Sunday, June 19, 2022

Something Every Writer Can Do

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I've always loved a good story—whether in the newspaper or a magazine or in a book. While I read some fiction, I've always been drawn to real stories. It's one of the reasons the majority of my own writing has been nonfiction. Whether you write them or not, many of us have interesting personal experiences. It could be in your family or a travel experience or any number of other things that you experience personally. It should not surprise you that one of the most common and popular type of magazine article is the personal experience article. If you look in the Christian Writer's Market Guide, a wide range of periodicals are actively looking for personal experience stories.

When you write these stories, they have to fit the magazine guidelines for length but they also have to contain the elements of any good story such as a grabber headline, an interesting opening, a solid middle and a conclusion which includes a takeaway point for the reader. Through the years, I've written a number of these types of magazine articles.
When I attend a writer's conference, I find many writers are focused on their book project whether a novel or nonfiction. Many of them have never considered the value of writing for magazines. In general you will reach more readers with your magazine article than you will reach with your book. It's relatively easy with a magazine article to reach 100,000 readers and if your book is going to sell 100,000 copies then that will be rare. Also magazine articles are a solid way to promote your book. This promotion happens in your bio at the end of the magaine article and is often limited to the name of your book and pointing to a website. I encourage writers to begin in the magazine area for the simple reason it is easier to learn the craft of writing working with a 1500 word article than a 50,000 or 100,000 word book manuscript.
When you write for magazines, you will need to read their guidelines and get familiar with the publication (even if you read their online articles). If the publication asks for a query, then learn to write a query and send the query letter. If the publication prefers complete articles, then write the full article on speculation and send it to the editor. I've written many articles on speculation which means uncertainty it will be published. I've also written numerous articles on assignment from the magazine. It's an important skill for writers to learn to write for magazines and some of those articles can be personal experience stories.
Here's something I do not see written about magazine writing: it's a choice which experiences and stories you decide to tell. I don't write about every personal experience. Some of them are too painful to relive and write about. To write a personal experience story, you have to relive the experience to capture those words and feelings. Some experiences are better left alone and that's a perfectly fine choice.
Do you write personal experience articles for magazines? Let me know your tips and insights in the comments below.

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