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