The Portable MFA: Magazine Writing

Tuesday’s Writing Tips:

Portable MFA in Creative Writing: Magazine Writing


For the next several weeks I’ll be providing tips on writing magazine articles. The author of chapter 3 in the MFA is Charles Salzberg. Before his career as a writer began, he received a degree in English from Syracuse University, one of the finest journalism schools in the country. However, he never stepped foot in the journalism department.

Salzberg had a penchant for writing fiction and claims he was too lazy to do research and too shy to interview people. Two traits that are a necessity for newspaper and magazine writing. Ironically, he did become a non-fiction writer and provides several wonderful tips to get started in this realm of writing. I have used them in my work too.

How the Business Works

According to the Portable MFA in Creative Writing, all writing is about storytelling. There are three parts to storytelling, a beginning, middle and an end, and it’s essential to write concisely and economically. And above all, READ, READ, READ magazines and newspapers.

  • You can’t know what kinds of stories magazines publish without reading them.
  • You can’t know who the audience is for a magazine if you don’t read it.
  • You can’t know that your article idea hasn’t been done before by the magazine you’re pitching it to unless you read that magazine.
  • And, most importantly, you can’t possibly know what a good magazine article is if you don’t read magazines.

Any aspiring magazine writer must know the markets. Know the markets means knowing what magazines are out there—and there are plenty of them, for all kinds of interest and tastes—and, perhaps most important who reads them.

Know the demographics and create a profile of who reads the magazine. Determine age, marital status, household income. You can usually tell the demographics by reading the cover headlines and by the model on the cover.

Next week we’ll discuss The First Step.

I have to admit, my schedule has been very hectic. I have not been able to read as many magazines as I would like, but I do try to read the articles in the magazines I write for.

Do you have any tips on writing magazine articles?


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