A few years ago I tutored writing students learning through a correspondence course. These were individuals from around the world who wanted to write for publication. It’s a great hobby for enthusiasts, and if you commit to it, it can lead to a career in journalism. Many of my students went on to become columnists and some even authors. Others, just occasional magazine contributors.
At around the time I was tutoring, I published several books in a series entitled “Mistakes Writers Make“, which were aimed at my students both past and present, and other beginners who were considering writing non-fiction for publication.
If you’ve read other writing manuals, you’ll know that most of them tell you what to do. That’s fine, of course, but this doesn’t work for everyone. So with my books I wanted to take a different approach. Mine tell you what you might be already doing wrong. This may sound perverse, but it’s often impossible to identify one’s own mistakes for one simple reason — doing the wrong thing feels exactly the same as doing the right thing. Yes, you can learn through ‘trial and error’, but error is not usually obvious to the wrong-doer.
So that was the basic premise: tell budding writers what they may be doing wrong — or how they may be thinking wrong — and show them a potential way to doing — and thinking — ‘right’.
So why am I telling you all this?
Because I want to help and encourage more people to take to their keyboards and write about allergy and coeliac disease — as well as other sensitivities and gut disorders — and get their content into magazines, newspapers and websites. We often hear — and say — that we need more awareness for ‘our’ subjects, and writing about them is one of the best ways of communicating to wide audiences.
Who out there is up for it? Who out there is already thinking about it?
If this sounds like you, if you perhaps have an allergy, food intolerance or coeliac blog, with ambitions to make it into print, or to have a second career as a jobbing writer, then please get in touch. I have three copies of the first book in my Mistakes Writers Make series to give away, and I want them to go to people with ambitions to write professionally about all matters ‘free from’, gut-related, hypersensitive and immunological! Drop me a note — via DM on Twitter, or email via my website — telling me your ambitions!
50 Mistakes Beginner Writers Make is geared towards selling your work to magazines, and newspapers. It covers how to generate ideas, research the market, approach editors, craft articles, revise your work, and how to submit it professionally. It doesn’t tell you how to improve your English or your writing — that’s something you can only really do yourself, through critical reading and through practise — but it does shed some light on the journalism and publishing business, which many are unclear about.
You can do it!
The great content providers we have …
I’ll take a moment to salute the many good writers — and other prolific content providers — that we already have, and who you may like to read, follow and support. I hope my wanting to hear new voices shouldn’t be taken as a failure to appreciate those we’re lucky enough to already have. Perhaps some of these will inspire you …
Recipe writers, for instance. There are so many doing great work — led perhaps by Becky Excell, whose output of multiple gluten-free recipe books has led many coeliacs and gluten-freers to find pleasure in baking once again, and Jane Devonshire, a former Masterchef winner whose family-focused GF books are a comforting delight.
Although she teases me about my panettoni, I am a fan of Rebecca Smith (Glutarama), who always appears to be producing another new free-from recipe from under her sleeve, and I never fail to enjoy seeing what magic Kate the Gluten Free Alchemist has produced on Instagram (including a panettone! And another panettone!). Just recently, Lucy Parr has launched a new recipe book, The Friendly Baker, covering multiple allergies, and it’s receiving rave reviews too.
And allergy bloggers, too. Ruth Holroyd of What Allergy is prolific, honest, bold and doesn’t shy away from personally difficult topics. Michelle Berriedale-Johnson comments with experience and wisdom on issues such as food allergy policy on Michelle’s Blog.
I really like US blogger Christy Cushing of Nickelfoodallergy.com — a kind soul who is always willing to help advise on matters dietary for those with extreme sensitivity to nickel, and succeeds in bringing one of the less ‘fashionable’ allergies to the public’s attention.
There are too many ‘free from’ food spotters to individually mention, regularly sharing their latest finds on social media, as well as other content providers on Instagram, such as allergy guy Dan Kelly and Positive Coeliac Derek, all doing their bit to share awareness and knowledge to their particular audiences.
And there are journalists and authors too, not least Alexa Baracaia, whose book My Family & Food Allergies, is the best of its kind on the UK market, and Emma Amoscato, author of the illustrated guide You, Me & Food Allergies, aimed at helping kids and their parents deal with — and thrive with — allergy.
Of newspaper journalists, I know of Hannah Fearn of the Independent, who covers allergy issues such as the rising cost of free from; as does Kelly-Ann Mills for the Mirror, most recently covering the enraging ejection of a nut allergy traveller from a plane.
Apologies to those I’ve missed, of which I fear there may be many. Please tell me of any who produce great original content of any kind.
And finally ….
If you do have any questions about the writing business, or selling your work to paying markets, or indeed about writing a book, I’m always here, via the usual channels. If the question and answer could be useful to others, please post in comments below. You may also be interested in my writing website, Mistakes Writers Make.
The Mistakes Writers Make writing books are all available via Amazon.
This is brilliant Alex, thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us. I am pretty sure I am making lots of those mistakes that writers make! Writing is such a passion for me, I feel it in my blood and I need to be doing it, even if it’s just ramblings in my own journal, it’s how I make sense of the world. Plenty of rants coming for 2023. WAtch out!
I love a Ruth rant!