Recently I did a poll on Instagram asking what people would like to see me write about. A lot of you reached out and asked if I could share how I started my writing career and how I was able to get published on sites like HuffPo, Good Housekeeping, Scary Mommy, and so on.
This is something I love to talk about, especially if it helps others realize their writing dreams.
First, I’ll say – you don’t have to be a great writer to be a writer. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? But, it’s true! You do, however, have to be a great storyteller. I feel like that is my strong suit. I’m a great storyteller with decent writing skills. Tell a great story and people will read it. Once you tell the story in writing then go back and edit. Then edit. Then edit again. Then have someone else edit. I’m serious. When your brain is in story mode you’re more likely to skim over the mistakes.
Here are some other tips to help you become a better writer (because even if you’re a great storyteller, you still need to be a decent writer or your work will be turned away ):
- READ. A LOT. I read a book a month. This helps expand my vocabulary and see how other writers share their stories.
- Remind yourself not to write how you speak. People have a bad habit of doing this. For blog posts, yes, write all the slang or informal language you want, but if it’s for a publication – it needs to be cleaned up and professional.
- Ninety-nine percent of the time you don’t need the word “that” in a sentence. If you can read the sentence back and it still makes sense without the word “that” – take it out. The over usage of “filler words” is definitely the sign of an amateur. Editors will notice this right away.
- Try, not, to, go, crazy, with, the, commas. Like how I did that there.
- Write your essay or submission from the heart, then go back and edit when you’re done. You need to use different skills for editing so wait until the end.
- Make sure to use your, you’re, their, there, they’re, its, it’s and so on correctly. If I get submissions for guest posts and I see they don’t know the difference between these – I turn it down.
- Last little nugget. When writing numbers: 1-9 you spell out, 10 and up you can use numerics.
Now back to getting published (once you clean up your skills)……
I’ve said it a million times over the years on this blog – networking is the key to success. Both in-person and online are very important. This is my most important advice. Do you want to be a writer? Join Facebook groups for writers, local groups, networking groups, etc. Any chance you get to meet new people, especially those in the arena you’re trying to get in to, take it! Relationships turn into friendships and friendships turn into empires. This is how you will find most of your opportunities. So get to joining those FB groups!
Aside from networking, I started this blog as a platform to share my work over social platforms. You don’t need to start a blog, but you need to have a way to share your work with the masses. The more eyes you can get the better. Facebook, LinkedIn, IG and Twitter are great for this.
To get “important eyes” on my work I would look up editors for publications I wanted to see my work in. Twitter was the best resource for this. Typically editors all have their credentials with the vertical segments they work in. Example: Sarah Smith, HuffPo Politics or something along those lines. A lot of editors will do “calls for submissions” on their feeds as well and share their emails for a direct connection. Put your stalking pants on because there will be a lot of it!
Feeling a little ballsy? Here’s another good tip. When I shared my work on Twitter I would often tag editors so they would see and hopefully click the link to read my essays/articles. I would also email every single piece I wrote to any editor of the vertical segment (family, business, local, etc) I thought my piece would best fit for.
You can also go to the website you want to write for, scroll all the way to the bottom, there you’ll usually find a submission email or link. Personally, I feel like these are just a black hole of thousands of submissions but anything is worth a shot.
I did all of the above on every piece I wrote for two years and finally, I had someone at HuffPo write back and ask me to be in their contributor network. TWO YEARS. It’s very rare to get in the first try with any publication, but it happens. Once you get into one site you start to build your network and your resume. One small job led to bigger jobs and before I knew it my work was being shared on Yahoo, MSN and the like.
Some sites will just ask for a pitch, in which you can send them your idea and a brief snippet of your piece. If you don’t get in with one site, keep pitching until you find a home for it. If you have friends with blogs or a favorite blog you follow – ask them if they accept submissions too! Again, it’s all about getting your work out there.
Ask for help! When I first started I would reach out to other bloggers or writers (their links are always in their author box on articles they write) ask for their advice, tips, or if they could point me in the right direction.
From there I lived by the philosophy: to have a friend you have to be a friend. I commented on posts, liked posts, shared work from other writers, and supported them. When you support them, they support you. When you build up a network like this, your work is more likely to go viral.
Once you get in with a publication, follow the advice of the editors. Be timely on your revisions, do the editing yourself. If the editor likes you and they don’t have to do a lot of work for you – they’ll keep asking you for more. This can lead to endless opportunities.Something important to highlight – be authentic and true to yourself. You might run across an editor who wants you to write about things you’re not comfortable with, or will make edits and embellish your words to make your work more click bate. When this happens – stand your ground. Someone once changed the title to a piece of mine and no one even read the piece, they just saw the title and ripped me apart in the comment section. I got nasty messages on FB and everything. I never wrote for that site again.
The last thing I’ll mention is you have to toughen up that skin. Whenever you open yourself up, you open yourself up to criticism. No matter what you write about, someone will have an opposing opinion. The internet can be a mean place sometimes. Remind yourself the only opinions that matter are those from your closest circle. Everyone else is just noise you don’t need to listen too. As one of my fav speakers, Renee Brown, always says, “You’re the brave one putting yourself in the arena and they are the ones afraid to do the same so they hurl their nasty opinions from the cheap seats.” Let them stay there.
Resource groups I love:
If you’d like to see my published work –– click here .
If you have further questions about specifics, send me a note and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction!