- Meet or exceed commitments. Unreliable writers develop reputations that don't enhance their probability of success. It's a buyer's market; if working with you is considered a labor-intensive exercise, your competition likely will get preferential treatment. When you agree to deliver a manuscript of a certain length on a certain subject by a certain date, you're staking your reputation on that outcome. Don't promise anything you can't deliver.
- Address problems promptly. If you're not able to meet a deadline, inform your editor as early as possible. The longer you wait to address a delay, the harder it will be for a publication's staff to make other plans.
- Expect changes. I don't think there are any writers who see their work as objectively as their readers do. I believe editors, with their experience and third-party perspectives, have more accurate perceptions than authors of how manuscripts will be received by audiences. I've lost track of how many times my editor has saved me from my own flawed text. When editorial direction calls for major changes in our precious prose, the smartest thing we can do is stop wasting time and get on with it. If you have to explain what you meant, it's not working.
- Don't take criticism personally. Writing might be a hobby for you, but it's a business for anyone whose name is on the masthead. Feedback from media gatekeepers and other evaluators is meant to foster the best possible product. Most editors are scrupulous about maintaining a double-blind process (writers and reviewers anonymous to each other) so that comments are likely objective. Pay attention to suggestions; they're previews of how readers will view your work.
- Be flexible. Say you've met your March deadline for a May feature; in April your editor tells you your article won't appear until September. It happens. Newsworthy trends, unanticipated content, and costs are the usual culprits. My advice? Go with the flow. Getting published late is better than never.
- Don't be a nuisance. Editorial staffs are always working on the next issue. If your piece isn't scheduled to run right away, it probably won't be as high a priority for your editor as it is for you. There's nothing wrong with confirming receipt of your manuscript or checking in once in a while, but let the pros do their jobs.
Next month I'll summarize the best of The Write Stuff before finishing the series with a two-part dissection of a manuscript in progress--mine.
King S. On Writing. Pocket Books, 2000.
Mike Rubin, BS, NREMT-P, is a paramedic in Nashville, TN, and a member of EMS World's editorial advisory board. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.