Writing Lessons

Tips for Beginning Authors

If you're like most writers, you probably want to be "published." After all, that's what writers do!

One way to be published is to write for magazines. I started by reading books about writing and writing for nonprofits. I wrote for my church newsletter, a homeschool group newsletter, and for a local pregnancy clinic. There was no pay involved but it gave me experience.

Next, I branched out to the paying magazine market. Magazines today depend on "niche" marketing. That means they target a specific audience. The easiest way to get started in a writing career is to find a niche market that you understand and in which you have had experience.

Because I know about homeschooling, I started by querying homeschool magazine. Consequently, I've now been published in several issues of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Since then, I have written for AWC's trade magazine and iPhone Life. The magazine market is not the greatest pay, but it does provide exposure, experience, and "tear sheets." (Tear sheets are copies of your articles and are "resumes" in the writing world. You use these articles to show prospective editors that you have been published and the quality of your work.)

Here are some ideas to get you started in magazine writing:

1) Think about what you know. Do you sew? Work at a crime lab? Raise dogs? Program computers? Study the Bible?

2) Take that interest and research magazines that target people who are interested in the same thing. For instance, if you are interested in health and wellness, you might want to check out Prevention magazine.

3) Ask for writer's guidelines. This is crucial! You can write the best article in the world but if the magazine can't use it, it won't get published. Find out what topics they are looking for, how many words they need (they all have specific requirements), and how they want it sent to them (some want print copies, many want electronic copies).

4) If they say "query first," then query first. You're wasting your time otherwise.

5) Follow the guidelines explicitly. The easier you make the editor's job, the more likely you will get published and continue to get published.

6) Writer's Market produces an annual reference book and online subscription service that provides up-to-date market listings from book and magazine publishers.

My Next Goal

My next goal is learn how to write fiction. I am interested in writing mysteries for adults and historical fiction for kids and adults. I've joined several writing groups and plan to attend a writer's conference. The writer's groups have been fun and education.

That should get you started. Start writing today!

Copyright © 2004 - by Cindy Downes