While I was at my writing group yesterday I was asked a couple of questions relating to article writing by other members who have had some publishing success but who were feeling put off by rejections and didn't really know how to go about finding stuff to write about or how to find writing outlets for their work. It can be really difficult when you first start off in your writing career to be able to see the wood for the trees so this is what I advised:
A/ Get a copy of the Writers' and Artists' year book and/or Writer's Market and read through it. Both books have masses of advice for writers and also listings of publishers, agents and magazines that you can approach with your proposals/work. I would say these two books are an essential bit of kit for freelance writers. You can get them on Amazon quite cheaply and they will pay for themselves several times over if you use the advice in them.
B/Scour the shelves of your local newsagent (and the ones out of your locality when you go on your hols/day trips etc). You will find loads of potential markets for your work and be able to see the types of article they publish and all the clues as to who their target readership is will be in there too.
C/ Don't be afraid to contact the magazine editor to ask if they take freelance contributions to the magazine and how they like their submissions. Most magazines will have contact details inside either a phone number or e-mail address/snail mail address. The magazine may also have a website - so have a snoop on there too. They may have their submission guidelines you can download from their website or an e-mail address you can request them from.
D/ Always be on the lookout for new article material: local/national newspapers, local/national magazines, the library, free magazines, trade magazines, newsletters, local schools and college newsletters. Keep your ear to the ground of what is happening at a national level and how that impacts on your locality. Also, take a look around your community - are there any special events/anniversaries coming up? Is there anyone doing an interesting job/hobby? Charity workers? Any unusual jobs or hobbies? Local history. All of these and more will keep you in articles for years as you can get several articles with a different slant and different markets all from one topic.
E/ Always aim to get two or more articles out of one idea. If you word it and style it towards different magazines you can sell an idea several times over - as long as you don't sell exactly the same article to rival magazines at the same time there's nothing to stop you from writing with a different slant and changing the wording/style to suit several markets.
F/ Don't be shy! Get out there - if you don't ask you don't get. The people you want to interview and write about might say no, but they very often will say yes!
G/ Don't be put off by rejection. I send many, many, many article proposals out to magazine editors each week. Some are ignored, some are an instant no, some take a few weeks and are then a no, but increasingly I am getting yesses!! If the editor says no then re-pitch your idea to another editor and so on and so on until one says yes! If you get to the stage where you have exhausted possible outlets for your idea then have a rethink - rework it and try again. Most editors will not tell you why they don't want your article but just because they say no doesn't mean it's not good enough. KEEP TRYING. And if they say no to this idea they may well say yes to your next. I think I had about 8 ideas rejected by Writing Magazine until the 9th idea was accepted!
H/ Be persistant. In my experience, it takes a long time to get published and get paid for your published work. I spent months writing my articles for free but they were still a publication to go in my portfolio that I could mention to the editors I was sending my proposals to. It's taken a good year of writing part-time to get to the stage I am now. It may take you less time or longer. But the important thing is to KEEP TRYING!
The answer to the other question I was asked of where I get my ideas from I said everwhere! If you belong to a writing group or know of a writing group in your area you have the perfect supermarket within which to shop for ideas! And don't assume that they are all writers so are already taking all the best ideas and writing about each other because they are not! If the opportunity is there and you have willing participants then take it! If anyone moans that they never get a look in and that you are always taking the opportunities just smile and say, but you could do it too! There's nothing to stop the other members from approaching guest speakers and each other to write about them. They just need to do it while they have the chance.
You don't have to do a course to become a published freelance writer but I am but I'm still undecided as to whether it's actually benefitting me and improving my writing (see a previous post! Different Opinions).
I've just finished reading an excellent book on freelance writing that I picked up from the library on Friday. I hadn't been in there for ages but I'm glad I did. The book is called The Freelance Writer's Handbook (How to make money and enjoy your life) by Andrew Crofts. Piatkus publishers 2007. ISBN 0-7499-2763-1. It has a plain talking style with oodles of great advice if you are just starting out in freelancing. He is a man after my own heart!
I have sent another pitch out this week and will be sending at least five more out next week. I'm supposed to be concentrating on my short story writing for the women's mags but I have been distracted by all the article ideas popping into my head. It must be something to do with Spring! But I am determined to have as much success with my short stories as I have with my articles. It's going to be tough and a lot of hard work, but I know I can and will get there - and you will achieve your writing goals too.