Freelance writing can try the patience of the most patient writer because nothing is guaranteed. Writers can query as much as they want and still never get a firm assignment. When they do, they have to wait months before they receive a check--if they even receive one at all. Sometimes, in order to gain clips for their portfolio and to begin building a reputation, writers have to write for small, low-paying or non-paying markets. As their reputation and skills grow, they will have access to larger, better-paying markets. However, it takes time to get to that point. There is an up side to this, though: if writers establish themselves as professionals and prove they can keep a deadline, they might get future assignments and the best case scenario is that they might become contributing editors for one or more publications. The other positive thing to all this is that freelancers have lots of writing options.
To say that it's a writer's market is an understatement. Today's freelance writers have so many viable markets from which they can choose. All they have to do is to get the latest edition of Writer's Market, the industry bible, and read the entries and decide to which of the publications they'd like to submit their manuscripts. However, for the purposes of this article, it is assumed that they want to submit their writings to romance markets.
There is quite an array of romance magazine markets that are actively seeking writers. Many of them are well-known publications and their names generally roll off the lips of writers who stay in the romance-writing loop. Numerous magazines that accept romantic fiction are available on any well-stocked newsstand or bookstore rack. In other words, there isn't a shortage of magazine markets that will accept romance stories. However, the advent of the Internet has ushered in yet another excellent market for submitting romance stories and novellas: the e-zine.
What are e-zines? The answer to that question is simple. E-zines are magazines that are published online on the Internet. There are literally hundreds of them. Guess what, folks? They are looking for writers. Many are begging for them! There are e-zines about all types of subjects and every genre of fiction is well represented. Romance is just one of those genres.
When writing for e-zines, please remember that all of the normal rules for good writing apply. Don't be mistaken and think that because e-zines are published online it's okay to slack off on the basics of good writing. That is far from true. Writers must keep in mind that just as they do their best writing for paper magazines, they must do the same quality of work for online magazines. There is no difference--just in the medium in which the magazine is presented.
When working with the elements of fiction, writers should make sure that their characters are interesting, colorful and three-dimensional. Imbue them with realistic traits. Have them to move around and be a part of some action. Let them slam a book down to show anger or tighten their body when they are uncomfortable. Let the readers in and let them see what the characters are doing. Don't just tell them; show them. Remember that the best action comes from well-crafted characters.
Another thing to keep in mind when working with the elements of fiction is to maintain consistency with point-of-view. That is one of the biggest problems found in romantic short fiction stories. Authors are prone to "head-hop" and get into too many characters' heads to the point that readers don't know who's talking. The best way to keep the point-of-view consistent is to know from which POV the e-zine's stories are written and follow suit. If it's third person POV, usually the heroine drives the stories. If that is the case, show all actions happening to anyone through her eyes from her perspective. If a change is necessary, please write a transition sentence to bridge that gap. Switching from her POV to someone else's is jarring and won't make sense to the reader. With a good transition sentence, readers will "get it" that the point-of-view switched from one character to another and have a clue as to why!
Writers who are interested in writing romantic fiction for the e-zine market should first surf the Internet and find several online publications to which they would like to submit their romance stories. They should read several issues of the publications in order to get an idea of the tone and style and it's wise to take notes as they read.
Just as with traditional magazines, they should send a cover letter and request the publication's writer's guidelines. They must be read and followed to the letter. Don't veer away from them in any way because if they do, the result might be a rejection to their query letter or story submission. For example, if the guidelines say to send a query by e-mail, do that. Don't send the story without permission. Writers should make sure that not to exceed the word count if one is specified in the guidelines or submit a completed story if that is the publication's preference. Please remember that most word processing programs have a feature to check word count!
Another important thing that writers must remember is to format their story submission correctly. If the guidelines say not to send it as an attachment, please do not send it that way. There is a good reason for publications not wanting to receive electronically attached documents. Usually, it is because of the fear of their hard drives acquiring computer viruses. Some guidelines might ask for stories to be sent in the body of an e-mail. If that is the case, learn how to copy the document to the clipboard and paste it into the e-mail. Cutting the document is not recommended because if it's cut, it's gone until it's pasted somewhere. However, the choice is the writer's. Both functions--copying and pasting and cutting and pasting--are very easy to learn.
In terms of style, each online e-zine has different requirements. So please be careful and read the guidelines thoroughly. Many of the sites request that writers use Wired Style when writing and submitting their articles.
Wired style gets its name from the style that Wired Magazine uses in its publications. That way of writing has become the accepted style for writers writing for many online e-zines. In a nutshell, Wired style consists of many short, terse and colloquial terms accepted in online e-zine writing. Think of it as a style book like the Chicago Manual of Style, Associated Press handbook or Strunk & White's Manual of Style but for online writers. Any questions about common computer-related terms such as spam, e-mail, hackers, crackers, bouncers, internet telephony, etc will be answered as well as questions about usage. Writers interested in writing for online e-zines should have a copy of Wired Style by Constance Hale and Jessie Scanlon right next to their computer.
If the particular e-zine doesn't specify which style to write the -romantic fiction submission, just write it employing the proper elements of fiction, Standard English and minimal use of dialect unless it is essential to the story and it can be done well.
One other thing to pay close attention to when writing for an online e-zine is to make sure that the subjects addressed in the story are well researched. The facts must be correct in order for the story to make sense. Make sure that the facts, issues and subjects contained in your story are consistent with the truth. Although the story is fictitious, the things in it could be true. If not, an astute reader will catch it and will call the writer on it. Please understand that there is a contingent of readers who feel that it is their job and their sole purpose in life to catch author errors and inconsistencies. When they do, some of them are like a dog with a bone. They won't let go and a simple mistake becomes a big issue. So avoid the stress and do your homework. Get things straight.
It is okay for authors to take creative license in their work. However, if that is the case, a disclaimer should be included at the end of the story letting readers know that some things were stretched beyond the limit due to having taken creative license. A basic statement addressing that matter will save the author potential heartache at some point when a reader says that something wouldn't or didn't happen the way it was written.
Writing short romantic fiction for online e-zines requires discipline and having the proper writing tools. Without having those, writing will be difficult and a challenge at best. Ideally, writers want to sit down at the space they've eked out for themselves and spend their time writing, not gathering materials. Organization is best before one word is written.
What's in the well-stocked writer's office? Before a thought is given to stocking an office, first, writers must stake out a space to call their own and dare anyone to go near it. The most important thing about that space is that they should be able to leave manuscripts-in-progress, research materials and snippets of other projects in a particular place and be able to find them still there when they return. It doesn't matter how large or small that space is, but what can be done with it to make it functional. That space can be a corner in the kitchen, a garage, a basement area or optimally, a room. Some other important items to include are:
A computer with lots of storage space and a good word processing program such as a current version of MS Word
An inkjet or laser printer and the largest monitor you can afford
An office chair with back support
An assortment of pens, pencils and markers
Extra printer cartridges
A stapler (manual or electric) with extra boxes of staples
Paper clips of various sizes
A file cabinet and file folders for filing
Transparent Scotch tape
Business envelopes (No. 10 size)
Mailing labels, a roll of stamps and/or a www.stamps.com account for mailing out manual queries and romantic short fiction to paper magazine markets
Post-it notes in bright or florescent colors
Wall clock and timer
Cork bulletin board with pushpins for posting important announcements and opportunities
Erasable appointment scheduler
Magnetic board with dry markers
Several reams of white 20 lb. Bond paper for finished manuscripts
Two reams of colored paper for first drafts
Stationery for writing queries and other business-related mail
Just as having the above supplies, there are several books that must be in a well-stocked writer's library. They will make writing so much easier and painless if they are kept on hand and available. Some of them are:
The Writer's Journey by Chris Vogeler
20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias
Writing Romance by Vanessa Grant
A Writer's Guide to Character Traits by Dr. Linda N. Edelman, Ph.D
The Professional Writer's Phrase Book by Jean Kent
The Romance Writer's Phrase Book by Jean Kent
Writer's Synonyms For Said by Koz and Victoria M. St. Christopher
Writers who want to write for online magazines, will find many websites from which to choose. A search will yield many hits. Just type in the phrase romantic fiction + online e-zines and the result will be more markets than any writer could possibly submit his or her work.
This writer scanned the web in an effort to narrow down the list and to give aspiring online writers a starting point. Here's a small sampling of some of the paying and non-paying e-zines that were found:
Beginnings (For novice writers)
Bookspot (info and reviews for romance readers)
The Fiction Writer
The Rose Thorn Literary Magazine
Shades of December
Short Story Prose
Directory of Literary E-zines (www.caelin_day.com/fiction/zines3.html)
The Blue Iris Journal
The Lover's Knot
The Pen is Mightier
Science Fiction Romance
The Romance Readers Connection
Romance & Beyond
The Fiction Factor
Gotta Write Online
Writers should remember that if they want to begin writing but have no clips or experience, they will probably have to write for free for a short time. Yes, they'll lose money, but will gain a byline, clips for their portfolio and experience. They will be able to use these things to their advantage and begin their writing career.
In terms of paying online e-zine markets, please remember that copyright rules apply as well as rules against plagiarism. Before anything is submitted to an online magazines, please understand that those magazines buy certain rights, but they are usually more lenient than those purchased by paper magazines because in many cases, writers will still be able to submit those same stories to traditional magazines. However, their best bet is to carefully read the guidelines for each of the online e-zines to which they want to submit. Business is business no matter where romantic short fiction is submitted and it is always wise for writers to be careful, understand their rights and to handle all matters as professionally as possible. Shades of Romance wishes any aspiring writers lots of luck in writing for the online e-zine market and it is our hope that it will be a professionally and financially lucrative experience for you!