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Inspiration

So, You Want to Be a Writer?

When people find out I’m an author and editor, they often tell me they’ve always wanted to write a book. How about you? Do you have a secret (or not-so-secret) desire to be an author? To write for magazines or become a reporter? Maybe you’ve been told practically your whole life that you have a gift for creative writing, or there are stories that come to life inside your head that you just have to write down.

If you want to get your stories in front of an audience or – better yet – sold to a publisher, here are some of my best professional tricks of the trade to get you started:

1. Ask yourself who your audience is. This is the first place to start if you want to get your story, article or book idea published. Basically, it’s taking a hard look at who would want to read what you have written. Is this a story for other teens? For girls? For people who love soccer? Would it appeal to people nationwide? Or is it mainly for your family, your friends, or even just for yourself?

2. Figure out the best format. If you determine that people everywhere would want to read your stuff, then it’s time to consider how to get it to them. One of the best ways for new writers to become professional writers is to start blogging. Create a blog with well-written, thought-provoking or inspiring entries (nonfiction) or exciting installments of a story (fiction) and spread the word! If lots of people begin following your blog, publishers may come looking for you.

3. Think beyond books. Yes, I’ll be honest, it’s really cool to see your name on the cover of a book for the first time (and second and third, etc.), but there are many ways to fulfill your dream of being a professional writer. Look for small community papers in your area and email or call them and ask if you can write a column or article. Lots of small newspapers are looking for material to include from local writers. They may not pay you, but you’ll get to see your name on the page.

Websites are also in need of new material every day. Click around your favorite sites until you find an editor’s name who you can email and ask if they take writing submissions. Take a look at magazines too, both locally and the ones you subscribe to. There is a page (or part of a page) near the front or back of magazines where all of the editors, designers, and writers are listed. This is called the “masthead,” and you can use it to find the editor you would need to contact. Explain how much you love the publication and ask what the submission policies are.

4. Do your homework first. I don’t mean your school homework (although that’s a no-brainer!). What I am talking about is making sure you know the publication you want to write for. If you want to write an article that gives fashion advice, for example, don’t expect Sports Illustrated to publish it! Read articles in the magazines, websites and newspapers you want to write for so you know the kinds of articles they include and how they “sound.” Examine how each article starts. How do they grab the reader’s attention? Are the articles short or long? Who is their audience?

5. If at first you don’t succeed…you know the rest. Keep trying! Writers should write every day. Just do it. Grab a notebook or open up a new file and let your thoughts pour out. Don’t worry at first about being organized or punctuation perfect. Just get your thoughts down. Editing can come later. Practice your craft regularly by updating your blog, keeping a journal, or assigning yourself an article to research and write. If you combine your passion with practice, your writing will get better and better. Ask God for the opportunity to glorify Him with your words, and see where He takes you.

By Natalie Gillespie, author, Believing in Narnia

Image: Thinkstock

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27 Comments

  1. vickifay

    Posted by vickifay on December 6, 2012 at 17:16

    Wow, this should really help me. I just finished writing my first novel, and I’ve already done an interview on it! That part was really exciting for me, but if I want to promote my novel farther, I guess I’m going to have to get a blog! I write so much, it’s about time anyway.

    I really like your idea about contacting blogs to submit entries. I’ve talked with several of the editors at WordPress before, so I think I could try sending out a post to them as well. At the moment though, it’s all I can do to try and edit my novel!

  2. brennaeskyler2

    Posted by brennaeskyler2 on September 14, 2012 at 17:54

    I love to write (especially Christian romance)! This is such a great article!

  3. Project Inspired

    Posted by QuannasLove on September 12, 2012 at 19:44

    Thank you so much for this! I think I might want to be an author for my career (I like writing sci-fi and fantasy). I’m only 14 but I know I need to start now to get practice. Thank you so much! This was very inspirational!

  4. JesusFreak46256

    Posted by JesusFreak46256 on September 11, 2012 at 14:38

    i write fan fiction. but not the kind of fan fiction most people think about. i got so fed up with all the inappropriate fan fiction out there, some bordering on the edge of erotic fiction… ew! i purposely write fan fiction that is God honoring and my characters are always Christians in a God-centered relationships. i’ve used my stories to spread His message and also for fun, sharing with my Christian friends. writing is a great outlet for me to express my creativity and its wonderful because all you need is a pen and paper, cheapest hobby ever! it’s given me hours and hours of fun and I’ve been writing non-stop for about half a year now. I have no intention of stopping soon 🙂

    • vickifay

      Posted by vickifay on December 6, 2012 at 17:18

      Can I ask you what you write fan fiction for? (Ehehe alliteration XD) I’m on fanfiction.net, and I’d love to read anything you’ve written! I don’t write fanfics myself, but I’m always reviewing them!

  5. Project Inspired

    Posted by butterscotch on September 9, 2012 at 18:52

    i want to be a writer 🙂

  6. bubbletealuver

    Posted by bubbletealuver on September 9, 2012 at 16:01

    Awesome! Great advice. I want to be a writer, and I’m actually taking a publishing course right now. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement!

  7. KingsDaughter

    Posted by KingsDaughter on September 9, 2012 at 06:18

    this is so helpful! i don’t know for sure if i want to be a writer, but i have so many things i’m good at(not to brag). My name is Taylor, and it does mean GIFTED! 🙂 but these tips are so amazing, thank you soooooo so so soooooo much!

  8. Project Inspired

    Posted by SweetpeaEKG on September 8, 2012 at 15:59

    Thank you so much for this article!! This is exactly what has happened to me!! This summer I was thinking about starting a blog. But now that school has started I am pretty busy, but I still really want to start a blog/vlog. Any tips on how I can get that started??

  9. Project Inspired

    Posted by tjozwick on September 7, 2012 at 21:27

    I love to write and even thought about writing as a career.

  10. Marcy

    Posted by Marcy on September 7, 2012 at 03:35

    I would also recommend doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.org) in November. It is great for fulfilling step 5. It is a lot easier to write a novel when you have a deadline and a lot of other people doing it, too. It helped both me (transitioning from short stories to novels) and my dad (starting writing) by giving us the encouragement and push to get those novels written.

  11. HurricaneMurphGirl

    Posted by HurricaneMurphGirl on September 6, 2012 at 17:43

    Thanks so much for that encouragement! I’ve been working on writing a novel for a while, but it’s so easy to get down, and to think that because I’m only a teen no one will want to read it. But these tips helped me get back on track! Thanks so much!

    PS I read Believing in Narnia, and it was so neat!!!

  12. xJesusLovesYoux

    Posted by xJesusLovesYoux on September 6, 2012 at 16:56

    I love writing, and its one of my favorite past times. To post my works I go to this website called “Wattpad”. Its a great website (although some of the books can be for mature audiences) and anyone can post anything (as long as it isn’t like what is found in Cosmo…). I love it. And this article is awesome 😀

  13. BabyAnnabel21

    Posted by BabyAnnabel21 on September 6, 2012 at 10:36

    I used to really want to be an author. I’m still a bit back and forth on the idea but I’d love to write articles for my own magazine or something. But I love fiction so…maybe I have to merge the two!

  14. garneraddy

    Posted by garneraddy on September 6, 2012 at 04:37

    Great advice 🙂 I LOVE to write, mostly Non-Fiction stuff. I’ve written three articles on PI, and my favorite is this one:(http://www.projectinspired.com/7-reasons-curse-words-are-harmful/) 😀
    I have been writing to Christian magazines, but haven’t had any luck yet. Any ideas on where I can send my articles?

  15. IdaPahus

    Posted by IdaPahus on September 6, 2012 at 02:04

    I have always enjoyed writing! I also wrote the article about the comparison trap at Pi and I want so much to become a writer!!!!!

  16. pinkpenguin318

    Posted by pinkpenguin318 on September 5, 2012 at 20:03

    I want to be an author/writer SO badly!! I wrote “God, then Dad, Then Boys” for Project Inspired, and everyone told me I should pursue a writing carrier! I’m so happy that I got this great advice from an author! Thanks SO much Natalie!!

  17. Dee

    Posted by Dee on September 5, 2012 at 18:49

    I totally agree with that last suggestion.
    No matter what the situation, I try to have some sort of notebook on me if I don’t think I can get ahold of pens and paper there. You NEVER know when inspiration will hit. And don’t think that you HAVE to write in just one place. Anywhere you’re comfortable is a good place to write. My stuff always looks like a mess in my notebook, because it’s just me writing everything that hits me, but I go through and find the gems and put them in my computer.
    I’ve not published any books, but I think I’m getting close. I’ve got a story most of the way written. It’s semi-refined at this point, so you can tell what’s going on, but there are still bits that are rough and don’t read quite right. This is my favorite stage. (I’ve written a lot of stories. Again, never sold any of them. Never tried, because they’re mostly for me and my friends.)
    I’m SO excited to see this on here! This has been very encouraging. Thank you so much!

    • Marcy

      Posted by Marcy on September 7, 2012 at 03:41

      I carry a notebook everywhere, too. I have even jotted down ideas in the shower, but I had to stop doing that because I got my notebook wet. 🙂

      Congrats on the editing! Editing is my least favorite stage.

  18. Project Inspired

    Posted by inspiredhannah on September 5, 2012 at 17:21

    Thank you so much! I love writing and I have always wanted to publish my books. These are good tips!

  19. Project Inspired

    Posted by TheMouseLover on September 5, 2012 at 15:49

    Thankyou SO much for this! I have always wanted to be an author. I want to write young adult novels with strong christian messages and values!

  20. Project Inspired

    Posted by Kathrie on September 5, 2012 at 15:37

    THAT IS SO ME!!Ever sense I could THINK I’ve been writing and daydreaming up stories. Mostly fiction stuff. I’ve noticed though, that my stories tend to reflect my mood. Lately I’ve been writing epic romance stuff (not like the naughty kind, the AWW kind). But now that I’m learning about God more I feel like I gotta put God in my stories too, so I think that is what I will try and do next. Write fiction for Christians.

  21. Paris

    Posted by Paris on September 5, 2012 at 14:41

    Wondeful Tips!

  22. so_shedances

    Posted by so_shedances on September 5, 2012 at 14:01

    I am so excited to see this article on PI! I want to be a writer. My dream is to publish a book. I will definitely adhere to all of this advice, especially writing every day which is kind of hard to do in college. The most important thing is to glorify God and He will handle the rest. When you put Him first, He won’t allow you to fail. 🙂

    • CoutureRebel73

      Posted by CoutureRebel73 on September 11, 2012 at 00:45

      Wow Nicole. I wanna be like you a writer, speaker at The Revolve Tour, and a fashion designer. I wanna write blogs about fashion it’s my passion. I’M ONLY 21 AND I AM TRAINING TO BE A YOUTH PASTOR. I have lots of dreams I also rap for fun…