How to be a writer

Originally written for eVent! magazine [ep] on 03/02/06.

If people wrote me letters after reading my column I imagine they'd write witty things, for I feel like its quite obvious that I must attract a witty and urbane readership.  These letters that I do not receive, would cracklingly funny and give me many hours of amusement.  They would also allow me to devote columns simply to answering letters from my readers, which would be way less work for me.

However since I have not been receiving a steady flow of letters, I am going to have to reply on an old journalistic standby, the article about how to become a freelance writer.  Let's pretend that I got a letter from a reader, because that strikes me as the way to go about this.

Dear Jeffery:

I want to be a successful freelance writer.  Do you have any advice?

Jeffery Simpson
P.S. You're so very handsome

Jeffery, it's a good thing you asked and a good thing you noticed.  Of course I have some advice for you, and all those readers who secretly think that they could do a better job than I do of typing 800 odd words into a laptop every week.

The first and most important thing is to learn how to read.  If you do not know how to read the remainder of this guide to freelance writing may be useless to you, unless you have some sort of servant or young ward who can read these words to you.  If that's the case then you are probably rich enough that words hold no meaning for you anyway.

The next most important thing is to learn how to write.  My high school English teacher Mr. Rawson taught me to write essays in a five-paragraph format where one paragraph introduced the topic and your thesis, three were for arguments in support of your thesis and the last one summed up the arguments and the thesis. 

Five-paragraph essays were all that I wrote throughout high school.   While other English classes were writing stories about the one time they got to second base with a girl, or scripts for the X-Files with them as Mulder I was typing out five-paragraph essays on Shakespeare. 

Five-paragraph essays allow you to present a very clear, coherent and well throughout set of arguments on any topic.  However having been forced to write them for years on end I have never written one since, which is why none of my articles have been ever labeled as coherent.

Now that you have the skills, reading and writing, you just need a job.  In my experience there are four ways of getting a writing job.  These ways:  work for free, create the publication, parody a publication until they sue or hire you and ask for a job.

Working for free might not sound fun, and it isn't.  However it's a good way to get noticed, especially if you work for free at a place that publishes material as opposed to simply volunteering at your local McDonalds' restaurant.  Lots of publications have internships, and often these can lead to real jobs where they give you money to go get coffee as opposed to simply experience.

Creating the publication is somewhat hard to do, and expensive given how much Adobe charges for its layout program InDesign, and Quark's is no cheaper.  However in university I helped create Canada's first student owned and operated national magazine, and so they had to let me write for it.  That it ended after three issues after loosing several hundred thousand dollars should not stop you from seizing the dream.

Parodying eVent! was how I got my job here at eVent!  There is something about a person who would be a part of the editorial decision to put a man's bare bum on the cover of a student newspaper that makes them extremely well suited to being hired by legitimate media outlets.  Make sure you select the proper fonts, so you can make it clear whom you're parodying.  Look for my upcoming parody comic Spider-ham, as I try to get hired at Marvel Comics.  (What Spider-ham's been done?  Crap.)

Asking for a job might seem too traditional in this age of new media, however sometimes it's so crazy it just happens to work.  I (if you don't know what it is don't worry you're either female or over thirty) hired me because I applied to a job posting.  Now when applying to a job posting there might be some temptation to pad your resume, do not do this.  Drop hints that your experience goes beyond what's on your resume, but don't lie.

For example my resume clearly states that I wrote for the Phoenix during my time at OUC, this is true and easily verified by anyone with no life.  What my resume hints at, for those who read between the lines, is that while working at the Phoenix, I was also secretly fighting crime at night.  Now was I fighting crime during the night, and reporting on student council meetings during the day?  Well since I only hint at it, it can't be verified true or false, and what publication doesn't want to hire a reporter and a superhero all at once?

So now you have a job, you can send me my portion of your check in the mail.  What?  You want to know what to write?  Well too bad we're out of space.  Alright, I'll give you one hint just whatever you do don't do an advice article about being a freelance writer, that's when you know someone is a true hack.