This is a new recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned
So Far,” where writers at any stage of their career can talk
about seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they
knew at the beginning. This installment is from Chantal Panozzo,
award-winning freelancer and aspiring memoirist.
Panozzo is a writer and copywriter
based in Zurich, Switzerland. Her essays have
appeared everywhere from The Christian
Science Monitor and National Geographic
Glimpse to the Swiss News. She is also at
work on Hausfrau: The Memoir, a story about
looking for an identity in a country where the
bells still ring at 11 a.m. to remind all women
to get home and cook their husbands lunch.
1. Make business cards. Lawyers have them and they feel important. You can,
too. Plus it just makes you look like you take your writing seriously.
2. Live abroad. Think of it as an MFA, except you’ll differentiate yourself
with more than a piece of paper. You’ll be able to write about things from a unique
viewpoint. And you’ll find ideas for stories that you never could have imagined before.
For example, if your Swiss neighbor wants clean your gutter until it’s so shiny you
could drink out of it, let her. And then go write about it.
3. Tell the truth. I try to (sorry, Dad). But then again, I’ve got to make
up for my career as an advertising copywriter somehow. So I write stories about the
people I know, the places I live, and the things that have happened to me. As Garrison
Keillor one said, if it’s something people are ashamed of, it’s probably worth writing
about. And in my experience, this is true. For example, I was able to sell a story
about being laid off in Switzerland to a radio station, a magazine, and a best-selling
anthology series. People love when your life sucks more than theirs. And having to
keep working for three months under the same boss that fired you qualifies for the
ultimate in life suckiness.
4. Read books. There’s no excuse for not reading, even if, like me, you live
in a country where paperbacks cost the equivalent of $30. To keep from going broke,
I buy 50 books at a time when I’m in the U.S., and stuff them in my suitcase. Writers
read. Some of us just have to deal with more back pain because of it.
5. Fight more. Assume the writing contract could be better because a lawyer
wrote it and most people know that good English does not read like Sanskrit. So only
use contracts as starting points. It doesn’t hurt to ask for more money or ask to
retain more rights. Remember, when one writer prevails, we all do.
6. Read your stuff out loud. Good writing is usually about good listening.
7. Use the Internet to your advantage. This is especially important if you
live in a remote location that makes networking in person difficult. I
started the blog Writer Abroad so I could connect with other writers around the
world and find out how they worked. I’m always looking for new writers to feature,
so please get in touch if you’re interested.
Want more on this topic?
to pen a guest column? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
tips on writing book-length memoirs.
A great resource for memoir writing is Writing
Confused about formatting?
Check out Formatting
& Submitting Your Manuscript.
Read about What
Agents Hate: Chapter 1 Pet Peeves.
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