Margaret Miller: 3 Things I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then

Margaret Miller has been writing professionally (freelance/magazine articles and corporate copywriting) since she was a senior in college. She sold her first article in 1977, long before computers. She lives in Austin, Texas and continues to write for a wide variety of national and regional publications.

  • The first thing I wish I had known is that readers and clients care more about content than style. As a creative writing major, I spent a lot of time worrying about the way a sentence sounded, as I would when writing a poem. The editor (wisely) cut out lots of my rhymes and alliteration, shortened many of my long sentences and generally made my mediocre writing much better. I didn’t study journalism but fell into it. So I had to learn these lessons the hard way.
  • The second thing I wish I’d known is that sometimes money isn’t what’s important about an assignment. In the beginning, I often haggled over a fee when I should have just done the job to build my portfolio. Sometimes I did do work pro bono and those jobs turned out to reflect much of my better work.
  • The third thing I wish I had known is that there is almost ALWAYS an error in what you think is your final draft. No matter how many times you’ve read it over, it pays to wait 24 hours before submitting so that you can read your work with fresh eyes and new perspective. More than once, when trying to meet a deadline, I’ve hit the SEND button at one o’clock in the morning and discovered a mistake the next day. Patience–and planning–pays off.