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"As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move...similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle."~Honore de Balzac

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Writing Triangle

At the conference last week, Melissa, Jann, and I learned a new strategy I want to pass along to everyone else.

The first leg of the triangle is "personal fulfillment." We often write for that reason and the book we've just written most likely can be categorized that way. We write to save memories, get revenge, change our history, or please ourselves, and we pay no attention to what we need to do to get published or make money. We write for the joy and the challenge and because we must when our muse calls.

The second leg of the triangle is "publication" and this might not be as much fun or as interesting or pleasurable, but it helps build our writer's platform. We write for magazines, journals, newspapers, newsletters, church bulletins or anywhere we can get our byline in print. It doesn't matter if it's for low pay or no pay because being published proves us credible as writers. When we query publishers, agents, or editors, we can say we've been published in this regional or that national magazine or wrote a column for such-and-so newspaper. It gives us a resume we can produce when seeking an agent or soliciting an editor for our larger and more important work.

The third leg of the triangle is "income" and this is the most tedious of all. This part of the triangle takes work, but writing is our job and we need to "go to work" now and then and dig up good sources that will not only publish our work but pay us royalties or an advance or a lump sum. When focusing on this leg of the triangle we dig through publications at the library, check out book series already sold in bookstores, museums and gift shops, and study websites. Many small publishers are seeking writers. Companies, too, need writers. So do franchises with a number of books out there and more to come. One author doesn't write all those books in the series. Here byline and/or personal fulfillment isn't addressed. Here, it's all about the paycheck. The best money I ever made writing was for a company developing audio learning programs. No byline to speak of and certainly no personal fulfillment, but that dependable check that came in the mail brought be through a financial crisis during the five years I received it.

Remembering that there are three sides to the writer's triangle, it's important to analyze where we focus much of our time. If you're like me, it's on that first leg because that's where I find the passion.

Perhaps that lengthy memoir you're writing right now has sections that could be turned into short personal essay pieces. Consider the magazines and newspapers you already read on a regular basis. You're familiar with the style of their articles and that saves you some time. After being a magazine editor, I know that print media is always looking for "fillers," extremely short pieces, poetry, how-to ideas that can be plopped on the page mock-up at the last minute. And what about e-zines and blogs and writing contests? Spend part of your regular writing time analyzing the market and it will pay off in the end.

The writer's triangle helps us structure our writing time. If we want to succeed as writers and develop a platform that's impressive, it's important to not only write for pleasure but to discover new ways to publish and make a bit of money.

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