Trying to get your writing published for the first time can be a daunting prospect. Most of us start feeling like we're not good enough and won't cut it in a competitive marketplace.
But, don't doubt yourself, chances are if your looking at taking the leap from unpublished to published you're probably ready.
People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it” —R.L. Stine.
So where do you start? To make the process a little less scary we've put together a few simple steps to help you.
Try different formats and genres
Have you ever written a conversational blog post? Or tried writing historical fiction? If you answered no to this how do you know you won't like it?
Writing is a form of exploration where we explore the human condition, but we all have different ways of doing this. If you like the look of that entertainment website you always read, why not try writing for it?
Even if it's outside your comfort zone you might discover something new about yourself. If it doesn't work out, what have you lost? If anything you've learned what not to do and that's just as valuable as knowing what you should be doing.
Start a blog
Blogs can be incredibly useful for new writers. Often when you're pitching ideas to editors or applying to become a contributor to a publication they want to see examples of your work, having a blog makes this easier for you and is highly regarded by editors.
They offer uses for emerging writers and established ones here are three of them:
- You want to build a platform: Blogs can be useful for advertising your work and a blog with lots of followers looks great for editors and publishers who you want to accept your work.
- You want to join the blogging community: Writing can be an isolated profession, having a blog can help connect you with other like-minded people with similar goals creating somewhat of a community.
- Your blog is your website: The best thing about most blogs is that they're free and they can be used to manage websites WordPress (https://wordpress.org/) is a particularly popular one and with free mobile apps it helps you stay connected wherever you go.
Each year the Australian Writers Centre (AWC) holds a competition to find Australia’s best blogs. This is a fantastic resource to help you get ideas and work out how to format your blog.
One thing to keep in mind when starting a blog is that it is a long term commitment, you're not going to gain thousands of followers over night.
Your best bet is to make a schedule and stick to it. You don't need to post every day, but try to be regular with your posts and don't neglect it, people will lose interest if they're not seeing fresh content.
Networking is essential in the age of digital media and if you want to succeed in an online market place you need to be willing to put both yourself and your work out there.
This could be as basic as using Facebook or Twitter to connect with other writers and readers, or getting slightly more complex by starting a blog.
Another useful tool for getting your professional profile into the public domain is joining sites like Linkedin. Sites like Linkedin help you build a professional portfolio and connect with like-minded people or people who could be interested in your work. These sites are usually free to join.
If you need more ideas for finding networking platforms have a look here. There are some great social networking sites available for writers of all levels of experience.
Find sites looking for contributors
This sounds a lot harder than it actually is. Finding paid work as a freelance writer can be difficult but when you're just starting out and want to build a portfolio of published work there are hundreds of websites looking for volunteers to create content for them.
This usually involves approaching the editor of the site often by email and introducing yourself and providing examples of your work (this is where a blog comes in handy).
Some publications will ask that you tailor a piece of writing specifically for them to see if you're the right fit and this shouldn't scare you away, it's another good chance to jump out of your comfort zone and try new things.
A good resource for finding publications looking for contributors is Pedestrian TV or if you have a specific publication in mind have a look at their submission guidelines to see if you’re the right fit for them. If you're still unsure, don't be afraid to ask!
Do your research and submit proposals
This relates back to the previous point. Once you've found a publication you're interested in, research them, have a read through some of the writing they've published in the past and work out what they're interested in. Look at what kind of audience they address and what style they follow.
Most publications have style guides that are available on their websites or when you make a submission query. This is your bible; follow it and you'll be thankful.
Once you understand the publication you're writing for, take the time to work through your proposal one step at a time.
Think about what you want to say, what your purpose is, how long it will be and how it fits with the publication.
Make sure you know your topic and you'll be ready to put together a brief proposal. If you do this step right, you increase your chances of having a positive result.
Make a commitment to deliver
All writers need to work to a deadline. Whether your editor provides you with one, or you're asked to give the publication a timeline; you need to stick to it.
Submitting work late is like showing up for work late, it's likely your editor will grow frustrated and if it becomes a habit they could decide to cut you loose.
Keep in mind they have their own schedules and deadlines to meet, you wouldn't want to miss out on having your work published because of tardiness.
You also need to make sure you don't get a reputation for this, as this could damage your chances of future publication.
Accept editorial feedback
Editors are there to help you. They want your work to be the best it possibly can because they want the best possible work in their publication.
Any criticism they give you isn't to offend you, or tell you your not good enough it's to help you improve. You will need to quickly learn how to accept constructive feedback.
I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide"- Harper Lee.
This may sound curt, but it's the truth. You also need to remember that feedback is given for a reason, if you choose to ignore it; it's likely your editor will decide not to publish your work.
Publishing your work for the first time is a daunting, but exhilarating process. Often the largest obstacle you'll face is yourself. We're always our own worst critics, but chances are, you'll be pleasantly surprised with what you're capable of.