Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    I get a lot of emails from people asking how they can get involved in entertainment writing. While I am not Michael Musto, I have written for Men’s Fitness, The Advocate, Essence and several other places. Plus, I’ve been able to interview some amazing people—some celebrities, some not. This is not etched in stone, but here are my humble tips.

    No Money

    Don't expect to get paid. There are so many people who want to be writers. Therefore, magazines and web sites do not have to pay them. Only those who have a nice stack of credentials or a history with a publication will get a check. There is absolutely no money in writing in the first six months to a year. Just like singers perform at clubs for free or actors act for free, until you get a nice resume, you will have to write for free.

    Go to school

    If being a writer is something you want to do, it's paramount that you attend college. Sure, there are the stories of high school dropouts becoming writers, but not as many in 2009. If you want to be a serious writer, school is a necessity—nothing can replace the demands of writing tons of papers monthly and reading several books a week for four years straight.

    Editors can help you, not other writers

    Sure, other writers can give you tips, but it's the editors you need to be in contact with. I get emails all the time asking me how they can write for The Advocate, but I'm the writer, not the editor. The best thing to ask is, "Do you have a contact for the editor at... ?"

    Do you want to be a writer or be famous?

    Writing will not get you fame. Yes, there are the small percentages, but 95% of writers do not become famous. If you think this is your avenue to becoming Oprah, it's not. No one cares about writers except for others writers. No one reads interviews and remembers the writer’s name. You are the vessel, nothing else. If you want to be famous, a personality, a gossip columnist, that is different.

    Don't comprise your beliefs

    I've never written a review I didn't believe in. I may have changed my mind, but at the time those were my true thoughts. In the cases where I have been told to say something was good when it was bad or say something is bad when it was good (yep, that happens too!)—I have politely declined to do the story. Sure, you might tone things down, but don't comprise or people won't believe a word you say. Thankfully, when you do more objective writing your opinion doesn't matter.

    Don't take advice from people who aren't writers

    Sure, words like, "Go with your heart," from your mama is fine. But when random people "advise" you how to do a story, how to ask a question, what you are doing right and what you need to do right—and they have never been published, don't get paid to critique others and just think they know because they can form a full sentence—ignore them! Call up fellow writers and ask them. Unless they have a Master's degree in English Literature, they are to be ignored.

    Be professional

    I don't care if you are writing for the most ghetto or hood publication on the planet—be professional. Be on time, don't curse, dress appropriately and don't get comfortable. You are doing a job. As much as some people like to think, “I don't do interviews, we just have conversations.” No. Celebrities don't care what you think unless they ask. They are on their twentieth interview of the day, they want to go home, they are exhausted. Trying to act like you are sisters since the river was young will only give you a bad interview.

    Good luck to all the up and coming writers!

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    Posted by Clay :: 10:59 AM :: 5 comments

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