When I first started writing, I never imagined that I'd branch out into commentary and journalistic articles (I don't have a degree in journalism). But the problem with that mindset is that it didn't stretch my abilities as a writer. I've since expanded out into different areas other than fiction novel writing. I'm now a writer for Spokane Faith & Values, where I have the chance to write as much commentary on faith and value related issues as I want, and I get to report on various faith and value related activities happening in the community and the world.
I hear you say, "I can't distract myself from writing my novel. I already don't spend enough time writing it." But I've found that taking a break away to write something completely different from my target genre actually helps my novel writing.
Sometimes I can spend hours contemplating a scene for a book, but by stepping away and working on another project in a completely different area, I can let my subconscious brain work out the details of the scene I was working on. Then when I come back to the novel, I often find I write with renewed vigor.
The other advantage of writing commentary or articles is that it increases your exposure as a writer. There is no better way to increase exposure to your name than having it in as many places as possible. That's what we should strive for. Writing commentary or articles not only increases exposure but adds to your credibility as an author.
And it's not that much extra work. The most efficient commentary for a lot of online publications are those bordering around the 600-800 word mark, though some can stretch out a little further. With competing interests to mind nowadays, most will balk at a 1500 word article, but not blink to read a 400 word article. It seems trivial, but it's the truth.
So how do you get involved in this?
1. First scroll through the pages you like on Facebook. Do they write articles and commentary? Visit their websites and find out? There are so many pages out there, each geared toward a target audience. For instance, not only do I have articles published on Spokane FaVs, but I've also recently submitted articles to the Ensign Magazine and LDS Daily. Look for what interests you. Find the pages that reflect your personal passions and see if you can write a guest commentary.
2. Find your local print publications, newspapers and magazines, and see if they allow outside contributions.
3. Find blogs that you follow and reach out to them and see if you can write a guest post.
Thrusting yourself out there for people to read your opinions can be a bit scary. Just like with your novel writing, you will find people that don't like your writing style, or who disagree with your opinion, sometimes more vocally than others. But don't waste your time on the naysayers. When I started writing commentary, I knew I would probably get a person or two, who wouldn't like what I had to say. It happened. I didn't think however that it would be another writer on the site. But it goes to show you, not everyone will appreciate your voice. And that's okay. If someone is responding, that means they read what I had to say and it evoked enough emotion that they felt they needed to say something. That is the reality of the nature of being a writer. We have to develop a thick skin sometimes. Reviews for our books won't always be sunshine and lollypops, and neither will reactions to our commentary or articles.
Though it may feel uncomfortable to stretch ourselves, the only way we can grow as writers is to continually push our own boundaries. Our skill will grow with every key we pound and every word we right.