Article Writing Q&A with Darlene ‘Dee’ Bishop

If you have thought about writing articles and submitting your work to editors in hopes of being published, this post is for you. Whether you’re an aspiring freelance writer, published author, or soon-to-be-published author, I hope you’ll find a nugget or two of useful information.

My subject matter expert today is Darlene ‘Dee’ Bishop and Dee has over 30 years experience writing and editing articles, ezines and newsletters, press releases, business correspondence, and more. She is the owner of Quality Business Writing, a home-based writing and editorial services company, and she’s the author of Frugal Fancy: Your Guide to Living Better for Less (release date Summer 2009).

How did you get started as a freelance writer?

I’ve wanted to write all my life. When I was 10 I wrote a (terrible!) story and mailed it to Golden Books. But I didn’t even include a return address! I knew nothing about publishing – only that I wanted to write.

In 1998, following surgery, I needed to bring in some money so I began looking for work online. I started out editing web pages and some clients asked me to write some articles for them and it took off from there.

Many writers have written articles and submitted them to various magazines only to have their work rejected. What would you say are the biggest reasons that an editor would reject an article?

One is that people send them to the wrong editor. At one time, I owned a Christian ebook publishing company and our information was listed in the Christian Writers Market. You wouldn’t believe the number of submissions I received from authors who obviously had never bothered to read our guidelines.

Another reason is poor grammar and lack of proofreading. Your work will probably never be perfect – I don’t know if anyone’s is. But it must be as good as you can make it. So many beginning writers leave glaring errors throughout their work. That’s a real turn-off for an editor.

What tips can you share to help a writer increase their chances of having an article published?

Research your market. See what the publication you want to write for is publishing. Read current issues – not 10 year old ones. Follow the submission guidelines to the letter. Proofread your work.

What skills does a writer need to have in order to write articles that editors will want to publish?

General writing ability helps. You don’t have to be a Stephen King or a Danielle Steele. I see a lot of writing published by authors and think, “I could have written that.” And I know I’m not the best writer. But being able to coherently communicate your thoughts is mandatory. Decide what you want to say, and then say it in the clearest manner possible.

For the writer out there who is interested in building a profitable freelance career, what advice would you offer?

The first thing you have to do to be a writer is write. It’s what beginners struggle with the most, I think. Begin to look for topics that interest you and write articles about those topics. A lot of people are against writers working for free, but it’s hard to get paid when no one knows you or your work. So offer to write articles as a guest on blogs in your topic (niche) area as you begin to write pieces you hope to sell. Submit letters to the editor of your local paper. Write press releases for local charities. As you gain confidence in your abilities, begin to submit your work to editors. Don’t expect to sell to the highest paying markets until your work is polished and extremely professional. But you can make a very profitable career writing for small markets and business clients. And have a blast doing it!

In this recession, do you still see opportunities for freelance writers to earn a living?

Absolutely! I don’t think the economy has hurt writers as much as “writers” from third world countries who are willing to crank out articles for pennies on the dollar. But as long as people like to read, there will be opportunities for writers. You have to work hard, you have to keep at it. But you CAN earn a living as a writer even in a recession.

What are the key ingredients necessary for writing a good article?

Focus. Decide on a very tight topic for your article and write only about that topic. If you want to write about “Five Ways to Grow Your Business on Twitter” don’t give tips for growing a business on Facebook.

Write tight. Remove unnecessary words and phrases. Write what needs to be said, then stop writing. NEVER write just to fill space or make a piece longer.
Proofread. Check spelling, grammar, word usage, sentence structure, etc. Have someone else read your article. Walk away from it for a few hours or a day. Then reread it and proofread again. Sounds tedious, but it makes a bigger difference than you can imagine.

Dee, as you know, we love a good laugh on this blog. Before you go, could you tell us who your favorite humor columnist/writer is?

I don’t know that most people would call her a humor writer, but Jan Karon, the author of the Mitford series, is one of the few writers who truly make me laugh out loud. I love her writing and have reread her books many times when I need a light, comfortable read.



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