Monday, December 31, 2012

Presidential Prose

On the final day of the year that saw the re-election of U.S. President Obama, we thought it would be nice to revisit a post inspired by his election first time round. This post ran on November 19, 2008.


Days after the election, President-elect Barack Obama is busy assembling a cabinet, tying up odds and ends, and getting ready for the big move to Washington from Chicago.

Writers also have to do an equal amount of planning to get their prose into Presidential form.

Some of these tips are basic or old hat, but it never hurts to go back to the beginning and review things that might be overlooked in the excitement of hammering out a new story. Before you know it, that story will be ready to run in the publication of your choice.

1. Make your writing strong. Editors, like voters, want a story that shows character, has strong word choices and is ready to jump to the head of the pack. Bypass weak (passive) words for strong (active) words.

2. Pick the right running partner. Not every candidate (or publication) will be a perfect fit. Unless you already have a story that you know is a good fit for a certain publication, it's often easier to write fresh and slant a story for a specific market than try to force an already-written story into a direction that it doesn't want to go.

3. Do your homework. The successful candidate will do his/her homework ahead of time. Polls, voting habits, good advisers, even the right clothes, have an effect on whether the candidate wins or loses. It's the same with writing. Read issues of a magazine or market you want to write for. Write a strong, compelling query on a unique topic. Sell it with good description. Don't forget to sell the whole package with photos (yours, the source's or from someone else) and applicable sidebars. Include more rather than less.

4. Dress for success. Just as the presidential candidate wouldn't dress in less than their best for a campaign appearance, so should the writer put their work in the best light. Run a spell check. Have a writer friend or someone else read for errors, inconsistencies, unclear references, and date, time or other switches. Let a story sit two or three days before you submit. Give it a final read and do a final edit with fresh eyes.

5. Celebrate the victory. Once the story is submitted, move on to something else. Work on another story while you wait for the final decision. Best of all, celebrate your success when the final vote - the editor's acceptance - comes in. Be positive. It will happen!


Christine Verstraete is the author of
Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery from Quake/Echelon Press. Read more at her Candid Canine blog.

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  1. What a fun way to present this material! Great post.

  2. How true. We can't just enjoy being writers. We need to do the tough stuff also, like checking the grammar, the spelling, the sentence structure, the list goes on...

    But the finished product is worth it.

    Morgan Mandel


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.