In May 2020, the news of Blu Inc Sdn Berhad publishing house shutting down its operations came as a big blow to magazine followers like me. Citing Covid19 and challenges arising in digital disruption as the key reasons for the cessation, the publishing house was well known for their women’s magazines such as Jelita, Cosmopolitan and Eh! Growing up, I enjoyed flipping through its high quality glossy publications and reading its editorial pieces. I have to say that they were part of the reason how I developed a deep interest in writing and had hopes of securing a gig with them.
The earliest recollection of my foray into writing was at nine years old. As an introvert, my ‘best friends’ were my pen and notebook, where I expressed my thoughts about almost everything. As a teenager, I read a lot. True stories and non-fiction books by Sidney Sheldon, showcasing women who overcame life struggles were my source of inspiration. In polytechnic, I took my writing passion one step further by taking part in writing competitions and wrote articles for the school paper. As a business student, reading, researching, and writing became second nature. While I did not end up in either Her World or Cleo, I had a colourful career in the communications industry and got to work with journalists and editors of both dailies and publishing houses.
After spending two decades in the industry, I launched my boutique public relations agency in Singapore and helped clients produce content for their public relations and social media campaigns. When the opportunity came knocking to be part of the editorial team with Marketing in Asia, the coolest marketing magazine in Asia, I took up the offer without hesitation. Writing for me thus became a daily grind. I have to tell you that while writing for a magazine may look glamorous as we rub shoulders and get to interview business personalities and celebrities, there is much more to it. If you are wondering what successful writers do to be the best in their craft, here are my insights.
The first is to have a deep passion for writing. As a writer, you must love to write and you will have to do it daily. There is no shortcut to becoming a good writer. Learn to pen down your thoughts, your observations of the world, the people you meet, and write them down either in your notebook or your blogs. You have to put writing into practice if you want to be a good writer. There are no two ways about it.
The next thing is to read a lot and often. It doesn’t matter what kind of books or materials you choose, but notice the use of language, choice of words, and material flow. Once a while, break away from your comfort zones and read materials that test your comprehension on a whole new level. If it helps, identify a writer or two that you admire and imitate their style – if it fits yours. I prefer a storytelling format because I want to build a connection with my readers and make them feel as if I was talking to them.
Do not overcomplicate your thoughts. As I mentioned earlier, write the way you would talk and what comes as naturally to you. Avoid bombastic words or technical jargon unless your job requires you to. It might help to ask yourself what message you are trying to convey to your readers. If you can answer that, you are on the right track.
Every writer will have their own interest. So, write a topic that you enjoy, and this will come out well, as reflected in your pieces. Pick your niche and read related articles and observe the style how it was written. You may even study the editorial style of different magazines and pick one that relates to you. When you write something that is in your interest, it will make the whole writing process much more bearable and enjoyable.
Sketch an outline of your piece. Have an idea of how you want to start the paragraph, what goes into the body and ending. Consider the hook that will capture your readers in the first para, followed by the juiciest information in the body, and decide if you want to leave the element of surprise or leave them with a thought in your conclusion. If you have the tendency of staring at the blinking cursor, then it is best to list down your pointers or ideas first. Do not worry about the language or spelling errors in your first draft. The whole idea is to get it down and sleep on it. Work on the details, language, and flow the next day. Trust me, it works, and your piece will come out much better after that.
While the above are some good habits to emulate, at the end of the day, you need to have determination and be creative to reach your goal.
If you are among those who are looking to kick off your writing career, consider submitting your articles as contributors or guest writers to publications that interest you. Be patient if the editors do not reply to you immediately. The key here is persistence. You may also consider putting up your articles on free online publications such as Medium or Thrive Global to build connections with fellow writers and followers. With social media, share your pieces on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. You never know when an editor might just stumble on your piece.
While education is important in making you an esteemed writer, do not be discouraged if you do not have a degree or diploma in journalism. You can always pick up related courses along the way, and the best way to learn is still through experience. Also, learn to network and engage with people, read the latest news and trends, conduct research, and engage with your connections. With social media such as LinkedIn being the place to be, use it to your advantage and sniff out possible stories and also learn and pick up good pieces as examples. These days, writers who have the ability to source for good stories and have their articles published regularly will make them stand out.
If you are an undergraduate, try sourcing for internships with the local dailies or publishing houses. While you may not get paid a lot, what you should value is the experience to work with senior reporters and editors. For example, over at Marketing in Asia, we encourage aspiring writers to use our free content platform as a launching pad to their writing career. With a reach in 14 countries, it not only paves the way for you to connect to powerful individuals but also build your personal branding across Asia. So why wait? If you have always wanted to start your writing gig, this is the time. Blu Inc may be history but MIA is always here and we cannot wait to be part of your journey!