The Smart Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Published Writer

The Smart Girl's Guide To Becoming A Published Writer by Courtney LivingstonSo you’re wanting to know how to become a published writer?

Exactly one year ago I was wondering the same thing.

That is, until an old friend of mine shared an article online that she had written. A for-real published article on a big name reputable website. Not only that, but this girl was younger than me. And she was a student. And she had a full time job. Yet there she was, published and proud.

Immediately, a tinge of jealousy ripped through me. How was she published? And more importantly, why wasn’t I published?

This jealousy brought me to that big name website where I soon discovered how to become a contributor to said website. Moments later I was applying to be a contributing writer, and soon I was accepted and had my first article out for all the world to see.

After a while I got the hang of the whole article writing thing, and I began to reach out and write for a variety of websites, newspapers, and magazines.

Which soon led to a book deal.

A freaking book deal.

That girl, who a year ago shared her first published article, didn’t just make me jealous, she made me motivated. I began to realize just how much time I was wasting on social media, Netflix, and overall laziness. I thought to myself, I could be doing so much more. I could be putting my free time to constructive use, I could be honing in my writing skills, making money, and letting my creative side loose. I felt sick thinking of how many hours a week I wasted on literally nothing, when I could be putting that time towards something.

If you’re reading this, then perhaps you’ve felt that way too.

But unless you’re willing to put aside the excuses of being too busy or too distracted, you won’t ever become a writer.

Instead, you must adopt self-discipline. This means putting your phone somewhere far far away, turning off the television, clearing your schedule, and blocking out distractions. In order to achieve success, you must clear the path to get there. Once you’ve done that, the words will flow and the rest, well, that’s what we’ll talk about below.

1.  Develop a personal website or blog. In order for companies to take you serious when you pitch your ideas to them, you must have a landing sight. This sight should show case your writing and tell a bit about yourself. It is your online resume.

WordPress allows you to create an online blog/website for free, and it is fairly easy to set up your sight. Write a few articles about topics you are passionate about, and have them up on your blog as writing samples. This gives editors a taste of your writing style, your writing abilities, and your editing techniques (ie. whether or not you adhere to grammar and spelling rules).

2. Apply to write for websites that accept contributing writers. Many big name websites allow writers to pitch or submit articles to their site. The catch though, is that you often don’t get paid when writing for popular sites. However, writing for these sites gets your name out there for other editors to find you. Which then can lead to paid articles and sponsorships. A few reputable online websites that accept contributing writers are Thought Catalog, Huffington Post, Bustle, and Spoon University.

3. Write about what’s trending. Before writing an article, look at what is trending on popular news websites. Different topics trend at different times, so before pouring your valuable time into an article that might not get published, check to see what articles this week have been shared thousands of times. If what’s trending is something you are passionate about, then write about it.

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started writing, was that I simply wrote about whatever I wanted. I would feel “inspired” and write passionate posts that I felt so proud of- and no one would publish them. So eventually I stopped writing about whatever I felt like and tailored my writing to what was trending. This broadened the scope of what I could write about, allowed my work to go viral on countless occasions, and showed editors that I could write about a multitude of topics.

Potential topics that are often trending include health, finances, fitness, relationships, food, and politics. Each of these topics have sub topics, and it’s your job to find out what people are interested in right now. Once you find a topic you’re passionate about that matches what people are currently interested in, then you’re much more likely to get published.

4. Offer services as a freelancer to local newspapers and magazines. Newspapers are always looking for freelancers to write about everything from community events and town board meetings to sports games and sponsored stories. Simply introduce yourself to the editor- explain your interest in writing and ask if he has any events you can cover- or offer him your own ideas. This not only puts your work on paper {and pays}, but it also gives you the chance to hone in skills such as photography, editing, and graphic design, all of which could come in handy down the road.

Writing for local companies allows you to have experience in the craft, which then sets you up higher on the totem pole as you seek out new writing positions.

5. Build your plat form. Creating a blog, writing for popular websites, and working as a freelancer are all ways to build your writing platform. If you want to land a book deal in the future, it is imperative that you have a platform to stand on. Publishing companies reject thousands of people every week, so your work needs to stand out among the endless submissions they receive on the daily. But in order for you to stand out among the throngs of writers vying for their work to be published, you need to take the small steps first- the steps which build your platform and establish you as a reputable writer.

 You want to gain the trust of the companies you pitch your ideas to, and having a list of solid, published material on a variety of topics and platforms, helps you gain their confidence as a worthy investment of their time and resources.

Now, I am assuming you know that in order to be published you must have good, relatable, well-constructed content. And producing good content doesn’t happen overnight.

It takes practice.

The more you write, the better you’ll become. So take those bits of free time and write, without giving up. Rejection letters will come. Probably more so than not. But that’s okay. Just keep pushing, keep writing, and keep honing your craft. As you do so, it’s only a matter of time until you see your name in print.

Don’t forget to download my new book, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Surviving Her Twenties, available online and in print on Amazon Thought Catalog, and Barnes and Noble.

Be on the lookout for my next post in this writing series, called The Smart Girl’s Guide to Landing A Book Deal. Subscribe to have it sent to your inbox so you don’t miss a thing.

Follow me on Insta: @courtneylivin and on Pinterest: Courtney Livingston

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The Smart Girl's Guide To Becoming a Published Writer by Courtney Livingston

43 thoughts on “The Smart Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Published Writer

  1. Hello Courtney. First off thanks for following. I’m an aspiring writer hopeful to have a successful career in writing. I’m planning on publishing a short story this October. I’ve been searching for ways to get my blogs and such out there, yet haven’t hit stardom yet.

    If you don’t mind answering my Q’s what are some solid websites to build a blogging platform on? I created my own site on WIX, yet I’m unsure how that works. So you’re saying blog about latest trends and topics from my own site? Does sharing content from WordPress also help? Like you mentioned I normally blog about whatever, so I guess I need to find a few topics to talk about the most. How do I get in contact with sites like Huffpost or others to work for them? I don’t have a college degree.

    You may tweet me here and Instagram

    I look forward to doing business with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can blog about whatever you choose, but when you are submitting work to another magazine or website, know what that website wants and stands for and tailor your writing to what they are looking for. When finding out how to get in contact with sights such as Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, Buzzfeed, Elite Daily, Bustle, and Spoon University, look at their FAQ page or About page for submission guidelines, or just google “____’s submission guidelines.” And you don’t need a degree to write! It’s not required- people of all ages and stages right for these companies.

      And with your blog, it’s okay to write about whatever, but try to ask your self why people would read your blog. Is it helping them in some way? What can they take away from your writing? Is it inspiring in some way? By having a specific goal in mind with each blog post, this will attract readers to your blog and help you build a devoted following.

      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you Courtney. Sounds good. I was thinking about cresting a 2nd WordPress account to discuss topics like books, films, writing etc. I’ve had this account for about three years. I nearly have 200 followers. Would it be wise to build another WordPress or keep writing on this account and build my brand on my own blog site?


  2. These are amazing tips. The research for other articles makes total sense. I think the passionate/inspired pieces those can go to a blog, as well as be writing samples. But if you want to write for a bigger company, one of the biggest pieces of advice I’ve seen multiple times is, “Know the company, publishing house, whoever you want to work for. Know what they stand for. Know what kind of material they want.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That advice is so true!!! Without knowing what that company wants and stands for, it’s impossible to get published from them. And yea, I agree, save the passionate pieces for a personal blog. In the past, I’ve had editors find some of the pieces on my blog and asked to republish them on their sights- so there’s definitely no harm in doing so.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s how I feel 🙂 I am working on my first book I want to be published (when completed it will be my fourth novel ever written) and I wanted to be able to have portfolio of my writing available. More than that, just like with the book series I want to write, I want to help people. My blogs allow me to do this with my writing, while I work on the book. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow girl that is awesome and very commendable! That is great that your blog allows you to help people while working on your book. I am the same way, this my recently published book is actually the third book I’ve written and writing on my blog throughout this journey has helped me hone my writing skills and hopefully helped other people as well! Keep on writing and you’ll be published in no time 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thank you 🙂 that means a lot. It’s exciting to read bloggers that I have connected with and see you become successful. I do believe in the importance of who we surround ourselves with. We can grow from each other’s motivation, and as you stated, be inspired, and push ourselves. It wasn’t till I became part of this community to realize other people accept me as a writer. I have some support from close friends and family, but it’s different when people, who don’t know you, find your work, and say, “I like this. You can go far. You have my support.” 🙂


  3. These are incredible tips Courtney!! I’m still so impressed that you are now a published author!! Good on you! I would love to be able to do that one day, I may look into some of the sites you mentioned and see what I can find 🙂


  4. Your post focused on many valuable insights in regards to writing. Some additional advice, although contrary to suggestion number three, depending upon the stule of writer one intends to be; finding a niche as opposed to following what is ‘trending’ is worth considering. If writing crime, romance, action, is your passion, stick with it and market yourself as a crime/horror/romance writer of that said genre. Many of the tips and advice you provided ( especially keeping motivated) will surely assist many burgeoning writers, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post.




  5. I was lucky enough to grow up with the most amazing support network in the world, and I was encouraged to start sending my work out as young as 8! Now, I’m published on a multitude of sites, have won a national award, co-founded an online newspaper and created my own blog/magazine. At 15! (Sounds like I’m bragging but …) from all of this, the most important thing I’ve learnt is to simply PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE. Just start publishing and emailling, make as many contacts as you can and invest as much time as you can. The time is right now and there will never BE a better time!! Loved this article x
    Abby –


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