21 January 2020
Note From Rochelle
How are you doing with those New Year’s goals? If you’re procrastinating—and who isn’t?—you might find help at my workshop: Procrastination Proof Your Writing Life.
Many of you may not know that between books, I write a lot of short pieces. In addition to this blog, I write for MKE Lifestyle Magazine, Janice Hardy’s Fiction University blog, and several other online sites. Today’s tip features my comprehensive tip on how to write and publish short pieces.
How to Write and Publish Short Pieces
By Rochelle Melander
Many of the people I meet want to write books. End of story. They won’t even consider penning blog posts or articles, even for money. But writing and publishing short pieces can build a portfolio, help you earn money, and increase your platform. Online and print publications often reach more readers than a single book ever will. Whether you’re launching your writing career, struggling to stay afloat in a changing marketplace, or hoping to boost your business, today’s post will help you get more gigs.
Define your niche
Before you begin, it’s helpful to design a niche. That gives you focus for both writing and pitching your work. You can start by considering what you know, what you’re passionate about, and what you want to write about.
Do a self-inventory. What do you know?
- Education and training
- Specialized knowledge
- Professional and personal associations
- Interests and hobbies
What do you want to write?
When it comes to writing for publication, people tend to think in books, periodicals, and online sites. Today’s market requires that you think more broadly. What other kinds of content could you write and get paid for writing? What venues will increase your platform? Here are some markets to consider:
- Public Relations and Marketing Communications (corporations, associations, nonprofits, and other institutions all need brochures, pamphlets, letters, white papers, and so forth.)
- Newsletters, case histories, and ghostwritten articles
- Online sites for business, schools, and products
- Think about how you can translate your specialty training into being an expert source at a trade journal, website, or in a magazine.
Create a personal mission statement or an elevator speech based on your brand.
- Writer Leah Ingram, author of You Shouldn’t Have: How to Give Gifts They’ll Never Forget has this statement: “I’m a gift-giving and wedding expert and have written four books on the subject.”
- To avoid being pigeon-holed you can add a sentence to the end like, “I also write about X, Y, and Z.”
Build Your Knowledge and Your Network
One writer said, “Boost your knowledge, boost your brand.”
- The more you read, the more you know. Read—books, magazines, online resources. Discover ideas you can write about.
- Join organizations and associations such as specialty writing organizations or niche organizations in your field. E.g., International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association or Wine Institute. Connecting with their newsletters, experts, and in-person events can help you gain knowledge.
- Get specialized training. A colleague of mine who is a food and travel writer regularly takes cooking classes with professional chefs and then writes about them.
- If you’re a business owner, ask your clients what they read and want to learn more about. Or get to know your ideal market by joining groups online or in person.
- Go to conferences, lectures, and any educational event that fits your specialty and rocks your world.
We set ourselves apart in the market when we come up with fresh new slants on stories. In order to do this, we need to make time each week to gather ideas. During idea gathering time, you are looking at the world in a different way. You are a like squirrel—out searching for nuts and berries that will keep you fed today and throughout the next few months. Except you are seeking ideas that you can use to support your work.
I suggest you begin an idea file in your journal or on your computer.
Where to discover ideas?
Ideas are literally everywhere. Check out:
- Online articles
- Newspaper articles
- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram posts
- Overheard conversations
In the fantastic book, The Renegade Writer by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell, the authors offer helpful questions to help you create articles from existing content. Here are some of their questions:
- How could this writer have written this better? Can you cover the holes in the story, go deeper, or treat it more broadly?
- What is the opposite of the story?
- Who else would be interested? Could you take a national story and make it regional? Or take a story for one market and connect it to another?
Research Markets and Build Relationships with Editors and other Content Seekers
- Research markets. Using writer’s market guides, association lists, and sites like mediabistro.com, develop a list of places you could pitch to. Recently, I’ve found a lot of ideas in Sonia Weiser’s Opportunities of the Week newsletter
- If you are a business owner or a coach, consider the magazines, blogs, and websites that your clients regularly read.
- If you want to write for business or trade pubs, go to networking events to meet folks from this market. When you go, find out if the people you are talking to ever need written content. Get and stay connected to them.
- Stay connected to editors who move. Your editor who has you writing small filler for a regional publication may be the future editor of a national magazine.
- Send an intro email or letter to editors of periodicals, trade magazines, and online content sites.
- Meet with editors at conferences. As an editor, I am more likely to hire someone I met in person than someone who sends a query.
- Connect with other writers. Many generous and kind writers will pass on the story ideas or connections that they cannot use anymore.
The best ideas remain just that—good ideas—until you can find a suitable market, pitch the story, and write it!
- Set aside time to match your writing ideas to potential markets.
- Then pitch.
- Set a query goal per week. E.g., I will send out 3 queries per week.
What are your tips for writing and publishing short pieces? How have these articles boosted your business? Please leave a comment below.