Be a Well Paid Writer, Starting Today

Imagine writing a few words, several times a day, and waiting for checks for $10, $50, two hundred dollars or more to pop through your letterbox some time soon. That’s what life is like for writers of short manuscripts, commonly called ‘fillers’, who can make this a full time writing career or a wonderfully profitable hobby.

Fillers are short written pieces, sometimes just a few words, ranging from readers’ letters, to verses, jokes and cartoons, recipes and household hints, overheard conversations and odd things children say, press errors, and much more.

Demand for fillers is growing fast as people spend less time reading longer features, preferring instead shorter, fact-packed pieces that can be read during coffee breaks and in whatever little spare time most people have.

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How to Get Started Today

Becoming a published writer, and being paid, is as easy as reaching for pen and paper, a few envelopes and stamps, and studying magazines for current published fillers. To be a published writer really fast look for prolific users like Reader’s Digest, Woman’s Own, Writers’ News, most hobby and special interest publications and virtually every woman’s magazine.

Read other people’s published and paid for contributions – not all attract payment – and model your work on those editors have already chosen. Notice how some editors favour comments on past published features in the magazine, while others choose pictures of children and pets, and others recipes, poetry, jokes and so on.

Look further at magazines that most closely match your interests and writing preferences and look for editors’ notes on how and what to write for payment which you’ll usually find on the contents page or in special readers’ letters and filler pages.

Make a list of possible subjects to write about and begin collecting ideas for letters, jokes, hints, as required by your target magazines.

Start by listing all main points you might include in your letter or filler. List these in order of importance, from ‘1’ for most important down to however many points there are. This is usually the order they will take in your finished piece, but not always, and some editors favour keeping the most important, sometimes second most important piece to close the feature. As always, study your target magazine first.

Write your piece, in simple style, not trying to impress and without using long and complicated words. Make sure each word deserves its place in your manuscript. Go through with a highlighter pen marking essential points and looking for any which might be deleted.

Make your lead as strong as possible. Try including something to shock readers or search for an odd and little known fact about your subject. Anything to attract and retain reader interest. This is what will compel the editor, and ultimately his readers, to finish reading your work.

Letters can be handwritten, other fillers should be typed on A4 paper, double spacing, with wide margins.

Add your name and address at the beginning of the manuscript and number all pages.

Add an introduction letter to fillers stating subject, word count and your own name or chosen pen name.

Submit your letter or fillers and wait. Don’t hassle editors, you’ll only antagonise them and possibly turn them against you forever. Once your first manuscript has gone, start work on the next, and the next.

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Main Points for Filler Writers

  • Sentences and paragraphs should be short and punchy. Longer sentences and paragraphs are offputting to readers. And, of course, editors, too.
  • Begin by writing about subjects that interest you in magazines you read yourself.
  • Try to be different. Even if the subject is common, look for an unusual feature or aspect to focus on. Make it one readers can relate to and make sure nothing similar has featured recently.
  • Watch out for special sections in some publications, where editors invite features on a common theme, sometimes a grouse, frequently complaints, often asking readers to recount their most embarrassing moments, and so on.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open for anything remotely interesting to use in your letters and fillers. Listen to what other people say, particularly children. Watch out for odd signs and business names, and have your camera ready to record them.
  • Never copy other people’s work in your target magazines. This is breach of copyright, but there is no copyright on ideas, so what you see in one magazine can be borrowed to form the basis of a filler you write for another publication.
  • Study at least a dozen or so publications of the type you would like to write for. Rank these in order of preference, according to filler types, payment, subject matter. Start writing and submitting material for those highest on your list.
  • Think pictures. Think illustrations. Instead of sending just words to your target publication, include a photograph, maybe a cartoon or line drawing. This will increase your chance of being published. As always, careful study of your target magazine will establish editorial preferences.
  • Always have a notepad and pen at hand, and preferably a pocket camera and mini recorder. It’s amazing where inspiration and ideas strike and how often there is nothing handy to record the incident. My best ideas come when I’m in the bath, ironing, gardening, or walking the dog! Those notepads pinned to every wall and popped into my handbag have repaid their cost many times over!
  • Be professional in everything you write, however brief. This will bring your name to the fore when editors view your work. Being professional also opens the door to longer assignments, like articles and columns and maybe even regular commissions.
  • Never assume that what suits one market will also suit another. It won’t. Each market must be studied as a separate entity.
  • Do not submit the same piece, or something very similar, to two markets at the same time. Editors hate this, especially where that other market is one of their major competitors. More importantly, you will lose all credibility as a writer.
  • Send your manuscript to the appropriate person or department. This will usually be indicated in the publication itself, usually on the readers’ letters page or in appropriate sections reserved for fillers. Otherwise, address your work to the editor whose name usually features in the early pages of your target magazine. Alternatively, look in Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook or Writer’s Market for the information you require.
  • On the question of when to retrieve your work and submit it to another publication, most writers agree that three months is the very minimum you should wait before assuming your work has been unsuccessful. Some writers wait longer, up to a year for high-paying markets like Reader’s Digest.
  • Keep your work in circulation. Keep accurate records of everything you write, including where it is currently on offer and where it might be submitted next. Incidentally, resubmission doesn’t apply purely to unsuccessful pieces; published pieces can also be revised and resubmitted to new markets, but not too soon after publication and preferably not to major competitors of your main markets.
  • Above all, enjoy yourself, this isn’t hard work after all!

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