By Linda Formichelli
I know you want your articles to get killed.
After all, success has its drawbacks. Your less prosperous writer friends may come to resent your article writing success. When your bank account is full thanks to your writing skills, you’ll become a target of unscrupulous telemarketers.
And you know the expression, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall?”
The big one is you, with your hit articles. And you’re gonna fall hard.
But don’t fret: I have five things you can do to make sure your editor kills your article so you don’t get paid and end up with all the troubles success can bring:
1. Under-promise, over-deliver.
You know the philosophy that you should under-promise and over-deliver to your clients?
You should definitely do that when it comes to word count.
When your article assignment is to write 1,000 words and you turn in 2,000 words, it creates all kinds of problems for your editor. She’ll need to comb through your article and decide which 1,000 words she can cut. After all, she has only so much space, so she has to make it fit.
Now, don’t get all wishy-washy on me and turn the extra material into a bonus sidebar. Just squish all those extra words in there and let your editor deal with it.
2. Be all business.
Editors love when writers can convey information in a fun, readable style — so be sure to write your article like you’re penning a master’s thesis.
The drier, the better. Cut out any humor that may have slipped into your article, and absolutely do not use contractions. Avoid showing even a modicum of personality. If you want your article killed, it should look like it was written by a robot…a robot that doesn’t speak English.
3. Be confident in your work.
When you get an assignment, your client will send you a little thing called an assignment letter, which details the specs of the assignment.
If you want to get your article killed, for the love of all that is good and holy, do NOT re-read the assignment letter before turning in your article to make sure you included everything the editor wanted: the right word count, sidebars, and other details.
That way, when you turn in your piece, you can be sure you’re missing some important elements the editor wanted.
4. Get friendly with your sources.
Editors expect you to beat the streets to come up with the very best, most relevant interviewees for your article. So your job is to just interview people you already know, like the neighborhood pharmacist, your Facebook friends, and your mom.
If those don’t work out, over-rely on source-finding services like ProfNet and Help a Reporter Out, using whoever happens to respond — and whatever you do, do NOT check out the sources you get from there to make sure they’re credible.
After all, you wouldn’t want to make your friends jealous with your success, would you? I didn’t think so.
5. Be an expert.
In journalism, in most cases the writer is not the expert. The writer is the writer, whose job is to interview experts and weave the information together into a coherent story.
So if your motive is a killed article, you need to be sure your editor knows you’re an expert in the topic of the piece.
That means not interviewing other experts. (I mean, you know it all already, right?) When the editor asks you for backup on your facts, tell him you’re the backup. And whenever you get the chance, inject your opinion into the article.
Those five tips should be enough to ensure success in your mission — which is NOT to have success in your writing. And if that doesn’t work, you’ll have to resort to scrawling your articles in crayon on bar napkins.
Have you ever had an article killed? Post in the comments and tell us what happened.
Linda Formichelli writes the Renegade Writer blog. Check out her current and future writing classes with Carol Tice at Useful Writing Courses.