That first writing credit is like the first summit of miles and miles of a mountainous trek. It seems so daunting and yet so promising because without the first summit, you can’t go anywhere.
I will admit, when I first started submitting pieces to magazines I only shot for the best of the best. If it’s not Highlights, why bother, right?
But here’s the thing: when you’re just starting, you have to be comfortable owning the fact that you are a beginner. And beginners start at the bottom and work their way up. It’s true for any career, and it’s true for writing as well. You need to “pay your dues” in writing, just as you would with anything else.
It took me a long time to check my ego and realize that I’m not so special that I get to bypass YEARS of hard work and dedication to the craft and go straight to the top. Maybe that happens for a select few, but rarely.
So I’m going to share a couple of things I did that helped me score that first byline.
Start a Blog
One of the best and easiest things you can do as a writer is to get a blog started. I started my blog several years ago, and over time it has morphed into what you see today. A blog does several things that helps you as a writer:
- Gives you practice in your craft.
- Gets your words out there in front of the world.
- Gives a place where publishers, agents, and other writers/readers can find more of your work and learn more about you.
- Helps establish a platform and online presence which is becoming more and more necessary for authors.
There are plenty of places to start a blog for free. I personally use WordPress and have been very happy with it.
One thing that is absolutely crucial if you’re trying to break into magazine writing (or any writing, really) is knowing the markets you are targeting. Numerous children’s publications will have on their website, specific guidelines to “get to know the magazine.” Know the publication you are submitting to. What are they looking for? What is their target age group? Do they have a list of upcoming themes? Do they only publish nonfiction and crafts?
You waste everyone’s time when you submit pieces that don’t fit a particular publication, plus, you look disrespectful and unprofessional. Take your time and learn the markets you are submitting to.
Write as Much as You Can on a Variety of Topics
Another thing I did was branch out. Sometimes you just need to get your writing out there. I’ve written different pieces about faith, health, and motherhood for other sites and publications besides children’s markets. Even if it doesn’t garner you that first credit, it gives you plenty of practice honing your writing chops
Check out local magazines, journals, and newspapers for places to see your writing in print. They might not pay, but it gives you that credit and byline.
Try New Things
When I first started, I only wanted to write fiction for children. But the more I learned, the more I decided to branch out and try different things.
Children’s magazines are always looking for great nonfiction articles, crafts, recipes, and how to’s, and these can be a great way to get your foot in the door. Even if writing crafts is not your ideal, it can be a great way to start.
Submit, Submit, Submit
Finally, you have to start putting your work out there. A lot. There will be plenty of rejections, but the more projects and pieces you have circulating, the greater chance you have at landing that first credit. If a story or article is rejected at one magazine, try another. Just be sure to keep track of all of your submissions, so you don’t accidentally resubmit something that has already been rejected.
That first byline is a big step in the right direction. Keep writing and putting it out there!