DON’T FORGET THE NON-FICTION!Edit
Too many people turn up their noses at writing magazine articles, whether commissioned or not, but that’s really where the money lies.
Non-fiction humour can be a wry look at an everyday situation (always a winner!), or a riotous, side-splitting article on a particular subject. The markets are there and humour is actually one of the easiest genres to place, but it has to be right!
Study the magazine you’re writing for, make sure the article is informative as well as witty and make it easy for the editor by reading, reading and reading again for the dreaded typo or wrong use of punctuation. If an editor receives a manuscript that’s full of grammatical/spelling/punctuation errors, he’s likely to bin it without even considering its literary merit. It is, after all, a very competitive market, and he’ll probably have hundreds of beautifully presented manuscripts that are not quite so taxing to get through.
A few pointers:Edit
It’s best to keep sentences short and punchy, especially in the opening paragraph.
Don’t try to squash too many ideas into one paragraph.
Make sure that your article has a well-balanced beginning, middle and end.
Plan your article: decide on a subject, list your basic ideas, make a note of any research that may be necessary and write an outline/synopsis before you start on your article proper.
Revise, revise, revise! I find it’s much easier to spot mistakes if I lay the article aside for a few days and then come back to it with a fresh mind.
Make sure your facts are correct. There will always be someone out there more than willing to point out, in no uncertain terms, that this or that fact is incorrect.
Study your markets.Edit
It’s no use sending an article about gardening, however funny, to a technical magazine. Likewise, even if your brilliant 5000 word article on gardening is sent to Garden and Home, but their requirement is for 1500 words, all you’ll be rewarded with is a rejection slip. Also make a note of the type of readership the magazine is aiming at. An amusing article about discos in Ibiza probably wouldn’t go down too well with magazines aimed at middle-aged women or retired army sergeants, however many facts it contained.
Having said all that, most magazines love a humorous article – provided, that is, that it conforms to their particular style and requirements.
For practice, study articles that appeal to you: note their use of language, the way they deliver facts or comments, how they make the impersonal personal, how they take the ordinary and make it extraordinary.
And, one last piece of advice I received from a seasoned old hack: put yourself in the position of the reader reading it for the first time: does it grab his/her attention, does he/she learn anything from it, will he/she feel patronised and so on.
Whatever your interest, there’ll be a magazine to accommodate it and most, if not all, love a humorous slant.
As one editor said to me: ‘There aren’t enough writers writing humour. Develop it if you can, because there’s a huge market out there waiting to receive you’.
© Andrea Lowne 2001
A few examples to be getting along with:Edit
YOUR CAT MAGAZINE
Editor: Sue Parslow
Peterborough, Cambs PE2 9NP
Tel: 01733 898100
Accepts ‘true life’ cat stories and ‘quality fiction’.
No articles from POV of cat!
Features editor: Richard Jones
30 Monmouth Street
Bath BA1 2BW
Tel: 01225 442244
Interesting angles and ‘funny’ pieces’ welcomed, 2000 words max.
Payment £75 per 500 words.
SUFFOLK AND NORFOLK LIFE
Editor: Kevin Davis
Barn Acre House
Suffolk IP13 9QJ
Tel: 01728 685832
Unsolicited mss welcome.
Payment: £25-30, max 1500 words
Copy must relate to East Anglia
King’s Reach Tower
London SE1 9LS
Tel: 020 726 15058
Humorous articles welcomed on parenting (under fives) and pregnancy.
GIRL ABOUT TOWN
Editor: Bill Williamson
9 Rathbone Street
London WIP 1AF
Tel: 020 763 66651
For women 16-26. No fiction. Max 1500 wds.
© Andrea Lowne 2001