Saturday, September 14, 2013

So You Want to Write a Column

A regular option open to you as a freelance writer is to write a column. Though it sounds simple enough a column requires discipline, creativity, and most of all ideas—lots of them.

For many, writing one article is hard enough , but imagine having to come up with 52 of them—one each week—or at least 12 if you’re doing one monthly.

As you read this blog, you may ask yourself, “Isn’t this like a column?” Sort of, but not exactly.  A column is generally a short article on a theme that gets published regularly—weekly or monthly as a regular feature of a newspaper or magazine. A blog, on the other hand, may be posted regularly, but usually that’s up to the blogger. And while a blog may follow a general theme, it may stick to it loosely for a short time. A column, on the other hand, may go on for years.  The most important distinction is that a writer does the former for free and the latter for pay.

Over the years, the market for columns has changed dramatically. But one thing hasn’t: Publishers are still looking for new columnists. Generally, a column offers an insider’s view of a subject, of which the writer is an expert. It’s also a regular feature of a publication, either in print or online, and is personality-driven by the writer. It also contains an opinion or a point of view

A blog, on the other hand, provides for an interactive discussion with its readers. The blog writer  posts the blog, which the site displays in reverse chronological order—the most recent post appears first). Blogs can be the work of a single person or several persons, and often cover a single subject. And while a blog can be written by anyone, columnists are usually professional writers.

To be a successful columnist, you need to find a specific niche, but not so specific as to narrow your potential audience and topics of your column. You’ll have to find out whether other columnists are writing on the same subject and study their work to see how it differs from yours.

After you’ve done that , you’ll need to outline some topic ideas and write several sample columns to show to editors. It’s important to stay ahead of the game. You should continually update and add to your topic list so that you’re never at a want for ideas.

Because columns are short and published regularly, they don’t usually pay as much as even shorter regular articles. An advantage to writing a column is that you can publish it in several noncompeting market at the same time, thus increasing the amount you earn per column. 

In order to have a successful column, you need to come up with a unique angle or approach. You may wish to take the outspoken approach. Perhaps you’ll deal with controversial topics within you column’s subject area. If you feel knowledgeable about a subject, then a column may be just for you. You’ll need a substantial amount of knowledge and understanding about a subject to come up with topics week after week or month after month.

Next Week:  More on writing columns.

No comments: