It is a very exciting profession to be a published writer. People respect you, you have the chance to influence their opinions; you can create beauty with words. But of course writing is not enough. No-one is going to read your work unless it gets published. You may believe you have written a master-piece, but when you send it out to the market-place, it will face a lot of competition.
To be a successful writer, you need an enormous commitment in time and energy, and also the ability to face rejection. The only writers who have never been rejected (even those famous today) are those who have never submitted anything.
Getting published is a big achievement and you need to go about it in a business-like way. The difference between a professional and an amateur is in the way they try to market their work. An amateur writes something and then tries to find an editor who will be interested in it. A professional studies the writers’ guidelines of whatever publication they want to write for, and sends query letters to the editor before they invest all their time and effort into the work. If a particular editor indicates that he likes the idea, then write your piece according to the magazine – the preferred length, written in the first or third person, seriously or with humor, for the age group that buys the publication. Read the magazine like a text-book, and study several issues so that your submission meets their requirements. That way you greatly increase your chances of acceptance.
You may even be ambitious enough to want to write a book, perhaps for children or young adults. You need to tell a story that rouses the reader’s curiosity, creating a fictional world that they want to explore. A reader wants an adventure – an escape from danger; or being rich and famous. Take them away from the city to where there are blue skies and high mountains. Maybe away from the 21st century – living in the past or the future. Tell them a secret. Solve a mystery.
Start with characters and let a plot evolve from them. Something dramatic is happening in their lives. Give them interesting things to say. They must grow, not remain static. Characters bring the plot to life, and dialogue brings the characters to life.
Whatever it is you want to write, there are four steps. First a compelling plot and there are ideas by the hundred in just reading the daily paper. Then you need a hook opening that grabs the reader’s attention (and the editor’s!) A successful ending that ties up all the loose ends. And the middle must keep the reader hoping, guessing and involved. Plot is “what if?” Page turners are curiosity and suspense.
The first sale of anything is the hardest to make. But if an editor or publisher does accept something you have written, immediately send off a brief “thank you” note, and at the same time, suggest another three stories you would like to write. Chances are at least one of the ideas will be of interest, and you’ll establish a relationship with the editor and be on the way to regular assignments.
You are lucky to be living in the internet age, because you can find markets for your work all over the world. A new U.S. Jewish magazine is AMI in New York. They have a youth section called AIM, and it is a paying market. Look them up on Google – they like hearing from religious young people. Search engines like Google, Yahoo or Ask Jeeves in the U.K. are your best friends because on them you can locate all kinds of publications on every conceivable subject that interests you, many of them geared towards readers in your age group. The same goes for book publishers of children’s literature and young adult novels. Either e-mail them with your idea, or if you write by regular mail, make sure you enclose either a stamped-addressed envelope for their reply, or an international reply coupon (obtainable at main post offices) to cover the cost of their airmail reply to you.
Read everything you can, think up ideas, send query letters to editors – and you’ve taken the important first steps in realizing your dream of becoming a published writer.