Blog by Toby Welch

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As a writer, you have many exciting firsts. The first time you see your name in print. The first time your byline appears online. The first time you get paid for your writing. The first time you receive a letter or e-mail from a reader. My favorite was the first time I was paid to fly to the Caribbean to write an article.

I figured that after eleven years in the industry, my chance of having another first was minimal but I was wrong; I recently experienced a bad first. I'd been contracted to write an article for a magazine, one of my regular writing gigs. I've worked with the latest editor on a half dozen articles and she had developed a level of confidence in my work. She told me I could pick any topic to write about that the magazine's readers would be interested in, I just needed to keep the word count to 1,600. I love when editors give you free reign as to what to write about.

I debated the topic until the deadline loomed so close that I had to choose one. I went about writing the article, interviewing sources, and triple checking my facts. I sent the article to the editor a day early (one of my goals for 2015) and gave myself a mental pat on the back for a job well done. Until the unthinkable happened...

The editor called me the next day and informed me that I'd written an identical article for her two years previously. She said I gave the same information in the first article as I'd written in the article I submitted the day before, only with different sources. D'oh! I compared the old article with the new one and sure enough, the two articles were almost identical besides the names of the people I quoted. I apologized profusely and the editor, who was uber-gracious, gave me a week to write another piece for her. I pounded out a new article on a different subject after double-checking that I hadn't done a remotely similar article for her ever. I submitted the piece five days later with another heartfelt apology.

Learn from my bad mistake and don't let one of your firsts be writing an article that you already wrote.