No doubt, many of you have embarked on your New Year’s resolutions:
“I’m going to lose weight!”
“I’m going to drink less!”
“I’m going to change careers!”
“I’m going to stop referring to myself in the third person!”
Ok, maybe that last one was just me.
Regardless, I think we can all agree resolutions are a great way to jump-start goals for personal improvement and life changes. At least until the end of February, at which point we often “re-evaluate” our goals and make “more realistic” adjustments to those goals by “dropping them completely.” For this reason, as writers, we need to be careful about the resolutions we make regarding literary goals, and in some cases we shouldn’t make them at all.
Many of you are probably saying, “Sure Ned, that’s easy for you to say!”
Oops, sorry — That was me speaking in third-person again.
As some of you may know (and by “some” of you, I mean my publisher) I’ve been working on my manuscript, Pearls of Writing Wisdom:From 16 shucking years as a columnist, for the last few weeks.
I am now on the final chapter, which will be done tomorrow, depending on what time of day I decide to start drinking.
Ha! Ha! Just kidding! There’s no need to pick a time.
Anyway, this book is particularly special to me because, if you are a writer (or fear you might be one), I wrote this book for you. Think of it as the conversation we’d have about writing if we were sharing a cold beer. We’d talk about technique, style, personal experience and hopes. We’d encourage each other and share a few laughs. We might even get a little rowdy and start using air quotation marks.
I have a file full of rejection notes and letters from editors and publishing houses. Many are for my column when I was first starting out.
Others are in response to a murder mystery I wrote back in the late 1990s.
And one is from Miss October 1978.
In spite of the negative connotation a rejection letter conjures up in the mind of most authors — fine, every author — don’t overlook the more important aspects of what it represents.
To begin with, it means you’ve completed a written work. Given a choice between writing a 500-word essay or being tased in the buttocks, the average person would rather drop their pants than pick up a pen. The fact that you aren’t rubbing a bruised rear means you are a writer (Depending on your genre, of course). No number of rejection letters changes that. Regardless of whether its a 400-page novel or an 800-word opinion piece, you have honed and polished your words to the point you are ready to send it out to the world, either in the form of sample chapters, a query or by pushing the “publish” button on your blog or website. Continue reading If you’re a writer without a rejection letter, you’re doing something wrong
Over the last several weeks I’ve had a lot of bloggers asking how I got started as a columnist. Perhaps it’s because of the new year and resolutions made by writers to persue their goals of publication. Or perhaps they have been drinking and, in a moment of weakness, stumbled onto my blog. Which might explain why most of the messages I received asking for advice went something like this:
“Are you drunk or sober when you write? And how do I get started?”
Because I’m assuming they already know how to get started drinking, I thought I’d share the process I went through in becoming a syndicated columnist. Because this is a PG-rated site, I will leave out the extreme nudity, profanity and gratutitous violence that accompanied my rise to the somewhat moderately wellknown columnist (within a seven-mile radius) that you see today.
I don’t know if it’s the change of the seasons, the approaching zombie apocalypse or a tainted batch of Lay’s Chicken and Waffles potato chips. Whatever the reason, a lot of folks have been asking the question, “How did you get started?” Not to sound presumptuous, but I assume they mean “as a columnist,” and not “as a father” or “turning grey” — which, I’d like to point out, are directly related. Because of this, I thought it might be a good time to revisit my very first Nickel’s Worth on Writing, which covers the basics on how to get a jumpstart your rejection letters writing career. I should point out that some of today’s best-selling authors got their start after reading this post, prompting writers like J.K. Rowling to call Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, “Just the advice I needed to realize my potential within the food service industry. You know, until the book thing came along.”
When I first started querying newspapers about carrying my column, I was getting one or two rejections in my email box every week. In frustration, I turned to the Internet and discovered, with a little planning and organization, I could be rejected by every newspaper in the state of Louisiana all in one afternoon.
In 2002, I began my unofficial “Internet promotional tour” across the United States by emailing a basic cover letter and a few sample columns to newspapers here in my home state of Oregon. Today, the column is running in 60 papers in 11 states and Canada. What follows are a few simple truths, mixed with some suggestions, that will help distinguish your email query from the hundreds of male enhancement offers editors receive each day. Continue reading Getting started as a columnist (or why I avoid Rhode Island)