Multiple types of writers walk the figurative streets of our literary universe. Some write, delete and are completely satisfied. Others like to tell stories but wouldn’t mind if no one else ever stayed around to listen. Some write page after page, hoping someday someone will somehow recognize their hard work and creativity.
Which type of writer am I? Definitely not the first (I never delete anything, which is probably why my computer is so slow). I’m somewhere in-between the second and the third. I love storytelling, and my life would surely go on if no one ever heard anything I had to say. But that doesn’t mean I would shoo away anyone who wanted to hear my written voice.
So if you’re the kind of writer who wants someone to hear you – aka, read something you’ve written – how do you make yourself heard?
The easiest way to get your work “out there” these days is to post it online, hoping (desperately) someone will stumble upon it, read it, and stay quiet if they don’t like it. Or, even better, tell you they like it if they do. You don’t have to stay trapped in the bloggers’ black hole like I did for three years before branching out into a different online medium. Not that there’s anything wrong with blogging! I would have quit a long time ago if there was. (More on my beneficial blogging rant coming soon).
Here’s the real deal, though: journalism and blogging are not only two different things, but journalists and bloggers are also at a silent online stalemate. Journalists are responsible for relaying accurate information with research and credible sources to back up everything they say. Bloggers have specific subject areas they love writing about and want more than anything to be considered experts in that subject even if they’re not. Both sides want their hard work to stand out, but the line between writing with credibility and writing from experience blurs a little more every day. It’s confusing. Sometimes it’s even harmful.
I’m sure this rant will result in another post on this topic soon. So, I guess, just keep checking back. Maybe.
If you’re looking into another medium to expand your writing experience and credibility, whether you want to be a “journalist” or not, there are three Ps I like to recite to drive my own writing career forward – and if you’re not that into alliteration, I’m sorry. English major problems.
Pitch your ideas. Produce your best work. Promote your product.
If you’ve found a publication you feel you’re interested in writing for, even as a guest writer or just one or two pieces, don’t write an article and email it straightaway. First write to the email address the web site gives to send “queries” and write a brief cover letter-esque introduction. Tell them who you are, what you do, who you’ve written for (if applicable) and what you would be interested in writing about to contribute to their publication. If they write back and say they would be interested in your contribution, that’s when you come up with three ideas and send them back, so that if they still want to feel ‘in control’ of what you’re contributing, they can pick the one they feel will fit their organization the best and give you the opportunity to write – produce – your piece.
Next comes the fun part – writing! The reason you’re still reading (I hope)! Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the general style and brand of the publication or organization you’re writing for, infuse your own voice into the piece you write for that specific site. Let your own style shine through, but don’t forget to tailor it specifically to whom you’re writing for. Be confident! If they’ve already approved your pitch, they’re not going to reject it. Once you send it to them, they might reply with a few suggestions or things they want you to fix before they publish it. Take their constructive criticism and use it for self-improvement – as I like to drill into my writers’ heads (if they’re reading this, past or present, they’re nodding), there is always room for improvement. The more you write, the more you improve. The more you improve, the more you’ll impress a potential editor. If they like your product, hey, they might even ask you to write more. And just like that, you’re on your way – but you’re not finished yet.
Once the magazine, web site or organization publishes your piece, don’t just let it sit there for faithful readers of that publication to find. PROMOTE! Facebook and Twitter aren’t just there to give you a place to rant about how insane you feel trying to balance writing a novel/play/poetry collection/etc. and living a normal life (whatever that is). Use social media to share your accomplishment with everyone you know. Some will ignore it, and some might actually dare to take a peek. Don’t feel like you’re spamming your friends/followers (but don’t do that, either, for goodness’ sake). The more you make good use of the social media you quite possibly spend too much time on (guilty), the more your work really does get “out there.” And if that’s what you want – promote wisely.
There’s nothing wrong with writing something and leaving it behind (whether you actually delete it or not, that’s up to you). There’s nothing wrong with telling stories only you and your closest friends enjoy, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting the world to see your work. Keep these tips in mind if you’re ready to raise your literary voice. And if not, who knows, maybe someday you’ll change your mind. If you write enough words, it’s almost impossible to be “bad” at it.
Get out there, even if it’s just you and your laptop. Something is better than nothing, after all.