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Book Reviews

Writing Freelance

by Christine Adamec

Kids today: when it comes to career planning, they can easily acquire accessible, thorough, and inexpensive self-help guides that make the whole prospect of life as a writer halfway enticing. Compare and contrast to the students of yesteryear – like me. I enrolled in Journalism 101 only to discover that the instructor really wanted to write scripts for That’s Incredible!, and that in the future newspaper offices would be run by cyborgs. While some would argue that the latter proposition may well have come true, today’s prospective writers would do well to refer to Christine Adamec’s comprehensive guide to the industry, Writing Freelance.
A total A–Z of professional writing for the aspirant who knows nothing about the market, the book is handily arranged in sections that anticipate the student’s every question. After an initial discussion of the attitudes, skills, and lifestyle needed to pursue freelance writing, it moves logically on to chapters entitled “Who Hires Writers and Why” and “Getting Assignments,” and deals with the basics of pitching, researching, and interviewing. Along the way the book covers virtually every aspect of writing for magazines and newspapers, plus the ins and outs of preparing, selling, and writing books. The final three chapters alone – “Starting Your Business,” “Money and Getting Paid,” and “Record Keeping” – are worth the price of the book, as they demonstrate with almost ruthless clarity how to make words work for a living.
There are, however, some missteps. Adamec is based in Florida, and it shows: the book’s Canadian references feel like last-minute gestures. And because all new reference volumes seem to have borrowed the Learning Lite tone and format of the ubiquitous Dummies/Idiot’s bestsellers, Adamec’s book often seems dumbed-down, resulting in such nuggets of advice as “Don’t call editors just to chat” and “Practice saying ‘I am a writer.’” Most nannyish of all is the cautionary note, “Warning: there’s plenty of pornography on the Internet” – which could lead to a missed employment opportunity, as plenty of today’s bright young online hacks are adding bumps to the daily grind.