Advice to Would-Be Writers, 1923

Some advice for would-be writers from 82 years ago that still holds true, for the most part. It’s careful not to be particularly encouraging, which is needed even more now, what with writers often not being paid for their work at all if their “employers”, if you can still call them that, can manage it. Instead of actual money there’s now the magic beans of “exposure”.

Hull Daily Mail, 25th July 1923

Hull Daily Mail, 25th July 1923

Advice to would-be writers

Lots of young girls who think that they can write wish to take up writing as a profession. It is, however, a very precarious means of livelihood, unless the young writer is possessed of an uncommon genius; and even then she may not get the M.S.S. accepted if she does not write the kind of stuff which appeals to the public.

The first thing to remember is that the writing must not be dull or prosy. It must be bright and “snappy”, or it will never sell. An article should be quite up-to-date, which th no old-fashioned words or hackneyed phrases. It is really better to use slang than such words as “swain” or “maiden”; but slang should also be avoided.

Lots of people imagine that all that is required to make a successful journalist is an extensive vocabulary; but no editor would for a moment consider an article which is nothing but a jumble of long words. Simple language is really much better – call a spade a spade and not “an agricultural implement”, and the reading public will be grateful.

Do not think that because your friends think a thing is exceptionally good an editor is sure to think the same. “Exceptionally good” things may daily pass through his hands, yet he does not make use of them because they are not suitable for his paper. Do not despair, however, if you yourself are sure the M.S. has merit. Send it round to other editors before giving up in despair.

When you send an M.S. to a newspaper or magazine a stamped addressed envelope should always be enclosed if you wish its return in case of unsuitability. If you can possibly get it typewritten it will stand more chance of being accepted – indeed some papers will only consider typewritten matter.

Do not expect to get it back by return of post. Editors have been known to keep an article for a few months and finally to accept it. It is [a] disheartening waiting game, and I should advise you to take up other employment, and only write to as a hobby. Later when your name becomes fairly well-known, you will not have so much difficulty in placing your writing; and someday you may be offered a position upon a newspaper by some editor who has seen and admired your writing.

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