WMBTSG Day Twenty Four (Comment to this post to enter today’s drawing)

Welcome to day twenty-four of the Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway. Today’s giveaway is The Renegade Writer by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell.

The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success: For decades freelance writers have been told to follow the “rules” of the business or risk poverty. Keep your query letters to one page! Don’t call an editor! Accept every assignment you’re given!

Now the truth comes out: Many highly successful freelance writers ignore those basic rules and many others, and even flaunt them to their own advantage.

Authors Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell have published articles in Redbook, Woman’s Day, Men’s Health, Writer’s Digest and scores of other consumer and trade magazines. When they began freelancing they read all the freelance writing books, followed all the silly rules and struggled to get by. Eventually, they realized that certain “rules” didn’t really benefit them. One by one those rules dissolved and were replaced with clever ways to get assignments, get paid more for them, and finish them more effectively.

Formichelli and Burrell share their insights in The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success. This book teaches freelance writers how to break into previously unattainable markets by eschewing the old way of doing things. It explains that freelancers can negotiate for more money and better terms, without risking their careers. It teaches that editors are not the writer-gobbling monsters many freelancers fear, and explains how to establish and foster relationships with these important gatekeepers. In short, The Renegade Writer helps freelancers become renegades and succeed!

The Second Edition of The Renegade Writer is a thorough update to the classic book that has helped thousands of freelance writers make more money. The new edition contains many new “rules” to be broken, updates to the existing rulebreaking ideas, and a new feature: profiles of bona fide Renegade Writers!

About the authors:

Linda Formichelli writes for Redbook, USA Weekend, Health, Women’s Health, Business.com, Writer’s Digest, and other magazines. Linda co-authored The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success and The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock. Linda lives in Concord, NH, with her writer husband and three cats. Her interests include science fiction, languages & linguistics, Archie Comics, Thai iced tea, and cats. Linda’s website is http://www.lindaformichelli.com, and the Renegade Writer blog is at http://www.therenegadewriter.com.

Diana Burrell is the coauthor of The Renegade Writer and The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock, and the author of Psychology Today’s Here to Help: The Secrets of Successful Weight Loss. Before she transformed herself into a renegade writer, Diana Burrell sought job fulfillment in careers like advertising, marketing, and technical writing. She now writes for publications including Parenting, Psychology Today, The Writer, Walking, Contract Professional, and many other magazines and newspapers. A graduate of Smith College, Diana lives in suburban Boston with her husband, son, three cats, and a lot of books. Visit Diana online at www.ninetofive.com.


Today’s question:

Angel or devil, which are you? Will you play by the rules ALWAYS, even when the rules seem arbitrary or absurd? Or are you the type to shrug at the rules and just do things your own way? I guess what I’m really asking is…are you a rule follower or a renegade writer? Do tell all.

If this is your first post in the giveaway, please read “Da Rules.”

You may post your comments until midnight PST on September 24th.


37 Responses to “WMBTSG Day Twenty Four (Comment to this post to enter today’s drawing)”

  1. 1 The Write Elizabeth (Elizabeth Humphrey) September 24, 2008 at 1:26 am

    Sigh, I’ve tried to play by the rules. Really I have and I sometimes feel like by doing that, I haven’t gotten anywhere in the business. The rules do sometimes seem arbitrary, but I’m nearer to the angel than the devil. I sometimes try to think how I would feel being bombarded with e-mails by total strangers day after day. And I guess I figure that even the editors on the inside are playing by some rules, aren’t they? But I really, really want to be more of a renegade. Truly I do. Can you be a completely angelic renegade?

  2. 2 Stacy September 24, 2008 at 4:00 am

    A rule isn’t broken if you don’t know it’s a rule, right? In that case, perhaps I’m more of a renegade writer than a rule follower in the same way that I usually just glance at the pictures on a set of directions, rather than read the fine print. Of course, I sometimes end up with leftover pieces, but if it works that’s all that matters. Rules are great as guidelines, but people and circumstances are all different. What works for one person, may not work for the next.

  3. 3 Laura September 24, 2008 at 4:30 am

    I believe I follow a middle line. I follow the rules. For instance, I always stop at a stop sign, even when I’m seemingly the only one on the planet. I go back into a store if I find that I wasn’t charged for a picture frame, and pay for it. To me, the rules are there as a structure, a guideline for life.

    However, I do break some rules. One particularly bad day, when my then elementary school aged kids were all grouchy and arguing, I plunked down bowls of ice cream, complete with chocolate sauce & sprinkles and said this is dinner. They just had to eat an appetizer of a peanut butter sandwich. Silly as it was, it turned the day around for us.

    I’m also breaking the conventional wisdom rule that says that you can’t begin a new career as a writer, while working a full time job. Especially when said mother is about to turn 44. Well, for the last few years, that’s what I’ve been working on. And with the help and advice of the other writers I have found here, I’ll keep on doing so. Thanks!

  4. 4 joy September 24, 2008 at 4:42 am

    I am hopelessly a goody-two-shoes. I always follow the rules and never get in trouble. It’s funny that I look back on my childhood and I’m embarrassed to say how good I was. I don’t think I was a “child” for long. I was mainly an adult in child’s clothing. Case in point, I was taken as a mother’s helper on a vacation when I was all of nine years old.

    It is because of this tendency that I desperately need instruction and permission to break the rules. I will take any rule to the grave and follow it meticulously all of my life. I always thought it would be interesting to get into politics because the media wouldn’t be able to dig up anything to smear me with. Alas, my writing has suffered because of this. My protagonists desperately need to break rules to keep the story going, and my query letters thus far have fallen flat.

    Help! I’m a goody-two-shoes-writer in need of a past to fuel a smear campaign!

  5. 5 Mar Junge, c3PR September 24, 2008 at 6:33 am

    Wow. I’m the first post! Lest you think I got up at 6 a.m. to write this, truth is, I haven’t gone to sleep yet. After I finished several assignments around midnight, I realized I had a month’s worth of invoices to review, checks to subcontractors (writers, designers and webmasters) to sign and quarter-end budgets to reconcile. So writer mamas, be careful what you wish for. A successful writing career is definitely a time-consuming business. And it’s not a business for “angels.” You have to be a renegade to survive. You have to do things differently to stand out and get noticed. Bending the rules and taking chances is what makes freelance writing exciting. Actually, I think all writers are renegades. In the words of the band Groove Lilly, “Crazy people make great art!”

  6. 6 Meryl K. Evans September 24, 2008 at 6:47 am

    I lean toward rule-follower. Sometimes breaking the rules get you no where. And of course, sometimes breaking the rules makes you stand out. When I advise clients to take a certain route that’s not convention — they reject it. I’ll explain why and let them decide. If they don’t want it — I am not going to force it on them. My ultimate goal is to serve my client and share my experience. The client gets final say.

  7. 7 Laural September 24, 2008 at 7:55 am

    I’m not sure I know what the rules are. Sometimes getting published (or getting an assignment) feels like breaking into an exclusive club that you don’t know the secret handshake for. I want to believe that solid hard work and always, always delivering before the deadline makes me a professional worth working with, but that only works once an editor has already taken a chance on me.

    What are the rules so I can even choose to be a renegade against them to get an assignment in the first place? Not entirely sure. I am learning that speaking up can be rewarding though. I was taking a couple photos to illustrate my articles for a local magazine, which they happily published. After two issues of that, I suggested payment for them. They agreed and asked me what would be fair. I had no idea, but suggested a sum and they immediately agreed to it (which probably means I was too low). But now I get paid for the photos too.

  8. 8 Jennifer September 24, 2008 at 8:06 am

    When it comes to writing, I am a rule follower. (That tendency doesn’t necessarily apply to other areas of my life, as evidenced by my unpaid parking ticket collection…) The problem is, I often get so caught up researching the rules, and worrying about protocol, that I fail to produce anything! I want to be a “Renagade Writer” someday. But I think you need that one big break before you can break all the rules. Until that happens, I’ll be spending my days t-crossing and i-dotting.

  9. 9 Cheryl M September 24, 2008 at 8:13 am

    I am a rule follower. I always have been. I’m sure it comes from my parents who were always on time and followed all the rules (as far as I knew). So, I tend to read guidelines and follow them step by step. Also, as a scientist (my background) it is important to know exactly what you are doing or have done so that you are not wildly going out in many directions at once and have no idea what you’re testing. Of course, some of those wild experiments may occasionally lead to great breakthroughs – maybe this is what I’m missing by being a rule follower.

    Plus, I tend to get argumentative if the rules don’t make sense, which is probably not a helpful trait if you want to publish something with the rule maker.

  10. 10 Cathy September 24, 2008 at 8:33 am

    Ooooh, that’s a tough one. Some rules I follow. I read writers’ guidelines carefully and follow those rules to the letter, because I don’t want to give an editor an excuse for tossing my piece. I want to be considered a professional (even if I’m working in my pj’s), so I think it’s important to submit work by those rules.

    But when it comes to pitching an article, or asking for an interview, or any of those instances when I can use my humor and personality to sort of skirt the rules, I will.

    So, when it comes to rules and writing, I consider the circumstances and do what feels right, I guess. But when it comes to red lights, I ALWAYS stop, even at three in the morning.

  11. 11 nathalie September 24, 2008 at 9:03 am

    In the past, I let being a rule follower cripple me. Or, perhaps it was perfectionism. But unless I did everything exactly right, I didn’t do it. I read so many books about how to do it right I got overwhelmed. Eventually I figured, hey, I’ve got a degree in journalism, reporting experience and good ideas. Following the basics of a query letter, I’ve had more success being a little less of a stickler.

  12. 12 Cara September 24, 2008 at 9:49 am

    I’m proud to say that my parents raised me to be a free thinker. To always challenge old assumptions, and synthesize new ones that work for me. Does that mean I flaunt rules? Far from it! It is only the conventions that I question. Perhaps it’s the rebellious streak in me, but I only need to hear the words “everyone does it this way”, to set me off searching for a new and better way to approach a task. In the world that I inhabit, individuality, creativity and initiative are traits to be lauded, and one size most definitely does not fit all!

    I attended a wonderfully inspirational talk this past weekend, where the speaker addressed a room full of breast cancer survivors and co-survivors. In it, she asked rhetorically how many people ever got to the end of their life, and thought “Gosh, I wish I’d been more of a sheep?” Her remark was greeted with appreciative laughter. I can’t help but think that the most successful people in life in general are the movers and shakers, the ones willing to step out of the mold and blaze the way. Count me in as a renegade writer!

  13. 13 Jennifer September 24, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Following rules is stitched into me. I can’t help it. I obsess before breaking a rule, usually seeking the advice of trusted authorities before venturing out. It’s a vice, really, to wait until someone I trust gives the big “okay” before I’m ready to do it. Sigh. Boy do I ever need this book! I would love to be able to question rules more freely now and again and be able to say to myself, “This ‘rule’ seems arbitrary, so it probably is.” Then find a new way.

  14. 14 annie September 24, 2008 at 10:16 am

    Even when I was teaching, I didn’t follow any rules to get the positions I wanted or to work in the buildings I preferred. I used connections and I made myself known. It seemed to me that everyone I knew who was successful gave the appearance of following the rules only and did whatever it took to achieve his/her goal.

    I am not a free-lancer myself, but I am a contributer to two collaborative blogs and I got there by being relentlessly visible. Of course, my own writing helped a little too.

    I send stories everywhere. The worst thing that can happen is that some editor won’t get it or like it and decline. I only query when the guidelines specifically instruct me to do so. Otherwise, I send. I pester with emails, if one is made available.

    I haven’t yet begun to look for an agent. I don’t feel my portfolio is “heavy” enough with work. My goal is next spring to start. I have a few connections – people who have been published and I know would help me with intro’s and good words. I will use them.

    Who you know and who knows you are just as important to writers as someone is another career.

    Does this make me a renegade?

  15. 15 rowena September 24, 2008 at 10:23 am

    I think I am more a renegade. I read the rules and I try to follow them, but if I have not internalized them and personalized them and made them my own, they feel false and make me uncomfortable.

    But I’m not a crash through and break down all the rules shouting anarchy kind of person, although I did wear an eyebrow ring for many years, even while teaching English. I am a slide around on the outside of the rules and do things my way kind of person. Not confrontational at all.

  16. 16 Kristina Seleshanko September 24, 2008 at 10:24 am

    I am a rule follower, and I know it has hurt me at times. I’m so paranoid about taking up “too much” of an editor’s time, for example, that I tend to have a hard time building relationships with them. I’m all business, and am afraid to chit chat just a little, to get to know the editor as a human being.

    I’m strving to trust my instincts more and following arbitrary rules less.

  17. 17 Katrina September 24, 2008 at 10:26 am

    By nature, I’ve been more of a rule-follower, but what I took away from this book (library, yeah!) is that I’m going to break those rules when I have a reason for doing so. But I want to know the rule I’m breaking first. And I want to have a strategic reason for doing so, which helps the rule-follower in me calm down. Know the industry, then rebel.

  18. 18 writerinspired September 24, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Gosh, I wish I could say I was a rule-breaking hellcat, but alas, I’m a responsible, first-born, analytical being. It’s engraved in my personality, probably my fingerprints, too!
    I do everything by the book. And even what’s hidden “between the lines!”
    Maybe it’s the executive assistant in me, trying to please and answer the questions that have not yet been asked, ya know, being proactive.
    Hey, maybe that gives me a little leigh-way. Sometimes I need to act before I can “conference” with the big boss. Could that be rebel behavior? Can I be saved from this paralysis after all?
    Stay tuned to find out…

  19. 19 Celestial Goldfish September 24, 2008 at 10:57 am

    I’m an angel when it comes to following the rules. I read them over a gazillion times in case I missed something, and then I’ll often have my husband double check them again for me (my OCD is aggravating like that). I’m always terrified that I’ll leave something out and embarrass myself. Even if I get rejected, at least I can say I did what I was supposed to do.

    If I find submission rules too ambiguous, I will just pass the market by. I don’t have the guts to email for clarification. It’s easier to not waste any more time on something when I’m not sure if I’m doing it right.

  20. 20 Julie P September 24, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Why follow the rules if there’s a better way to do things?

    In the past, I was a rule follower, a teacher’s pet, a people pleaser. I’ve learned that when there’s a way to skirt around something to make life easier, to get ahead; its often worth a bit of revolution. And in the worst case, rule-breaking certainly gets attention!

    I’m not an anarchist, though. I recognize and respect the rules that show respect to others. When you want something, slathering on the sweetness tends to get you further, too.

    I suppose I’d qualify as a BNR: a Brown-Nosing-Renegade.

  21. 21 Erika September 24, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    I think I am more on the angel side, but when I look at my professional successes, they all seem to happen outside of the rules!

    Long ago, I got hired into a major high-tech firm because I sat next to the right person on an airplane back from Las Vegas.

    My best current gig came from a friend who asked me to write for her marketing company. I turned her down and said I didn’t want to do any corporate writing. A year later, she came back, and I’m enjoying it. Getting paid by the hour turns out to have its perks!

    My most recent clip in a local paper ended up being set up by the Director of my son’s Montessori. She had already talked to the Editor about writing an article about the kindergartners going to see the Dalai Lama. He had a tight deadline and she wasn’t sure he would have the chance to write an article. I wrote the article that night, called the editor in the morning and offered it to him. He said yes and it was published the next day!

    Looks like I’m a renegade writer after all!

  22. 22 Q September 24, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    I HAVE to follow the rules.

    In my “real” job, my role requires me to follow the letter of the policy or law and take action(s) against those who don’t. Of course, the caveat being that rules and laws are not always written in clear, concise language. Sometimes, if you look very closely or step back and look at the broad picture, you can find a loophole.

    My personality prefers the rules as then everyone has the same expectations. But the gamer in me, the one with the sparkle in her eye, loves the challenge of the loopholes. To appease both sides, I try to find the loophole while still maintaining the spirit of the rule.

  23. 23 Lisa Bakewell September 24, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    I’m a renegade rule-follower. Does that count? I tend to follow most rules, but I have to contemplate the rules to see if they make sense for me, personally, in my writing.

    I love The Renegade Writer, and have read it many times, but still don’t own it. I’d love to win a copy!


  24. 24 Sarah K. September 24, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    I have always been the perfect “goody two-shoes” rule follower. You know, the “do what you are told without asking questions” type. Then one day something happened – I left sunny California to attend a liberal arts college back east. Suddenly I was challenged to question not only my thoughts and point of view, but other people’s opinions as well. The teaching style at my college was the Socratic seminar instead of the usual lecture method, which meant I had to learn not only to challenge the opinions of authors in books that I read, but I had to actually learn to challenge people sitting right in front of me. The point of doing this was not to be confrontational but to search for different ways of looking at things. So, in short, while I often walk the straight and narrow path, I sometimes venture off to explore and make sure that I’m not missing out.

  25. 25 cookerycontent September 24, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    How about devil’s advocate? I’ll condense it to this: I’ve transitioned (almost entirely) from the “must include SASE” route since reading “The Renegade Writer,” which landed on my doorstep last fall, courtesy of this giveaway. Thank you again, Writer Mama. I still catch myself gravitating to my old-school rules, but the unconventional approach has opened new doors.
    –Mary Ann

  26. 26 karen September 24, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    I am born rule-follower who is trying to break the mold. Most of my life, I’ve followed every rule whether it benefited me or otherwise. In my writing career, I’ve already tried to break the rules and it didn’t work very well. I guess that I need more discretion (and much more practice!). I’m at a point in my life where I’m very tired of following the rules when it solely accommodates others. Currently, I’m trying to walk the line of being courteous and respectful of the rules, but recognize what will do me some good as well.

  27. 27 Tricia Grissom September 24, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Angel with horns here.

    I follow directions because it aggravates me when my students don’t, but I also pitched my book straight to an editor instead of getting an agent and the positive response got me the agent.

    I pitched an essay to a big publication without too much of a publishing history at the time and got accepted too.

    So I agree with Erika.

    You just have to know when to pop out the horns. When applying for jobs that ask for specific requirements i.e. a sample blog, I follow the rules. If I think I have a great idea or essay, I go for it. What’s the worst that can happen? A “No”? That happens to us writers all the time.

  28. 28 Stephanie Craig September 24, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    I am a rule follower. There is no doubt about that. I don’t have enought guts to break the rules. I want to be different and I want to stand out, but I am like all the rest. I never knew that you could break the rules and have your writing considered for publication. I always thought that there were a set of rules to follow and a writer has to do her best to follow the rules and be different, something I have not figured out yet.

  29. 29 Lisa September 24, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    I am totally a rule follower now in most aspects of my life. Mainly to set a good example for my child. I used to be a rule breaker and try to do things my own way. But I’ve found that being a rule follower works a lot better for me. I tend to accomplish more in my life, things seem to run smoother and I just generally feel better about myself. Because I’m just starting out on my writing career I know I will be a rule follower. But if that doesn’t work, who knows, I may fall back into my old rule breaking ways.

  30. 30 krysk September 24, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    I am honestly somewhere in the middle – which might sound like a cop out, but I follow rules most of the time, but there are definitely times when I do my own thing. I think usually the more you know about a particular topic and the more confidence you gain then they more you are able to break the rules. I know that when I first started sending out queries I definitely followed a formula and they most likely did come across as pretty dry and standard – but I am gaining confidence and am starting to let myself and my writing seep into the stuff I send out.

  31. 31 Amie H September 24, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    One of my first writing teachers taught me that you have to learn the rules before you can break them – successfully. She was talking about punctuation but I think it applies to other aspects of a writing career too. I think what she meant was that it’s more important to understand the purpose of a rule than to follow it blindly. Why is the rule there?

    For each instance you have to decide what is essential and what could use some creative license. Sometimes rules or guidelines become a safe script that writers use when they approach a market. Sometimes being too safe can make you blend into the background.

    When I’m writing, at first anything goes. When I’m trying to break into a market and get published, I do my homework first. But I don’t always follow all the rules or scripts that have been developed. When you finally think you have the rules figured out they can change – so its important to keep learning the rules even if you want to break them.

  32. 32 kmcdade September 24, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    I’m a rule follower in general, although I do find some of the “rules” of freelance writing silly. For instance, I once asked my brother-in-law (also a freelancer) whether I really had to kiss up to editors in a cover/query letter, even if it felt fake (I SOOO enjoyed blah blah blah in your latest issue, etc.). He was able to explain it in terms I could understand, though, and I found I could accomplish the goal of letting the editor know that I was familiar with the magazine without actually kissing up. So, I would be interested in knowing more about this rule-breaking, too!

  33. 33 marnini September 24, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    On most days, I am an angel. However, there are times that I have a gut feeling on something and the devil in me slightly breaks the rules. Sometimes it takes an angel wearing a devil’s disguise to break the mold. I think that is really what a renegade writer is, a person willing to follow the rules once they are given the opportunity to do so. At least that is how I see it

  34. 34 TammyE September 24, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    I confess that I am mostly a rule follower, but that doesn’t mean I follow all rules happily. Usually, if I’ve broken a rule, it is because I didn’t know about it and a great deal of guilt and worrying ensues as I set out to make it right. The word ‘sorry’ is somewhat of a reflex for me. This is probably why I’ve spent most of my time studying how to become a freelance writer instead of actually becoming one. I hate to make mistakes even though I seem to make plenty every day. Plus I would be mortified if I ticked off an editor. I think I need to get over it – way over it. Especially since one of my favorite quotes is “well-behaved women seldom make history” by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. So, what’s with that I wonder? Maybe I should start living like I believe that quote. I’ll start by just bending a few rules for a warm-up, and then we’ll see what happens. I think I need a leather jacket, oh and maybe a tattoo of a feather pen to help me along. Now, where to put the tattoo……………

  35. 35 Christine September 24, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    I follow and break rules depending on my confidence in both the rule and its origin and in my own unique situation. Perhaps sometimes I recognize the value in the rule and its purpose and then following it is no problem. But there are definitely times when I question the rules and consider myself above them. Problems arise, I think, when I break rules without fully understanding them — or when I don’t even know there was a rule in place. That can get sticky. So, I agree with a previous post– it is important to know the rules well so you can break them effectively when need be!

  36. 36 Tricia S. September 24, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    Gosh, I want to be a renegade, but the little angel on my shoulder keeps whispering in my ear. AND I listen to her. I’d like to blame it on my strict Baptist upbringing, but it’s my grandma. I see her face when I want to be the rebel and it squashes the urge. So I guess she’s the angel on my shoulder, and I don’t want to let her down.

  1. 1 Day Twenty-Four Drawing: And the winner is… « The Writer Mama Riffs Trackback on September 25, 2008 at 1:30 pm
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