As a freelance writer, I write for several publications, including Discipleship Journal and Today’s Christian Woman. Knowing this, reader Dianne had this question: ”How do you do research for ‘practical Christian living’ type articles? If you are not an ‘expert’ how do you put that ‘expert voice’ into your articles?”
This is a great question. A lot of people want to write. But in order to write, you need to have something to say. So often, the idea of being a writer is so appealing, until you have to actually gather your thoughts into something coherent, and then sit down and actually write, which is so much dang work.
Perhaps you do write, and you have lots of ideas. If you want to write for magazines, the first step is to read the magazines you’re like to write for. Study several back issues to determine the magazine’s style, format, topics. Figure out which magazines line up with the topics you want to write about. A magazine such as, oh, say, Practical Horseman, is not going to buy an article on resolving conflict in your marriage, no matter how well researched and written. An article that is perfect for People Magazine would likely be rejected by the Journal of the American Medical Association, no matter how intriguing or well-written. Research the magazines you are targeting.
An invaluable resource, if you are trying to write for the Christian market, is The Christian Writers Market Guide by Sally Stuart. Published annually, this book lists magazines, publishers, etc., and gives details ranging from whether they work with freelancers, how much they typically pay, what type of articles they are looking for, editors names, etc. There are tips on writing queries and articles. this year's edition also includes a CD-ROM which makes it easy to search.
Each magazine also will have its editorial guidelines, and an editorial calendar. (Often posted on their website or available by request). The guidelines give you rules for format and style and content. The calendar tells the topics or themes for each issue.
Magazine articles are not about you—they are about the reader. Your musings on a topic are not interesting, frankly, to anyone besides you (and perhaps readers of your blog, which is where that type of thing belongs—or in your own private journal—but that’s another topic). However, some articles begins with a story about you, and how you solved a problem in your own life. But they must move on to offer help to the reader to improve their life or solve a problem.
There are links on this blog to several other great sites that have more tips on writing. Or feel free to post a comment or questions by clicking on the word "comments" below.