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The Habits of Professional Writers: How to Get Hired Back

For the past 11 years, I’ve edited a quarterly devotional periodical. I work with at least one or two new writers a quarter. Some become regular writers. Some never get hired again. All of them were good enough to get hired in the first place. But not every writer has what it takes to get hired a second time. Here are the four habits of writers who I hire repeatedly.

1. They write great content. I once heard an editor say that good writers will always sell their work, even in a tough economy. He’s right. Editors need writers who consistently turn in great content. My favorite writers turn in work that is solid, interesting, and unique. They create short spiritual essays that fit the content guidelines but make the reader think about the topic in a unique way. Since I read more than 90 of these devotions a quarter, the great essays stand out. They convey a message that is both hopeful and helpful to the reader. The author makes a single point in each essay, not trying to take on too many ideas in 250 words. The writer uses concrete stories and images to convey their message instead of philosophical truisms. In fact, the best writers usually avoid using trite phrases and jargon. Instead, they find concrete examples to express their ideas. Sometimes, the best essays also have some sort of practical application for the reader’s life. Finally, the best writers use juicy words, shorter sentences, and proper grammar. Writers who consistently turn in high quality work get hired again.

2. They follow the guidelines. The best writers turn in work that is the right length and in the proper format. I’ve spent too many hours trying to figure out what lines to cut or how to remove some weird formatting feature from a document. Word count guidelines are not just a suggestion but often reflect a real space limitation. It’s not that I don’t want to publish your 1500 word essay, it’s that it will not fit on the page. Writers who read and follow the guidelines get hired again.

3. They are willing to make revisions. I appreciate writers who have the same goal I do: producing a great product for our readers. These writers respond in a timely manner to my email queries. They listen to what I have to say about why an essay does not work and rewrite it. They don’t whine or fuss about having to do more work for a pittance. Instead, they ask appropriate questions and rewrite as soon as they can.

4. They turn in their work on time. I give my writers a deadline, because I have a deadline with the publisher. Writers who turn in their work on time or even early make it so much easier for me to do the same.

Here’s the good news, writers: These are habits that you can develop and cultivate. Every single one of you has the power to get hired back.



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