>A few more do’s and don’ts

>I’m having trouble pulling my brain back from my Thanksgiving trip. Once we get into the holiday season, it can be a real challenge to keep working, but if we pay attention, we can find many story ideas in this crazy time of year. Shopping at 3 a.m.? Turkey food poisoning? Hanging lights in the rain? If you can’t sell your ideas for this year, Christmas will come again, and lots of publications work way ahead.

Meanwhile, I promised more examples of bad advice to beware of, so here are three more.

1) Last time, we talked about “job shadowing” and how that probably won’t work for newspapers. Now this person is suggesting you shadow a bunch of different positions because newspaper workers move around a lot. One day a copy editor, the next day a sports reporter, the next day covering City Hall . . . No. The bigger the paper, the more separate the jobs are. Sports is a separate world from the rest of the paper. Writers rarely change departments. Copy editors are also completely separate and unlikely to move into a reporting position. As a freelancer, you can move around among the various departments, but on staff, expect to stay in the job for which you were hired.

2) Think about taking a journalism course. Well, you can’t just jump into one journalism course; it’s a whole program leading to a degree. Any education and experience you can get is helpful, but most papers seek staff writers who have college degrees. Freelancers don’t necessarily have to have any kind of degree if they can do the work.

3) Editors are the enemy. Editors are just overworked people trying to put out the best publication they can. They have to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit, and sometimes your story just doesn’t fit, or it needs a little work to make it fit. Be glad the editor is there to fix your mistakes and make your writing shine.

Do you have questions or misconceptions you’d like to address? Please feel free to comment.

Meanwhile, time to start working on the Christmas cards.

Have you purchased your copy of Freelancing for Newspapers yet?

>Networking helps; so does the dog

>A few weeks ago, I attended the monthly Nye Beach Writers series here in Newport, Oregon. Among the attendees was the editor of a local entertainment newspaper. I wrote one story for her 11 years ago when she was editor of another paper. A lot of things have changed since then for both of us. During intermission, she sought me out to tell me she had been reading and enjoying my Unleashed in Oregon blog. She recognized me from the picture on my blog. Nice, I thought. A few days later, I met her at the post office. She lives way up the coast, but she was on her way through my area, and there she was chasing me down in the parking lot. Why? To tell me she would love it if I wanted to write something for her. Her usual pay rate is low, but she’d increase it for me, she said. If I’m interested, all I need to do is pitch her some ideas. No formal query, just an e-mail or phone call.

I may or may not do it because the pay is still quite low, but that just goes to show you how doing things like attending writers’ events and putting out a blog can draw attention to your skills. In fact, many of my better freelance assignments have come through networking rather than the old query method. But don’t stop querying, especially if you aren’t likely to meet an editor at your small-town post office.
A few readers have signed on for my bi-weekly submission challenge. I sent one thing out last week and pledge to do another this week.

Ooh, maybe two. My dog just walked in and gave me another article idea. No, he doesn’t speak English, but he has learned how to jump the fence, and I’m spending far too much time wandering the neighborhood calling, “Here Chico, come on, dude, I’ve got cookies, come on, boy,” etc. I just realized other dog owners probably have the same problem. Query time. Once you open the flood gates, they come pouring in.