Want to write for magazines? These magazine writing tips from published freelance writers practically guarantee that you’ll get your article published! Here, you’ll find encouragement, practical advice, and hope for both newbie and professional scribes…
Before the tips, here’s some magazine writing advice from a former executive editor of Working Mother magazine:
“What we need most are article ideas that are based on new research, new information,” says Mary McLaughlin. “Findings that illuminate a common problem and give us a new way to think about it.”
This isn’t just advice about writing for Working Mother – it’s about writing for all magazines! I found that gem in Magazine Writing That Sells by Don McKinney. It’s a great book for freelance writers – even experienced ones.
Okay, here are several magazine writing tips from published freelancers and authors….
Want to Write for Magazines? 7 Writing Tips
Don’t believe that the odds are stacked against writers
“If you believe everything you read in publishing it will downright depress you and suck every ounce of creativity from your soul. Are the stats true? Maybe, but I find that publishing loves to cry its own demise. Focus on success stories like The Shack and, years ago, the book no one wanted: Legally Blond. Don’t let rejection deter you from your mission. You’re the only one who can make you a failure.” – Penny C. Sansevieri, writers’ coach
Develop your writer’s voice
“The best magazine writing tip I learned was to develop my own writer’s voice. There’s a lot of good content out there, but it’s the voice that people will be attracted to. In each piece I write, I think to myself, Am I a squeeky voice, a comforting voice, an understanding voice, a best friend voice, a nagging voice, etc.” – Katy Lee
Similar to this is knowing how to set yourself apart as a writer.
Pretend your audience is full of narcisstic two year olds
“My favorite magazine writing tip is from Ann Wylie of Wylie Communications. She says: ‘Readers are narcissistic two year olds… me, me, me!’ It makes me keep the reader in mind when I write and (hopefully) keeps the info I write relevant and usable for the reader.” – Luanne Mattson
Know thy magazine publisher
“When submitting a manuscript, be sure that you know and understand what the publisher is looking for. It doesn’t matter whether you are submitting an article, a greeting card, a children’s book, a novel or a non-fiction book — do your research. Go to the publisher’s website and obtain their writer’s guidelines. Follow these guidelines to the letter. Look to see what type of articles or books they publish. Also, pay careful attention to word count.” – Cindy Kenney, freelance writer and editor
Learn to write for publication (magazine writing is a business)
“Years ago, I wrote an article for a publication, and the publication didn’t accept it. I could think of only one other place to submit the piece, but the word limit for that publication was HALF of what I had written. It was hard to do, but I managed to cut the article in half. It was accepted, and the editors didn’t change a single thing. The short version was far superior to the original. Now I try to follow the “cut it in half” rule whenever I can.” – Cheryl Miller Thurston
Keep improving your writing skills (a neglected writing tip!)
“My most effective magazine writing tip is to break the reading material down, line by line, construction by construction. A regular [journalism class] assignment was to read any article in a magazine that I liked, then, with a pen, literally mark up the article by identifying important construction tactics. I usually picked a Sports Illustrated article. What were the transitions? Did the paragraph use an introductory clause? What was the line length? How were subheads used? If the story evoked an emotion — tears, laughter, annoyance — how? What was the set up? Word choice? How was the picture painted — all at once? Sprinkled throughout the story? When were key interviews introduced and how? If it was arguing a key point, how was the argument built? Were there play on words that pulled you in? By applying what I learned, this simple exercise did more to leapfrog the quality of my writing than anything else at that point in my career.” – Susan Mantey, media relations specialist
Learn how to write a strong query letter – it sells the article
“Look in a writer’s submission book to find out how they want your manuscript submitted. Address your query letter to a person, not “to whom it may concern.” If needed, call the publisher and get a name, and be certain to spell it correctly. Submit your manuscript or idea with a clean, well-written, one page query letter. Don’t make mistakes in your letter and don’t try to be cute. Be professional. Get to the point, but sell your idea. You must convince the publisher why they are the right place to publish what you have to offer.” – Cindy Kenney, freelance writer and editor
For more magazine writing tips, read Writing as a Career – Who Else Wants to Get Paid for Writing?
What have we missed? I welcome your writing tips or questions below!