How to Get your Creationist (or Any Other) Article Published
By Anne Habermehl
From many years of writing, Iíve distilled the following advice. Perhaps it will work for you! If not, you can be philosophical and say that we are all different and what works for one writer might not work for another. Whatever, writing is rewarding. I wish you every success in your efforts!
Starting at the beginning: how to become a good writer.
Read a lot. If you don't like reading, you won't ever be a good writer, Iím afraid. Read a variety of kinds of writing. Creationist magazines. Secular magazines. Journals. Newspapers. Books on subjects that interest you. Whatever. Reading what good writers have written gives you a feel for word usage, style, flow of the writer's thoughts, organization of material, and cadences of language.
Increase your vocabulary, because a large vocabulary is part of being literate. Pay attention to spelling and grammar and punctuation. These are the basic tools of the writing trade. Nowadays we all have a spell check on our computer, and the fat dictionary that is laid out on a display stand near my desk is not consulted as much as it used to be in the old pre computer days. (Beware of words that are perfectly good English words, but might be wrong for your sentence. Your spell check will not pick up errors like this. Example: "discreet" instead of "discrete.") A dictionary is still good for looking up word meanings, although those also are available on the internet. Minor grammar errors arenít important -- any editor can fix those. But major grammar problems in your writing advertise to the editor that you aren't very literate. If you feel that you donít have enough grammar under your belt to be confident, consult a grammar reference book. I know, I know, grammar is boring. But sometimes in life the boring stuff has to be endured in order to get where you want to go.
Write a lot. Practice might not exactly make perfect, since there is probably no such thing as perfect in the writing business, but practice can sure make you a lot better. Write about things you know best. How to tie a fishing fly, where to go for the best hamburger, why the town you live in is the best place to call home. Why Nehemiah is your favorite biblical character (he happens to be mine). Write, write, write!
Take a professional writing course. The tips that the professionals give you are worth a lot. They can save you a lot of time along the road to becoming a good writer. They will explain why you have to write and rewrite and then write your piece again until it's polished to the best that you can do.
Understand that a writer is like a musician or an artist. What your artistic effort reads like will be determined by your personality. This is why, if you try to write like anybody else, you will not succeed. You are a unique person, and you have to be you.
Some writing tips.
When you think of a new idea for an article, run for your computer and type the basics of your idea at once. You will be surprised how fast that idea can disappear into the maelstrom of life, never to surface again. Later that day you will not remember that great idea. This is akin to the fish that got away.
I know, I know -- you are supposed to write an outline, an organized skeleton array of info-bites that you will flesh out into a complete article in due course. That piece of common advice never did work for me, possibly because I'm not a mathematician (okay, thatís the best excuse I can muster at the moment). I tend to start a new piece by putting down all the points that I can think of, and writing a paragraph on each. Then I start organizing the order of my material to produce something that is reasonably like an outline. If my great idea has potential for turning into a scholarly paper, then the sketched basics will be only a start, because a huge amount of research will need to be done. A scholarly paper takes an enormous amount of time and diligence in keeping at it.
Never, ever, write something and then send it off the same day. Ever, ever. Not even a short opinion piece for your local newspaper. It absolutely must sit for a day or two or more before you come back to it. You will be surprised how many things you will see that need revising and correcting. You will wonder why you really thought this was all that good when you wrote the first draft. Surprise. Everything you write, however small or great, will be vastly improved by putting time between the rewrites. I recall one short opinion piece I did many years ago for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. I wrote and rewrote it over at least a week until I couldn't see so much as a comma to change. That one, "We're Killing Music," even got posted in the main lobby of the Eastman School of Music. Many years later I found it in my filed materials and read it. I still couldn't see a thing that I would change. It still struck me as really good. This is the acid test of your writing, that even years later you are happy with it.
On editing your work
Every writer becomes an editor when he first goes to revise what he has already written. This is a hard thing to learn to do well, because we writers get emotionally attached to those glorious words that we wrote down in the heat of inspiration. What is necessary is for you to imagine that both your editor and your readers are looking over your shoulder while you now take a cold, hard look at what you've written. Ask yourself:
o Does it read well?
o Did I stick to the topic, or did I let myself wander off track and include material that doesn't really belong? Your editor will spot that in a hurry.
o Have I missed any important points that should now be included?
o Does my opening hook my reader? You may find a good opening halfway through the piece, and you may now need to rearrange your article. Backing into your subject chronologically may seem very logical to the scientific mind, but you can lose your reader's interest really quickly that way. You are better to start with a bang and say where you are going and then back up and start at the beginning of things.
o Do I end well, or do I leave the piece with a weak ending?
o Check spelling, punctuation, grammar.
o When you've done all you can think of on this round, set it back for at least a few days. Then do it again, and again, until you really can't see so much as a jot or tittle that you want to change.
Submission of your piece to a publication
You have an idea for an article for, perhaps, a certain creationist publication. What to do now?
To start with, read this publication thoroughly, as many issues as possible, to get the feel of it, and see what kind of material they are accepting. Would your article fit in? You will also see what the published writing style is. Who are the other authors? Do they have mainly the same few people writing all their articles or are they taking material from a wide group of people? Are their writers all Ph. D. scientists? Who is the editor?
Then you want to see whether they have somewhere in their publication some information for potential authors. This publication may want you to contact the editor first before sending anything. Or not. There may be instructions on the style format of both your article and the references.
Of course, if you are already highly published, with about a gazillion articles and books out there, the editor might be instantly receptive to your suggestion for submitting a paper. (If you are highly published, you are probably not reading this!) But if you are not a known author, the editor will wonder what kind of material you will submit. It's important to have a good, well-formed article idea that you present in a well-written letter to the editor (do not be wordy or ramble on at length). This is not just important; it's extremely important. You do well to write and rewrite it until it says exactly what you want in the best prose you can muster. That letter is an advertisement of your writing abilities.
Do not be discouraged
If your idea, article or paper is refused, consider yourself to be in good company. This happens to everybody. What you do is pick yourself up and keep going.
If your submission is a paper that will be reviewed, and you are requested to do revisions, be professional and pleasant and revise willingly.
And keep in mind: nobody turned into a good writer overnight any more than anybody became a good musician overnight. This takes hard work and practice and sticking to it.