7 Tips for Writing for Publication

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

writing for publication tipsIf you want to write for publication, read Elizabeth Lyon’s Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore – her writing advice works for nonfiction writers, too.

Have you heard this writing quote from one of the most successful authors ever? “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. For more ways to improve your writing, .

And, read on for seven tips for writing for publication…

7 Tips for Writing for Publication

1. Detach. When you’re 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. To keep readers (including editors, agents, and publishers) reading, sprinkle crumbs of your story throughout your piece, starting with the first sentence. For instance, here’s how one of my chapters of See Jane Soar opens: “k.d. lang likes seeing football players get knocked down – but not because she’s a lesbian.” Hopefully, readers will wonder why lang likes watching men in tight pants (that’s the first crumb). I dropped another crumb in the next paragraph…and the next one.

3. Learn which crumbs tantalize readers. Think about the last novel or article you read – or even the last movie you watched. What kept you there? 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.

Need encouragement?

Sign up for my free weekly Blossom Tips!

* indicates required

4. Tie your crumbs together with the same thread. If I mention lang’s love of football players in the intro – and then go into her reasons for loving football players – then I’ll refer to both topics again in the body of the chapter, and at the end. If you’re writing for publication, you need to tie your whole article or chapter together with one thread, into a tight little muffin package. To practice this, notice threads in the magazine articles or book chapters you’re 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. Be aware of 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.

It’s hard work, this writing for publication thing. But it’s also stimulating and satisfying – especially if you can put aside your desire to get published and just enjoy the writing process. The more you enjoy your writing, the more entranced your readers will be…and the hungrier they’ll be for more.

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

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


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

10 thoughts on “7 Tips for Writing for Publication

  • Laurie

    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 🙂

  • Laurie PK

    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 =-.

  • 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 ??? =-.

  • Laurie PK

    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 =-.

  • sara jackson

    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´s last blog post ..New Update On Picture Book =-.

  • Laurie PK

    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 =-.

  • Tumblemoose

    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!

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

  • Laurie PK

    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 =-.

  • Gini Grey

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