By Tom Watson
Despite all the bells and whistles on my computer, an article status form is the best way for me to keep track of writing assignments.
We all use various sources to develop article proposals. Once I find a potential market I send a query, introducing myself and my proposal. If I am lucky, I get a response – usually via e-mail. While I do file away those e-mails, it is advantageous to include information about each proposed article in a folder I keep on my desk. In each folder, I organize materials (field journal pages, brochures, etc.) I will refer to when writing the proposed article.
The article status form is the first page in each folder. Besides the usual contact information, there are places to record details I will need to know down the road: What is the publication’s response time? When should I get back to them? Did they request anything else, such as clips or article details?
As a way of tracking success, I have a place to mark whether a proposal was accepted or rejected. If rejected, I at least have a dated copy of the proposal to refer to if I decide to resubmit a similar query or contact the publication again. If accepted, even though I will eventually have a contract or authorization via e-mail, I like to record the date of acceptance, fee quoted, word length – all critical information right there on the form for easy access.
I can add comments and log e-mails and phone calls, too. No matter how much you think it through, you will always forget to include a place for noting some important tidbit. For all those afterthoughts, I include a box for comments at the bottom of the page. This is also a good place to list any photo files you intend to consider for the article.
Across the top of the sheet are two large boxes titled “accepted” and “rejected.” It brings me much pleasure to color in the first box with a bright neon yellow marker. I usually take an accepted article status form out of the file and clip it to the outside of the folder, which goes immediately into a pile on my desk of work to do. Once the article is completed and on its way, I mark a big red “X” inside that bright yellow box.
After the article is published, I transfer all the vital information to computer files (if I haven’t already) and discard the form.
In a world of computers and other high-tech aids, a paper form may be a bit archaic. But there’s just a certain satisfaction in seeing that bright yellow box glowing back at me on a regular basis. ◊
Tom Watson is a freelance writer, columnist, book author and active member of OWAA and the Association of Great Lake Outdoor Writers. He writes from Appleton, Minn. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Tom Watson