. But ALWAYS listen to intelligent criticism. This will only make you better. If you can’t handle it….don’t write.
- Do not expect to be ‘discovered’ Many of the great writers published novels/poetry and articles for years before they became well known. Why are you doing this anyway? Do you love to write…or do you want to be famous. If it’s the latter then I for one would question your motives. If it is the former, don’t expect people to come to you. Keep writing regardless, but MAKE it happen. No one else will do it for you. Contact all the publications you love. Don’t give up. One day, you will get a reply.
- Accept that you will never be rich [unless you write a book, it gets published, has great PR behind it, and sells millions] There is no money in music writing. There is in travel [for now] Most freelance writers/journos these days have a second job [unless they have been at a newspaper for years]
- And finally, write about what you love, and know. Don’t specialise unless you want to become a master in that topic. Keep your mind open, if opportunities come along to write about different things, take them. You will learn something new. Do not try and write like anyone else. I am not the worlds best writer, but people have always responded well. Someone out there will relate to your story, the subject, the tone and you will strike a chord with someone somewhere. And the more you write. The better you get. It’s like a muscle. Use it.