How to Start Writing Articles
Maybe you’ve read a wikiHow article and thought to yourself, I could write a better article than this! Or maybe you’re more interested in writing articles for other publications, like your school newspaper or another print publication. Many writers start out by submitting work to local publications to get experience and build up their clips, or number of published articles. Other aspiring writers may go to school to study journalism and writing.
Submitting Work to Local Publications
Keep a running list of story ideas.Part of being an effective journalist or writer is being curious about other people's stories and finding a way to create a story from every day occurrences. Start a list of possible story ideas to pitch to a local publication or an online publication you are familiar with. Generate story ideas by using certain tactics, such as:
- Using a writing prompt, such as "That One Time I..." or a "Day in the Life" of someone you find interesting. You may also consider using every day events at school as jumping off points for possible ideas for an article.
- Brainstorming different angles on a current topic or subject. For example, police brutality against African American men. Write the current topic or subject in the center of a piece of a paper. Then, write down other related words or terms around the central idea. Continue adding words or terms until you feel you have written down enough. Read over the terms and circle or highlight any terms that seem useful or that could lead to a possible angle or slant on the topic.
Write for websites you frequent and enjoy reading.Maybe you always look at a certain publication every morning or tend to go to the same websites for pop culture or national news. Consider if your writing might work in the online publications you frequent or if these sites could serve as places you may want to see your work in one day.
- Check the sites for open submissions, or calls for submissions. Some websites, especially online magazines, have themed issues with open calls for work around a certain theme or idea.
- One of the big pet peeves for editors is receiving submissions from writers who have never read the publication before and are submitting blind. Avoid this by taking the time to read several articles on the site, and get a feel for the voice and tone of the articles.
Pitch articles to your local paper.For print publications, the best place to start is local publications in your area, town, or city. Most areas have free weekly publications that showcase the local happenings. Look through several issues to get a sense of the type of work is being published.
- Check out each section of the publication, such as Arts & Lifestyle, Music, or Local News, to see what type of writing you might want to pitch to the publication. If you’re interested in music reviews, look at the byline (which states who the article is written by) to find the music editor of the publication.
- Contact the editor with a brief email expressing your interests in writing music reviews for the publication. Avoid contacting the editor-in-chief of the publication directly. Always go for the editor of the section you would like to write for.
Start a professional blog.One of the best ways to get into a daily writing habit and brush up on your article writing skills is to start a professional blog. Choose a topic you are interested in writing about or feel you have a certain level of expertise in. Focus on posting quality 500 word posts on the topic once a day or several times a week.
Add each article to your portfolio of clips.Most publications will ask you for two to three clips, which are choice articles you have completed recently and published, when you solicit them for an article. Your clips should be within the last two years and showcase your writing voice.
- Many writers have online portfolios. They will then link to their portfolio in their pitch letter or in their initial email to an editor. There are many tools you can use to create an online portfolio with basic computer skills. Platforms like WordPress and Pressfolio are popular and easy to use. You can create a basic site to collect your clips so you look professional to editors and other writers.
Building Up Your Writing Contacts
Reach out to other writers and journalists.If you read an article you enjoyed and admire in terms of style or voice, look at the byline to see who wrote the article. The journalist will likely have an email address or other contact information. Send the reporter a brief and professional email outlining your desire to write articles for a publication and ask for any suggestions on your work.
- If you are looking to get published in the paper the reporter works for, you may ask if they would be willing to pass on a pitch from you to the editor or if they can connect you to a contact that will help you get published.
- Avoid sending a casual or informal email to a writer or journalist. Always be professional in tone and don't take up too much of the reporter's time by writing a long-winded email or letter.
Get involved in your local writing scene.Most areas have a writing scene or arts scene that involve writers and reporters. Look for open mic nights in your city, join forums or groups online that organize readings or writer get togethers, and seek out other reporters at local writing events. Introduce yourself to people at these events to get a sense of the writing scene and make yourself known.
Solicit feedback from editors.It can be difficult to deal with feedback from readers and editors, especially if you are just starting your writing career. But feedback will help you become a better writer and give you a thick skin when it comes to criticism. A good editor will provide constructive feedback on your article, with notes on any issues or problems they might see in your work, and how to correct them.
- Don't afraid to ask for feedback if you get a rejection on a pitch letter or a first draft of an article, and use the editor's notes to improve your writing. This will serve you well as you move forward in your career, as each article you write will become better and better with each small adjustment or improvement to your writing style.
Going to School for Journalism
Research possible programs and schools.Journalism programs, especially at the graduate level, are very distinct and different from each other. Some programs are more foundational, with a focus on giving you journalism schooling from the ground up. Other programs offer a specific concentration, like data journalism or business reporting.
- Look at the curriculum of each class and program, as well the course descriptions and the length of the program. Some programs will state they are catering to beginning journalists, mid-career professional, or full time working journalists.
- Focus on programs that offer opportunities for professional growth and resume buildings. For example, internships, speaker series, and apprenticeships can all help to build your portfolio and connections in the industry.
- You should also consider the physical location of the program. You should be comfortable in the area you will be studying, living, and working in. Think about if you can afford the cost of living in a certain city or town while going to school.
Talk to the admissions office.Before you apply for schools, get familiar with the admission requirements. Call or email the admissions office of the program(s) you are interested in and make sure you fulfill all the educational requirements.
- The admissions office can also give you more details on what is required for your application, such as a portfolio, letters of reference, and the necessary transcripts.
Apply early for programs.Start your applications early so you can get a second opinion on them before you submit them. Ask a professor, mentor, or peer to read over your application and offer their critiques.
Sources and Citations
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