An award-winning journalist and bestselling author on the lessons she’s learned on her way to building a successful writing career.
Want to build a successful writing career? Here’s how to do it.
1. Always have at least twenty story ideas in circulation, more if you’re doing it full time.
2. Meet your deadlines.
3. Keep an idea notebook and write down everything that might come in handy someday.
4. Always ask why. Why does your story need to be told? Why does anyone want to read it? Why are you the person to write it?
5. Learn how to write a fantastic query letter. No correspondence will ever be difficult again.
6. Just hit send. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t sit on something out of fear. Send out your work. The worst they can do is say no.
7. If you can’t handle rejection, this is not going to be an easy career for you. Get used to it.
8. Follow up on your queries.
9. Be brave. Pitch the New Yorker.
10. Work with editors who make you think and help you improve even if they don’t pay well in the beginning. Brutal editors have helped make many a career, including mine.
11. Don’t skimp on research. It’s just a fancy term for reading, you know.
12. Have a unique voice. Be known for something, anything.
13. Be bold. Do something every day that pushes you a little bit outside of your comfort zone.
14. Develop relationships, not contacts.
15. Network with other writers. Get and give critiques. Don’t do it alone.
16. Ask for help.
17. Be professional. In your communications, but also in how you present yourself.
18. Know when to be stubborn. And when to move on.
19. Help others without any expectation of receiving anything in return and you’ll always be pleasantly surprised.
20. Create and maintain an outstanding website.
21. Get updated on the latest technology. Go ahead and splurge on that iPhone. You’re in the idea business. You can’t embrace new ideas with old tools.
22. Experiment, take risks. Don’t keep waiting for others to take the lead. If you’re entering a market that’s exploding, you’re already too late.
23. Read constantly about changes in the writing and publishing industry. Figure out where and how you fit in.
24. Stop fearing success.
25. Stop fearing failure.
26. Stop fearing change.
27. Parlay research from one project into the other.
28. Learn how to fake confidence. You often won’t have it but people will think you do and hire you because of it.
29. Build your own personal brand. What do you stand for? Who are you? Why should I read your blog, buy your book, or like your Facebook page?
30. Monitor your competition. What are they doing that you aren’t/can’t/won’t? Is it working for them? Why/why not?
31. Can you outsource a part of your business? Then do it.
32. Why are you not where you want to be? Think about that. Then make changes.
33. What would a perfect day in your freelancing life look like? Take a day away from everything and create it.
34. Create a support team of people around you—agent, financial advisor, virtual assistant, mentor, best friend—who support you, give you advice, and believe in you. Ask them questions routinely. Really listen to their answers.
35. If a publication upsets your sensibilities, don’t write for them. It doesn’t matter how much they pay.
36. Are there readers waiting to read your next story? Why not?
37. Build a readership through your blog, newsletter, or social media.
38. Remember that you need to spend money to make money.
39. Don’t flaff about. Just get it written.
40. Do you think you can do it? Then stop waiting around for permission and do it.
41. Don’t make excuses. Nobody likes to hear them.
42. Try again. Try better. Try harder.
How to Pitch: Pitching guidelines for 200+ publications
We know that finding markets to pitch your story ideas, understanding what they’re looking for, and making sure they pay an amount you’re comfortable with can be the most time-consuming and frustrating part of the job. So we’ve tried to make it easier for you.
Here’s a list of publications, organized by subject and with a note of their pay rates, each with a link to their guidelines.
Natasha Khullar Relph
Publisher, The Wordling
Natasha Khullar Relph is an award-winning journalist and author with bylines in The New York Times, TIME CNN, BBC, ABC News, Ms. Marie Claire, Vogue, and more.
She is the publisher of The Wordling, a weekly business newsletter for journalists, authors, and content creators.
Natasha has mentored over 1,000 writers, helping them break into dream publications and build six-figure careers. She is the author of Shut Up and Write: The No-Nonsense, No B.S. Guide to Getting Words on the Page and several other books.
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