Getting Started in Publication #2
Writing for a Market
by Deb Brammer
You’ve studied the market. Now you want to write an article or story to submit to one of the publishers you’ve chosen. You may have even found that your publisher wants specific articles written about certain themes. Where do you get ideas?
When my husband was about twelve years old his dad was helping a friend move. Art considered helping them, but then he decided that he needed to save his muscles. He might need them for more important things when he grew up.
Ideas are like muscles. The more you use them the more you have. Lots of ideas will come to you as you experience life, read broadly, and listen to people. They won’t all be good ideas, but don’t judge them too quickly. A good photographer, I’m told, is one who takes lots of pictures and only shows his best ones. A good writer has many ideas, but only develops the best ones. An idea may sound lame in the beginning, but a weak idea may lead you to a stronger one.
Don’t let your ideas get away. Capture them in a notebook or file folder or computer file. Ideas will occur to you at the most inconvenient times. When that happens, jot down enough details for you to remember the idea.
While you are fixing supper or standing in line at the grocery store or sitting at the doctor’s, you can mull over your ideas. That may spark new ideas to jot down. Even while you are busy doing other things, your mind is unconsciously sifting and developing your ideas. My college writing professor, Clarence Townsend, used to call this process “thinking aside.”
When you have time to write, take a fresh look at your ideas. Which are good ones? Which are lame? Some may be good ideas but won’t work for a particular market. Some ideas may need more time to develop. Choose the best idea to fit one of the markets you have chosen.
Start to develop your idea into an article or story. What one thing are you trying to say? How can you develop the theme logically?
Can you find anecdotes or quotes or statistics that support your idea? Can you give a personal example to illustrate your point? If it’s a story, what is the word limit? Will you have enough words to develop the plot you have in mind?
You may want to query the editor at this point to see if she is interested in an article or story about the subject matter you have chosen. (See my article on query letters for what to include in a query letter.)
Some writers write quickly, letting their thoughts go wild, then tame their ideas later. Others proceed slowly, according to a well-thought-out plan. I usually have a basic outline in mind before I start writing–not a formal outline with Roman numerals and sub-points, but a basic structure that makes sense. I write fast enough to keep the flow of thought, but slow enough not to be sloppy.
Rewriting can be almost as important as writing. (See my articles on revising and polishing.) Run the checklists on your article or story Work until you have your best draft. Then set it aside for a few days and take a fresh look at it.
When you have polished your piece until it is as good as you can make it, send it to the publisher you have chosen. Make sure you have followed the format given by the publisher in their writers’ guidelines. Send it by snail mail or email, according to what the publisher prefers.
Include with your submission a one-page letter to the editor. Here are some things to include in that letter:
Address the editor by name.
If you don’t know the name of the editor and it is not included with the writers’ guidelines, call or email the company and ask for the name of the editor to whom you should address your submission.
Give them your credentials.
“But I don’t have any,” you say. If you’ve never written for publication you don’t need to mention that fact. If you have, tell them who has published your previous work. Christian editors like to have some idea of what background you are coming from. You could name the church you attend or tell the Bible college you graduated from. If you work with a Christian ministry, name that. If you have particular credentials that apply to the subject matter of your article, give them. Make this as factual and short as possible to cover your bases.
Thank the editor for considering your article.
Enclose an SASE for her response.
An “SASE” is a self-addressed stamped envelope. If you don’t want your original copy back you could give an email address for her response.
Send your article or story out.
Of course you will be anxious to hear if your piece has been accepted or not, but allow your editor plenty of time to reply. The writers’ guidelines may state a time frame in which to expect a reply. Don’t be surprised if it takes much longer than that. Wait until double or triple the amount of time they list. Then, if you still haven’t heard, send a very polite letter inquiring “about the status of my manuscript.”