People everywhere, from all walks of life, have at least one story to tell. Whether it be a fiction story that they have created in the back of their mind or a non-fiction story that articulates their life’s journey, many people have a story they would like to share with others and long to see it in print one day.
Having some experience in publishing, I’m often asked by eager storytellers, “How do I get published? Where do I begin?” Unfortunately, the answer I give them is rarely what they want to hear. I explain to them that if they have something they really want to write about then they must first begin by writing. Upon saying this, I’m usually given a quizzical that say’s, I’m wasting my time talking to her.
The fact is, many people who have a story to tell and are bent towards writing, just don’t write. They usually know what they want to write, they spend a great deal of time thinking about what they’ll write and many times they even tell the entire story of what they’ll write about someday to others. All too often, however, these potential published authors never actually get published because they don’t sit down long enough to put their ideas on paper.
It’s crazy, I know, because I’ve been there. To sit down and write what is on your mind and in your heart is the most fascinating, freeing and frightening thing anyone can do. I’ve spent countless of hours thinking about the stories I would love to share with readers, only to sit in front of a blank page and suddenly suffer from a blank brain. On the other hand, I’ve had times when I’ve been on a roll with writing what I thought was an interesting story line, only to take a break for a few days, come back, review the story and discover my worse writing fears had come true --The story doesn’t make any sense. Needless to say, this tedious process has caused me to have a great deal of compassion for those famous authors who are expected to produce a new book or two every year.
Determined to have at least one story in print sometime throughout my life, I sat down a few years ago and wrote an article called, Pressing On Toward God. Fearing that I wouldn’t know what to write about made the first few words challenging but once I got started I was amazed to see how the creativity took off. Though I had no clue what I would do with it after it was completed, I felt like I had conquered the world by the time I was finished. It wasn’t until I ran across a reporter from the Manteca Bulletin who was interviewing customers at Radio Shack during the holiday season that I got a brainy idea about what I might be able to do with my article. Maybe the editor of the Bulletin would publish it in the paper.
Nervously I dialed the editor, Dennis Wyatt and while waiting for him to answer, a dozen self-doubting thoughts ran through my mind. This is crazy. He’ll probably say I have to be a reporter to have anything published in the paper. I’m not a reporter. What if he laughs at me? His answering machine interrupted my apprehensive thoughts so I quickly left a message about my interest. To my delight, he called back later that day and said, “Sure we‘ll publish it. Just send it to me and will put it in the paper this weekend.” Did he just say he was going to publish my article? It was a life changing moment for me, especially after a neighbor called and said, “Hey, I read you article in the paper and I really liked it.” It was the first of many published stories I would tell.
Having one simple article published in the newspaper, boosted my confidence and gave me the determination to keep writing instead of just thinking about writing. It also caused me to look into other avenues for publishing. I discovered two fantastic resources at our local library, The Writer’s Digest and my personal favorite, Sally Stuart‘s Christian Writer‘s Guide. These two books proved to be essential tools in the How, Where, When and Why’s of being published.
Interestingly enough, similar resources revealed the very truth I had stumbled upon with the Bulletin which is, if you have a story to tell, contributing articles for the local newspaper is the perfect place to start. Whether it’s an Opinion article, Faith article, Letter to the Editor or I saw something interesting the other day type of article, sitting down and actually writing it is the first step. Then contacting your local newspaper may very well be the next step you need toward seeing your story in print.