The first time I got paid to write anything was for VIZ magazine. I was looking online trying to find when The Crystal Maze last aired, then had this thought, ‘what if someone got locked in one of the rooms, and left in the studio’. So that was the seed and then I expanded on it. I always felt sorry for the people that got left behind trapped in the rooms. You’d get the as*hole team leader that would leave them in there to rot whilst they went off to chase strips of gold foil in the dome. That’s tantamount to bullying isn’t it? You must have the worst of case of BO to get left behind in one of those rooms. That or the Team Leader found out you banged his misses some years back and has decided now is the chance to level the score.
I digress. So I pulled the idea apart, imagined that a guy had just been released after 20 years trapped in the Crystal Maze and sent the idea of to VIZ. I thought no more of it until they replied some weeks later and offered me £25 for the article. It was the best £25 I’d ever won. That’s right, I said won. Because I didn’t earn it. Earning money is getting up at 6am and stripping bark of a roll of willow with a hatchet in the dead of winter. I’ve done that and it’s character building to say the least. Stripping bark of a tree in winter that’s covered in frost is the worst. In the summer you only have to ask the bark nicely and it will fall off the roll, in the winter you’re virtually sculpting the thing. So that felt like a win, and as Paul Newman said famously in The Colour of Money – ‘Money won, is twice as sweet as money earned’.
I was hooked. I sent off a dozen ideas, some good, some awful. I made it my mission to get an idea down a day and submit them in batches. I have about a 1 in 5 strike rate these days of getting an article accepted and now they offer £60 per article. There is no exact science, and I’m not saying I have the magic formula, but here are some of my tips of getting into Viz, and getting paid.
- Don’t write Letterbocks or Top Tips. They don’t pay because I imagine they get inundated. Do it if you want to, but you won’t get rewarded financially.
- Be nice to Angela. Angela is the secretary to whom you submit your articles. Angela always replies, even if the submission hasn’t made the cut. Don’t take it personally if it doesn’t and don’t be precious about your work. Simply take it on the chin, and think up something funnier.
- See it from both sides. When you’re writing your article, have fictional characters give a subjective view. For example, below is an article that didn’t make the cut, but will illustrate my point. I’ve highlighted opposing views of the story in red.
The British Secret Service announced this week that they have successfully foiled a terrorists attack in London, on Fred Weathers Map. Until recently the iconic floating map of the British Isles situated in Albert Dock, was used by Fred Talbot on This Morning and then later on Daybreak. Foreign Affairs secretary William Hague told the press yesterday ‘We were naturally fearful when initial reports came in that a terrorist cell were targeting our Homeland.’ Hague added ‘When we intercepted correspondence and heard they planned to “Wipe London off the Map” well it was action stations I can tell you.‘ Alarm bells were sent ringing around Westminister and the Prime Minister took no chances sending in the Special forces to raid the Terrorist Cell and stopping the attack in the nick of time. David Cameron made a statement at the Dispatch Box yesterday.
‘We are pleased to announce that its another victory for the UK and Secret Service. Admittedly we believed their initial target was London itself and not the square foot of London used on Fred’s Map. This however does not diminish the months of hard work and surveillance that our Armed forces have put in.‘
A spokesman for the Al-Queda cell linked with the plot told BOOM weekly ‘We wanted to strike fear right into the heart of the West. Our new recruits are a little inexperienced, and we normally start them with something small. By destroying London on Fred’s Weather Map it would have shown Whitehall that we mean business. However we’ll dust ourselves off and come back stronger next time.’ Fred Talbot was unable to comment as he was due in court today accused of historical sex offenses.
- Puns and wordplay. Go through your local newspaper, often the tabloids have worked out all the puns and trashy headlines for you. Give a unique twist to the story and see how far you can run with it.
- Avoid the obvious. I actually don’t bother with the main headline stories you’ll see in the news. Stories like Saville and stuff like that. Chances are everyone is scrambling like those zombies up that wall in World War Z to get to the nearest punchline. Look for the more obscure stories if you’re using inspiration from magazines or newspapers. The science and tech sections on the BBC News website is always my first go-to.