Want to write for a nice glossy magazine?
If the answer to that question is a "yes" - I have a question for you...
How often do you read them?
If you want to make a career out of writing for magazines reading matters. This is especially true if you are hoping to get an essay published in your favorite print publication. Think of it as homework. But the fun kind...
I went to the hair salon yesterday, and rather than looking at all the cool fashion mags to dream about fun things to buy or wear, I spent my time flipping from one essay to the next, asking myself the following questions as I read:
+ What types of articles are hot right now? Take a clue from the consensus--are magazines focusing in on "me time", or do you see a "doing for others" vibe? Or perhaps the vacation essay is in vogue right now (perhaps even literally!). Sometimes you can begin to see themes in what type of work is being published, which may help you get your foot in the door--and your name in print.
+ As a reader, what am I gravitating toward? This is an important point, because it will help you decide on the topics you are excited about--which you will probably write more passionately about as well.
+ Who is the writer? Pay attention to who the writer is to help yourself get an idea of whether the publication may be open to someone with your experience level. It can help provide a good clue. For example, if all the writers have lengthy bios and stacks of magazine credits, you may want to look elsewhere if you are trying to get published for the first time. On the other hand, if you have similar experience, it might be a great pick for you. Don't let this totally steer your choice, but be aware that some mags may be more difficult to get into than others--even for opinion-based pieces.
+ How is the story crafted? Reading other essays is a great way to begin to see how you can formulate your work. I have picked up ideas simply from doing that, and there really is no substitute for it. When reading a number of essays, you will begin to see certain patterns, some of which you will gravitate toward. Begin that type of exploration and see where it takes you.
+ How do I feel at the end? I always try to identify the emotions that the essay evoked in me, and then re-read the piece to see how that happened. Usually I can find the exact sentences that created those feelings. It's a great exercise! After all, good writing is craft, not magic.
Learning how to study magazines is crucial to the success of your career as a writer in print. Developing your own style for essay writing can take some time, but reading the work of other writers is one of the best ways to begin.
So the next time you are in the dentist's office, at the health club or at the bookstore, spend some time reading essays. Get inside the mind of other writers and see how it can begin to shape your own approach. It's a great way to invest in your career.