To Be a Writer, You Must Do Some Writing

There is one way to be a writer. It’s not as complicated as you might think.

There are a lot of things you learn when you offer advice on the internet. One of them being that the best advice given on the internet is channeled through something like a blog or column — places where people choose to read (or not) your opinion and react accordingly (and this is something you intended to happen).

Possibly the most important thing I’ve learned about dishing out writing advice — sometimes on Twitter, which is always a mistake and never ends well for me — is that an alarming amount of people who fall into the “want to be a writer full-time” category have never published a single piece of writing anywhere. Ever.

The term “publishing” doesn’t hold quite the same meaning it did before the internet became a daily thing for most of us, but if we’re being honest, that change happened long before that. Before, if you wanted to be a published writer, you either had to submit something to a publication or hire an agent to do it for you.

That’s not how it is anymore — evidenced by the fact that what you are reading right now was created by me sitting down at my laptop, dusting off this website’s interior, writing a bunch of words, and hitting “publish.”

If it weren’t for the .com domain I pay for because -BRANDING-, this process would be free and would cost nothing but my time. If I took the time out of my day to list every free site that lets anyone anywhere host their own blog, I’d be here the rest of the day. Dinner would never get made. My kitchen would remain dirty. I might pass out from lack of hydration. You never know.

I’ve been publishing content on the internet since 2009, because high school me wanted to be an author and was obsessed with Meg Cabot, and because Meg Cabot was (is still) an author and had a blog, this Meg also needed one. I can’t say I regret it, though it did take a while for teenage me to understand that not everything needed to be shared online, even on a blog with 2.5 followers. There are a few more of you now, I’ve heard.

I’ve been around a long time, and trust me, I’m not old enough to forget what it’s like to want to write but to fear not the act of writing, but instead the possibility that someone might read it, or worse, have opinions about it.

But because that fear of being read never goes away (sorry to break it to you, but I’m also not), I must offer you yet another nugget of writing advice you’re going to hate. It’s my specialty.

Suck it up and publish your words.

Mean! Awful! How dare I! I know. I’m the worst.

But here’s the thing: So many people say they want to write for a living. But this is quite literally impossible if you never publish a single thing on the internet.

It’s not that you have to write every day (in fact, I strongly recommend not doing that — there’s a reason I stopped posting daily to this website in 2020). It’s not that you have to be published in The New York Times or BuzzFeed or whatever the “look ma, I made it” equivalent of these things are in 2022. You just have to publish something, Preferably many somethings. Good, bad, it doesn’t matter.

It. Doesn’t. Matter.

When I’m reviewing writing applications (with the aim of, yes, hiring writers to write words in exchange for currency — what a concept!), the first thing I look at is not the resume, or the reason someone wants the job (we all know it’s the currency, WE ALL KNOW). The first thing I look at are a candidate’s already published writing samples.

It does not matter to me where these samples are published. I’ve hired writers who have only ever published articles on Medium (free) or their own personal blogs that don’t get much traffic (can also be free). In fact, because I will never forget what it’s like to be in that awful space in life where you want to write but no one will let you do it for money, I make it a point, whenever possible, to recruit writers who aren’t already published in the NYTs or the BuzzFeeds.

Of course high-traffic bylines help. But speaking from experience, the only thing a writer needs to prove to me at first glance is that they can write.

If you have no proof, you have a very low chance of getting hired.

I understand that publishing content for free is hard. It’s draining. It takes a lot of time. And that’s all on top of the terror that often accompanies sending any of your words out into the void.

You have to do it anyway. If you want to write professionally in any capacity, you have to prove to anyone who might be looking that you are worth being hired.

This is not necessarily true for traditional publishing — the majority of manuscripts are not published before they’re sent to agents.

But if your goal is to freelance, or to become a staff writer somewhere, the only experience you have to prove you can do it is the content you publish yourself.

Which means you have to — actually — write — things.

This is challenging. I’m writing this post deep into a writing drought. I do not feel like writing. None of my ideas seem interesting. I have little desire to share my words with anyone, even myself.

Why am I writing anyway? Because I have to. If it weren’t my job, but I wanted it to be, I would also have to.

THAT is the mindset you must adopt if you want to become a writer.

It doesn’t matter what, where, how much, how often.

You must write.

That is, it turns out, the only way to be a writer.

Meg Dowell is the creator of Brain Rush, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words, and Not a Book Hoarder, celebrating books of all kinds. She is an editor, writer, book reviewer, podcaster, and photographer. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about nonsense and Star Wars.

Where to Find Writing Exposure Opportunities

There are plenty of opportunities out there – but where are they hiding?

No one particularly likes writing for exposure. But when you’re trying to break into a niche, build your portfolio, establish an online presence and get the kind of experience you need to earn paid writing jobs, it’s necessary. It doesn’t have to last forever – and really, in the beginning, it’s not so bad.

As you probably already know, there are a lot of people out there who will have no problem letting you write for them for free. Here are a few places online where you can find free writing opportunities to help get your writing career, slowly, off the ground.


Ed2010 is a networking and mentoring network built for aspiring writers and editors. Its job listings include everything from full-time writing and editing positions to freelance work to, yes, unpaid writing and editing internships. Jobs are either on location or remote, so if you can’t pack up and relocate, there still could be something there for you.

I found one of my long-term clients through Ed – I’d recommend it to anyone having trouble finding opportunities to write stuff online. It’s a great place to find niche opportunities, e.g., if you want to write about fashion, parenting, health, etc.

Blogs in your niche

Many blogs either offer or are primarily supported by guest posts – posts from random writers who want to add their voice to a particular blog they like and/or resonate with. Having a blog of your own first does help give you some leverage here – more than one person has approached me through Novelty to guest post for them.

You can’t always depend on other people to seek you out, especially if you’re still working on growing your presence. Bloggers are used to being bothered about guest posting – it comes with the territory. Just go for it – you never know what could happen. I get message requests on LinkedIn all the time asking me if we guest post here (we don’t). Speaking of which …


I’m not a LinkedIn expert by any means, but the day I changed my featured headline to Freelance Writer/Editor, I started getting message and connection requests from people in the appropriate field. Including several “recruiters” working in PR whose job it is to literally link you to writing opportunities – most of them “for exposure,” but if this is what you need, it’s a pretty sweet start.

I haven’t found much success with finding more creative jobs on LinkedIn, but in terms of networking, it’s definitely the place to be. I can’t speak to finding paid freelance work through here, because I’ve honestly never looked, but I’ve heard it’s pretty rotten. It doesn’t hurt to connect with people, join groups, do some professional publishing and see where it takes you.

Online magazines

I launched my professional writing career at the age of 20, when I started an unpaid internship hosted by an online magazine. Many online magazines that also offer writing internships are designed for students – because, believe it or not, some people do understand that no one should ever work as an unpaid intern once they graduate from college. It’s a great way to get your name out there, get experience working with editors and practicing how never to miss a deadline.

Even if you’re not a student, though, many web-based magazines don’t pay their freelancers but still welcome wannabe writers – so go ahead; pitch some stories. Even smaller publications can help you give some much-needed sustenance to your writing portfolio. It’s better to have published articles in a variety of places – it makes your experience more diverse, and shows that you’re good at reaching out to people who don’t know you exist.

When you’re looking for exposure opportunities, my best advice is to pick blogs, websites and publications that you’re actually interested in working with. Don’t just grab at anything that comes your way – I’ve ended up writing a lot of generic productivity articles that way, all for free. Your niche is your center. It often helps to show that you’re focused in your writing – a little variety is okay, but it starts to make you look a little desperate if you’ll write about anything just to have your name on it.

Where is the best place you’ve found opportunities to write for exposure? Did these opportunities help you get any paid experience later on?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

The One Critical Thing Your Pitch Email is Missing

For anyone pitching an editor, agent or potential client.

email pitch

When I was the managing editor and writing correspondent coordinator for an online magazine, I received emails similar to this one at least a dozen times. (I am strictly paraphrasing – this is not an actual copy of an email from a real person.)

Hello editor,

My name is W. I am a student at Totally Awesome College studying A Subject. I stumbled across your blog the other day and was wondering if you would be interested in publishing some of my work as a guest post on your site. I am hoping to get my name out there and thought your web site would be the perfect place to start. Here is a link to my blog so you can take a look at my writing. I have also written an article that I think would be perfect for you to publish, so please let me know if you would like to review it.


Student at Totally Awesome College

I may be exaggerating just a little bit, but not my much.

This was a very small magazine, so I imagine editors from larger publications get dozens, if not hundreds of emails like this daily. Pray for them. They need it.

There are so many red flags in this short but disastrous email that I don’t know where to start. But other than the exhausting number of “I” statements and not making it very easy for the email recipient to actually find relevant writing samples (even if the email itself didn’t turn them off), there’s a huge piece missing.

W didn’t even tell the editor why they’re interested in writing articles for that publication. There was no purpose statement. There was no “why” other than the one “why” editors really don’t care about.

Publish my work. Publish my name. Look at my blog. It’s a wasted effort.

Eventually I came up with a few different formula responses for these types of emails. It always started off by pointing out that I was the editor of a magazine, not a blog, but that’s beside the point. Usually, these email correspondences never went anywhere, because these writers weren’t really interested in writing for my magazine. They didn’t know why they were pitching to me. And that pretty much ruined their chances of ever getting their work published in my magazine.

Why am I telling you all this? Because you’re going to be pitching to editors.

And if not editors, then agents, or publishers, or potential clients. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing fiction or self-help articles or you just like posting stuff on the internet for fun. There’s a very important element to any form of pitch email that far too many people miss, and no one ever tells them about it.

What is it? Your purpose.

Not your life’s purpose, not your purpose for being a writer in general – that’s important, but not necessarily in a short pitch email. Query letters may be a little different, but full disclosure, I’ve never written one, so I’m not an expert in that particular line of communication (yet). I’m mostly talking about pitching shorter works of writing or writing services, but fiction writers can benefit from the general advice as well.

Your “why” is your ticket to ride.

It’s not about you. It’s not about what you want out of the deal. It’s about what you can – and intend – to do for someone else. The email above misses the mark because it doesn’t tell me why I should want to work with W. If all W wants is to get their name out there and doesn’t care where, that doesn’t make me want to say, “Yes! Write for me!”

Why are you interested in writing for This Great Magazine? That’s what I want to know. Why should I pick you, over the dozens of other people who have asked the same question? What can you contribute to my editorial flow? What do you have to add to the conversation? What makes you unique?

It’s not what you’ve studied in school, though for things like health, that actually does help (science needs more credibility, that’s just the way it is). It’s not even really about what you’ve done in the past. It’s what you’re going to do, in the future, to make this publication a little bit better.

Why do you want to write for me? Because you are interested in the subject, it is somehow relevant to you, and you have something of value to give to my readers.

Here’s how the email should have read.

Hello Ms. Dowell,

My name is W. After reviewing the content of This Great Magazine, I am writing to ask if you are taking any article submissions at this time. If so, I would be interested in contributing to your Student Life section.

I am currently a student at Totally Awesome College. As a new reader of This Great Magazine, I would love to be able to contribute my skills and experience as a writer and undergraduate student to a publication dedicated to helping students succeed, grow and thrive.

If you are interested in reviewing my writing samples, to better evaluate whether or not I might be a good fit for your publication, you are welcome to review my online writing portfolio here [link].

Thank you for your time. I look forward to working with you in the future.

Best regards,


It’s not perfect. But it’s an improvement.

Tell an editor why they should care, and they’re much more likely to care. Start with what you want. Then go into more detail about why you want it. Then, for the love of God, give them a place to look at writing samples. Don’t expect them to go digging, because they won’t. They don’t have time. They’re too busy sending off formula responses to people who never learned how to pitch to an editor.

Ask yourself that one question before you pitch. Why? If you can come up with a publication-focused answer, then you’re already halfway there. Editors will love you. Trust me.

As you can tell, I enjoy writing on this topic a little bit too much. So if you want more, leave a comment down below letting me know. I could write a whole book about this. Hmmm….

Also, if this helped you, or you have a different method that works better for you – let me know that, too! I’m only one person with one perspective on the issue. I’d love to hear what you think as well.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

The 2 Types of Writing Goals and How to Achieve Them

It’s time to talk about writing goals … again.

writing goals

There are two types of writers: those who set goals and end up achieving them, and those who struggle with figuring out what they really want and how to get there.

Similarly, there are two types of writing goals: those that are easy to set and measure and those that aren’t. This post will teach you the difference between the two, how they feed into each other and how to set and accomplish each type.

Since you are most likely more familiar and comfortable with completion goals, we will cover those first.

Completion goals

What are they?

In terms of writing, completion goals are the goals you set, as the name suggests, to help you complete specific projects. These kinds of writing goals are easier to set because the endpoint and the steps to get to that endpoint are simple to outline. For example, if you want to publish a novel, you already know you’re going to have to spend a certain amount of hours and effort writing a draft. Then you will have to edit and revise, and then go through the process of either self-publishing or drafting and sending out query letters to agents. Where you begin and end are both very clear. People understand that when you say, “I want to publish a novel,” that’s exactly what where you eventually want to end up.

How do you set them?

You already know that setting SMART writing goals is one of many subsequent keys to success as an aspiring writer. We’ll run with the “I want to publish a novel.” Great start, but if you leave it at that, you’re much less likely to actually follow through with it.

You are much better off setting a completion goal like this: “I want to finish writing the first draft of my novel by the end of 2016.” This is a much smaller and more achievable goal that can eventually feed into your larger long-term goal of getting published. Probably the most important piece here is that you give yourself a deadline. This will be important when setting the second type of writing goal as well, but when you’re busy and overwhelmed and you want to write something, deadlines really do matter.

How do you achieve them?

  • Create a schedule and figure out how to stick to it
  • Hold yourself accountable
  • Create a writing-focused vision board
  • Get your procrastination under control
  • If you want it … work for it
  • Erase your excuses
  • Celebrate your small accomplishments.

Examples of completion goals that don’t work: I want to write a book someday; I want my favorite author to read my book when it gets published; I want to be a professional writer. What’s missing from these goals and how would you improve them?

Improvement goals

What are they?

Unlike completion goals, writing improvement goals are more difficult to set and extremely challenging to accomplish. The reason there’s so much material out there trying to teach you how to set goals is because, in general, we’re not good at setting goals. Especially when there isn’t an endpoint, at least not in the same way there is to mark the finish line of a completion goal. Let’s say your goal is to “improve character development in your stories.” The catch with improvement goals is that they are often tied to smaller fragments of completion goals. You don’t just want to level up your character development skills … you want to level up those skills for a very specific reason.

How do you set them?

As you are identifying and setting improvement goals, always keep your completion goals in mind. This is why there are two different kinds of writing goals of equal importance. Staying vague and failing to set deadlines is not going to get you where you want to be.

There’s really nothing wrong with a goal to “improve character development,” at least as a starting point. But there’s a pretty specific set of steps you are going to have to take here in order to set improvement goals you can actually achieve.

  1. Identify your “I am here” point. Analyze where you are in terms of character development at this moment, for example, by reading through recent character sketches or analyzing character arcs in your most recent work. This will serve as your starting point and your synthetic method for measuring progress throughout.
  2. Identify your destination. This will probably involve doing some deeper research into what the experts consider to be optimal examples of character development. Get an idea of what level you eventually want to arrive at. This will serve as your endpoint, even though, technically, there really isn’t one.
  3. Start small and work your way up. Going along with our example, you would probably want to sketch out a character’s specific arc in a story you may or may not end up writing. Practice developing that character. You might do this with several sketches. Then you might try writing a short story, focusing primarily on character development. The more you practice, the more skilled you will become, until you reach whatever metric you are using as your endpoint (e.g., “write a story with a well-developed main character.”

And always remember to tie your improvement goals back into your completion goal(s). You want to write a story with a well-developed character so you can improve character development in your stories so you can write a good draft of a book so you can publish a novel before you’re 25. See how that works?

How do you achieve them?

  • Work toward them little by little, consistently
  • Keep your completion goals in mind (your answer to “why am I doing this?”)
  • Don’t compare yourself to other writers – compete against yourself
  • Remember that small improvements are still progress
  • Don’t give up until you have the results you want, or the results you can more realistically achieve.

Examples of improvement goals that don’t work: I want to be a better writer; I want to blog more; I want to be more successful; I want to spend more time writing. What’s missing from these goals and how would you improve them?

If you’re someone who has a hard time setting and sticking to your writing goals, start here. Accomplishing goals is all about making sure you’re setting out to do what you really want to do. If you don’t want to write a full-length novel, don’t waste your creative energy trying to write a full-length novel. Every writer’s goals are different. Even if no one else respects your goals, treat them well. Take them seriously and get back to writing.

What’s your current completion goal? Your current improvement goal? Try combining them into one (long but ambitious) sentence as shown above.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Where to Find Smaller Publications that Will Want to Work with You | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

Starting small is easier than you think.


Getting published is a big, completely achievable dream, even if it’s not a very unique one. Just because everyone wants it to happen, though, doesn’t mean you can’t make it happen for you.

That’s what this whole series is about. Helping you make your writing dreams, hopefully, come true.

Now that we’ve told you why you should reach out to smaller publications for more writing opportunities, here are a few places you can start looking for them. They’re out there – but they’re not necessarily going to come to you. You have a much better chance of working with them if you take the initiative and reach out first.

You’re on this website. You’re already on the internet. You don’t have to go far.


Search bars are more powerful than you might think. When you have a general idea of the kinds of writing you want to do and the niche that writing fits into, narrowing things down gets a lot easier. You can use Twitter’s search function to type in keywords such as magazinewriting or publishing. If you’re willing to put in the time, following the trails from one account to another can lead you to publications not many people are following yet – publications that are more likely to say, “Yes, you can write for us.”

When you follow certain publications, Twitter also gives you a “you might also like these related accounts” drop-down when you follow someone, which is helpful if they have a descriptive name, handle and bio (and if they’re legitimate publications with growth potential, they will).

Also applicable to Facebook or, quite honestly, whichever social media platform you’re most comfortable with. Chances are, they’ll have an account there.

Internship Banks

If you’re in college, and you’re an aspiring writer, unpaid internships will be the best things that ever happen to you as a young professional.

If you’re not in school, the idea of an internship, especially an unpaid one, probably seems ridiculous to you. But just because you visit an internship bank (just like a job board, but for internships) doesn’t mean you have to apply for them.

Some smaller publications seek out writers in the form of internships to maintain a steady flow of content from day to day. By searching through these listings, you can explore whether or not these publications have other freelance programs or submission guidelines. Sometimes, just having a list in front of you of publications you might be able to write for is reassuring enough to make it worth your while.


If you’re strategic with this one, it can still work.

Blogs are a lot different now than they used to be. Over time, the lines between blogs and websites have blurred dramatically. Anyone can have a website about anything they want. Many blogs are no longer the “online diaries” of people who want their voices heard. Instead, blog posts look a lot like articles which look a lot like blog posts, which is why being able to distinguish between different types of content is so essential.

If you can find a blog that allows guest posting, or you’re willing to gather up the courage to email the owner and ask if they’re willing to work with you, it’s at least a start. If nothing else, you might get to experience what it’s like to see someone else publish your work on a bit larger of a scale than you’re used to. Which can, in turn, inspire you to reach out to publications other than blogs, when you’re ready.

Of course, you can always start your own blog while you’re waiting for things to come together, If you’re willing to accept that it takes time, and strategy, and serious dedication to get your blog noticed these days.

However you go about getting your work out there, we wish you the best. Come back next Thursday for our next post in the series.

Until then, happy writing!

Did you find this article helpful? Read more of our tips for maintaining an online presence as an aspiring writer.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

My Top Five Tips for Launching a Writing ‘Career’



Everyone wants to be a writer.

Not just any kind of writer, either. A successful writer. Everyone wants their name on the New York Times bestseller list. Everyone wants to add “author” to their Twitter bio. Everyone wants to take what they enjoy doing and make a career out of it.

Which means, no matter how much you love to write, no matter how good you might be at writing, it is not very easy to launch a career. Especially when you’ve exhausted all other options, and are trying to do it all on your own.

I started this blog in March 2015 to give writers just like you advice on how to ‘make it’ in this competitive industry. Here is a compilation of things I have done my best to teach you since then, just in case you need a pre-New Year’s Resolution refresher.

1 .Be online

Many writers don’t like this advice. “I’m a writer, why do I have to interact with anyone on social media? It takes away from my writing time.” Refusal to adapt to new technologies is going to get you one thing: your own cloak of invisibility, no strings attached.

Promoting your work, and your brand as a writer, is absolutely essential if you ever want to get paid to write. There are many, many, many writers just like you out there. You have to use social media to differentiate yourself from them, or you WILL get lost in the stream.

2. Be selective about who you write for

Pitching articles anywhere and everywhere just for the sake of plastering your name all over the internet is not attractive. Starting a pitch with, “I’m really interested in writing  more so I’m looking for more opportunities to write for publications” is not attractive.

Quality over quantity is an absolute must. You could be writing 10 articles per week, but if they’re not good articles, you’re not going to impress anyone. Write fewer articles about things you are actually interested in writing about, and that passion will shine right through every word you publish.

3. Highlight your passions ahead of your accomplishments

Writing query and cover letters and writing proposals of any kind requires doing something most of us aren’t good at: talking ourselves up. WAY up. You have to tell an agent, editor, publisher, whoever you’re writing to why they should pick you over someone else. The tricky part is, it’s still not about you. It’s about what you have to give, and how you are able to showcase that.

So instead of listing off all the publications you’ve written for in the past six months, try phrasing your ‘self-pitch’ a little more like this:

“I am passionate about health and wellness education, so I contribute weekly to these related publications in order to help their audiences learn this thing.” Also, mention the fact that you plan on doing the same thing for the publication you are pitching to, if your pitch is accepted.

4. ‘Finding your niche’ does not mean ‘squeeze into someone else’s mold’

The way to be successful in any kind of industry is to stand out, which would be great advice all by itself if everyone wasn’t trying to apply it simultaneously to their own lives.

There are way too many ingredients that go into this process. You have to figure out what you enjoy writing about, who is interested in articles about that, where they are, what they’re looking for, how you can prove to them you’re the perfect candidate in only one writing sample … it seems impossible.

But everyone has their own unique angle on writing in the same niche. You have to adopt and embrace that, and hard. What will make you successful is what makes you different than everyone else. Even when everyone else is trying to be different, no one is exactly like you.

5. Be prepared to make your own way

There is nothing wrong with traditional publishing, but if that just isn’t working for you, you have a choice to make. Are you going to close the book on your dream career, or plow forward even though you have absolutely no one backing you up?

Don’t shy away from self-publishing an ebook or short story collection. Don’t downplay your success just because you don’t have a ‘real’ publisher. In this industry, if you’re not stubborn enough to make it happen when everyone keeps telling you no, you’re just not going to make it. That’s the reality and it’s completely your own decision to make.

Writing is hard. Getting published is hard. I am figuring it out, one day at a time, and so will you.

You CAN do this. Set a goal and get to work. It will take a long time. You will not always be able to write your best work. You will fail once, twice, 20 times. But one way or another, you will be successful, as long as you refuse to give up.

Check out our LET’S GET PUBLISHED! series for more pitching and publishing tips.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

How to Pitch a Guest Post to Any Online Publication | LET’S GET PUBLISHED


As the managing editor of an online magazine, part of my job is coordinating submissions for our correspondent program. Basically, college students email me their pitches, and it’s up to me to decide which article ideas are suitable for our audience and which aren’t.

There’s some feedback, editing and publishing involved after the fact, but as with any guest post-type submission process, it all begins with a pitch. Or several. And sometimes that’s all I get: an email that contains five article pitches, and nothing else.

Which is fine … I suppose. But some of these writers are journalism students, and part of me (never having taken a journalism class, I’m just being transparent here) wonders if some of these students just haven’t learned the proper way to pitch an article to an editor.

No matter what kind of writing you do, whether it be fiction or essay writing, poetry, articles, whatever, you’re going to need to “sell” your ideas to an editor of some kind. We’ve covered a lot about ideas and writing and pitching in this series so far, but I’ve realized I have yet to go into how to actually pitch an idea.

So that’s what we’ll cover this week. Even if you’ve pitched 100 articles before, you might learn something new.

Read the pitching guidelines before you even come up with an idea

Every publication has them, and trust me, every editor who receives a submission that doesn’t follow them will toss the submission out without a second thought. It’s nothing personal, but if you can’t follow the pitching guidelines, there’s no way an editor can know if you’ll follow any other instructions you’re given, like how to structure your article, for example.

Read those guidelines once, twice, three times. Make sure you are not only qualified (for example, CL’s writers must be currently enrolled in a college or university) but also make sure you understand what is, and what isn’t, expected of you. Some pubs list topics they are not interested in receiving pitches for. They might give you a word limit. Every website or magazine is different.

Submit a list of pitches like it’s a job application 

An editor doesn’t just want to know that you can come up with a list of ideas. They want to know you take your writing career seriously, even if you’re just starting out. They don’t want to know every single detail about your life, but don’t just start off an email with, “I want to write for you, here are my ideas.” Would that be the first thing out of your mouth if you were actually meeting an editor for the first time? Hopefully not.

Here’s an example of the kind of emails I send when I pitch articles to publications. Think of it as your one chance to show the person receiving this email who you are and why editing your work is worth their time.

Good afternoon,

My name is (_). I have recently visited your (website/magazine/blog*) and, upon reviewing your content and submission guidelines, am writing with interest in contributing a (guest post/article/series of articles) to your organization. 

I am currently a (student/writer for __/contributing author with __) and have __ years of experience composing (blog posts/articles/etc.) with various publications such as ___. I believe this previous writing experience would allow me to provide content for (organization name) that would help its readers (___). 

And so on.

*Do your research before you contact someone

Are you submitting to a website, magazine or blog? You need to not only know the difference but you need to be aware of which type of content site you are submitting to. And you need to express that knowledge in your email.

Magazine editors do not appreciate being downgraded to blog editors. Website managers do not run magazines. You get the idea. Know who you are submitting to and make it clear that you have educated yourself about the organization and the kinds of content it produces. I am not impressed when it’s obvious a writer has no idea who they’re submitting to. First impressions are everything.

Be smart and courteous when you pitch ideas to someone you’ve never met. Remember, it is not about you. It is about what you can do for the organization. You are “selling” your skills, not yourself.

If you have any questions or want to know more about pitching to editors, leave a comment. I’ll be happy to elaborate on anything I’ve mentioned briefly above, and if there’s a question with an answer that deserves its own post, I’ll get right on it.

Did you know you can now submit pitches for guest posts on Novelty Revisions? You didn’t? You must not have signed up for our weekly newsletter yet! Click the purple button on the right to sign up, and you’ll get information about guest posting in next week’s email.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

How To Really Stand Out In the Publishing World | LET’S GET PUBLISHED


Writing isn’t easy, but there’s comfort in knowing you’re not the only one struggling. There are hundreds of thousands of other writers out there typing their way toward the exact same goals you are.

Which is great. Unless you want to stand out, which, predictably, everyone does.

What can you do that makes you, and your writing, unique? Standing out is almost tougher than the writing process itself, but we’ve come up with a few tactics you can try to make the road a little easier to navigate. 

Build a versatile portfolio 

The biggest mistake younger writers (of lesser experience, not necessarily age) make is believing that belonging to a specific writing niche means you can only ever write about one thing. Regardless of your niche and what kind of work you hope to publish someday, writing the same thing over and over again doesn’t do much to show off your skills, even if you have a lot of them.

Potential employers, agents and editors want to see your work, but they need to see a variety of writing samples. They need to know you’re flexible, experienced and able to write for a diverse market. Your portfolio should contain snippets from different newspapers, magazines and blogs, if applicable. Don’t have any yet? Here’s how you can get started.

Don’t expect to make it big, at least not right away 

Very few writers stumble upon instant success, especially their first time trying. Even if you’ve been writing for awhile, it takes time to really immerse yourself in a consistent style and find your voice. The first few things you publish, even the first dozen, probably won’t be great. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer.

Some of the most successful, well-known writers have been writing, rewriting and publishing for years. They didn’t find success overnight, and honestly, it’s not going to do you much good to expect to, either. For now, focus on refining your craft. Seriously. Put all your energy into getting a little better every day, and worry about publishing later.

Write because you enjoy writing 

Readers can tell when you’re fully engaged in a piece and when you’re not. We write differently depending on how passionate we are about certain subjects and ideas, even when we don’t realize it. If you’re writing just for the sake of writing, just to put your name on the Internet and increase your chances of getting published someday, honestly, you probably never will.

You need to write because you enjoy writing. If it’s not your passion, you’re not going to make it very far. Why? Because as we like to remind you here, writing is hard. It sometimes takes all your time and energy away from you. If you’re not fully invested in it, quitting will eventually seem like your best option. Besides, it’s not only ordinary readers that can tell when your heart’s not in it. Editors and the like can tell, too, usually within the first few sentences.

The biggest key to success in publishing is to never stop writing. Keep your eyes open for writing opportunities and know it’s okay if everything you write isn’t always your best. You’ll have good days and not so good ones. What’s most admirable in a writer, though, is pushing through till you make it count.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

How to Utilize Writing Opportunities You Can’t Fully Commit To | LET’S GET PUBLISHED


To get published, you have to act. Or in this case, write. As often as you can, wherever you can, at the highest quality you can possibly assert.

If you want to get your name out there, and solidify your brand as you grow, it’s important to take advantage of as many networking and skill-developing experiences as possible. To do that, you have to really be aware of the opportunities available, in case something comes along at just the right time.

It’s tough to stay up-to-date on what’s out there when you’re not currently in an active search. You’ll either end up trying to commit to too much or feel like you’re missing out on something that could really help build up your portfolio.

Here’s how to utilize those writing opportunities even when you know you can’t fully commit to them … right now, anyway. 

Ask all your questions before you apply and/or pitch

Job and internship postings, as well as pitching guideline pages, have a lot of information, but not always everything you’re looking for. While it might be tempting to “just apply anyway,” it’s a dangerous thing to do if you’re not sure exactly what an editor is going to expect from you from week to week, or even from day to day.

It doesn’t hurt to ask questions before you apply. Editors get questions from prospective writing applicants all the time (or they fully expect and welcome them, at least). How many hours/articles/pitches per week/month? What is the average length of one submission? What other requirements, like photos, go along with each general assignment?

There is no such thing as a “dumb” question, and it’s better to have more than enough details than to miss something important that might not allow you to make a full commitment. 

Create a potential list of pitches for future use 

Even if you’re not always writing, you’re probably always coming up with new ideas. That’s just how the brain of a writer works. Just because you have an idea, but don’t necessarily have time right this second to tell somebody about it, doesn’t mean you can’t save it for later.

It’s not healthy, though, to let your head get too crammed with ideas. They need a place to stretch their legs even when you can’t give them somewhere to run to yet. Write them down. Create a list of story ideas and pitches you might be able to use later. When you snag a free hour to write something, you’ll already have a list of ideas to choose from. This can help you make better use of your writing time, especially when there just isn’t a plethora of it sitting around.

Evaluate your current schedule and plan ahead

Editors, publishers, potential employers—they’re all looking for the same things: who are you, where are you and what are you doing? No matter what you have on your plate, it’s important to put your online portfolio—aka, whatever pops up when someone Googles your name—toward the top of your priority list.

To do this, though, you’ll need to take a good look at your schedule, both the current one and the future one. What do you have going on right now that’s keeping you from writing an extra article or two here and there? Will you still be doing that thing one month, three months, six months from now? Is there something you can put to the side, at least for a little while, to make room for a little extra portfolio-building?

Don’t take this to mean you should put off or completely ditch getting a college degree to focus on writing. Never. Do. That. Why? Oh, let us count the reasons. Actually, we’ll just have to give them to you in the form of another post.

Come back later this week for that. It’s going to be fun.

Keep writing. Even when you don’t think you can handle it. You can. You will.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.