Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Three Duties of a Writer

You’re one of those prolific writers going at it hammer and tongs to forge pieces of writing for the world to embrace. Right? Me too. But as I’m going into my twelfth year as a wordsmith, I’ve come to a realization. Whether it’s a short story, an essay, an article or a book, each piece of writing does one (or more) of these three things:

1.      Entertain
2.      Inform
3.      Enlighten

And isn’t that what you want from what you read? Most successful writers are voracious readers and I count myself among them. From snatches of advertising while buzzing down the highway to huge tomes like David McCullough’s John Adams or Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings each fulfills for me one or more of the above mentioned duties. Superior pieces of writing will do all three. For instance, a novel that takes place in medieval times should keep you turning the pages (entertain), explore the peculiarities of the time period (inform) and lighten up some dark corner where suppositions and prejudices lie (enlighten). A book like this will let you know that the writer has imagination, patience for the research involved and a desire to inspire. But let’s break down our writing trinity a little.


Entertain literally means to engage the attention of, so that time passes pleasantly. How that’s done is open to interpretation, but we often link the notion to humor. So If you like to write humor and are good at it you will always find a market. In tough times or easy, people love to laugh.

The current trend of crafting thrillers or scare-the-pant off the masses writing (think vampires and zombies) will also garner sales as will humorous essays. Here are a few markets that are looking for your entertaining pieces.
1.      Aurealis – Pays $20 – $60 http://www.aurealis.com.au/submissions.php
2.      The Last Page – Pays $1,000 for column http://www.smithsonianmag.com/contact-us/humour-guidelines.html


Ad copy, non-fiction, self help books, articles about money, writing, current events – write about these and the world is your oyster. And when you’ve researched and written your shining jewel consider one or more of these markets:

1.      Greater Good Magazine – Pays .25 per word http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/get_involved/write_for_us/
2.      Escapees – Pays up to $150 http://www.escapees.com/magazine/ArticleSubmissions.asp


Oh boy, is green writing ever popular! This is where your passion and purpose can pay off big time. Explore both sides of the wind energy issue or write up a detailed analysis discussing why pony pumps are a viable way of extracting oil in small areas. Pick a disaster, highlight one aspect and write a piece to help children understand it. Investigate some recent environmental mistakes like the removal of wolves in Yellowstone, how coal puts carbon into the air and the effects of the ban on DDT, which WHO now recommends using to combat malaria in third world countries. Then shoot for one or more of these markets.

1.      High Country News – Payment begins at $100 http://www.hcn.org/about/submissions
2.      E Magazine – Pays .30 per word http://www.emagazine.com/view/?1512http://www.emagazine.com/view/?1512
3.      Dawn Publications – For your excellent environmentally sound book http://www.dawnpub.com/submission-guidelines/
4.      History Magazine – Pays $55 per printed page  http://www.history-magazine.com/anotes.htmlhttp://www.history-magazine.com/anotes.html

It’s very true that writing to enlighten isn’t limited to subjects about the environment. That’s why I threw in History Magazine above. But every piece of writing you do must contain elements of the three main categories at the beginning of this article. Realizing this may cause you to scrutinize your last submission to big glossy magazine and wonder if you’ve done your job. I’ll bet you have, but if not there’s time to revise, recover and move on. Don’t waste any time in doing so.

I'd love to know if you sell (or have sold) to any of these markets and Bravo! for trying.

Image: Free Digital Photos


  1. Very interesting, Susan. I'd like to check out the humor column submissions. Thanks for putting up that link.

    1. You, my friend, could be the next Erma Bombeck! Go for it!

  2. Well thank you, Sue, for entertaining, informing and enlightening me in just ONE blog. You always do at least one of these important wrting tips in EVERYONE of your blogs ~ and I, among many, appreciate it. Thank you!

    1. You're welcome, Cindy. So happy to help other writers. Hope you are penning some great anthology pieces! Hugs.

  3. Jennifer Brown BanksJune 9, 2013 at 3:17 AM


    I've never sold to any of these markets, but I think I'll try. :-)

    Thanks for providing this.

    1. You are more than welcome, Jen. Good luck!!