A former student of mine graduated with a degree in theater and set off to Hollywood to make her way in her chosen world. She soon learned an interesting twist about the requirements of Hollywood: in order to land a part you need a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card. But in order to have the coveted SAG card, you must have acted in a legitimate production. So in the logic of the glittery world of movies, you can’t get a card until you’ve had a role, and you can’t get a role without having a card first. It’s a vicious cycle! Short of being “discovered”, she was going to have to pay her dues by acting in productions that earned her points towards her card, but were less glamorous than Hollywood.
Writing is very similar. Often, in order to write an article, an editor wants to see clips – or examples of material you’ve published in the past. But, it’s hard to get clips if no one will publish you without them. Just like acting, we writers may have to pay our dues.
For writers, “paying your dues” may mean writing a few articles that either don’t pay or pay in copies (sending you five copies, for example, of their magazine) or contributing to an online site or blog or searching out smaller markets. I have a couple stacks of magazines – copy payments – I don’t necessarily have a use for (other than making my mother proud), but now I have hard copies of clips I can scan and send along with my queries.
Get Those Clips!
So how do you find ideas and potential markets?
- Spend a couple hours at a local bookstore or library scanning the magazine section. Don’t limit yourself to the big names; there are almost as many magazines as there are interests: sports, kayaking, mountain climbing, dogs, cats, biking, literature, cars, farming, cooking, ranching, eco-living, art, etc. Let the magazines and their topics inspire you!
- Be sure to check out local and regional magazines. My first articles were published in a local arts journal and a regional interest publication.
- Writer’s Market is a well-known writer’s resource book. Flip through the thousands of pages of trade journal and magazine listings. Consider people you know who you could interview for articles. A few of my first publications in national magazines were written interviewing a local dog trainer, another came from spending a day with friends who grew organic, heritage potatoes.
- Go on the internet. There are a plethora of online magazines and blogs you can write for – they count as clips too! Many are very open to new writers. Are you a caregiver? Parent? Traveler? Athlete? There are sites for every interest you can think of.
- Look at job boards. They are an excellent resource to find publications, websites and businesses actively seeking writers.
Let your imagination and creative juices flow and come up with great ideas. Mine all your life experiences for topics and ideas – you’ll be amazed to find there is a market for almost anything. Now that you have a file full of ideas and potential publications, it’s time to sit down and write. Start gathering those clips, even if it means writing a few pro bono articles. You won’t have to do that for long. Soon, you will be savoring the satisfaction of producing and seeing your writing in print.
About the Author
Julie Luek is a freelance writer living in the mountains of Colorado and is published in dozens of regional, national and online publications including Farm & Ranch, Dog World, Vibrant Life, Today’s Christian, Colorado Central Magazine, Arts Perspective, Coaching and Athletic Directors and others and is the author of two blogs, A Thought Grows and In Fine Company. She is also a biweekly contributor to the international writing site, She Writes and appears as a guest blogger on sites like WOW (Women on Writing), Author Spaces and others with writer-based content. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter and enjoys supporting the community of writers.
Image via Brandon Giesbrecht