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The Greatest Challenges in Writing for Publication

The greatest challenge in writing for publication is word count. It’s set by the editor, it can’t be exceeded. A topic easily explained in 1,000 words becomes tremendously difficult given 250. A reader never knows your word count, only that you failed to be technically accurate, didn’t reference a particular work, or that you didn’t quote them extensively, even after spending an hour with them. So be it.

Producing ideas or queries (internal link) is perhaps next hardest. Big metro papers assign some stories but, generally, a writer must come up with ideas. Ten pitches to an editor may produce two assignments. Same thing with web writing. The company I work for has written, for example, on every aspect of Colorado divorce law, nursing home abuse, and slip and fall accidents. Yet, search engines demand continuing original content and these monsters must be served. Writing on exorcism and divorce probably awaits. Get more ideas.

Deadline may seem most onerous but not with newspaper work, web writing, or most magazine articles. Short deadlines focus. No time to wander. Short deadlines are more frustrating than difficult, as many people fail to respond in time. This leaves writing less full, less accurate, the reader less served. Long deadlines let work slip away, their length permitting life to intervene: hospital stays, death of friends, a family crisis.

A challenge to new writers is letting their writing go. Never fall in love with your writing. Words aren’t yours to keep, not when selling. Every editor edits. Don’t expect to see a newspaper article before it is published. Get ready for cuts, photo captions that make no sense, a missing paragraph and on and on. That’s the editor’s rush to deadline. Some magazines will check in before publication but don’t count on it. Only books dependably get an author involved in rewriting.

The last major challenge to writing might be photography, producing publishable quality images when a writer has no interest in doing so. None of us work for Nat Geo, photographers don’t get assigned to our articles. While most publications require but don’t pay for photographs, some do. My last article for Outdoor California paid more for the photographs than the article itself.

In the end, every challenge to publication is worth overcoming. Even if our work is reworked, we still have to write. A bird has to sing.

Eastern Meadowlark photo by Scott Helfrich:


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By thomasfarley01

Business writer and graphic arts gadfly.

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