[This article is Part III of a series on writing a humorous column. We recommend reading Writing a Humorous Column and Writing a Humorous Column II before coming back to this one.]
This is the third post from Greg Bray, who has kindly agreed to write a series of guest blogs here at How to Get Published. While his posts focus on writing humorous newspaper columns, his advice is sound for anybody looking to get published in newspapers and magazines.
Greg Bray is a shift worker living in Gladstone, Central Queensland. On his days off he spends a fair bit of his time tapping away at his keyboard, writing a regular weekly column for the Gladstone Observer, or trying to bring some of his characters to heel in his novels.
When he is not handcuffed to his laptop, he can usually be found working around the house, spending time with his family, touring on his bicycle or motorbike, or simply sitting in his tinnie wondering why the fish aren’t biting.
One day he hopes to make a living as a full time writer. You can contact him via his Blog which can be found by googling ‘Gladbloke’, or by going directly to http://gladbloke.wordpress.com/.
“If it’s your dream, then have a go!”
Truly O Grasshopper, it has been said, “Writing is easy, getting published is hard….”
Ok, you’ve put together your columns, you’ve re-read them for the thousandth time, and they are still making you smile (even though you stopped sniggering somewhere around the 456th reading), and now you feel that you are ready to submit them for publication. I’m not going to bore you with the gritty details of how to format your columns as there are plenty of sites and books out there which will give you more, and much better advice, than I can.
My first submissions were typed up, double spaced, and hand delivered to the editor of a local weekly paper. I had contacted him earlier by phone and asked if his paper was taking submissions. He asked to see two of my columns, and specified that they be submitted in Microsoft Works format. That’s how long ago that was!
So I did exactly that, and two weeks later was informed that the first of my columns was going to be used in next weeks’ edition. I was over the moon, how easy was that?!
The next weeks paper didn’t arrive. A rival newspaper carried the story that informed the citizens of Gladstone that the weekly paper had been bought up and closed down. My dream literally blew up on the launch pad.
A month later I submitted my columns to the remaining paper, a daily newssheet where they were rejected immediately as the paper had never run a humorous columnist in the past, and wasn’t keen to start now. Now at this stage a lot of writers will give up, but this is the moment where you must shine. Okay, I’ll admit that rejection hurts, but not as much as the feeling of failure will hurt you when you’re old and frail and sitting in a rocking chair with a blanket over your legs wondering what might have been if you had persisted. Well, that’s my viewpoint anyway.
If the editor will speak to you, ask what it was they weren’t happy with, what needed changing, or improving. I lucked out with the daily newspaper ed who proved to harder to get hold of than a certain Mr. O. B. Laden.
Undeterred, I battled on while nursing my severely bruised ego, and continued writing columns, but also started to dabble with short stories, poetry, and novels. Some of it was okay, some was good, and some of it was so appallingly bad that I have left strict instructions in the event of my death for my family to burn my computer and scatter the ashes far and wide lest anyone sees my woeful efforts.
Another thing I did at that time was to go back to my local library and re-study the works of the great column writers, closely examining the way they structured their sentences, how they introduced and ended their columns, and the various types of humour they employed. I filled books with notes, dug up lesser known column writers, then started to buy newspapers and magazines from different parts of the country just to read, and study, the columnists.
Meanwhile, the ed at our local paper must have been inspired by my query, because he started a daily column, written either by himself, one of his journalists, or a guest columnist. Everyday I followed each writer, comparing my work to theirs. Some were alright, some pretty good, and others, atrocious.
One pattern did emerge though; the majority of columnists had a relatively short shelf life. Many of them started with a bang, but within a couple of months were struggling for material. Some found that filling a weekly column with 500+ relevant, interesting, and funny words was too much of a chore and over the following couple of years I watched as columnists came and went like customers through a revolving door.
The Editor eventually left and was replaced by a female editor who maintained the daily column format. Putting together several of my absolute best columns I drew a circle around a date on my wall calendar and decided to make another approach. Persistence is the key here folks. Keep trying!
Then fortune struck. One of the regular columnists, sick of facing flack from readers over comments she had made in her columns (which I thought were actually quite funny and interesting) put a note on the end of one her columns asking for submissions from the public. I was perfectly placed, prepared and READY! So, two weeks before the deadline on my calendar, I submitted two of my best columns for her consideration. They were both published, and I was delighted to see letters of support from the public appear asking for more of my writing (and no, they weren’t from me or my family. Possibly…)
Within a month, I was given the regular slot in each Monday's paper and now all I had to do was keep the columns coming. Thankfully, I had kept practicing, writing, editing, and fiddling until I was able write a half-decent first draft, then hammer it into shape after three or four edits. This is why I keep insisting that you write all the time.
Write when you are tired, when you don’t feel inspired, when your TV is blasting away in the background, when your children are using your back as a target for their rubber band guns, when you feel that you would rather curl up and die rather than turn on your computer, because when you start writing when a deadline is involved you will be grateful for all those times you really pushed yourself to produce regardless of how uninspired you felt. Because you will know without a doubt, way deep down inside, that you can produce the goods under pressure.
If this article has been helpful to you, or you think I have left out something of importance, then feel free to comment below, or drop me a line at my blog
(c) Copyright 2010. The author, Greg Bray, remains the copyright owner of the content of this post.
Continue Reading: Part IV: The Next Step