Book Review: The Renegade Writer by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell
By Melissa Batai
Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell, authors of The Renegade Writer, are seasoned writers who have written for publications such as Family Circle and The Atlantic.com and have years of experience between the two of them. They know that freelance writing isn't easy. In fact, the book The Renegade Writer languished for years before it was published because they had trouble finding a publisher.
Freelance writing isn't easy, but for many writers, it's all they want to do. If you're just launching your freelance writing career or have some experience under your belt, this book should be essential reading. Formichelli and Burrell demystify the writing process and offer excellent tips and suggestions that almost any writer could benefit from.
This is a meaty book chocked full of valuable information. I took a few weeks to read it all, and now that I've finished, I plan to slowly reread and take notes. There is so much information here!
The book is organized in 10 chapters that cover each step of the freelance writing process:
Chapter 1: Breaking In by Breaking Rules: Even New Freelancers Can Be Renegades
Think you need to spend a lot of money to get your freelance writing career going or that you need to have connections? Sure, these things might help, but you don't need them. You also don't need to start at the low end of the totem pole and work your way up. The authors dispel these myths right from the beginning, empowering the writer who is still looking to catch her big break.
Chapter 2: Cranking Up the Idea Factory: Bold Thinking Leads to Countless Ideas
Sure you might be a great writer, but if you're not able to think of plenty of ideas, you could be in trouble. The authors give many suggestions to help you come up with more ideas from mining your own life to making writing friends that you can share ideas with. They also offer many more suggestions that should help you find plenty of ideas to write about.
Chapter 3: No-Fear Querying: Now Turn Those Ideas Into Assignments
Do you think you have to buy 6 back issues of the magazine you're querying and limit your query to just one page? Not so. The authors dispel these and many other myths in this chapter, including the idea that you should not query simultaneously. (Their take--if you follow the no simultaneous query rule, you'll likely be a broke writer!)
Chapter 4: Signing on the Dotted Line: Renegades Get Fatter, Fairer, Safer Contracts
If you're a new freelance writer, you may not know that you can negotiate your contract, including what rights you get to keep, how much you get paid and what your kill fee is. Did you know that many editors have two contracts and often give new writers the less generous contract? If you're a new freelance writer or even a more experienced one, this chapter contains vital information.
Chapter 5: Mining for Information: A Little Digging Can Turn Up Gold
One of the most challenging parts of freelance writing, beyond getting the initial assignment, is to find sources. This chapter offers several shortcuts to finding good sources that will save you time every time you need to write an article.
Chapter 6: Talking the Talk: Renegade Interviews Get the Story, and Then Some
From how to transcribe your interview notes (or finding someone to do it for you), to how to nicely cut off a wind bag, this chapter covers everything you need to know about actually conducting the interview with your source.
Chapter 7: Putting Pen to Paper: The Rights and Wrongs of Writing
Though your English teacher would beg to differ, you don't have to use perfect English when writing. In this chapter, learn the how and why of writing your assignment, working with the editor and proofing your work before it gets published.
Chapter 8: Getting the Green: Don't Be Shy When It Comes Time to Collect
As a freelancer, this is one of the most important topics of the book. Writers have bills to pay, too, and need to be paid on time, but, unfortunately, they often aren't. The authors of the book have sometimes had to take extreme measures to get their checks, which are sometimes up to 8 months overdue! They give strategies for getting the money as well as how to negotiate a better kill fee.
Chapter 9: The Renegade Attitude: Your Success Often Depends on Your Mindset
This chapter is filled with great advice, but the best piece of advice is to stop taking rejection personally. In fact, the authors say to quit using the word "rejection." Instead, recognize that the editors are making a business decision when they say no to your idea. In addition, there are great tips here on working with editors as well as when and how to end a relationship with an editor.
Chapter 10: Thriving, Not Just Surviving: Reach for the Top
Work at home moms know how difficult juggling work and child care can be. The authors offer solutions to writing from home and caring for young children. Another potentially sticky issue they tackle is how to get health insurance and save for your own retirement.
Other Features of the Book
At the end of each chapter, the authors interview a renegade writer. These are so interesting. One writer, for instance, broke the rule that you have to work your way up to better publications; her first assignment was for Parenting Magazine. There is something to be learned from each of these writers' journeys.
Also, the appendices are packed with links and places you can go to find more information if this informative book didn't give you enough to work with.
Is This Book Right for You?
If you're new to the freelance writing field or even if you have some experience under your belt, this book is worth purchasing. Just negotiating one contract could more than recoup the price of the book, and if you're able to use several of the authors' tips, you'll find your income soar.
Melissa, a mom to three little ones (ages 7, 3 and 1) blogs at Mom's Plans where she writes about living a fulfilling life on less and focuses on cutting expenses, budgeting, paying down debt, saving money and once a month cooking.