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Friday, January 28, 2011

Everyone's a Writer

Nowadays everyone is a writer. Sort of. Most people have a blog and the internet doesn't discriminate. Whether you use way too many exclamation points in your writing or don't know to put the period inside the quotation marks, you can still get published as a commenter, Tweeter, or blogger.  Mistakes happen in writing — I've even found mistakes in my favorite national publications — so, don't worry about being a perfect writer.

As the editor of a local magazine, I've been pitched by so many people wanting to write. Some have good ideas, but no experience. Some have experience, but no ideas.  Some drop the ball when I throw it back into their court. Here are a few things you should know if you're vying for a coveted writing gig in a printed publication:

1. Learn to write. Take a class or find a mentor who will tell you how to improve. Be open to criticism. When I first started writing I had a wonderful editor named Hilary. She was kind, but firm. I appreciated her feedback — fed off of it, actually. She helped me become a better writer.

2. Get feedback. Just because your family tells you you're an awesome writer doesn't mean you are about to win any journalism awards. Think American Idol. Not all those people had the chops to make it to the show. If you really want to write, ask the opinions from those people who don't have to live with you and can tell you like it is.

3. You don't have to have a degree to write. All you need is ideas and discipline to write them down. Don't feel like you have to have a piece of paper to validate that you can write. Anyone can write. Those who write well work at it every day.

4. Publish where you can. Shoot for a publication that is attainable. If you have a small town newspaper, start there. If you're on the PTA, write the newsletter. Writing for print is a different thing entirely than writing for a blog*.

5. Keep at it. Don't give up if you get rejected by a publication. Persistence will pay off. Make lists of all the things you know and write about them. Write as much as possible. Write about things you love, thing you're passionate about and things that mystify you. Make lists of people you know who could help you get your writing out to the audience you're trying to reach. Start small and work at it every day. If your first pitch is rejected, try something new or try pitching it to someone else. Be creative, but most of all — don't stop writing.

*About blogs: If you write one, you're on the right track, but don't just blog. Write for publication and you'll get better. Blogs don't have any accountability. My daughter reads mine and tells me where I have errors (which I promptly fix), but most people won't tell you about your grammar or misspellings on your blog. Since you probably don't have a blog editor, go somewhere where you will have an editor. This extra step will make you a better writer. Seeing your words in print will also motivate you to do more writing for print. Plus, it's one hell of a confidence booster.

Great books I recommend on writing:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
On Writing by Steven King
Spunk and Bite by Arthur Plotnik
Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids

4 comments:

  1. I almost bought Spunk and Bite. Gotta go back to the book store...

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  2. Thanks for the great advice and the book suggestions.

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  3. I've got to second your recommendation for On Writing by Stephen King. I've never been a huge fan of his fiction, but that book really resonated.

    I love that you've addressed those folks who might not realize blogging doesn't automatically qualify them for a professional writing career. It can be a terrific stepping stone (it has been in my case), but only real world experience will take someone to a professional level. It's so attainable, though, if you have the chops and persistence!

    Such a great post, thanks for sharing!

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