September STC RMC Meeting Features Fire Alarm and Freelance Writer Kerrie Flanagan

Fort Collins-based freelance writer Kerrie Flanagan was the featured speaker at the September meeting of the STC RMC.

Her presentation was a little delayed due to another fire alarm at the Tivoli, but once she got going Kerrie’s advice on living the writing life was well received for its insight and practicality.

Who better to give you an idea of what she was talking about then Kerrie herself?

Beyond Technical Writing
By Kerrie Flanagan

You are all familiar with the world of technical communication, but maybe you want to expand into other areas of writing. I am going to share with you what I talked about at the September STCRMC meeting (after we came back in from the fire-drill).

Before diving in, you must understand that publishing is a business. Publishing houses sell books. Magazine publishers sell advertising and magazines. They are all in this to make money. If what we write does not fit with this vision, no matter how brilliant or well written it is, it will not be published.

I am not trying to scare you off, I just want you to understand the reality. You can absolutely get a book or a magazine article published, but it will take some work.
Learn The Business
In order to be a successful novelist, magazine writer, or essayist, you must first understand what the publishing business is all about and begin to learn the language.

  • Read writing books
  • Subscribe to writing magazines
  • Subscribe to writing ezines
  • Read books/magazines in your genre
  • Attend conferences
  • Join a critique group

Know your Genre
Before you begin writing, you must know who your audience is. If you want to write for Backpacker magazine, you need to know the demographics of the reader. Have you ever read the magazine? Do you know what type of articles they publish? If not then you need to do some research to find out the answers before submitting anything.

If you want to write a Young Adult novel are you in tune with teenagers and the world they are living in today? Life is different for them then it was for us at that age. Research this age group and find out what makes them tick, what issues do they face, what do they do for fun, what YA novels are popular now? Do your homework.

By doing your research ahead of time and finding out what is going on in the market/genre of your choice, you will save a lot of headaches in the long run.

Agent or no agent
Basic rule of thumb and of course there are always exceptions. YA Fiction and Adult Fiction-You will have more success by getting an agent. Non-Fiction and children’s-You can get an agent or go directly to the publisher.

Basic Process of Getting Published

  • Idea
  • Write
    • Fiction-write the whole book
    • Non-fiction-3 chapters and an outline
    • Magazine-outline your idea
  • Research Agents or Publishers
    • Writers Market
    • Follow their guidelines when submitting work
  • Query letter or proposal (depending on what the agent/editor wants)
    • Query is a one-page sales pitch to editor
    • Proposal is more in depth
  • Send out Query/proposal
  • Wait for response

Catching an Agent/editor’s Attention

Good Hook: You have about 10 seconds to catch their attention, so you must have a good hook. You must give them a reason to read further.

Good Writing: I know this seems obvious, but make sure you are using your very best writing in the query or proposal. This is a chance for them to see if you can actually write. The tone in your query letter should reflect the tone of the piece you are submitting. (If your book/article is funny, then weave humor in your query, if it is serious, your query should be serious.)

Professionalism: Publishers and editors want to work with writers who are professional and understand that publishing is a business.

Perseverance: To find success in this business you must persevere. It is rare that an author sells something on their first try. Most, including Stephen King and Dr. Seuss, had to continue to send their work out before anyone bought it. Don’t give up!

You can find these resources and others on the Northern Colorado Writers website at: (on the writing resources page)

Web sites: (editors blog)

Make a Living as a Freelance Writer-Jenna Glatzer
Write Down the Bones-Natalie Goldberg
Stephen King on Writing-Stephen King
The Right To Write-Julia Cameron
Writers Market
The American Directory Of Writers Guidelines
The Writers Market Companion
How I Write-Janet Evanovich
Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing-David Morrell

Writers Digest
The Writer
The Writing Journal
Poets & Writers

Northern Colorado Writers Conference
April 3-4, 2009
Fort Collins Hilton

More Conference listings

Kerrie Flanagan is the director of Northern Colorado Writers (, an organization that supports and encourages writers of all levels and genres. She can be reached at You can read her blog at

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