What Is A Filler?
Open any magazine, newspaper or webpage, and most likely you will come across a filler. A filler is a short item used to fill a space in a publication (or to fill time on radio or television--keep in mind that a writer writes these fillers as well).
"The Teaching Home" and "Reader's Digest" actually reserve space specifically for fillers.
Fillers can be as short as a fun phrase; Happiness is thirty-one different flavors of ice-cream. Or fillers can be a long five hundred word anecdote. Fillers are generally nonfiction.
Recipes are fillers in certain publications. Jason Wolfe's free online weekly newsletter, "DIRECTCOUPONS," includes a reader's recipe in each issue. Hints, tips, problems and solutions, jokes, witty quotations, quips, epigrams (short clever poem or paradoxical statement) and other juicy nuggets of writing can also be sold as fillers.
Where Do I Find Fillers?
Fillers happen all around you. Do you clean? Do you have children? Do you cook? Are you a husband or a wife? Do you work (okay, do you have another bread-and-butter type of job?)? Where do you relax? What do you do for enjoyment? Do you have animals? Do you belong to a church or another type of organization? Have you discovered a better/faster/healthier way to do something? You can find fillers everywhere, for any reason, as long as you keep your senses open.
Observe and be alert for unusual or humorous signs on marquees. We read this on a church billboard: Drive-Thru Bible Study. Keep an eye on store windows, traveling trucks and buses. You just never know what you may be passing by.
Watch people. Listen to what they are saying. You will hear twists on old sayings, puns, amusing stories and plenty of jokes.
Mary Ann Hahn of New York says, "Tune in when someone compliments someone else by saying, 'Good idea,' or 'I ought to try that!' Jot down idea. Many magazines use these tips as fillers, and these short pieces can help new writer's break into national publications."
Recording Fillers and Keeping Records Keep a pocket sized notebook and a pen handy at all times. You will be ready to record incidents instantly. Unless you know shorthand, I recommend writing comments, jokes, signs or happenings as completely as time allows. I have found that writing key words only does NOT always jog your memory when you are ready to type filler.
You can use one page per filler, or use index cards, which will be of help when you are ready to file them. File them under headings such as: "Hints," "Tips," "Jokes," "Amusing Sayings," "Quotes," "Recipes," "Personal Experiences," etc. If you feel your filler should go into more than one category, put it in each category and note cross reference.
Each time you submit filler, list date, name and address of magazine. When it sells, pull it from category files and move it to a "Published" file.
Additional Filler Tips
While writing, pay attention to position (viewpoint) you take to project your filler.
An objective viewpoint may be good if you are making a statement, when it doesn't matter who is speaking, when you report what happens, and when writing certain types of work/shop tips ("Before attempting to take out a splinter, soak area in very warm water."). The statement can stand alone in an objective viewpoint.
Using a subjective viewpoint allows you to use emotions or reactions of a person. First person ("While watching my three-year-old play catch, I...") viewpoints are subjective, as are third person ("Johnny Cash may have made good, but when he..."). This puts us in thoughts of major character.
Don't be limited to anything. Find out what works for you and for market. Practice writing your filler from different viewpoints. Which one is best for what you are writing? Which one would you want to read? Study markets to discover what is selling. Like any other form of writing; be sure your manuscript is in best professional form possible. Editors will be turned off by sloppy work. Include an SASE.
Most editors buy all rights when purchasing fillers.
But... Isn't Filler Pay Pretty Low?
Some markets pay about $5 for fillers, while others pay $50 or more. Fillers may not seem lucrative to you, after knowing payscale, but put it in perspective, and think about your time.
Most fillers do not require queries. With that in mind, you just saved weeks of waiting, as well as money for postage. But that is not time I am talking about. Say a feature article will pay you $500. It will take you hours, maybe days of research. Next you will be organizing your information, in order to complete article. Finally, you send it out, only to have to rewrite. How much time is that for you?
Writing a filler often takes mere minutes; you happen to read a sign at church with says: "What Part Of 'Thou Shalt Not' Didn't You Understand?" This took maybe a minute to jot down, possibly a half an hour in library looking for an appropriate market, and maybe five minutes to send it off. Maybe an hour. If you are paid $50 (think Family Circle, Woman's Day), that comes to $50 an hour.
Had you been writing that feature article--flat $500 pay--you would have to have it completed in only 10 hours to earn same $50 an hour. Most of us know feature articles' query letters can take more time than that.