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The Aspiring Writer's Guide Getting Your Writing Published
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Much like landing your first job, getting your writing published so often seems to depend on already have published. How do you break into paid writing assignments if you have no experience? Unless you're very fortunate or extremely talented, you must first pay your dues. Although many experienced professionals counsel novices to never write anything for free, I beg to differ. Here's why.
You can spend a great deal of time submitting pieces to paying markets, with nary a response. Most publishers aren't willing to take a chance on an unproven resource, when they have so many more people with experience and a track record from which to choose. After months of submissions and no takers, this can be so discouraging that the aspiring writer simply gives up. When your goal is getting your writing published, giving a little now, for free, makes the process move far more quickly.
Remember when you were in high school, looking for a part time job? If you were able to put volunteer activities, dog walking, baby sitting or yard work on your resume, you moved to the front of the pile of candidates, ahead of those who had nothing but their GPA. These unpaid and informal references allowed the prospective employer to verify your dependability and work ethics, making you the better bet. It's much the same in getting your writing published.
Here are several ideas you might use to launch your career. As you consider each venue, integrate your long term goals with projects which will serve your future interests best. For example, if you'd ultimately like to work as a sports reporter, gear your free pieces towards those types of publications, requiring the skills of a sports reporter.
Let's say your major is creative writing. This is a difficult market, but not impossible. Literary sites have excellent articles, but also are notorious for not paying the writers. Perhaps unfairly, this type of publisher understands that, for the writer, having their writing published on a literary site, carries great prestige and is therefore its own reward. Find sites that publish material that serves your long term goals. Read as much of their published material as possible and submit your best work.
Blogging for free is another option. Getting paid to blog is difficult enough and doesn't pay well anyway, so it's unlikely you'd make a living at it anyway. These unpaid blogging positions usually focus on a particular topic, so target ones about which you're already knowledgeable. These are usually short, 100-300 word posts, so it doesn't involve much of your time. You may need to do just a few each week. The advantage to posting on blogs is that, if you write provocative pieces in an engaging style, you'll be gathering clips and a following.
Let's say your goal is to become a feature writer for one of the big name gardening magazines. Gardening forums are a great place for you to hang. Sharing your knowledge with other gardeners in the forum can establish you as an expert and earn you a following in the gardening world. This is just a first step to getting future writing published, for money. You also increase your knowledge in the exchange of information.
If your major is journalism, look for opportunities with the school newspaper, church and community newsletters. Again, little effort is involved, but you are getting your writing published.
Whatever your area of expertise may be, rest assured that there's an e-newsletter on that subject matter. Search out a few good e-newsletters, preferably with a large readership. Read through their archives and tailor an article to their audience. Contact the site owner and offer your piece in exchange for a byline. More clips and more publicity.
It's easy to see that you can assemble a substantial number of clips fairly quickly. Getting your writing published, no matter how small the publication and despite the fact you're as yet unpaid, gives you the experience and accolades to get that first paid assignment in just a few months. Go for it!
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