Seven Important Lessons for Experts Who Want to Get Published

At first, I noticed that I could have written many of the articles that appeared in Instructor magazine. Having earned a B.A. in elementary education and taught for a short time, I had some experience in dealing with challenges in the classroom and wanted to capitalize on it. I also read writer's magazines and reference books, which encouraged me even more.

Initially, my biggest challenge was summoning courage to just go ahead and describe my idea to the magazine's editor. My query letter began with a hook that lead to my working title and a brief description of the article's contents. Toward the end of this letter, I explained why my related experience made me the perfect writer for the job! A few weeks later, a reply arrived from the magazine. They were interested in seeing my article and would I please submit it on speculation.

So I wrote an article, which filled a single page, and submitted it. A few weeks later, it came back in the mail bearing a rejection slip. Feeling discouraged, but unwilling to give up, I developed and submitted an idea to another education magazine. I really felt good about this idea. Evidently, the editors did as well and a few months later, accepted my article, paying 75 dollars for it. Subsequently, I submitted ideas to Instructor and after a few more months, saw my work featured in the magazine.

During that time, I learned my lessons and include them below:

Lesson 1: Don't think about "writing something some day." That time will never come! Make up your mind to follow through and do it now. There will never be a better time!

Lesson 2: Familiarize yourself thoroughly with a magazine or a book publisher's offerings. Look at and read ALL of the articles. Pay attention to their format and contents. Then consider what was unsaid. For example, the author might have briefly mentioned something in a paragraph, but did not develop it. Why not expand that idea? You wouldn't be plaigerizing, but would be putting the idea in a new perspective. Yours.

Lesson 3: Make a list of everything that was unsaid and which you could expand upon. Long before writing a query which Scholastic positively responded to, I filled sheet after sheet of paper with words relating to my subject. My object was to write a book for substitute teachers in the elementary grades. I wanted something more than the usual, so I considered my experiences as a substitute teacher and asked myself what I would appreciate having and using. The answers helped me to put a different spin on a familiar subject.

Lesson 4: Give your article or book project a working title. Brainstorm a list of possible titles. Write everything down and don't worry about your titles being wacky or "wrong." That's your inner editor speaking. Ignore it until you are ready to choose one title.

Lesson 5: Take the time to write a good query letter, keeping in mind that it is going to be the first writing sample that an editor sees. First impressions are important! Write rough drafts, allow them to cool, and revise them again and again until you are happy with every single thing! If you have the slightest concern or question about any part of that letter, revise it again.

Lesson 6: Since it will be weeks and possibly months before you receive a reply, write your article or book chapters and develop more ideas. Keep the wheel spinning!

Lesson 7: Don't allow yourself to be discouraged by rejections, which you will surely receive. Experienced, published writers are rejected all of the time. If you give up too early, your work might never be published.

Dorothy Zjawin's published work, thirty Instructor articles and a book, Teaching Ideas for the Come-Alive Classroom (Parker Pub. Co./Prentice-Hall) was based on her teaching experience. More ideas appear in her website,

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