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Writing...Entry 2 - Day 5

click to enlargeBuilding A Career

John Phillips is a freelance writer from Birmingham, Alabama, who writes for several outdoor magazines, including "Alabama Whitetail and Bass," "Southern Sporting Journal," "Louisiana Sportsman," and "Saltwater Sportsman."

QUESTION: How do you build up a writing business?

ANSWER: The only way to make money as a freelance magazine writer is to learn to write fast. After all, writing is the ability to organize your thoughts and think quickly and clearly. So, the more you write, the faster and better you'll write. Learn to maximize your time. One-hundred percent of the would-be writers spend 80 percent of their time doing things other than writing. To be a successful writer, you need to learn how to spend 80 percent of your time actually writing and only 20 percent doing other things. As your business begins to develop, you'll have to hire people to do things for you that allow you to write more. Filing slides, answering the phone, checking and sorting the mail, going to the post office, running errands-- can save you time by having these jobs done by minimum-wage people.

QUESTION: If you only can give 2 keys to becoming a successful writer, what will they be?

ANSWER: First, find a mentor, a writer who is where you already want to be. Do what that writer suggests, and follow him or her around like a puppy on a leash. A good writer usually mentors one to five other writers a year. Find that writer who's willing to give up his time to teach you the craft of writing. In return for that knowledge, become an apprentice to that writer. Next, buy a copy of "Writers Market." Read it, study it, use it, and preach it as much as a preacher uses the Holy Bible. A "Writers Market" is to a writer what a Bible is to a preacher. Keep your nose in it, study the markets, and learn how, where and when to write.

QUESTION: Do you only write about outdoors?

ANSWER: No, I write anything that any publisher will pay me to write. I am an information specialist. If someone tells me what kind of information they want and what they'll pay me to get that information, I'll go get it and put it in a form where someone can read it.

QUESTION: To learn to write, do you need to write about what you know nothing about?

ANSWER: Absolutely. Nobody really cares about what you know. A person reads an article to learn something from an expert. Usually, that expert isn't you. If you're the only expert the person learns from, he won't learn very much. Research anything that you write, find four or five real experts, and don't let any article depend on only what you know. If you only write about what you know, you'll be unemployed in six months.

QUESTION: Why have you decided to put this section on your web page?

ANSWER: Because without a mentor like Wayne Fears and other writers like Charlie Dickey, Homer Circle, Vin Sparano, and other great writers that I've had the opportunity to learn under, I never would have been able to develop my craft and earn a living for my family. In this way, I can repay the great writers who taught me my craft.

Check back each day this week for more from John Phillips...