Want To Get Your Guest Post Published?
Would it surprise you to find out that a writer with almost no experience had her first-ever article published by The Washington Post?
It sure surprised me, especially since I was that writer.
I pitched my first post to The Washington Post’s parenting section because a blogging course I was enrolled instructed us to aim high. A brand new writer getting published by an award-winning publication seemed like pretty high aim to me, so I wrote the goal down and got to work.
I won’t lie. I worked my butt off creating that first piece and it’s still one of the posts I am proudest of, even 3 years later. The blogging course helped me learn the difference between a good post and a bad one.
Still, how did an inexperienced, newbie writer like myself craft a killer post that The Washington Post jumped to publish? What exactly did I do?
Was It Luck?
I bet you’re thinking maybe I just have a knack for writing or got lucky.
Being published had nothing to do with luck or innate talent. I just paid attention to what was working for others. Some people seemed to easily get ahead while others couldn’t get past go. Wanting to get ahead, I paid attention to the writers who were routinely publishing popular posts that resonated with readers.
What made consistently successful writers different from the writers who were having trouble getting published on a regular basis?
The writers I stalked were course instructors, professional writers, hobbyists, and even people who just knew how to send good emails. When their posts and writing strategies were examined by myself and others, loads of best practices were quickly revealed.
Here are 7 of my favorite strategies that help writers publish more often and more consistently.
- Learn Every Editor’s Dirty Little Secret. Editors don’t want to edit, at least not in the way you might think. This point really needs clearing up. Editors are there to help refine a message, story, or point. Editors are not there to help you craft your message, unless you’ve hired one or your story is so out-of-this-world amazing they can’t pass you by. What does this all mean? Never send an email, pitch, post, or article without doing everything else below first. No if, ands, or butts.
- Focus On Format. Investigate what works for a particular publication. Find the most popular posts on the site you want to write for and get reading. What do you notice? Are all the favorite pieces list-style posts, under 800 words, with punchy sub-headings? Or maybe they’re all personal essays with in-link research links? Look at length, tone, pacing, reading level, and message. Give the readers what they want.
- To Journal Or To Blog? A blog post or article informs the reader in some way. A journal entry events or thoughts in your life. Most blog editors want blog posts and not journal entries. This is the number one reason I have to turn down blog posts as an editor. If the post is more about you than the reader, there’s nothing to publish. Tell your story, but tell in a way that helps your audience. Surprise me, delight me, or educate me. Offer the reader a different way of seeing things, a new idea, a seldom-talked-about experience. Breastfeeding articles are the perfect example. Yes, breastfeeding is hard. What can you bring to the conversation? If it’s nothing new, then you’ve written a journal entry, not a blog. Learning the difference makes all the difference.
- Talk About The Flip Side. Address opposing thoughts in your writing, lest people think you don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t have to talk about it for long, but you do have to acknowledge conflict exists. A great example is this essay from a dying wife. She is writing a dating advertisement for her husband, whom she adores. In it, she mentions that she probably shouldn’t be writing it. That mention of an opposing view (there’s a crazy lady trying to sell her husband) helps to show the reader that she is aware of the uncomfortable situation she has created. It makes her feel real and helps us connect.
- Believe In What You’re Writing. As an editor, I just know when someone is only in it for the money. Money-based submissions tend to lack of genuine excitement, they have too many exclamation points, and the writer is overeager to make any changes (any at all!) to see the post published and the money in their bank. I’m all for making money and believe great writers deserve great pay, but the best writers seem to have a healthy combination of genuine interest and writing ability. Okay, there’s one exception: killer copywriters, but that’s a whole different world of conversions and marketing craft.
- Arm Your Audience. Never leave a reader hanging with negative thoughts and nowhere to go. Your reader must walk away feeling something, whether it’s happy, shocked, inspired, or informed. Supply clear answers, surprises, hopeful thinking, or productive actions.
- The Red Pen Rule. Edit more than you write. No joke. This point should be #1, but I didn’t want to scare you away. This is the big one, folks. Every kickass writer I’ve worked with is more focused on the editing process, not the writing process. They know the words will come. It’s getting rid of all those extra words that’s the hard part. Freelance writers known for their production levels will outline a post and know exactly what they’re going to say before they even say it. Others start with their conclusion and a few bullet points to stay on topic. Want proof? I spent about 1 hour writing the first draft of this post. I put another 4 hours into editing it.
My Dream Job
I never thought I could write for a living.
Getting published consistently seemed like a dream.
Consistently successful writers are the people who pay attention. To do that, you need to stop looking at what everyone is doing and focus on who you want to write for and the reader you want to address. Pay attention to what works for the publication and what doesn’t. Do your research, edit more than you write, and craft a message worth sharing. You’ll quickly see your writing get published more often and more consistently.
I know you can do it.
Because I did it, too.