Snowblowers, Sunscreen, and Saucepans

Don’t write just for today’s readers.

At a garage sale this weekend, I bought a much-needed tube of sunscreen—and also a snowblower.

I used one immediately. I’ll need the other next winter—on a day with no need for sunscreen.

That kind of thinking also applies to publishing.

If you’re writing for a newspaper, you’re safe to cite examples from the events of this week. They’ll still be fresh.

But if you’re writing for magazines or writing a book, think long term. When I worked for a national magazine, we edited each issue five months in advance. In June, we began the issue for November. And we bought many articles a year before they ran.

Unless you self-publish, the timeline for books stretches even longer. Most titles acquired now won’t be published for at least eighteen months.

So your illustrations need a long shelf life. Events that seem so timely may have been eclipsed—many times. As seasons pass, memories fade. New, immediate needs arise—whether for sunscreen or snowblowers.

The solution? If you cite a news event, choose one that affected you personally, then dwell on that aspect.

Better, illustrate your writing with daily events that will continue to apply to readers’ lives. Besides the sunscreen and the snowblower, I also bought a small saucepan. I can cook with it season after season, year after year. It will never lose its relevance—just like effective writing.

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About Andy Scheer

With more than 30 years in publishing, Andy Scheer has provided freelance editorial services since 2010. He has edited fiction and nonfiction for publishers including Moody, WinePress, and BelieversPress, as well as for clients including Dirk Cussler, McNair Wilson, DiAnn Mills, Heather Day Gilbert, and Sammy Tippit.

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