Magazine Writing: The Unbelievably Stupid Way I Got Started

I sit here at the keyboard and look back on my twenties, trying to figure out how it all went so wrong. I mean, I’m not complaining about how my life turned out (I got published! 

I have a book deal! Things are good!), but I wish someone had told me some of these things before I started writing magazine articles. It would have saved me years of disappointment and frustration, not to mention thousands of dollars on therapy bills. So here’s what you need to know before you send your first query letter to an editor:

How to Write a Reaction Paper – YouTube
1. Embrace Unconventional Paths: The author’s journey into magazine writing highlights the importance of being open to unique and unexpected opportunities in one’s career. Sometimes, the most unconventional paths can lead to great success.
2. Perseverance Pays Off: The author’s determination and perseverance in pursuing magazine writing, despite initial setbacks, demonstrate the value of staying committed to one’s goals and passions.
3. Learn from Mistakes: The blog narrates the author’s humorous and enlightening mistakes, emphasizing the valuable lessons that can be gleaned from failures. Embrace mistakes as learning opportunities.
4. Uniqueness Creates Impact: The author’s unusual approach to magazine writing brought a fresh perspective and resonated with readers, showing that unique angles and ideas can create a lasting impact.
5. Embrace Humility: The author’s humility in acknowledging the “stupid” aspects of their journey showcases the importance of humility in learning and growing as a writer. Embrace humility and remain open to improvement.

1. Don’t Quit Your Day Job

  • Don’t quit your day job.
  • Wait, what? But I thought you just said to get started right away?!

Yes, I did say that, but there are some caveats:

a) It’s important to know what you want in life and then make a list of all the things that will help you get there (goals). Make sure those goals are realistic and attainable for someone with your skillset and background don’t set yourself up for failure from the outset!

b) Prioritize your goals so that they’re aligned with one another rather than competing against each other for a time, money, or effort (and make sure they’re still attainable!). 

For example: if you want to start running marathons but also have an active social life where most nights out involve drinking wine over dinner with friends at restaurants…maybe the former isn’t going to happen right away!

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2. Query First

The next step is to write a query letter. A query letter is the first thing an editor will read when you submit your work, so it’s important that it be well-written, clear, and concise. It should include:

  • Your name and contact information (if you want to get paid for your work)
  • The title of the article or story you’re submitting
  • A brief rundown of what your piece will cover could include a summary of the main points or even a few paragraphs from within the body of your article/story itself!

I recommend keeping this section short since most people don’t have time to read long emails. If they do have time, they’ll probably continue reading after they realize how awesome this article sounds!

3. Don’t Query Your Friends

Don’t query your friends. Don’t query anyone you know. Don’t query anyone you don’t know, and try not to ever be seen in the same room as them, let alone at the same party (if they find out about this article, they may track me down).

If there is one piece of advice I can give aspiring writers it is this: never send an email without first checking the “To” field. If there is any chance that it might be sent to someone who knows you or has met you before and had a bad experience even if that person was drunk during said encounter forget about it!

Also, while we’re on the subject of emailing people directly…

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4. Find The Right Person To Query

The most important thing to remember when trying to find the right person to query is this: they have to be the right person.

By that, I mean that they have to be someone who’s going to be interested in your idea, but also someone who will give feedback on it. This is important because if you don’t get feedback then either your pitch won’t improve and you will keep pitching an unworkable idea, or worse still you think your pitch is great when it isn’t at all!

Another important thing about finding the right person for your pitch is that they have some kind of power over where it goes next. A good example of this would be if one of my friends decided that he wanted me as his guest blogger (I know how lucky I am). 

It would not matter how well-written my articles were if no one read them because he didn’t post them anywhere! So having someone interested in what you’ve got come up with AND being able to help get it out there are very important things for making sure that other people see what you’ve done and like it too!

5. Do Your Research

Know the publication you are querying

If you’re serious about getting a writing gig, it’s important to do your research. You don’t want to email an editor at the wrong magazine and waste their time. Take a look at their website and make sure that it’s something you’d like to write for before sending them anything.

Know the editor’s name

Knowing someone’s name will help you feel more comfortable when contacting them later on in your career as well as make them think of you when they have an opening in the future! Once again, this can’t be stressed enough: 

Researching editors is important! Knowing what they like (and don’t) will help make sure they keep reading past page one of whatever query letter or article idea that comes across their desk which leads us right into our next point…

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6. Write A Good Query Letter

A query letter is the first thing an editor will see and read. It’s their first impression of you, so it needs to be right on point. Think of it like this: if someone is trying to get something from your mind, and all you have for them is a pile of garbage in the form of a messily written query letter, how likely are they going to want anything from you?

There are some definite DOs when it comes to writing query letters:

Be polite and professional at all times (it may feel weird, but doing so will force you into thinking about what tone works best)

Be clear about what exactly it is that you’re pitching/selling – don’t assume that just because one person liked your idea or article means everyone will too. If someone doesn’t like what they’re reading after seeing only the title and genre information, then go back through everything else until everything feels right again!

7. Get The Address Right

You’ve done all the research, found all the right people, and gotten as much information as you can on this story. You’re ready to move forward with writing it up. But before you hit “publish,” make sure that:

  • The address is correct
  • The person’s name is spelled correctly
  • The company’s name is spelled correctly (it might be abbreviated) and it’s spelled correctly in conjunction with its location (e.g., “XYZ Corporation,” not just “XYZ”)

Remember: if a reader sees an error in one place, they’ll assume that everything else has been checked as thoroughly as that one thing was and we want them to think otherwise!

8. Know When To Keep Writing And When To Stop

Know when to stop. It’s important to know when you have enough material for an article, even if it means stopping in the middle of a sentence or phrase.

Know when to keep going. Sometimes you will have a great idea for an article but not enough time to finish it before your deadline. If this happens, ask yourself: “Is there another angle that I could explore? How can I make this piece more interesting? What else do I need before submitting my draft?”

Know when to ask for help. Don’t be afraid of asking the experts! Ask them questions about how they made their careers happen and what their challenges were along the way; share some ideas with them about how their experiences might relate to yours; 

See if one can refer some clients/businesses/prospects over towards you who are interested in what kind of services (or products!) these experts offer themselves and then follow up! Your network is full of potential clients so don’t waste it!

Know when asking advice is appropriate too—but not just any favor will suffice: only favors which show gratitude on both sides work well here.”

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9. Keep It In The Family

One of the best ways to get started with writing is to ask your friends, family, and acquaintances for help. You may think that asking a random stranger on the street would be easier, but you’re more likely to get better results from people you know. 

They’re more likely to give you honest feedback because they care about what happens to you and they’re more willing to be patient when helping out because they have invested time in building up their relationship with you over time anyway.

It also helps if there are no financial stakes involved: asking someone for free advice is much easier than offering them cash for their expertise!

10. Find The Right Editor For You

This is the most important step of all. Your editor will be more than just a grammar checker and proofreader, they’ll become your coach and mentor. You need to find an editor who understands your style, genre, and voice and can help you develop it further by making suggestions on how to improve your writing without changing who you are as a writer. 

Your relationship with them should be more like friends than employee/boss because at the end of the day they’re going to be working with people besides just you: agents, publishers, etc. so this person needs to understand what those folks want too!

11. Don’t Rush It

I know you want to get going, but I promise you that if you do the work in the right way, and take a little time to develop your voice, your writing will be much better than anyone else’s who didn’t take their time with this. When I started freelancing, I submitted my first proposal within hours of having read an article about how to write a proposal. 

So obviously it wasn’t my best work and was rejected almost immediately by the editor who had commissioned it and who was probably just as annoyed at being asked for feedback as he was at reading something so bad.

I also rushed into making some important life changes too quickly and ended up wishing later that I hadn’t rushed things so much.

12. Stay In Touch (But Don’t Be Annoying)

Now that you’ve been in the magazine writing game for a while, you may be wondering what to do with your newfound fame. Don’t worry: I have the answer.

Professionalism is key. As a professional magazine writer, it is important to stay in touch (but not be pushy or annoying) with other writers who might have connections that could help your career. You don’t want to come off as too formal or too informal, too friendly or too distant—you know what I mean?

So how do you find these people who can help promote and elevate your career? Well…I don’t know! I’ve never gotten anywhere near being able to advise on this! But if I had any idea what I was doing when I started well then perhaps my success wouldn’t seem so mysterious today!

13. Don’t Take It Personally Except When You Should!

Don’t take it personally

The first and most important thing to remember is that your editor is not an idiot. He or she has very good reasons for rejecting your work, and they almost certainly have nothing to do with you. 

It may be that the story was too short or too long, or that it was well-written but didn’t fit their current needs. If you think that your piece really should have been published somewhere else, ask for feedback on how it could be improved before submitting elsewhere.

However, do take rejection seriously

It’s natural to feel disappointed when something doesn’t work out as planned especially if you’ve put a lot of time and energy into crafting a great story! 

On the other hand, there are some editors whose opinions I trust implicitly (and who are also kind enough not to call me out on my mistakes). 

If one such person gives me feedback after reading one of my pieces, then I know I need to pay attention when they say: “This paragraph doesn’t work because.” 

And if several such people tell me this? Well…then maybe I’m doing something wrong!

14. Be Nice To Everyone Except When You Shouldn’t!

Don’t be overly aggressive or rude. If you are starting in the world of freelance writing, it is probably best to be a bit more careful about how often you say “no”. 

You may not want to take on too many projects at once just yet and will undoubtedly want that first paycheck from your new client as soon as possible. But, don’t let this get in the way of being honest with yourself when it comes down to it if something doesn’t seem right don’t do it!

If someone has been difficult with your work or has been rude towards you, then cut them loose before they have a chance to do any damage!

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15. Be Persistent But Not Pushy

This one is a little tricky and something you will have to learn through experience. But the idea here is that you should be persistent without being annoying or pushy. The concept of persistence has been around for centuries and it’s the key to success in so many situations, from writing your first novel to asking someone out on a date (in my case).

16. Be Persistent But Not Pushy Again!

Be persistent but not pushy. Don’t be annoying, either. It took me about two months to get my first piece published. It was for a website called “Cheap-O-Meter” which sold cheap products from China and other countries in the developing world (this was back before it became fashionable to buy everything from India).

I submitted an email article about how you can make your hand lotion at home using common ingredients found at any grocery store, and they accepted it immediately! So don’t give up too soon; sometimes things just take time.

Be patient when waiting for responses from people who have asked you questions or requested interviews with them even if they haven’t responded yet after several weeks (or even months)! 

If they do respond, try not to be too rigid in what they’ve said before maybe some extra details could help out with their story. Maybe there are other sources we could talk with together? There’s always room for improvement here!

17. It’s All About Timing

The most important thing you can do is keep at it. You need to be persistent, but not pushy. If you’re too pushy, the editor will think you’re a stalker and probably never work with you again. So what does persistence look like?

  • Find an editor who works on your subject matter
  • Find an editor that fits your style of writing and interests
  • Find an editor who has published writers in their magazine before (more on this below)

Send them a query letter outlining why they should consider working with you don’t just send them an article idea! Be sure to tell them how much time it took for the piece and provide examples from previous articles by other writers so they know what else is similar out there already (and don’t waste their time).

 Don’t send more than one query letter per month because nobody likes getting flooded with emails from strangers who just want something for free!

18. Never Give Up Too Soon!

I had been writing for a few years and was pretty sure that I could make a career out of it. So I moved back to my hometown, where my parents lived, and began the process of looking for an editor job at one of the local newspapers. 

I learned quickly that this wasn’t going to happen my resume showed no experience in journalism or publishing, only creative writing classes from college and being published in magazines like this one. The only thing I had going for me was passion; no one would hire me with just my love of writing as motivation.

So what did I do? Did I give up? No way! Instead, inspired by other writers who had made their way into careers through self-publishing on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), self-publishing seemed like a natural choice at first glance: why not just publish these stories myself? 

But since self-publishing isn’t exactly cheap (around $300 per title includes editing costs), how could someone pay for it without having any money saved up first?

19. Know Your Worth And Have A Price In Mind (But Don’t Be Too Rigid)

In the world of writing, certain skills are more valuable than others. The ability to write in a tone that isn’t boring? Priceless. A knack for finding the right words to express an idea or emotion? Can’t be overstated, my friend! 

But perhaps most important of all is knowing your worth and what you can charge for your work. This is where many writers fail they don’t know their value and therefore don’t negotiate like they should when it comes time for them to sell their work.

Here’s how I learned this lesson:

My first real gig came from a friend who had connections at [name redacted]. He told me that they were looking for writers and offered up my name as someone who might be interested in doing some work for them on spec (that’s industry lingo for unpaid). Since I was new to this whole writing thing, I didn’t think twice about it I just said yes!


It can be scary to start writing a blog or magazine article. It’s not just about having ideas to share with the world, it’s about putting yourself out there for criticism and scrutiny. But if you’re brave enough to do that, nothing is stopping you from starting your writing career! The best way I’ve found for getting started is by following these steps:

Get clear on what your goal is (e.g., writing an article or creating a blog). Build up your confidence by doing work related to this goal (e.g., reading up on magazines or attending conferences). 

Make small commitments that will help motivate you towards meeting larger commitments (e.g., “I’ll write one blog post today”), and then keep those commitments!

Further Reading

Write an Op-Ed: Learn how to craft a persuasive and impactful Op-Ed piece with this comprehensive guide.

Richard Conniff’s Wildlife Writing: Delve into the captivating world of wildlife writing with insights from acclaimed author Richard Conniff.

The Stupidity of AI: Artificial Intelligence DALL·E & ChatGPT: Explore the implications and limitations of AI, specifically DALL·E and ChatGPT, in this thought-provoking article.


What is Op-Ed writing?

Op-Ed writing, short for “Opposite the Editorial,” is a form of journalism where individuals express their opinions and perspectives on current events or issues in newspapers, magazines, or online platforms.

How can I improve my wildlife writing skills?

Improving wildlife writing involves keen observation, thorough research, and honing your storytelling abilities to bring the natural world to life on paper.

What are DALL·E and ChatGPT?

DALL·E and ChatGPT are artificial intelligence models developed for language and image generation tasks. DALL·E focuses on creating images from text descriptions, while ChatGPT is designed for conversational interactions.

What challenges does AI face in the field of art?

AI in art faces challenges in understanding human creativity, context, and emotional nuances, leading to limitations in generating art that truly resonates with human experiences.

How can AI advancements impact our daily lives?

AI advancements have the potential to transform various industries, improve automation, and streamline processes, but they also raise concerns about ethics, privacy, and job displacement.