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7 Tips for Writing for Publication

The chapters of my book are due to a publisher in one week; these tips for writing for publication will make those chapters lively, concrete, and strong! These writing tips focus on the craft of writing (not the mechanics, such as grammar, spelling, or sentence construction).

You’re here, which means you want to get published. It was a dream for me, too! My first book (Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back) came out last week. It took years to find the right literary agent and publishing house – and lots of reading of writing books such as John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Writers.

My first traditionally published book is nonfiction, but I read fiction writing books – and listen to podcasts for novelists – all the time. That’s one of my best tips on writing for publication: use fiction craft techniques even if you’re writing nonfiction. But wait, there’s more!


Have you heard this writing quote from one of the most successful authors in America (and perhaps the world)?

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug,” said Mark Twain.

Writing for publication involves finding the exact right word — and stringing your sentences together carefully and deliberately. It helps if you love the writing craft and editing process.

7 Tips for Writing for Publication

Not only does it help if you enjoy writing and editing, it really helps if you can take feedback. Editors want your book, article, memoir or magazine article to be the best it can be. Don’t take their revisions and edits personally; your book is not your baby.

You may be writing your life story, but you must detach from an agent’s, publisher’s, or editor’s thoughts on your work.

1. Detach from your writing – especially if you want to get published

When revising or editing your writing – the stage I’m at now with my sample chapters – you need to detach. Take a cold hard look at how your sentences work together to capture the reader’s attention, how your paragraphs flow, how your whole article or chapter is linked together. Writing isn’t just about expressing yourself and playing with metaphors and creating sentences for readers to drool over. Writing for publication is about tightening your ideas with specific strategies.

2. Drop crumbs throughout your writing

Tips for Writing for Publication

To keep readers (including editors, agents, and publishers) reading, sprinkle crumbs of your story throughout your chapter, starting with the first sentence. For instance, in Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back I wove snippets of my life story with stories from She Blossom readers, strong biblical women, and Blossom Tips. I dropped crumb after crumb through the chapters of the book, to keep readers engaged. It works – it’s one of the smartest tips on writing for publication.

3. Learn how to keep readers engaged

Think about the last novel or article you read – or even the last movie you watched. What kept you reading, watching, engaged? For example, Darin Strauss’ crumbs in the novel More Than it Hurts You involved unanswered questions, suspicion, mystery, foreshadowing, and end-of-chapter hooks. This tip for writing for publication involves analyzing your writing make sure your crumbs are tantalizing enough.

4. Tie your crumbs together with the same thread

If, for instance, I mention my love of blogging for She Blossoms in the introduction of Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back, I should follow up with more information through the book. I could describe how I first got published in Reader’s Digest magazine, or share how I make money as a blogger. If you’re writing for publication, you need to tie your whole article or chapter together with one thread, into a tight little package. To practice this, notice threads in the magazine articles or book chapters you are currently reading.

5. Look for ways to include literary techniques

Learn how literary techniques such as personification, alliteration, dialogue, symbolism, contrast, parallelism, oxymorons, etc can improve your writing. Here’s the most recent example of personification I’ve read: “Normality strolled back into the Goldins’ home, then hung around as if it’d never left.” (From More Than it Hurts You). Take your writing to the publication level by keeping a list of literary techniques nearby, and looking for ways to insert them in your writing – naturally.


6. Know your writing weaknesses

I tend to use too many run-on sentences. So, when I edit, I deliberately look for places to insert short, snappy sentences. Do you struggle with grammar, sentence fragments, verbiosity, excessive flowery language? Figure your flaws. Fix them. Read Writing Help for Common Non-Fiction and Fiction Mistakes for more tips.

7. Send it out with a kiss

This tip for writing for publication isn’t about craft as much as the writing life: after you’ve poured your heart and soul into your work, after you’ve detached yourself to revise and edit with specific strategies, and after you’re satisfied that you’ve done the best you can…let go of your writing. Give your manuscript a big fat smooch, and send it off to the editor or publisher. It’s not yours anymore.

Writing for publication is hard — but if it was easy, everyone would do it! Getting a book published is stimulating and satisfying, especially if you can put your desire to get published second to enjoying the writing process. The more you enjoy writing for its own sake, the better you’ll write. The better you write, the higher the changes you’ll get published!

If you found this article helpful, read 17 Reasons Book Manuscripts Are Rejected.

What do you think about these tips for writing for publication? Do you have anything to add? I welcome your comments and questions below…


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10 thoughts on “7 Tips for Writing for Publication”

  1. Wow, I have not looked at this article for almost 4 years! They contain some pretty damn good tips for writing for publication, if I do say so myself 🙂

  2. Interesting….thanks for your comment, James!

    I hadn’t thought about food in the Wizard of Oz, but that’s a great way to hook readers!
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..6 Tips for Long-Term Success as a Freelance Writer =-.

  3. James C. Wallace II

    i don’t use crumbs, I use Potato Soup! Food plays a major role in all 3 books of Oz. That’s my hook…
    .-= James C. Wallace II´s last blog post ..Snagglepuss & the Wizard Of Oz ??? =-.

  4. I definitely feel like I’m reading an article by someone else when I finally get the magazine in the mail, sometimes a year after I’ve written it! But I usually remember writing certain bits….some bits I don’t recall at ALL, which makes me think the editor was throwing in his/her two cents.

    That’s really interesting that you get so detached, Sara. And that’s a great way to edit your work, because you’re not connected to your writing to its detriment!

    If you’re writing for publication, detachment is crucial. So is not taking feedback or criticism personally.
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..7 Tips for Writing for Trade Magazines =-.

  5. Reading the first tip: Detach, made me think of how I feel about and look at my writing. As soon as I write something, be it a magazine article, newspaper article, short story or a picture book, I become very detached from it. This helps me edit it, because it’s almost like I’m editing someone else’s work. When I go back to read something that’s been published, it’s like I’m reading an article or story by another author. Very strange feeling. Anybody else feel like this?

    sara-jackson.blogspot.com
    .-= sara jackson´s last blog post ..New Update On Picture Book =-.

  6. I agree, George: putting your writing aside for a few days or even months gives it a chance to gel, and gives your brain a rest. I find that even a few hours can make a big difference.

    We went over my sample chapters at my writer’s group last night….and they gave me so many great suggestions for improving my writing! I tell ya, writing for publication is damn hard work. You really gotta love what you do.

    I’m writing a “Checklist for Self-Editing and Revising Your Writing” article right now, and will post later today. It’ll be a quick, comprehensive checklist of common mistakes writers make….I know I’ll be using it regularly!
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..7 Ways to Overcome Procrastination at Work – Sarah Ban Breathnach =-.

  7. Hi Laurie.

    True words about the difficulty of writing. I really liked the tip about becoming detached. Whenever possible, I’ll put an important piece away and out of sight for a week or two. Sometimes when I go back to it, it’s like it’s the first time I’ve ever seen it!

    Good stuff as always!

    George
    .-= Tumblemoose´s last blog post ..Book ‘em, Dano – Ten fully arrest-able query gaffs =-.

  8. Thanks, Gini.

    I took my sample chapters on a walk through the woods today. Didn’t need to drop the literal crumbs to find my way home, but I scoured my writing for those metaphorical ones! 🙂
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..7 Tips for Writing for Publication =-.

  9. I love these tips, Laurie – particularly the dropping crumbs, tying them together and using techniques such as personification. I’ve used symbolism a fair bit, and have been playing with alliteration lately, but I’d love to try personification, so thanks for that.

    Good luck with your sample chapters – I’m sure they’ll be fantastic!

    Gini
    .-= Gini Grey´s last blog post ..Faith =-.

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