Strategy—start out writing short articles

By David Hammond 

In just about every endeavor, the best way to achieve success is to start small and gradually work up.

The beginning runner who wants to run a 10-kilometer race will start out going a short distance. Then, work up to a mile. Later, a 5k, and gradually up to a full 10k.

A novice musician who aspires to play in an orchestra will start out with beginner pieces. Then, intermediate works, and so on, until reaching the goal.

For a new writer with an eye on writing magazine feature and cover stories, the best way to start small and work up is to set out writing short articles and gradually work up to longer pieces.

That’s because a writing assignment's difficulty-level often corresponds to its length.

A short article lends itself to a narrow focus and simple structure, making it easier to write.

As a piece becomes longer, it requires more supporting details and a more complex structure, which makes it more challenging to write.

So, a simple strategy to improve your writing skill over time is to start out with shorter writing projects and incrementally work up to longer projects.

A screenshot of my first travel piece--a two-paragraph post on my own blog.
With practice, I gradually worked up to four-page magazine feature stories. 

Markets for short articles

Starting out writing short articles doesn't have to mean waiting to propose your work to publications.

 Magazines need lots of short articles for the “Front of the Book” (F.O.B.) It’s the beginning pages of a magazine where you see lots of brief tidbits, often 75 to 250 words.

The subjects are usually attention-grabbing pieces about what’s new, what’s hot, and other interesting facts and opportunities.

After success in the Front of the Book, look for opportunities within the publication for 400-to-500-word pieces. Then, on to one-page articles, two-page features, and so on.