So You Want to Write for Pay, but You Haven’t Been Paid for Writing Yet

When you first start out seeking to get paid for your writing you enter the Catch-22 of needing to prove you can write for pay in order to write for pay.

What do you do when you’re starting out, haven’t written for publication in years, or are switching industries and don’t have any relevant or current clips?

The answer is simple: Use whatever you have.

LaptopWhen I first started out, all I had was book reviews. So I used them to get a gig with a local paper that involved interviewing local business owners and writing about them.

Some advice is to never use clips from content mills. I say if that’s all you have, use ’em. Especially if they are related to the type of article you are pitching or the type of writing job you are applying for. At one point I was writing for a mill (it no longer exists) on  various topics relevant to small business owners. I used those clips when I pitched to editors on similar topics. (This mill had editors and strict guidelines on key words, length of each paragraph, etc. – a lot of mills let anyone write and publish without doing much in the way of gatekeeping, as they are more about producing content than producing quality content.)

If you have a blog, your posts can be considered ‘clips’ – you can use those.

If you have clips from years ago, use those if they are what you have. You may want to explain to the editor (when you submit) why the clips are old, but generally if you used to write to a deadline for publication, you probably still have that skill, so the dates won’t be an issue.

How about writing an article as a sample/example? This may work, as it can demonstrate your writing ability, but editors and publishers want to see your published writing so they can see you know how to write to a deadline, for publication, and/or within a certain word count.

Sending your clips

With the high rate of viruses and malware, I don’t know many people any more who are fond of attachments. So I recommend *not* sending clips as attachments, or hyperlinks. When I send off queries, I mention titles of articles/clips and include the full website link (if applicable and available – and it’s short enough), and offer to send clips in whatever format they prefer (Word or PDF generally).

When you start to publish, keep track of the links to your articles (if they are online). Start a spreadsheet or document so you can easily find what you need. But before sending a link off with an query letter, confirm it still works. Links can disappear or become unusable quickly. Make sure to avoid having the editor find “Page not found”.

If you’re interested in writing for publication, most likely you have some type of writing you can use as a ‘clip’ when you submit a query. I’m confident you’ll be able to land a paid writing gig with the right determination and approach.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links May 22

Books – Old Friends


I miss this book.

I have lost one of my favorite books. It was a paperback copy of Brenda Ueland’s classic, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit. It has long been one of my most reliably comforting and inspiring books on writing, on living a creative life. As I wrote in a previous post: There is hardly a page of this book that isn’t criss-crossed with pencil underlinings from previous readings. In some places, I’ve actually drawn hearts and stars in the margins.

For some reason, this book has been on my mind a lot lately, perhaps because of the decision I made last weekend to suspend my long-running Saturday post series.  I feel I’m at a bit of a crossroads, and I had hoped that a return to the pages of this old friend would help ground me. But – alas! – the book has been missing since our move last September. I have looked through all my bookcases (twice) and opened the few remaining yet-to-be-unpacked boxes (three times), but this dear treasure seems to have vanished.

I ordered a replacement copy from Amazon, but when it arrived I was disappointed. The printing is on stark white stock, not the soft and comfortable yellow paper of a traditional paperback. The binding is cheap and the format is bigger than my original which I could easily slip into my purse or a roomy coat pocket. Where the other book felt like it had character, a personality even, the new copy lacks animation entirely. I can hardly bear to look at it.

I know the words are the same, and I hate to judge a book by its cover, but the arrival of this poor facsimile has only made me miss my battered, old original more. I still hold out hope that it might turn up one day. I’ll certainly never stop looking.

_jamie sig

 Books I’m Reading:

book gathering shadowsA Gathering of Shadows is the second installment in author V.E. Schwab’s “ADSOM” series, which began with A Darker Shade of Magic.  Set in an alternate reality in which there are four, parallel Londons: Red, White, Gray, and Black – each unique, but all four bound together by magic, A Gathering of Shadows continues the story of the characters from the first book including a prince, the prince’s half-brother/the royal magician, and pirate/thief/magician Lila Bard.

It was a pleasure to return to Schwab’s finely wrought world, and I was glad back in the company of familiar characters like Kell, Rhy, and Lila and also to meet new characters like Captain Alucard and the exotic magicians from other parts of Red London’s world. I also enjoyed the layer of intrigue that grew out of the way two of her characters played with their identities, and the veneer of spectacle that is part of the Element Games.

I felt that the pace of this second book was a bit slower than the first. While A Darker Shade of Magic had me anxiously turning pages, I was able to set this book aside for days at a time without undue distress. The action didn’t really pick up until the last quarter or so of the book. Overall, this installment in the series felt like an entertaining set up for whatever is coming in the third book.

I’m already looking forward to the third book in this series (coming in 2017), as well as the follow-up to the other Schwab novel I read last year, Vicious (coming in 2018).

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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:





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Sundry Links and Articles:

Su Blackwell’s gorgeous and whimsical book sculptures have me torn in two. On the one hand, I cringe at the thought destroying books; but on the other hand these are too beautiful and magical to pass up:

su blackwell house

su blackwell castle

su blackwell bird

Aren’t they lovely? Her collection includes many, many more pieces, each one a world unto itself – a world made of stories.

 ··• )o( •··

WD annual competitionThe deadline for The Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition is coming up – June 1st, as a matter of fact. This doesn’t leave you much time if you’ve got any ideas about submitting in any one of their categories:

  • Inspirational Writing (Spiritual/Religious)
  • Memoirs/Personal Essay
  • Magazine Feature Article
  • Genre Short Story (Mystery, Romance, etc.)
  • Mainstream/Literary Short Story
  • Rhyming Poetry
  • Non-rhyming Poetry
  • Stage Play
  • Television/Movie Script
  • Children’s/Young Adult Fiction

What do you say? Have anything in the works that you might like to submit?


Finally, a quote for the week:

pin book friend

Here’s  to the books that feel like old friends – always there for you, never needing you to explain anything, forever a source of comfort and joy. 
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Friday Fun – Favorite Place to Write (Right Now)

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: In bed, at the coffee shop, on the train, in the park, curled up on the couch … each writer has his or her favorite place to put words on the page. Sometimes, it’s about the specific location. Other times, it’s more a matter of general ambiance. And, most of the time, favorite writing places change with our moods and even our projects. So – what’s you’re favorite writing spot right now? Bonus: Tell us why it’s your favorite and whether it changed recently..

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: Despite the fact that it’s where I spend most of my work day (writing websites, eBooks, blog posts, etc. for my clients), my favorite place to write is still the magical, rustic, steampunk-y desk that my beau built for me two Christmases ago. It’s a big, unapologetic mash-up of old wooden beams, leather harness pieces, wrought iron grilles, vintage crates, horse shoes, and miscellaneous odds and ends that have found new life cobbled together in an artistically inspired way.

jamie deskWhile I often brainstorm and make notes in odd places (on my phone while out walking a dog, sitting beside the riding arena while my daughter has her lesson, in bed during the middle of the night), when it comes to actual pedal-to-the-metal writing, I need a comfortable set up and quiet. In addition to being more-or-less ergonomically correct and located in my home, I have an idea that my desk may actually help strengthen my focus. After all, this is the site of all my “work” writing – be it for clients or my own blogging habit. I’ve become somewhat programmed to be productive when I sit here. It’s almost a Pavlovian response at this point. Desk = getting things done.

Also, I told my beau when he gifted me with this one-of-a-kind piece of art/furniture that this was where I would write my stories and – eventually – books. So, I’m kind of keeping a promise I guess.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: Right now the spot is on my sofa. It’s a sectional, made up of several small squares. It’s quite comfortable with lots of pillow backs and free moving pillows to use as arm rests, table tops, lap desks, whatever I need at the moment to hold the laptop (sometimes) or notepad and pen (usually). It doesn’t come out well in pictures as it’s dark brown – all you really see are the various small blankets I have to cuddle up with.

I do enjoy writing in cafes if I find a comfortable seat, in the sun (or at least by the window).


James Burns Poet – interview and book

James Burns has been a Facebook friend of mine for years. The story of how we connected is long lost, suffice it to say, I see his posts, he sees mine and we both appreciate each other’s work (and, of course, I love his cats of which he often posts about.) So when he asked me to take a look at one of his poetry books: Prospect Street, I said “Of course, with pleasure.”

Now know here and now, I’m not a poet. Poetry doesn’t really speak to me and I’ve never understood descriptions of people who take a book of poetry to the garden and read it for hours, but having said that I completely enjoyed James’ writing. It’s brisk and hits the target before you even know the arrow’s been released. Here’s an example of his typical rock-your-gut poetry.


The sum of all evil

What is the sum

of all evil?

it is the total time spent

by everyone who waits for a better tomorrow

                        ~James Burns


Prospect Street by James Burns

Prospect Street by James Burns

See what I mean? James’ poetry is more of a heart-awareness gasp than it is the soft fluttering of a warm summer evening. I like it.

I interviewed James, and as you will see, like his poetry he wastes no time (or words) getting to the point.

What is it about poetry that attracts you?

I have a two year degree in English Literature. I studied creative writing with a focus on poetry as electives for that degree.

 How long have you been writing poetry?

Since 1970.

 Do you have a certain style of poetry that you prefer?

It is free verse.

 Do you do other types of writing?

I am a failed novelist.

 Where do you find your inspiration?

I read great poetry. I write good poetry.

 Do you have a writing routine and if so, what is it like?

I spend about twenty hours a week studying and applying the craft of poetry. Four hours a day, M – F.

 Let’s talk about your books, what have you written?

I have written four chapbooks of poetry.

 How did you go about getting them published?

They are self-published. I use CreateSpace. I talk about the process on my Facebook page:

What marketing do you use to sell your books?

Word of mouth using Facebook.

Are you on social media and if so, how is it used in your writing and/or marketing?

I focus more on the craft of writing the poetry.

And yes, the cats, tell us about your cats.

The next chapbook is actually dedicated to our two cats. There are even a couple poems in that chapbook about them.

What’s next? 

I plan to improve the quality of my poetry. It is my craft.

I highly recommend taking a look at James’ writing to see how someone uses only a few words to deliver a powerful punch.

James has an author page on Amazon which lists his books for purchase:

wendy-shotI’m Wendy Thomas and am a freelance writer and Instructional Design Consultant for High-Tech Businesses. Located in Southern New Hampshire, I have over 25 years experience in the High-tech field as a Technical Writer/Instructional Designer. These days I spend my time writing articles, blogging at Simple Thrift, Savvy B2B Marketing, and here at Live to Write, Write to Live. I’m also working on a fowl manuscript.

A features writer, interviewer, and columnist, I’ve has been published in national magazines, newspapers, e-zines, and blogs. My current project is to blog about life living with 6 kids and a flock of chickens.

Remember to Breathe

Sometimes we get so caught up in things — good and bad — that we forget to enjoy what we’re doing.

Remember to breathe.

If deadlines start to overwhelm or you wonder how you’ll get it all done, remember to breathe.

If you find yourself caught up in a whirlwind of excitement, or despair, remember to pause, and take a breath.

Our minds can keep us so occupied that we forget that we need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others.

Note to Self-Remember to Breathe

I’ve even found myself getting overwhelmed in my sleep sometimes – by dreams or thoughts or who knows – and I wake up clenching my jaw so tight that my teeth ache. With moments like that, it’s important to breathe.

And breathing can be literally deep breaths, focusing on each inhale and exhale.

Taking a breath could mean physically stepping away from a person, place, or situation.

A breath could mean putting your phone on silent and taking a nap.

This post is just meant as a reminder that self-care is important, and if/when you realize that you’re wound up, caught up, tied up, or buried under it all… stop… and remember to breathe.

Once you gather yourself again, move back into the fray as gently as possible, and smile. You made it. You’re fine.

Of course you may have the personality that enjoys pushing yourself and being “full out” all the time. Even then, I think there are times when you just need to hit the pause button and shake off the strings to enjoy a little “you time”.

Sometimes you may need the reminder for when you walk in a room and forget what you were heading there for!

Remember to breathe.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

What Every Writer Wants

Google GI asked Google, “What does a writer want?” I found a variety of answers. Lev Raphael says we want “Everything,” and quotes Roxane Gay saying writers “want and want and want.”

Some writers will say they want fame, others money, some just want luck. I think what a writer really wants is Audience.

Writers want what they write to be read.

But as the explosion of blogosphere and the self-publishing industry demonstrates again and again, publication does not guarantee readers. Good writing might.

Here are some ideas for finding and building an audience with a blog. None of these ideas require an advanced degree in rocket science; they all require hard work, and they’re all working for me.

  1. Write for your audience. (This post is for Live to Write – Write to Live readers: writers – you.)
  2. Say what you want with economy and grace.Like everyone else on the planet, your readers are pressed for time, so don’t waste theirs. (I aim for a post of 400-600 words.)
  3. Practice your craft and give your audience a polished performance. If you
    Practice your craft and give your audience a polished performance. (pixabay)

    Practice your craft and give your audience a polished performance. (pixabay)

    were a pianist, you wouldn’t invite your audience to listen to you play scales or learn a new piece; as a writer, you don’t want to show your audience your rough draft. (This essay went through three drafts.)

  4. Commit to a publication schedule. While an audience may like to be surprised in the content of what you write, it also likes to know when to expect a new post. I post here every other Tuesday, and I post to my own blog every Wednesday. It’s hard work that has garnered non-monetary rewards, namely a growing audience. I have readers who look forward to my posts; I know because they tell me.
  5. Keep writing and other opportunities will follow. I keep writing; in addition to meeting new readers, editors I don’t know now ask me to write for them; invitations for public speaking and proposals for writing projects arrive in my inbox. I get to decide what I want to write and for whom.

I wouldn’t say no to fame and fortune, but it’s my audience who will determine that. Of course I’d like more readers, more publications, and more royalties. I believe they will come if I continue to do my job, which is to write stories that will cross that membrane between writer and reader, to engage in that intimacy that occurs when my words get under my readers’ skin, into their thoughts, and maybe even change how they think.

Deborah Lee Luskin, M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin,
M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin is the award-winning author of Into the Wilderness, a love story set in Vermont during the Goldwater – Johnson presidential campaign in 1964. She blogs every Wednesday at Living in Place.

Baby, you don’t have to be perfect.

Happy Monday, writers. Good weekend? I hope so.

I had another post planned for this morning, but then I came across this clip from the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon featuring the plucky pop singer Meghan Trainor taking an onstage dixie after performing her sexy new single, Me, Too.

I’m sharing this because it kind of melted my heart a little, and because it’s a sweet and funny reminder that, baby, you don’t have to be perfect to be loved. (Note the standing ovation Trainor receives from the audience at the end of the clip.)

My daughter and I have been fans of Trainor since her first hit single, All About that Bass. While I enjoy her sound (pop mixed with R&B and some throwback 50’s doowap vibes), what I love even more about Trainor is how she lets her real and imperfect self shine through without making it part of her schtick. This girl works hard to be as good as she is. She may not be the stereotypical pop star, but that doesn’t stop her from putting it all out there.

Did you know that she started out as a behind-the-scenes songwriter? The song that became her first massive hit (All About that Bass) was offered up to several well-established artists, but they all turned it down. Trainor decided to record it herself, and – voilá! – she was on her way.

Every artist comes up against self-doubt and has embarrassing moments that make us wish we could hit rewind and get a do-over. But you can’t let the fear of falling on your face keep you from stepping out on stage. Be brave. Be fierce. Give it your all. And if you slip or stumble, get up, brush yourself off, and get right back to work. Though there’s always the odd jackass who will point and laugh, most people will help you up and cheer you on.

The truth is, I’m rarely inspired by perfection. I’m inspired by imperfect people who know they’ve got flaws but who go out and do their thing anyway.

Rock on, Meghan. Rock on.


PS – Tip of the hat to Mr. Fallon for handling this in the most awesome way possible.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition – a long-form post on writing and the writing life – and/or introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.