“Write without pay until somebody offers to pay; if nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for.”—Mark Twain
I started down the path to publication more than 30 years ago, sure of one thing: I’d never make it as a woodcutter. My writing had to pay.
Within two years, I had collected checks for 40 articles. There’s no mystery to it. I simply lived, looked at life in a creative way, then wrote about what I saw, what I experienced, what I learned. Most of those pieces were 500 words or fewer, what editors call “fillers” because they fill out a page in a magazine or a space on a Web site.
Finding topics at home
The most effective ideas come from my family, friends, and experiences. I jot down bits of dialogue, names, dates, places, lone facts that intrigue me, snappy titles, whatever catches my attention, no matter how unrelated it sounds.
Then I play with them until something clicks. For example, one year my family decided to save money by having a ‘stay-cation,’ a vacation at home. Each day we did something special that was fun and relaxing. I wrote about this in fewer than 500 words and sold it to Focus on the Family online.
Other fillers covered topics such as the gift of a second chance after I wounded a neighbor with a thoughtless gesture, my experience hiking to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite, how my husband and I celebrate Thanksgiving all year long, and more.
Think about the life experiences you’d like to share. How about something on prayer, a lesson you learned through parenting, overcoming grief, the joy of simple living? I’ve written on all these, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do the same.
Start with a short anecdote and end with a take-away the reader can apply. Write and sell fillers and you’ll never have to saw wood––unless you want to!
Karen O’Connor is a mentor for the Christian Writers Guild and an award-winning author of books and articles for children and adults. Visit Karen on her website: www.karenoconnor.com.