The other week I ran an article writing workshop for my writers’ group. I’m not one for speaking in front of a group and so was a bit concerned about how it might go. However, once I got going and the participants started asking questions, I began to relax and enjoy it.
We started off by analysing the pile of magazines that we’d brought with us:
- Comparing staff names on the masthead to the by-lines on the articles to see which were written ‘in-house’
- Looking at the adverts to get a feel for the readership of the magazine
This raised the problem of the expense of buying magazines to search for markets in this way – especially since it’s necessary to read around 3 consecutive (and up-to-date) issues in order to spot the regular columnists and get a proper feel for the content. Unless you live near a large, well-stocked library there’s no easy answer to this – other than begging, borrowing or stealing from your friends. What do other people do?
Once each of us had established a potential market, we brainstormed a list of ideas that we felt might make an article for that magazine – trying to stay away from the obvious well-worn themes. This was the part of the evening that I found really interesting. There was a wonderfully wide range of feature ideas – displaying sides of my fellow writers that I never knew existed. Without giving too much away (because I hope they’re all going to write-up their articles) these included:
- Activities for winter evenings
- Dog-related issues
- The significance of one lady’s mother’s choice of wedding date
- Railway memories
- Multiple Sclerosis
We went on to draft a short email pitch to the editor before the chairman rang his bell and our time was up.
There are a couple of useful blogs that include generous advice on article writing and are well worth a visit:
Remember there are many, many more markets for articles than fiction or poetry – so why not give it a go?
P.S. Many thanks and welcome to those of you that requested email updates to this blog over the past fortnight – a donation is now winging its way to the RNIB.
#1 by susanjanejones on October 17, 2011 - 4:25 pm
I agree that most magazines can work out expensive if we take all the different ones. Best to stick to one or two that feel familiar to us. Also, I wonder if they say ‘take several issues’ just to get us to buy them. I have placed articles with magazines without reading them sometimes, though it would be best to read them. Great post, and well done on the RNIB collection.
#2 by Sally Jenkins on October 17, 2011 - 7:30 pm
Susan – it is easier to write for a magazine with which you are familiar because you know what the readers like & what subjects have already been covered recently. I never managed to place an article in a magazine I haven’t seen but sometimes one copy is enough. I do read avidly in the dentist waiting room & have been known to make notes as well!
#3 by Alex G on October 19, 2011 - 6:58 pm
Just wanted to say thanks for the website mention and compliment – and for steering some (presumably) new readers my way!
Curiously, Susan Jane’s post reminded me of an earlier post of mine (#17) where I addressed the issue of the expense of magazines. I think my basic argument was that they are very cheap – and I still think they are very cheap. Obviously in these difficult times we’re all watching the pennies, but I still feel spending at the newsagent shouldn’t be cut if you want to write for mags and papers!
As for writing for publications you’ve not seen – I’ve been there too. Sometimes, it does work out, but I think sensing when it’s okay comes with experience and knowledge of publishing and editors, and generally I’d never recommend omitting this important step. There have been times in the past when I’ve had an editor on the phone asking me what I think of the latest edition …. you don’t want to be there, trust me…
#4 by Sally Jenkins on October 19, 2011 - 7:52 pm
Alex – I too find it easier to target a magazine when I have a hard copy in front of me. I do spend a lot of time browsing in WH Smith to try & get a feel for whether a publication might be ‘market potential’ before actually buying it.
Patsy – yep, there’s not much room for imagination in articles so they can be a good option for when writers’ block descends on the fiction part of the brain.
#5 by Patsy Collins (@PatsyCollins) on October 19, 2011 - 7:13 pm
Trouble with article writing is that your supposed to stick to the truth and I sometimes find that hard! When I edit, I have to delete all my most interesting ‘facts’.
#6 by Alex G on October 19, 2011 - 10:47 pm
Sally – absolutely. An hour spent in WHSmith is invaluable. Browse through dozens of mags, then buy a couple… Good plan.
Patsy – I’d love to read one of your early article drafts, with ’embellishments’ and all! 🙂
#7 by Damsel in Distress on October 25, 2011 - 10:06 pm
I found this post extremely insightful and useful 🙂 thanks so much, I wish I could have been there to join your writers group
#8 by Sally Jenkins on October 26, 2011 - 5:47 pm
Damsel – glad it was helpful!