For someone young and inexperienced, delving into the world of professional writing can feel incredibly daunting. You may have been writing for years, amassing a fairly large folder of personal work stored on your computer, but have never known how to get others to read your work. For an aspiring writer, building a fan base is an important part of becoming established in the field.
The more people who read your work, the more feedback you’ll receive and the better you’ll get. But where do you even start?
Lucky for us 21st-century writers, the internet has proven to be an incredibly useful tool in getting published and spreading our name and work around. Don’t be intimidated by the big bad world of online writing; it’s easier to navigate than you might think.
1. Submit Your Work to Online Contests
The internet is filled with online contests aspiring writers can submit work to. While some have entry fees, a lot of them are free and have fairly manageable word counts. Some contests are smaller, with winners getting published on a smaller website; others are massive, with winners taking home grand prizes of thousands of dollars and getting published on major websites or magazines.
Taking down a list of contests you plan to enter in the future is a great way to hold yourself accountable to writing goals. Whether you’re looking for the motivation to finish a novel or you’re just looking to improve your craft, taking the time to write shorter stories from prompts will help you hone your voice as a writer.
So you've written a short story…now what? If it's time to send your story out into the world, we've got a simply guide to the perfect short story submission!https://t.co/xWKdXMsq81
— Reedsy (@ReedsyHQ) June 21, 2020
Plus, if you win a few of the contests you enter, people will start to learn your name and you’ll build a fan base in no time. There’s nothing like being praised for your work, or having your work published, to kick a mean case of writer’s block.
2. Publish Your Work on Story Sharing Sites
Wattpad gets a lot of flak for being a site used exclusively by preteen fan fiction writers, but online story-sharing sites like Wattpad and Writing.com offer a lot more than just poorly written “imagines.” (If you don’t know what an “imagine” is, you’re better off staying in the dark.)
Making an account and uploading work on a regular basis can gain you more of a following than you might think — especially if you’re active on the site by reading and commenting on other writers’ posts.
People will quickly start to catch onto an author who uploads quality content for free on a regular basis. It’s also a good way to connect with other aspiring young writers who can both motivate you and connect you with opportunities in the future.
Also, don’t knock the power of fan fiction until you’ve tried it. Even if the majority of it is sloppy, quality fan fictions have gone on to be published and, in some rare cases, even made into movies. After all, readers are more likely to be drawn to a story that includes a character or world they already know and like. Once you draw them in with your superb fan fiction, they’ll be more likely to stick around to read your other, original work. With some time and effort, you’ll have a ready fan base, eager to read your work.
3. Write For an Online Magazine
While this one may seem fairly self-explanatory, it might actually come as a surprise to you that there are a host of online magazines willing to accept submissions from young writers or even hire you to write for them on a regular basis — especially if you’re willing to write for free.
No matter the popularity of the magazine or the content you’re writing about, it’s never a bad idea to get as many published pieces of writing as possible before applying for more highbrow writing jobs.
The publication you write for can be tailored to your own interests as a writer. If you’re interested in music, for example, try looking for a smaller online music magazine and ask if they’re accepting submissions.
The more examples of quality published work you present to future employers or publishers, the better. Also, as with submitting to online contests, writing for a real publication forces you to write on a regular basis, which is helpful if you’re someone who is easily distracted or unmotivated. Like the other suggestions, this will also get your name out there and make building a fan base easier and more manageable.
4. Write For Your Local Paper
While this suggestion might seem like it’s tailored more toward aspiring reporters, getting published in a local newspaper can be a great stepping-stone if you’re looking to figure out if you’re even interested in the world of professional writing.
A newsroom forces you to produce quality writing on short deadlines, something professional writers deal with constantly. While writing about a local festival or school board meeting might not seem interesting to a writer aspiring to write 500-page fantasy novels, the art of journalistic writing teaches you how to be clear and concise in your phrasing and prose, something amateur writers often struggle with.
It might be a long shot to expect a full-time gig, but ask your local papers about writing part-time or on a freelance basis. News editors might also be impressed by a unique story you pitch to them, so think of something interesting you could write about and tack it on to the end of your email. You might turn up empty-handed, or you might land yourself a paid gig and a local fan base.
5. Create an Independent Blog
This one goes without saying, but it’s important for all writers to have a portfolio of all of their work ready to hand over to future employers or publishers. It’s also a good place to direct people who start to follow your work so they can access all of your writing.
It might seem like a small step, but the more work you publish, the more you’re going to have to post on your blog. You’d be surprised by how helpful it becomes when you’re applying for writing jobs (or college, if you’re still in high school).
Plus, since the blog is all your own, you can personalize it to fit your style. You can write about and post anything you want, and you can decorate the site exactly how you like. Over time, this could also help you find your signature style, flesh out your goals as a writer and build your fan base.
If you’re still feeling intimidated, that’s completely normal. Just remember to take things slowly and, above all else, keep writing.