This is an essay by Alyssa Liljequist.
“I’ve had a breakthrough!” It sounds like something an inventor or mad scientist would say. But writers or want-to-be-published writers can have breakthroughs as well. The first published article for a freelance writer is memorable. So is the first sale. For some, that is one and the same but for others, such as myself, it is quite different. I was fourteen when I began writing for an online magazine for ladies entitled Growing in Grace. This was my first foray into writing for a magazine. I remember it clearly because, well, I’m only 18 now. I was not used to writing nonfiction since I was formerly a fiction writer for the most part. For two years, I gained experience in writing articles on various topics and writing them on short notice. Though I was not paid for being a contributor, the experience has paid for itself. During my time as a contributor to Growing in Grace, I wasn’t doing any freelance work.
At 16, I finally decided to submit to a writing newsletter that paid and that accepted submissions from teens. You might be wondering what advice I could have given since I hadn’t been writing for that long. Yet, I had been writing long enough to run into writer’s block so I wrote about choosing to write and five tips on how to write despite lack of inspiration. “To Write or Not to Write?” was submitted via email. Soon, I received a reply. It was accepted for publication. I was so excited! I was able to see my name in print, albeit in my inbox, and receive payment for it. This was my breakthrough and you can have your own breakthrough, too. Now I can’t promise that it will happen on the first try but here are some things to keep in mind:
Have reasonable expectations.
When I say I was “paid”, I don’t mean a three digit figure (though those are nice and have happened since then). Getting your first paid acceptance, regardless of the amount, will boost your confidence, paving the way for submitting to higher-paying magazines. The first publication I targeted was: 1. Looking for submissions. 2. About a subject I was interested in and had some experience in. 3. Publishing articles with a word count of no more than 500-550 words. That kept me from being intimidated. How does this apply to you? Follow guidelines carefully and write about something you know and are passionate about.
Enter writing contests.
Writing contests are a great way to gain exposure and writing experience. A few months ago, I entered the quarterly Euterpe YA Short Story Contest and was the first grand prize winner. The main part of my prize was having my short story published as an e-book. This contest opened the door to an incredible new adventure in the world of writing. Nevertheless, there are many benefits to entering writing contests besides winning a prize. Some of my favorite stories that I’ve written have come about as the result of a writing contest. Themed contests can spark the imagination. A healthy feeling of competition can spur you to improve your writing. There are even a few contests that offer feedback on your entry. After the contest is over, if you don’t win, you can always choose to take that story which you have carefully crafted and submit it to a magazine.
For a breakthrough of any kind, initiative is necessary. You are your own boss and you must be able to research, write, edit, and submit in a timely fashion. Set doable starting goals for yourself. Would you like to submit one story/article a month? A week? Give yourself deadlines so you will actually do it, instead of postponing until “later.” Allow time to both write and polish your article.
Finally, swallow any fear you might have and submit to a publication that is a good fit.
Sometimes I write an article based on my inspiration from a magazine’s guidelines. Other times I write an article first and then find a home for it. Regardless, this final step is what gets your writing before editors. They can’t accept it if they don’t see it first. I understand the fear of rejection. Since my first paid acceptance, I have received many rejections but I’ve also been accepted by a variety of publications. It is not possible to be a published writer without risking rejection from someone. This someone could be an editor, publisher, agent, or your audience. Remember that you also have the chance to inform, to make someone laugh, or to touch someone’s heart. So what are you waiting for? Stop reading my writing and go write a story, article, or poem of your own!
Alyssa Liljequist is an 18-year-old freelance writer whose work has been published by various online and print publications. Her e-book, Deadly Delirium, can be found on Amazon and the Musa Publishing website. She blogs athttp://mylifewithamission.blogspot.com.