#5onFri: Five Steps to take an Idea from Pitch to Published

by Bess Cozby
published in Community

This August, we’re celebrating an awesome DIY MFA milestone—five years of our “Five on a Friday” series. The Five on Friday column is one of my favorite things that I get to work on every week. Why? Because while everything we do here at DIY MFA is for Word Nerds, these articles are often by them as well. In fact, many of our columnists first published pieces on DIY MFA were Five on a Friday posts.

There are so many benefits to guest posting—it gets your name in front of an audience, helps you hone your writing voice, builds your brand and can lead to new connections. That’s why #5onFri is a primarily guest post-driven column. It’s an opportunity to get your writing in front of thousands of word nerds, and to build our awesome community.

For five years, I’ve been working with guest writers for our #5onFri series. If you’ve been wanting to write an article for DIY MFA—I want to encourage you to email me! And for the curious—here’s a look behind the curtain at our submission and publication process.

1) Perfect a Few Pitches

Most sites expect to see a pitch before agreeing to publish an article, and that’s true here at DIY MFA. Our submission guidelines ask for 2-3 pitches. These can be short, just a couple of sentences. But Bess, you might be thinking, I have a perfect idea for an article! Why do I need to come up with more than one?

The answer is simple—it benefits you. I know our audience and what will resonate with them. I also know our editorial calendar, and the articles we’ve already published. So, I can tell you which of your awesome ideas are going to have the biggest impact with our audience.

Keep in mind—if one of your ideas doesn’t quite fit for DIY MFA, it might be perfect for another website. So take that pitch and keep sharing it!

Pro-tip: Think about article ideas that will contribute to your author brand. It’s never too early to start building one! If you’re a fantasy writer, consider writing on world-building. Is romance your thing? Perhaps a post on crafting a perfect first kiss, or a list of your favorite romance reads of 2019. Ask yourself: what would my future (or current) readers like to read?

2) Gather Your Bio Materials

In addition to 2-3 pitches, we also ask for a bio. We’re not looking for you to be an expert, have fifty published books or a byline in Forbes Magazine. The bio is a chance for us to get to know you better, and it doesn’t have to be the final one that goes with your article. However, if you want to kill two birds with one stone, go ahead and write the bio you envision for your post—just remember you can always tweak it later.

A writer bio should let an audience know:

  • Your name
  • What you write
  • Any credentials you have (awards, publications, grants, relevant job experience)
  • Social media links (if you have them)
  • Your website (if you have one)
  • A few fun details (if you’d like to share them).

But if all you want to say is that you’re a writer of historical fiction who loves her golden doodle that’s fine, too! For example, here’s a bio I use for pitching articles:

I’m a speculative fiction writer, as well as an Editor at Tor Books and Web Editor at DIY MFA. I currently split my time between New York and Michigan, where I far too often get lost in the woods with my notebook and golden dauschand. My work is represented by Brooks Sherman at Janklow and Nesbit Associates. You can visit my website at www.besscozby.com or connect with me on Instagram (apologies in advance for all the dauschand pics).

Pro-Tip: Go for the two P’s—Professional and Personable. Writers don’t need to sound like we’re entering a board meeting. But nor should we sound like we’re sounding off in a private chat. A little humor and voice can add to a bio, but should not veer into anything inappropriate. Write something your boss, kid, or grandma could read.

3) Send a Writing Sample

When I was first starting out pitching articles, this part tripped me up. How was I supposed to get an article published if I had to submit a published one first?

The answer is super simple: I published one myself. You can do this on your personal blog, tumblr, Medium or wherever you want. I can’t speak for every Web Editor, but at DIY MFA, we just want to know you can write, and have a voice.

If you don’t have an article published already, don’t worry! Write something simple, and either post it or include it as a word attachment. If you’re looking for inspiration, here’s a few ideas:

  • The three things I love most about writing
  • The piece of advice I wish I’d had when I started writing
  • My #1 tip for writers

Once we’ve settled on the perfect topic, I’ll give you a pub date, a due date, and let you know about any edits or questions I have, then it’s off to step four.

Pro-Tip: Recycle your content! If you use a sample article for a DIY MFA pitch, you can always pitch that article somewhere else (or to us!) later. And guess what? You’ll have your DIY MFA article to serve as your writing sample.

4) Outline and Write Your Article

If you’re a plotter, you know the power of an outline for making the writing process easier. A plan is a lot easier to face than a blank page. While not every fiction writer is a lover of outlines, it’s a great skill to develop for articles. It serves as a guide for organizing your thoughts and ideas, and can make the writing process a lot quicker.

Thankfully, the #5onFri format makes this super easy. Every outline for every #5onFri post looks the same. It goes a little something like this:

Point 1
Point 2
Point 3
Point 4
Point 5
Call to action

Of course, within that outline, you have almost unlimited creative freedom. Your article could be a list of five tips, five books, five steps, five people, or lies we tell ourselves. As Ernest Hemingway said, “We’re all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” So what have you learned as a writer? Here’s your chance to share it.

Once you’ve written your article, which should run between 800-1200 words, look it over, and then send it my way. I’ve been working as an editor for both DIY MFA and Tor Books for six years—we’ll work together to hone your vision and make your work as polished as possible in time for your pub date.

5) Share Your Success!

When pub date arrives, I’ll email you to let you know your article is live, so we can tell the world about it. Tweet a link, Instagram a quote, Facebook with a picture, and let the word spread! On our end, we’ll be Tweeting and Facebooking your article, as well as sharing it with more than twenty thousand readers in Gabriela’s Writer Fuel newsletter.

Want to join your fellow Word Nerds in moving from pitch to published? Shoot me an email at bess@diymfa.com and let’s get started. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Bess McAllister writes epic books in expansive worlds from a tiny town in the Midwest. Previously, she lived in New York and worked as a fiction editor at Tor Books. Now, she spends her days telling stories and helping other writers tell theirs. Her work is represented by Brooks Sherman of Janklow and Nesbit Associates.

Check out her editorial services and connect with on Instagram.

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