The following is a guestpost by Left Foot Forward Editor James Bloodworth as follow up to the Young Fabian writing workshop in February
My top 10 tips for writing and pitching:
1) Find out the name of the person you want to pitch to. Not ‘Dear Editor’ or ‘To Whom it May Concern’. Emails which begin like that will (and should be) deleted.
2) Understand the publication you are pitching to. So, for example, if it’s a very polemical piece it may not be right for, say, Left Foot Forward, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t work elsewhere. Use your common sense. If it’s a piece advocating red militias in the Ritz the Daily Mail probably won’t want it.
3) Have one really strong point you want to make. This doesn’t mean the article can’t be layered or make several points, but it should have one overriding and coherent argument to it.
4)Keep pitches short, but not too short. Editors don’t want to read pages and pages of you telling them what you are going to write. And why would they? Time is precious. Keep pitches to around three to four sentences. If someone accepts your idea make sure to get a idea of the word count they want for the finished article.
5) Gravitate towards subjects that actually interest you, not just what you think you ought to write about. Don’t self-censor because you are trying to square a particular circle or avoid narking off the followers of a particular ideology. Write what you believe to be true.
6) Remember that the person you are pitching to is probably extremely busy and if they don’t get back to you that might be why. However be persistent. Short of an editor taking out a restraining order on you, keep following your pitch up until you get a no.
7) Think big. Pitch to places that you actually want to write for. If you want to write for the Guardian don’t be afraid to send the commissioning editor your idea.
8) Don’t give up if you struggle to get commissioned. If you want to write you can’t let rejection bother you. It isn’t personal and it isn’t a judgement on you as a person. An editor has made a decision on the basis of your idea, and you can always come up with more of those and they will get better.
9) Read a lot. It will make you a better writer. Read people you would like to be able to write as well as and challenge yourself. Read people that you find it difficult to read (and by this I don’t mean bad writers).
10) Practice. Don’t approach writing with the mentality that one day you are going to just wake up and write the perfect piece or come up with the perfect idea. These are skills that you must constantly work at. As with so many skills, we fetishise ‘talent’ when very often it’s simply lots of hard work.