How-tos

How-to-write posts, with step-by-step guidance and instruction on different aspects, genres, and methods of writing.

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Health and wellness is all the rage these days, so it’s no wonder people are making career choices in fields related to healthcare. As a writer, you can too. Not only is health writing a lucrative niche, you’ll gain important knowledge about how to keep you and your family healthy. Plus, it’s easy to get started as a health writer. There are various paths you can take to work your way up to a health writing expert. Here are a few that’ll put you on the right and robust track:

Begin with Schooling

Many study programs are available to help you learn the ropes of health writing. One of the most well-known and respected options is the Essential Skills Certificate program from the American Medical Writers Association. The AMWA also offers a variety of individual online classes in health writing. Another idea is to take courses through a local college on subjects related to health, like pharmacology or nutrition, to acquire background knowledge for writing in the health field.

Be a Self-Learner

Not the student type? With a little dedication and perseverance, you can learn to be a health writer on your own. Start by getting to know the world of healthcare. Read about health topics online, pour over health journals at the library, do some research on health topics that interest you, or talk to people in the health and medical fields. Then starting writing and submitting your work. Build a name for yourself as a health writer, and enjoy the perks that come with your newly acquired expertise.

Draw from Experience

Many successful health writers got their passion from experience. Maybe they’re longtime health and fitness nuts, perhaps they’ve been dealing with a lifelong medical issue, or possibly they know someone in the field who inspired them.  If you have any life experiences with health, use them to your advantage as a writer. Dig into your repertoire of health knowledge and start writing about it. You might be surprised at how much information you already have that can help educate the public.

Join a Group or Association

Sometimes your writing peers can be your biggest career boosters, so make a point to make contacts in the health writing world. Become a member of a health writing association, like the American Medical Writers Association, the Association of Healthcare Journalists, or the National Association of Science Writers. Look for local chapters and attend meetings and events. Or, join a private writing group of like-minded health writers. The important thing is to make a point to get connected!

Health writing is a fun, lucrative field with endless possibilities for writers. If you’ve wanted to delve into this high-opportunity niche, don’t hesitate. You’ll set yourself up for a thriving career for years to come.

Image by Nick Youngson

 

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people talkingAs writers, we’re often reticent about telling non-writers what we do. Maybe it’s because we’re not like most working adults. We don’t leave our homes in the morning to head to the office. We don’t put on suits or skirts or “business casual” attire. We work odd hours with no set schedule. We don’t have regular paychecks, and we can’t refer to our co-workers because, generally speaking, we don’t have them.  So what’s there to tell?

On the other hand, by not telling people what we do, we risk getting them to come to their own conclusions. Some non-writers think we write just for fun, like it’s an activity similar to gardening or pottery. Others wonder how we can spend so much time punching away at our keyboards, alone, with no formal structure. Still others don’t think anything about our writing at all, like it doesn’t really exist.

Of course, there are some non-writers who take a great interest in what we do. They want to know what we’re writing about, how they can get a copy of it, and whether we have a future project in the works. It’s nice to have those select few to discuss our writing with. But maybe that’s not enough. Maybe it’s time to spread the news to other non-writers. It might be awkward at first, but there’s a good chance we’d gain some important benefits—like new contacts, meaningful conversation, and additional supporters. Besides, there really isn’t anything to lose, other than a misperception of what we do.

So how do you go about discussing your writing with people who don’t know or wonder or ask about it? Here are five ways to start the conversation:

  1. Share a piece of writing. Are you especially proud of something you’ve recently written? Share it with non-writers. Ask if they’d like to read it and give you feedback, or describe the piece and let them know why it's special to you. Sharing your writing doesn’t just get others to notice your work; it’s also a great way to fine-tune and strengthen your writing—free of charge!
  2. Find a connection. While visiting with a non-writer, try to connect your writing to the topic at hand. If you’re discussing music, for example, tell about the piece you wrote on a famous musician or how you’d like to try your hand at composing lyrics. A conversation about difficult co-workers might be an opportunity to describe a disagreement you had with an editor.
  3. Conduct an interview. Think of a good writing idea that involves interviewing non-writer friends, family, or acquaintances. Get them involved in your project by making them a part of it. Explain what your objective is in writing the piece and why their expert opinion is important. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they’ll take an interest in your writing.
  4. Announce your successes. Don’t be shy about telling non-writers when you’ve sold an article, won a writing contest, or finished a book manuscript. These are all major feats, worth announcing and celebrating. Other people don’t hesitate expressing their recent promotion, pay raise, or kudos for a job well done; neither should you.
  5. Just say it. Sometimes, you just have to be bold and start a conversation about your writing without being provoked. Explain what you do with your time and how your writing, like any job, helps define you. Let others witness your passion and devotion toward your work.

Give the above conversation starters a try. Discussing your writing with non-writers is easier done than said—and may benefit you more than you think.

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word imageIf you entered last month’s six-word short story contest (see my previous blog post), you’ve already practiced the concept of how to say a lot in a little space—a really little space. But most people who write short pieces write more than six words. A short piece can be anything from a three-sentence filler to a half-page recipe to a page-long children’s article. In fact, there are all kinds of opportunities for writing short. Not everyone can pull it off, though. It takes skill to write something engaging, useful, and complete that’s also brief. Still, writing short pieces can be a fun and lucrative way to write. Here are a few tips to help make the process a little easier:

  1. Avoid clutter.  Clutter, or wordiness, is a problem for many writers. For short pieces, there’s simply no room for it. Unnecessary adjectives, most adverbs, redundant phrases, and even whole sentences and paragraphs that add nothing new or unique to your writing all constitute clutter. Avoid it.
  2. Get to the point. If you’re going to write short, you can’t waste time with lengthy, rambling introductions. Zero in on what you’re trying to say as quickly as possible. A crisp, snappy lead-in works well for shorter pieces.
  3. Strive for smooth.  No matter its length, every piece of writing should have flow. You can scale back on words without diminishing readability. Alter short sentences with longer ones, use transitional words between sentences and paragraphs, and be coherent. A smooth read is key.
  4. Make it matter. It doesn’t take a lot of space to say something important.  A brief article or sidebar can be every bit as relevant and engaging as a longer piece, as long as you keep your target audience in mind, entertain or enlighten them, and write with confidence and flair.
  5. Flesh out the prime details. Some details may seem too important to leave off, but when writing short, you may be forced to do some weeding out. Stick to the details that relate directly to your message and that offer something new and unique for the reader.

Besides being a fun, lucrative activity, writing short is a great way to hone your writing skills. Try your hand at writing a helpful “front of book” tip for a women’s magazine, a craft for a children’s e-zine, instructions for a manual, or a how-to article for a newsletter. There are all kinds of markets for short pieces. Blogs, popular magazines, websites, anthology books, journals, and newspapers all accept them. Check out Writer’s Market for more ideas.

Image by Maria Reyes-McDavis