Last week I chronicled my decision to undertake freelance feature writing, if not as a full time replacement for the day job of the time, at least as something somewhat more than a hobby. And it was turning out to be more work than I had anticipated.
It wasn't as though I had had no previous experience in the freelance game. By that point I had been published in both the city's major dailies, in the country's national weekly newsmagazine and a host of others. Newbie, I was not.
The key difference was that primarily what I had published to date had been op/eds. I don't mean to cast aspersions on my colleagues (I feel I can use that term) who legitimately make their living in the editorial section but really, it's kind of easy. I mean, sure, you can't be writing stuff that's blatantly false but when one considers that the bulk of the piece is my opinion, how wrong can I get it? Observe something, see an issue in the news and then, you know, editorialize. It's a pretty sweet gig, I think.
Sidebar: when I was doing my Masters degree, I was attending the University of Oregon in beautiful Eugene [photo]. During our required research methodologies course, our professor told about the pressures of having to publish in academic journals when one was a professor, and how the process of peer review, edits, more review, more edits and still more peers doing more reviewing often could take eighteen months to two years before your article saw print. "Surely," I asked, "After all of that you must pocket a hefty chunk of change when it's all done?"
"No," my professor advised. "Often it's a small honorarium or nothing at all. It's the prestige of being published."
The previous night I had banged off a freelance op/ed piece in forty minutes and had been paid two hundred bucks. Screw academia.
But feature writing seemed to offer so much more depth. Not only would I be able to focus on a subject in which I was interested, I would hopefully bring others to have a better understanding and entertain them as well. I might even do some good.
I admit that I was lucky: my first pitch, while not picked up by a magazine - which is what I really wanted, I did get interest expressed by The Courier, Vancouver's thrice weekly news and culture paper. The story was about a company called erealty.ca, a then upstart Internet company that aimed to take advantage of a hot real estate market and greatly reduce the amount of fees paid to so-called full-service realtors. The genesis of the story was close to home: we had used the company to sell our town home when we wanted to have our new house built. Our initial purchase on the new home was rejected as it was dependent on the sale of our existing place using this untested new realty service.
It sold in three days.
I tried to be balanced. I interviewed traditional realtors, along with the founder of the new company and one of its competitors, One Percent Realty, that still exists today, while the central subject of my piece has since folded.
And as is apparently entirely common in the business, my piece was overnighted, or delayed by a week from when the piece was originally going to run. 'Okay,' I told myself, that'll give me a week to make it even better. And at the end of the week, it was overnighted again. And I made it better again. And then it was overnighted a third time. And for a third time I did some editing. And for a fourth week it was pushed back. And then I stopped editing. But each week I checked in with "my editor." For eleven weeks, the story was pushed back with the assurance that it looked like it would run in the following weekend's feature section.
Finally, eleven weeks after my original deadline, the editor informed me that my piece seemed a bit dated, the subject a bit stale. No kidding.
Next week: My next big story.