A review of Get Paid to Write by Thomas A. Williams

Get Paid to Write is a simple to read how to book which will have long reaching impact on how writers approach their craft. It contains chapters which only scratch the surface of some areas but overall is an excellent and thought provoking guide worth reading for the clarity of its prose, and the originality of many of the ideas is provides.

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Get Paid to Write!
The No-Nonsense Guide to Freelance Writing
by Thomas A. Williams
Sentient Publications
www.sentientpublications.com
$18.95, 184 pages, softcover, March 2004
ISBN 1-59181-012-4

I have yet to find a clearer and easier to read author of books for writers than Thomas A Williams. In his simple and appealing prose, even the most erudite subjects become a call to action. I dare any writer to open his fourteenth (!) book, Get Paid to Write, and not begin putting his suggestions into action immediately. Although there have been many guides to making a living as a freelance writer, Williams’ book will appeal to experienced writers as well as those just beginning their careers. The book covers topics like the nature of freelancing, how to analyse what a magazine editor wants, how to write effective queries, how to get ideas, how to ensure that magazine articles are written in a publishable way, how to write for newspapers, syndication, the secrets of professionalism, how to get an agent, copyright, unions, how to sell online, how to manage contracts, business writing, and how to work the media. Many of these topics are covered in more detail elsewhere, especially business writing, querying and copyright, however, for beginners, these topics are essential, and Williams’ succinct prose will ensure that the most basic and needed information is available to new freelancers.

More experienced freelancers will appreciate the chapters on ideas, the “paradigm,” and the eight success secrets of the masters. The “Rule of Twenty-Four” is an innovative concept which will almost guarantee publication (and keep writers block well at bay):

When a thanks-but-no-thanks response comes back to you (and many surely will), immediately send a query to the next publication on your list and add a new publication to the bottom of your list. This way you always have three live queries out for each article idea, and you always have three magazines in line to submit to. Here’s the kicker: You send a new query out no more than twenty-four hours after you receive a rejection. (73)

Williams’ employs some well known techniques from the business world which aren’t often used in freelance writing and which work very well. The mind-mapping technique for example, is a very useful addition to a writer’s arsinal. Williams provides his own hand written map of one of his more complex chapters, but after reading this book I tried using mind-mapping on a character from my novel which was causing me problems and it helped me tremendously, teasing out some underlying issues which were eluding me. The book is full of examples from Williams’ own voluminous work, diagrams (I love the “Freelancer’s Hierarchy of Style and Craft”), sidebars, and suggestions. What I like best about this book and indeed all of Williams’ books is that he doesn’t focus solely on the superficial aspects of freelancing. While his writing style is deceptively simple and clean (“no nonsense” indeed), Williams’ doesn’t avoid the deeper issues of freelancing, such as how to obtain real quality and depth in your work (with examples from Descartes–one of the clearest writers of all time, and Kant–one of the most obscure), how to get into the mind of a reader, or how to create a name which preceeds and promotes your work.

Get Paid to Write is a simple to read how to book which will have long reaching impact on how writers approach their craft. It contains chapters which only scratch the surface of some areas but overall is an excellent and thought provoking guide worth reading for the clarity of its prose, and the originality of many of the ideas is provides.

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