How to Write for Publication

I recently had an article published in Trail Runner Magazine’s online publication, Inside Dirt. Upon announcing this exciting news, I was asked how I went about getting published. I thought I’d share the process here for anyone who’s looking to write for publication. But first, a little background to set the scene:

Washington RR

I’ve dreamed of being a writer since I was a kid. My sister and I used to write stories for each other; I remember writing a series called “Sammy the Seal” and criticizing her stories because they had no pathos, no twist in the tale. As a young adult I wrote for my local newspaper, college paper, you name it. Then I graduated and got a job as an editor. Writing career over. Years of proofing, correcting, and modifying, ensued. My creativity was put on hold.

When I started blogging I realized how much I had missed the creative process, the art of crafting and revising my own work. As I’m sure many of you do, I wake up frequently with an idea in my head that cannot wait and I have to get up and write it down. I still use pen on paper. The physical act of writing is part of my process and I find that typing does not provide the same stimulus.

I came to the realization that I wanted to write for the publications I read: Trail Runner Magazine, Run Washington, Washingtonian, Outside, National Geographic.

I got in touch with the magazines’ editors and pitched my ideas. Some they liked, some not so much. After all, it’s a process. I wrote. I revised. I submitted. Sometimes I revised some more.

And then, I would see my article in print and be blown away. Every time.

Here are my tips for those who are looking to write for publication:

– Read the publication. (I’m assuming you already do, but just in case…) Get an idea of the types of articles they print, the style of the writing, the overall tone.

– Visit the publication’s web site and look for submission guidelines. Some publications have very precise guidelines, others are more relaxed.

– Have a clear idea of what you want to write about and why. No editor wants to hear, “hey, I’d like to write about running.” They want to hear, “there’s this race that’s not well known but is amazing because…”

– Stick to your word count. I once went way over, thinking my article was just too good to cut. It was hacked to pieces. No writer  likes to experience that. On the other hand, it was a great lesson and I’ve never gone over my word count since.

– Proofread. Or, if you’re not good at editing, find someone who is.

– Meet your deadline. There is no excuse for tardiness.

– Don’t expect to get rich. Payment for articles varies. Sometimes online publication doesn’t pay at all. You have to decide if the exposure and experience are worth it. I have written articles for no pay when I’ve considered the exposure from that publication worthwhile.

Do you have other tips for writers?

Do you write for publication?



  1. Congratulations! These are great tips. Understanding the publication and their target audience are key. As are following guidelines and meeting deadlines. You need to make it easy for the editors to do their jobs in getting your article finalized and published.
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  2. You are amazing! I love your writing style and no one constructs a better article. You are so professional and your content is interesting, informational and with class and wit. I can see why publications pick you up.
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  3. Great set of tips! I’d add that budgets are sadly going down for freelance, so the pay out is lower than ever. However, it’s worth it for the exposure and just the pleasure of writing. The hardest thing, I think, is coming up with pitches for topics the staff hasn’t already thought of–that’s were the selling has to come in!
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    • Racingtales says:

      So true. An online pub I wrote for last year told me that they have no freelance budget this year. I think staff like receiving pitches – saves them having to come up with stuff all the time!

  4. So awesome. I would love to eventually write something for publication – online or in print, but am just a bit nervous. I have no writing background at all.
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