"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
As featured on: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, LifeHack, Technorati, Date My Pet, South 85 Literary Journal and other award-winning sites.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Rebel Writer! 5 Ways to break the rules and break the bank

Most scribes I know adhere to the “cardinal rules” of writing more strictly than the 10 Commandments!
Because experts and how-to gurus often give the impression that it’s the only path to publication.

However, it’s not long before these wordsmiths discover that there are many roadblocks when venturing down the “traditional path.”

Perfectly crafted queries get them nowhere, and wild goose chases often leave them frustrated and questioning whether or not they have the talent to make it in this business.

Perhaps it’s even you.
Take it from someone who knows---there’s a better way.

When I became a freelance writer many years ago, there were many obstacles facing me. At the time, I had never taken a class in writing, I had no college degree, (I now have several), no contacts or connections, and I hadn’t discovered my passion until much later in life! What I did have was a business background and the realization that I had to be strategic in order to overcome what I viewed as potential setbacks. To compensate for lost time and less experience, I learned to be more creatively clever than the next person. And to work my "BIC" off. And it worked big time!

What I figured out along the way, is that sometimes“ rules were meant to be broken”.

Here are a few that can increase your productivity and enhance your bottom line!

1. DON’T QUERY, BE HAPPY! Would you believe that I’ve sold about 600 articles, commentary pieces, short stories, and poems without ever once having written a query? Not one. Nada. The trick here is to request writers’ guidelines, produce your best work, be unique, and know intimately the audience of the publications for which you target.

A few years ago, an anthology publisher posted guidelines on an online bulletin board for an upcoming book that really bowled me over. I feverishly went to work, and submitted what I thought was a fantastic piece. There was just one problem. No matter how much weeding and revising I did, I couldn’t stay within their specified word count. For me, to dissect my story any more would take away some of the essence of my work. To remedy the situation, I wrote a nice little cover letter to the editor explaining my dilemma. Guess what? The piece was purchased and was ultimately selected from out of more than 600 entries around the country.

3. KNOW THAT “NO” DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN NO. As an avid reader, I sometimes enjoy writing book reviews. A local magazine that previously did not accept book reviews bought mine. The reason? It was well written, fit the slant of the magazine, and I had established a good working relationship with the editor. Sometimes you never know until you try!

4. WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW, BUT ALSO WRITE WHAT YOU’D LIKE TO DISCOVER. Never limit your creativity to things that you have prior knowledge of. You’ll miss out on some great fun and the opportunity to expand your knowledge base.

5. WRITE EVERYDAY? I wouldn’t dare dream of it! Truth is, sometimes my muse acts as rebellious as a teenager. The more I force, the more she holds out. Still, I do something each day to support my writing career. When I’m not crafting a piece, I read or research markets, or turn on the boob tube to be inspired. You should too!

Some rules were indeed meant to be broken. And my long,
successful, satisfying career is positive proof of it!

Thoughts? Break any "rules" in your writing career?
This piece was previously published by me @ Writing for Dollars and is dedicated today to Linda O'Connell.

Image: graur razvan ionut


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi Jen,
    You warmed my heart with your notation. I was inspired the first time I read this article,
    and taking your advice has led to publication. Thank you in so many ways.

  3. No, thank you, Linda. I am humbled and honored. :-)

  4. Great advice. Writers are artists, and this means we can be creative in so many ways. I know I've landed work based on relationships - no queries, etc. There are a lot of ways to get around the mountain. Thanks for sharing this, Jen!

  5. Karen,

    I appreciate the feedback. May you enjoy continued success!

  6. Boy, you blew me away with this piece. So you started out staring at what must have seemed at times to be an insurmountable mountain and made it over without writing one query?? Mazel tov! I applaud your targeted and fruitful determination to find a better way on your terms. You speak to me, Jennifer. You encourage me. Thank you for this post!

  7. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 30, 2011 at 3:55 PM


    ...Always a pleasure to hear from you.
    Yep. In the words of Ole' blue eyes, "I did it my way.":-) And I have been blessed.

    But, in 2011 I may have to change strategies a bit, as things are getting tougher and I'm running into a few walls I'd like to climb faster as I'm getting older, not bolder. :-)

    Glad to inspire you to climb higher. I'll be rootin' for you on the sidelines!

  8. Wonderful post! I feel much better after having read #5. I found your site through Linda O'Connell--so thanks to Linda, too.

    Dianna Graveman

  9. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 30, 2011 at 4:09 PM


    Welcome! Welcome! # 5 is a stumper for many. But truth is, though there are some universals, some things we must individualize to fit our specific career goals, personality, and lifestyle. Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you again soon.

  10. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 30, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    Thanks, Dianna for the "follow". :-)

  11. Hi Jennifer -

    Thank you for a refreshing post!

    I've heard some rumblings around the industry about dynamite queries and proposals, but awful first chapters. Maybe our energies need to be focused on what's important.

    Susan :)

  12. Susan,

    How true! Thanks for sharing. Enjoy your week ahead. :-)

  13. Hi Jennifer,

    I'm learning so much valuable information from you. I was very nervous about writing, but you've put my fears and worries at ease. :)

    Take care,


  14. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 31, 2011 at 8:03 AM


    This is great to here! Much continued success to you. Keep me posted. :-)

  15. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 31, 2011 at 8:19 AM

    OOPS!That should read "hear" not here.

  16. This is good stuff and very timely. Thanks.

  17. Jennifer Brown BanksFebruary 1, 2011 at 4:11 AM

    I appreciate that, Marcie. Hope it moves you forward in your future goals!

  18. Hi Jennifer .. just come over from Susan Reinhard's blog - where she pointed us here .. I missed the post in January - overwhelmed - but now so pleased Susan sent me back! Wonderful advice .. so I look forward to rebelling sometime soon ..

    Cheers and have a good weekend .. Hilary

  19. Jennifer Brown BanksMarch 4, 2011 at 3:33 AM


    How lovely of you---I'm glad you're here.

    Thanks very much for the feedback.