Basic Writing Tips

It’s almost ten years since I first submitted my work, got it published, and got paid to do what I love. But I look back on that first bit of writing and cringe. Oh, the writing was good–the editor even called me to tell me how much he loved it. He asked if I was a professional writer. At that point in time, no.  I’ve wondered, though, didn’t he notice the cream-colored paper I mailed my work on? The interesting yellow box I used as a header? The single spacing between lines? Or, best yet, the cutesy email address I gave?  Immediately after, I read up on how to submit my work and gasped. I had it all wrong. Yes, great writing trumps all, but to look professional, to really catch the eye of an editor, there are some basics.

First, the font. Times New Roman, 12 pt., is the best, the one most editors like.

Second, the spacing. Unless the magazine guidelines state otherwise, double spacing between all lines, and indented beginning paragraphs, are the norm.

Which brings me to the third point: READ the magazine guidelines, or the publisher’s or agent’s guidelines for books. Most you can get online. Use,, ,  or type in their name in your search engine. Don’t break any rules. Not in the beginning at least. And many times, not later either.

Read all you can about writing and cover letters and queries. Good places to start are recent books in your public library, or the extensive threads on  Don’t just jump right into submitting. With email so easy to just hit “send,” you’re in a lot of competition. Once your writing is polished, your query and/or manuscript ready, send it out there. Don’t let it languish in your writing folder.

Rejection happens. It happens far more often than acceptances. Reread what was rejected. Reread it out loud. Polish it. Send it out again. But make sure you’re targeting the right markets for it.

But please, remember–money flows toward the writer, not away. You should never have to spend a dime for editing, book covers, ISBNs, or to get your book into bookstores. And agents get a commission from your sales. No money upfront.

And when you get that first acceptance from a reputable magazine, book publisher, or agent–celebrate!  You worked hard for it.