Cover letters – don’t we dread writing them? When so many magazines have an automated submission process, what is the purpose?
Why do a Cover Letter?
It’s a way to introduce yourself to the editor, and where I come from, an introduction is a polite thing to do.
It tells the editor the basics about your submission – title, word count, and is a good opportunity to indicate your familiarity with the magazine.
Things Not to do:
I bought this book because writing instructor extraordinaire Margie Lawson recommended it.
My edition was printed in 1985, and the book examples used in 100 Ways are old. (Fortunately, so am I, and I remember the buzz those books earned at the time.) It was also in the baby days of personal computers, when very few writers owned one, and most everyone wrote their rough drafts by hand and their better drafts on a typewriter.
Gary Provost wrote articles for Writers Digest and 22 books, fiction and nonfiction. He passed away in 1995.
100 Ways is divided into nine chapters which are further divided into 5 to 12 short topics. For example, Chapter 7, “11 Ways to Make People Like What You Write,” is broken into these topics:
The entire book is 158 pages long.
Although most of the information in this book is pretty basic, veterans could benefit from reviewing some of the material, such as common errors to avoid, cutting unnecessary words, and a self-editing checklist. Or how about this advice:
How do you know when you have finished? Look at the last sentence and ask yourself, “What does the reader lose if you cross it out?” If the answer is “nothing” or “I don’t know,” then cross it out. Do the same thing with the next to last sentence, and so forth. When you get to the sentence you must have, read it out loud. Is it a good closing sentence? Does it sound final? Is it pleasant to the ear? Does it leave the reader in the mood you intended? If so, you are done. If not, rewrite it so that it does. Then stop writing.
If you’re a beginning writer and you’re looking for a book that covers the basics, this is a good choice. I have over 40 books on writing, and 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing does not spark joy for me. I would give it to you, but my dog chewed the corners. (He liked it just fine.)