Okay, I am being extra-brave today. Not only have I posted one of my early queries to show how bad they used to be, I'm posting an article that didn't sell, too.
Remember that I rarely queried as a newbie freelancer; I wrote articles, sent them in, and crossed my fingers. That is not the way to successfully freelance; professional freelancers query. I did sell a few articles using this haphazard method, but most fell flat--and looking back, it's easy to see why.
Here's a piece I sent to a national women's magazine that didn't sell...with some of my comments in green:
HOW TO GET YOUR HONEY OFF THE COUCH (AND OUT OF THE HOUSE!)
[You don't capitalize all of the words in the title. Duh.]
Kelly K. James
[I was still single...]
Remember how it was when you first met? The two of you did lots of fun things together. You went to the movies, to dinner, to the beach. You spent a whole day at the water park and spent long weekends together. Lately, though, it seems that your guy would rather lie on the couch and watch football (or basketball, or hockey) than spend “quality time” with you. [This is such a boring, general lead...even a first-person lead is more compelling than the general "you."]
Getting tired of it? Here are seven tips on how to make your man want to spend more time with you—without him even realizing what you’re up to! [I like the list format but the writing could be stronger.]
1. Ask him what he wants. Is he happy the way things are? Does he miss getting out of the house? (Try not to make snide comments about how the couch has a big man-shaped dent in it now.) Assume the best--maybe he’d like to spend more time with you, but he’s too busy to arrange it. Offer to make the plans for you—he may jump at the chance. [I actually don't mind this paragraph--and I do like the tone.]
2. Tell him you’re going to set aside one night a week to spend apart. This may seem to be the opposite of what you want—for him to spend more time with you. But you may have been making yourself too available to him. Men don’t appreciate someone who’s always accessible. Time apart will make him appreciate your time together more. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, remember? [A quote from an expert would make this much stronger. Noticing that I haven't relied on any sources except myself? That's a big reason it didn't sell.]
3. Don’t expect him to share all your interests. No man wants to spend his entire Saturday at the mall shopping for bargains. And he probably doesn’t want to see any chick movies like “Sense and Sensibility”. Don’t expect him too, and don’t force him to participate in things you know he detests. He’ll just be resentful anyway, and you won’t enjoy yourself when he’s sitting there moping the whole time. [Rather general, and, um, sexist! And a movie title should be italicized, not in quotes.]
4. Don’t expect him to fulfill all your needs. My mom gave me this piece of advice when I got married: don’t give up your women friends. We tend to expect our husbands and boyfriends to listen endlessly to all our problems. But guys don’t want to empathize—they want to problem-solve. Do you really want your boyfriend to agree with you when you say you’re getting too fat and suggest a diet? Of course not. Don’t treat him like he’s your personal therapist. If you need to rehash something for the third or fourth time, call a girlfriend. [Not a bad tip from my mom--of course--but again, a quote from a relationship expert or a recent study on how men and women communicate would pump up this tip.]
5. Try something different. If the two of you always go to dinner and a movie on Saturday nights, go bowling or miniature golfing instead. Take him line dancing. Talk him into a sky-diving class. Sharing new experiences together is guaranteed to enhance your relationship—and you may find a hobby that you can both share. [Again, now I know that there is research to prove this point--that doing new experiences strengthens a couple's bond. So why didn't I include some here?]
6. Give him his space (see #2). Get out of the house once in a while and just leave him alone, without a list of chores for him to do in the meantime. He’ll love the time to himself, but rest assured that after a couple of hours, he’ll start missing you and want you home. [Gee, I already wrote this tip. Simply giving it a different name doesn't make it new material.]
7. Make it fun. Don’t take out your crabbiness on him or complain about your PMS when you go out together. Remember how you felt about him when you first met? You looked forward to seeing him and he could tell. Recall that feeling and act that way again--remind him of the woman he fell in love with. He may have forgotten how good things can be between the two of you. But when the two of you have a wonderful time together, he’s going to want more of it in the future. Who knows—he may even drag you off the couch one night! [I think I'm rehashing tip 3 again here. Which doesn't make this a new tip, remember? The writing isn't horrible but it's not particularly interesting or colorful either. And the ending--well, it makes me cringe.]
Readers, are you impressed by my bravery? :) Next up, I'll share an early article that did get published so you can see the difference.
Think of Your Main Characters as Dinner Guests
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