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The Question
by EMS1 Community

Career options for a responder with a broken back

Read the response and add your own thoughts in the comments

A question posted recently on Quora asked: After 15 years as a firefighter, paramedic, law enforcement professional and dispatcher, I broke my back in 3 places; how can I make money now?  Retired police officer Tim Dees gave his opinion on the topic. Read his response, and add your own to the comments.

I've earned between $500 and $70,000 per year as a writer, mainly for law enforcement publications and web sites. Strictly writing has earned me as much as $25,000 per year, but that work paved the way to two full-time editor jobs that paid $60,000 and $70,000 per year, with full benefits and a lot of company-paid travel. 

There are three rules for making money in this industry:

1. You have to know what you're talking about.
2. You have to know how to write.
3. You have to be reliable.

Assuming you can meet Requirement No. 1, you further have to be willing and able to seek out and interview other knowledgeable people for source material. You can "write out of your head" only for so long before you exhaust your resources. After that, you have to look for other topics with which you are less familiar. Most of that can be done by phone or email. 

Requirement No. 2 is more subtle. If you've been a [responder], then you know how to write, at least at a minimal level. To be a professional writer, you have to know the rules of English grammar, punctuation, spelling (spell check will get you only part of the way), and organization and structure of a story.

If you're not sure of your prowess, or even if you are, I recommend you take a short piece (500-1000 words) you've written to a college or even a high school English instructor, and ask them for a strict critique. You don't want to know if your work would be enough to pass their class; you want to know if there are any errors or shortcomings. Some people think that editors are there to fix your mistakes. The job does include that, but if there are too many mistakes, they'll find someone who makes less work for them. 

Buy a copy of The Associated Press Stylebook, read it, and keep it on your desk as you write. Most publications use this manual. If you want to save money, but a copy that is a year or two out of date. It doesn't change much from year to year. 

Requirement No. 3 is concerned with getting and keeping customers. Miss a deadline, or, worse yet, leaving an editor with a blank space at press time where your story was supposed to have been will make you persona non grata. Editors also talk to each other, so if you burn one, you may burn yourself out of that editor's circle of colleagues, too. 

About the author

"The Question" section brings together user-generated articles from our Facebook page based on questions we pose to our followers, as well as some of the best content we find on Quora, a question-and-answer website created, edited and organized by its community of users who are often experts in their field. The site aggregates questions and answers for a range of topics, including public safety. The questions and answers featured here on EMS1 are posted directly from Quora, and the views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of EMS1.
The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Gary Ryan Gary Ryan Friday, August 22, 2014 7:32:20 AM The only thing I would add is don't discount writing about things you consider "basic" and that no one has any interest in. We always have recruits that may need another point of view on a subject and you may have the anecdote that explains it all. And then we have the old heads that need a refresher but have too much pride to ask for one. Your article may be just the thing for them. Last, be prepared for rejection. You may have to shop a story to 5- 10 outlets before someone sees the brilliance of it. Good luck

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