Writers' guide: tips on landing your first column

Manar Alhinai | United Arab Emirates | 14.12.2017

I started my professional writing journey seven years ago, and I still remember the first time I knew that my article was to be published. I was too excited and barely slept the night before. When it finally came out in the morning, I asked my dad to have my article laminated so that I could preserve it for years to come.


If you aspire to become a professional writer, then I bet you too are yearning for this day to come. Though I get paid for every word I write now, I wrote two novels, and eventually my sister and I launched our magazine, the journey from finding my voice to becoming a regular columnist and a professional, paid writer was not easy.


That shouldn’t discourage you, however. Here are a few tips that will aid you and save you unnecessary wasted time and drama.


Investigate your options

You must have some sort of blog, magazine, or newspaper in mind that you would like to have your work published in. Read them thoroughly, and investigate which section would be most fitting for what you have in mind. Study the work of the columnists in that section, and observe what kind of topics they usually cover. Are they analytical? Are they more personal? Doing so will familiarise you with the type of topics that would interest the editors when you pitch them some options.


Find your voice

While it’s great to aspire to be like a certain writer, being a copycat will not serve you, and editors can see through it straight away. Successful columnists in every field have a recognizable voice and you should find yours too. The best way to do that is to write about topics you feel strongly about. Are you very interested in luxury travel destinations and always on the go? Then consider documenting your experiences. Are you more of a fashionista and live and breathe fashion? Then focus on that. With time you could become an expert in your field.


Work for free…initially

When I first started writing, I was a contributing columnist for various community publications. I did not ask for anything in return. I was building my portfolio, enhancing my skills, and raising my profile in the community. Shortly after, I accumulated a portfolio of published work and started approaching regional and international publications to write for. Showing editors of the bigger publications my already published work greatly helped me in convincing them to give me a spot. In addition, I always filed my work on time, discussed ideas with my editors beforehand, and responded to emails quickly. With time I realized that these small actions were not small at all. In fact, these small actions were appreciated and made my editors value me and my work more.


Find your inspiration

Last but not least, one of the questions I get asked the most is how I find something new to write about every single week. I have to admit that it was extremely hard in the beginning, but it takes me less time now. Being out and about, having stimulating discussions with people within my field, and constantly reading have helped me a lot. I always make sure to read the latest on current events, technology, and business as that is my area of focus. I don’t limit myself to local news but also follow a number of international media publications and blogs.


The first step is always the hardest, but I’m confident that following this guide will help you. Don’t be shy to approach writers, editors, or anyone you know in the journalism industry for advice or tips. Many, like me, would love to help.


For information on how to kick start your professional writing career, feel free to reach out to me through www.manaralhinai.com.



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