A Successful Magazine Writer's Day
It's hard to define what a “typical” magazine writer's day is like from minute to minute because most writers have their own systems for getting things done. Some writers do their best work well before sunrise, so they wake around 4 a.m., work until noon, and give themselves the rest of the day to relax and perhaps catch up on paperwork. Other writers prefer to sleep in, starting their days around lunchtime and working well into the night, long after editors in most time zones have gone home for the day.
Still, no matter what hour-by-hour schedule magazine writers keep, most successful writers in the business accomplish the same things during the course of their day. These tasks include everything from writing new query letters to invoicing clients, but in most cases the bulk of a writer's day is filled with, well, writing.
It doesn't matter what time of day you write, but you must be available to your editors — at least by cell phone — during normal business hours. Keep in mind that all of the magazines you query will not be in your own time zone, and allow a few hours on either side of the nine-to-five period for phone calls.
If you break down the actual writing that most professionals do in a single workday, you see that some days are a juggling act, while other days are more like a long-distance marathon.
The days that feel like juggling acts to professional magazine writers are the days when there are multiple deadlines to be met. As the old saying goes, “When it rains, it pours.” Never does this feel so true as when five queries get accepted and are all due to different editors on the same exact day.
On a day with multiple deadlines, you may spend various amounts of time writing a combination of editorial items, such as:
A 1,000-word article for Magazine A
A 200-word blurb for Magazine B
A more fully fleshed-out query for Magazine C
An author's biography (about yourself) for Magazine D
A 500-word column for Magazine E
That would be a productive day, to be sure, but it's definitely a typical day in the life of many successful magazine writers. The challenges with this kind of assignment juggling are multifold, including having to switch gears from writing long paragraphs to short blurbs. You also have to go back and forth between individual magazines' styles and tones as you write different items for different editors. If you're used to working on one project at a time, for one boss with one set of standards, this is a pace that might take some getting used to.
At other times, you will find yourself spending hour after hour writing one thing for one magazine's editor. Perhaps it will be a 2,500-word feature, or even a 5,000-word cover article. Sometimes, crafting these kinds of pieces will require several days' worth of your time in a row, making the writing process feel like a long-distance marathon.
It can be difficult to find the psychological stamina for writing such articles, especially if you're used to shorter assignments. Keeping your focus and making steady progress might require some mental adjustments.
With these varying workload demands, successful magazine writers often find themselves structuring their time with as much care as they might structure an article.
When working on longer pieces, it's important to maintain your focus. A quick trip to the refrigerator or the mailbox can be the beginning of a string of distractions that will prevent you from making your deadline. Stay mentally sharp, get the job done, and you'll win more plum jobs in the long run.
You, too, will have to do this when you find yourself with a stack of successful query letters. You will have to set aside blocks of hours, if not days, to devote to certain projects. You will have to know your own pace, and you will need to be realistic about your tendency to daydream so that you can build in enough additional time to complete all of your work to the satisfaction of more than one editor. And you will have to do it all while ensuring that every single one of your editors feels as though she is your