By Carol Brennan King June 1, 2022
As I thought about what facet of writing we should consider this summer term, it came to me that we have talked about our platform. But we really haven’t done much in class to build one. When I say platform, think of name recognition.
When you submit anything to a publisher, editor, or even a website, one of the first things the recipient of your letter will do is google you. They want to know if you have been published anywhere, anywhere at all.
A good place to begin, as you consider publishing credits, is to write about what matters to you, and to start with, write about it in article form. And when I say article form, think 300 words for starters. There are lots of online sites, to say nothing of social media sites in general, where an article of this length may find a home.
In class this week, we talked about 5 Questions to Ask About Article Ideas, based on an article written by Natasha Khullar Relph and published first on https://www.theinternationalfreelancer.com/article-idea/ Oh, this is a page on this site: https://www.theinternationalfreelancer.com/ for freelance writers, like you, so go check it out.
But back to class and what editors are looking for:
- They want something new, not a completely new issue, but a new slant or new and timely solution to an old issue. In other words, don’t write an article about how exercise lengthens life, but think about a practical way to build exercise into your life. Especially, think about something that has worked for you, as an example.
- They want something that readers can connect with. Think about your audience and write for that slice of humanity, submitting it to a market that is also focused on that slice of humanity. Don’t write about easy healthy family meals if your audience is empty nesters, for instance.
- Now that you have got their attention, can you keep it? Sometimes it is easy to write a great opener for your article, but can you sustain it. Think about coming in after a long day, and you want to relax. Is your article going to keep the reader, or is he or she going to keep flipping pages or channels.
- Is there a surprise element? Remember, the first suggestion: something new? Now think through the content. You may have a new slant on an old subject, but you must keep your reader with good writing. Think about using humor, maybe at yourself but in a way the reader can connect. Or if humor does not fit your subject, how about a relevant statistic, and not so many that your reader gets bored. Choose a statistic that tells the reader this is about him or her.
- Finally, is there a takeaway? When the reader puts the device or magazine or paper down, have you given them something to chew on, to remember?
You must give your reader something to remember, to rehearse, maybe as she rests her head on her pillow, waiting for sleep. Or maybe while they are engaged in some mindless task or chore.
Now, find yourself in the following list of possible topics to explore:
- Retirement: what to do next? Hobbies, service options, housing decisions.
- Wealth and Finance: Wills, maybe how to make one without a lawyer for starters, and who to give copies to. Think about where to go for financial advice and whether it is worth it.
- Travel: how to plan for it, find the best deals, travel as a way to look for retirement homes.
- Staying fit without a gym membership or the value of a personal coach…for anything.
- Healthy and Medicine: are zoom doctor visits the way to go?
Maybe starting with a title will give you ideas. Try the following four on for size:
- Don’t read this unless you: (you fill in here – are thinking retirement, are an only child, have no children, have children who don’t get along….)you get the idea.
- Do You Know How to Show Love? To your mate, your children, your parents – pick one. I noticed recently that some couples, after the fire dims a bit, don’t really know how to show their mate or (whomever) their love in any way other than the words, which can come across as empty.
- What are you good at? Wait, there’s more to you than you think?
- Have you ever been really hurt? (Now pick on to write about: hurt emotionally, physically, publicly, online, at school, at work, by your family, by your spouse, by your child) And then what did you do?
So pick an idea or maybe you have one simmering already. Remember, you only have 300 words to work with…honoring your busy reader, and their interest allowance.
For next week: take a stab at one of these articles. Some of you have books you may want to sell one day, or articles, or any other saleable item – even your time as an expert in some area. Getting your name out there in a favorable way is an important element in your success.