Writing a weekly column is powerful training for both new and experienced writers. Itís often said a writer must write a million well-edited words before becoming published, and writing a column is a fast way to build the word count. Columnists learn discipline, idea generation, and rapid writing. While it can be difficult to get a column into a newspaper, the Internet provides many opportunities for columnists who want to build their credentials.
BellaOnline is one such place to write. Iíve been here since the beginning, as an editor and later as a manager, and have written for other online publications as well before settling in here. Yes, I write for free, other than what little I earn from affiliate ads, but the benefits have been more important than the paycheck would have been. For one thing, my publisher found me here and invited me to write a book, saving me years of searching for a publisher.
Writing an online column, however, is not a decision to make lightly. Are you willing to write for free? Are you willing to take this job as seriously as you would a paying job? Remember, it will serve as a resume of sorts for your writing skills. If a potential publisher or employee searches for you online, he is going to find what you wrote. It must look as professional as if you got paid millions for it. Your reader might include your dream publisher, who will notice if you write sporadically. Your articles may stay around forever, since there are websites that host archives of sites from long ago. That means that even if the place you are writing for removes your articles, it may be saved elsewhere. Be proud of every word you write because many of them will rise up to haunt you later. Make sure you are able to write every week whether you feel like it or not. If you donít have a schedule for writing, set one and establish the writing habit before applying. If you lack skills in punctuation, grammar, and spelling, update them before you apply. No one edits your work, so you must know how to do it yourself.
How well do you know your topic? Your readers will expect you to be more experienced than they are, so if your baby is two weeks old, wait until sheís much older to apply for a parenting advice topic, even if youíve read every parenting book in the library. You will need to be able to write on it every week for a year or two. You may be surprised how soon you run out of ideas. Sit down and make a list of all the articles youíll write for the next several months. When you apply to write for this site, youíre asked for fifteen article ideas, which demonstrate your idea of how to approach the topic, but also show you have ideas beyond the basics.
The biography you submit in your application should clearly outline your qualifications for doing the job. If you have writing credentials, list them, but if you donít, BellaOnline and many other sites, will give even greater weight to your experience with and passion for the subject youíve applied to write. Explain how long youíve been doing it, how you feel about it, what unique experiences you might have that are related to the topic. Focus most of your biography on topic-related material. If you want to write on Spain, donít offer four pages on crochet. The staff is looking for passion for a particular subject, so treat it like the love of your life.
Write a sample article. Before doing so, study the site carefully to understand how it works and what they like. Make sure youíve checked to see where your chosen subject is located on the siteóthe channel (department) and subchannel determine the focus of the topic. The sample article you submit should be a typical article, not one on yourself or on how you found out you have cancer, or what happened when your baby was born, even if these apply to your topic. Donít even explain what youíll be doing in the future. Save this for the plans area of the application. Show the person making the decision that you can write on topic, never wandering away into unrelated subjects, and give valuable advice. Your article should show off your writing skills, so avoid list articles or those with mostly single sentence paragraphs. Put your article through a spelling and grammar checker. As with any other manuscript, perfection counts.
BellaOnline, like most sites, has strict rules to be followed in the application. Be certain you follow them exactly, since you are demonstrating you can be trusted to follow the rules after you are chosen. Do your homework and read the entire application area to make sure you understand what is expected.
What are you waiting for? There are many interesting topics open. While you wonít collect a monetary paycheck, you will build a writing credential and learn the discipline of writing regularly that will lead to published articles and books.
To begin, look at the bottom of this page and click on Become an Editor.