The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.
Share this review on
This is the question a features editor put to me at 4pm on a day when I had to be in 6 different places at the one time and take the kids to the dentist and pick up the dry cleaning and and and... You get the idea, right?
So what did I say? I said, 'Well of course, no problem; I'll make sure it's in your inbox by then...' The 'it' in question was 800 words, had to rib-ticklingly funny, had to have a Christmas theme and must not contain the word 'stuffing.' Er, okay, so what's wrong with stuffing? 'Makes the Ed feel sick.' Fine. One ribtickler, no stuffing, coming up.
Some hours later, I faced a blank screen, couldn't find anything remotely funny to write and began to panic. Panic is good in my case. It wasn't the thought of kissing goodbye to the dosh the nice Ed had offered but the cringingly awful thought of her thinking I couldn't deliver. All this galvanised me into action. Three hours later, I had the thing done. By midnight it was charging across cyberspace. By ten the next morning, I had an e-mail from the Ed that said 'Thanks, you're a star. Send us your invoice.' Do I look like I need asking twice?
But it's not always like this with editors actually asking if you'll write for them. Mostly it's studying the magazine, looking at language level, article length, house style and then trying to write something that is different, original and well written that fits all of the above. And even when you've done all that; even when you have written something stunning, perfect for the market, double-line spaced it, got wider margins than the M6 and have written a brief gorgeous covering letter, it plops back through your letter box with a nice 'naff off' letter totallying a whole one sentence and is signed by the guy who cleans the photocopier.
But, (you knew there had to be a 'but') if you and your ego can cope with it, it's a good way to earn a living. You can't be 'precious' and 'artistic' about it - it's a business, like any other. You have to keep records of where you've sent stuff and who has paid up and who hasn't and you have to be well read yourself.
So how to rate 'writing for magazines' as a job? Well it's not 'very poor.' Very poor would be a job where I was required to wear polyester and say 'do you want fries with that...' And it's not 'excellent.' An excellent job would be 'chief executive of licking body chocolate off Alan Rickman.' But it's good - not great but good. I like it. I like it best when I get paid!
The basics of dos and don'ts are covered in the annual edition of The Writer's Handbook which everyone should thumb and scribble meaningful pencil notes on. The rest is graft, research and growing a thick skin. Oh yes, and remembering that some eds don't like stuffing...