How to Make it as a Freelance Writer
Instructor: Cal Orey
Imagine: The phone doesn’t ring, you find yourself amid a pile of rejection letters, and money’s tight. It’s been more weeks than you care to count since you’ve gotten an assignment or book contract, and the fear of never getting a new gig haunts you like a spooky Stephen King sci-fi tale. If you’re like most writers, at some time you’ll probably hit a plateau—the point when it seems like you just can’t pull out of a big, fat slump. But the good news is, you can reprise your role as a prolific writer. So if you’re down, on the verge of suffering through a sales lull or trying to find a way out (or in), get prepared to write yourself out of a slump. Whether you need a jump-start or want to make a comeback, the following slump-busters suggest some strategies for boosting your number of assignments and coping while trying to end a bad streak.
In this class, you can look forward to learn winning rebound strategies, straight from author Cal Orey who knows that a slump can hit anyone, at anytime. You will share your questions and ideas, hour by hour, slump buster by slump buster. Ms. Orey will provide professional guidance and suggestions and other students will participate in discussion.
- Market, Market, Market: The taboo secrets of how to wow editors and publishers (i.e., email dynamic queries to bold cold-calling)
- Recycling Reprints: The tricks of reselling and revising your work to make instant cash
- Spread Your Wings: How to break out of your comfort zone and tap new markets
- Get Local Business: Which to contact and how to score work ASAP
- Go Global: How to approach international markets without leaving your home
- Consult on a Proposal: Strategies on how to market an “as told to,” article or book
- Hang in There and Live Life: Tips on how to write what you know and profit
- Network with a Capital N: The nuts and bolts of finding assignments through connections
- Get an Agent: How and where to find a good literary agent
- Fire Up the Creative Juices: Must-do exercises to feed your brain, and stay motivated
By the end of six weeks, students can expect to have the essential must-have tools to pick themselves up, and be confident that they can blast a writer’s slump.
Start Date: January 4 and every Wednesday thereafater.
Duration: 6 weeks
Class Materials: Instructor will provide.
A SAMPLE OF A STUDENT/TEACHER
INTERACTION DURING ONE OF THE CLASS SESSIONS:
Student's Goal: To land a humor column
Teacher Cal: Your goal is to get a regular column going with a newspaper or website. This is good. Been there, done that. But there isn't a lot of money in these markets. What I want to do is for you to think bigger. Think of the big picture. I'm going to help you to query local newspapers, popular mags, trade publications, etc.
The catch is, you have to be sly. Unless you have a strong platform (a ready-made audience and are very well-known) landing a regular humor column can be difficult. However, if you begin s-l-o-w-l-y you can ease into a column before you know it. I've done it many times. Keep in mind, however, nothing lasts forever. But it is a great feeling to have a column (or two). It's every freelancer's dream.
Student Mark: Makes sense.
Teacher Cal: A while ago, I co-authored a humor piece with the man who wrote, "Nice Guys Don't Get Laid." This book was very successful and very funny. We did a spin-off for an article and "Details" (a popular men's mag almost bought it; actually [ironically] we did receive a kill fee [because its companion piece written by another writer didn't live)].
My point is, it was a how-to short service piece entitled, "Killer Love Letters." It was mocking the guys on death row who seem to be chick magnets. You know how Charles Manson-types get women who fall for 'em, write them love letters. So we simply wrote 6 ways to be a bad boy and get a girl interested in you without going to prison. Readers and editors love humor articles that are informative. That's how you can slide into a regular gig.
For instance, a few years ago I wanted to write fun and humorous quizzes for Complete Woman. I didn't query the editor and say, "I want to be your quiz columnist." I asked if I could write a quiz because I do them well. A hundred quizzes later...See, you have to take
baby steps. Once you establish yourself as a humor writer with service pieces that are
funny and informative, eventually you can do the off the cuff humor stuff. But it takes patience and you have to work your way up to that.
Student Mark: Haven't written a "how-to" or advice piece, per se, but certainly see
Student Mark: One of the first lessons I learned in stand-up was "First, get good." It was the very good advice that you pay your dues and become very good at what you do before you try to audition to "pass" at a club. Trying to "get passed" at a major club too soon only works to hurt you. Seem to be some parallels here....
Student Mark: Could you humor me with a short definition of a "service" piece?
Teacher Cal: Very clever. It would be nice to turn it into a service piece, an informative short article. Again, how-to service pieces or Op-Ed opinion pieces for Cosmo are an easier in to the mag. Purchase this mag and see what the TOC looks like. I know they have regular columnists but you may be able to see what types of articles, the length, etc. Thus, you can pitch an idea via query and/or submit a humor piece. Often, mags prefer to see the humor article rather than a proposal. We can discuss potential for this next week.
Student Mark: RE: Cosmo...germ of an idea: one of the "ideal" dates for women is a doctor. What about when the woman is the doctor. An article like, "Mom, I'm Dating A Doctor" but it's written by a guy dating a woman doctor. Would seem to be a lot of possibilities there for role-reversal, status bragging, etc.
Teacher Cal: Good. We are making progress. Flynt has a large group of magazines... Some of the articles I wrote were very witty and informative: "Flat chested women make better lovers." The fact is, they're open to good writers. It's a great place to start and you'd make more of a splash than in a local newspaper or website that doesn't have a budget.
Student Mark: Just focusing on the magazine helps to generate ideas. (Top 50 Excuses for Not Going to the Gym; 5 Tech Gadgets You Need to Have to Be Cool; How to Pick Up a Supermodel...Oh. There's been an explosion of absolute schlubs hooking up with good-looking celebrity women (Britney Spears, Mischa Barton...and if Kid Rock can date Pamela Anderson, we are truly living in a world where anything is possible)
Teacher Cal: YES! By George, you've got it! Yes, Yes, Yes!
Student Mark: -----Ah-ha! Took me awhile but I get it. Or as my father used to say, "Dawn Breaks Over Marblehead."