I know, I know, we haven’t gotten through Christmas yet-why think about the Fourth of July? Because that’s what the major magazine editors are working on…issues due out in July. (Well, probably June but there aren’t any holidays in June so to make my point I needed to use July J )
It is going to be tempting to write a cute story about something that happened to you or someone you know this Christmas. Your muse may even give you a sweet little fiction short that will be perfect for your favorite women’s magazine. But editors don’t run after Christmas stories the way Wal-Mart runs after Christmas sales.
Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t hang onto the story/article, filing it away until next year. It may be a good idea to write the story while the tree is still up, using the visuals to inspire you. The minute the tree comes down though, we should begin to think of stories and articles about summertime. A Fourth of July bar-b-q where the slab of ribs -on closer inspection- looks a little too human for your characters taste. Or friends June wedding that is called off at the last minute because the bride -to -be just caught her maid of honor loving up on the prospective groom. If non-fic is your thing, you might have a great travel article about hiking and camping in the Great Smoky Mountains that you have been meaning to write.
If freelance is your choice, or at least what you want to do with your writing to make some money while writing the next great American novel, learn to be timely. Search out your favorite magazine markets and find out how far in advance they plan their issues. Most e-zines for example layout their issues about a month ahead of publication. You can send them your Christmas story in October. But, if you want to send a Christmas story to Readers Digest, or Good Housekeeping, you want to get it to the editor no later than July. Each magazine differs on deadlines for submitting timely articles so do your research. You don’t want your article rejected by an editor with a note saying they loved the story but you got it to them too late for inclusion in their December 2007 issue. GASP!
While the weather outside is frightful, dream of warmer days ahead. Picture yourself or your characters on a sailboat off the coast of Maine wrestling with the great Atlantic. Or maybe a beach house in the Bahamas, the site of a gruesome murder. If you are like me, warm weather brings to mind gardening and maybe doing an article on healing herbs you can grow in small spaces. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s finished and ready for submission by the end of January.
And don’t despair if you have written a Valentine’s story or an Easter article but haven’t submitted it yet. There are always the e-zines, (and yes, some of them do pay) as well as magazine contests where your story may find a home. And, if nothing else, you can file it away for those same holidays in 2008. I have a filing cabinet with all of my writing stuff in it. Some things are filed by story/article titles, but some are filed chronologically. The stories I write over this holiday season will be filed away under June, for submission then. It’s a good system I learned from studying how the pros of freelance run their businesses. You may want to give it a try.
In June of 2007, while you are sunbathing in the backyard, sipping on a wine cooler and editing your novel think "snow". Then grab your Christmas story and dash to the post office. The goodie that fills your stocking Christmas 2007 may just be a check from Woman’s Day.