Getting started

First of all, since I’m a Literature & Latte newcomer, I’d better say “hello”. So, hello!

Now, I’ve been in the “someday I’ll make serious attempt at writing” camp for, oh, too long now. With every half decent idea for an article or book, after a brief stage of wildly unrealistic success fantasies, came the thought “…Mmmaaah, there’s next to no chance of me getting that published.”. Then it hit me – and I can’t believe it took all these years – it hit me that, no matter how good or bad the writing, there’s definitely no chance of getting anything published as long as it stays in my head, or languishes half finished in some forgotten text file.

So, now, I’m working on a non-fiction proposal and I have bunch of articles in various states, but I’ve yet to get (or indeed try to get) anything published, and I’m thinking that I’d like to pop my publishing cherry with something small while I work on the bigger stuff. A confidence builder, if you will. I have a few ideas I’d like to pitch to magazines – all non-fiction - so I’m thinking that I should start firing these out at editors to see if anything gets a thumbs up.

What I can’t seem to get a clear idea of, though, is whether to send finished articles out, just send an email outlining the idea, or something in between (sample paragraphs, etc). Can anyone offer any advice on this? Any general advice would be lovely too!


This phrase: “there’s definitely no chance of getting anything published as long as it stays in my head,” is exactly my mantra! My book might be terrible, but no-one will even know if I don’t get off my backside and put in the work!

Sorry I can’t really help with what you should be sending to editors though. As it’s non fiction, perhaps an overview/synopsis and some samples might be appropriate to see if they have interest in the beginning?

Hi Op!
Welcome aboard, 'The Good Ship Scrivener’.

Somewhere, way back in the swirling mists…in the good old days, before the likes of: Condé Nast, Random House, and Penguin started fighting to get me to sign contracts with them, I recall the discovery that most web sites for bookn magazine publishers, list the conditions under which they will accept manuscripts for consideration. In fact, there is one site (no dont ask), that list thousands of publishers terms and conditions.
I suspect a quick Google will reveal what youre looking for. Good Luck with your quest, and Happy writing (it wont be long before someone comes along and point out that the bit about Random House et al, is nothing more than wishful thinking on my part) Theyre all lying :wink:
Take care Op,

Hot Coffee + vic-k = singed nose hair.

Some Numpties never learn from their mistakes!! :frowning:jeezzz!! tch!tch!

How do you expect me to LEARN? look --> that way!!

Come to think of it, with out a nose, how did I singe my nose hair? Even more mysterious, exactly how do I ingest the coffee in the first place?

GET A HEAD!! and get ahead! :open_mouth: wot are y`like tch!

You’ve got to hand it to our Vic, he’s ahead of you there Jaysen, and it’s self-evident that you were in no position to give him a head start. The neck of the guy, eh?

I might be able to beat him in a foot race though. Assuming I could find the finish line.

To the original poster: As you can tell hanging out around here is not a good way to get started. Folks here are quick to digress into nonsense.

Glossing over that unintelligible altercation up there (!), thanks everyone for your welcomes and reassurances and all of that goodness. You’re quite right, Vic, about the published T&Cs for submissions etc., though annoyingly a lot of the publications I think I’d do best with don’t have 'em! Who’d a thunk?

Anyway, I think I’m learning that the only way to demystify the, well, mysterious world of writing is simply to dive in and find out. It’s just hard, submission guidelines or no, to escape that nagging feeling that, somewhere, there’s some unwritten rule I don’t know about! Are all aspiring writers paranoid?!

Unfortunately Op, their influence is insidious. Glossing over it doesn’t work. The slime oozes in through the tiniest cracks and fissures, contaminating all it comes in contact with. I`m the only normal one* onboard Scrivener.

Yeah…as well as…well you name it. Actually we have a ships Psychiatrist. His name is Dr Mulality. Hes there for you if you feel yourself to be in need of counselling (you will, before too long). He doesn`t charge a fee.
Take care,

I’ve worked as an online freelancer, and what you need to start varies with where you want to start. I write best on-spec, given an article topic and audience. This may be good if you can convince someone to hire you as a staff writer, but not when you need to come up with all your ideas on your lonesome.

On-spec means you write the article, submit it, and then the editor decides to buy it or not. This can be an easier way to get your foot in the door in some types of writing, particularly when you’re new, because it proves you can write an article. I got my first freelance job by asking the editor to try me on-spec, and I worked for them for six months until the job ended.

However, the staple of many freelancers’ folds is the query letter. I suggest you look it up and find out how to use it. Even if you usually work on-spec, once you have a steady client, you’ll likely pitch ideas to that person, and you want to have some idea how to do that well.

When an editor accepts a query, that means you have the job to write the article. They may request some revisions at the end, but unless a blue moon pops up, you have that article job.

…Does all that make sense?

What type of writing do you want to do? Informational articles? How-to? Copy? Technical? What?

And in what niches (topic areas) do you intend to write?

Do you want to focus on print publications or online ones? The layman or the professional?

All those factors make a difference.

EDIT: smashes HTML with a baseball bat

Caradee, that’s very helpful information. You’ve certainly made the processes clearer for me. Thanks!

I’m interested in writing on a few subjects, ideally for print but I don’t mind writing for the web either. At the moment I’m working on a proposal for the 33 1/3 series of books published by Continuum. They run open submissions periodically, so I’m preparing a proposal in advance of the next submission call. I have a few contacts with a good candidate for the series, which I hope will help give me a bit of an edge in getting my proposal picked up. If, for whatever reason, it doesn’t work out with Continuum, I’d like to adapt that proposal to a book on the same subject but of wider scope and pitch it elsewhere.

So, this opportunity has prompted me to finally take the step from wannabe writer to tryinnabe writer, so I’m capitalising on my new-found enthusiasm to start pitching some articles on a few subjects I think I have some useful degree of knowledge or experience of. Specifically, I’ve got an idea I want to pitch to some guitar magazines; I’d like to try something based on experience I’ve had with clinical depression; and I have a few existing articles which I guess are general interest/opinion pieces on current affairs. So a mixed bag, really!