This post introduces Greg Bray, who has kindly agreed to write a series of guest blogs here at How to Get Published. While his posts will initially 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!”
What is it about a person that makes them actually want to be a humorous columnist?
The answer is simple; you want to make people happy. The gift of laughter, or the warm glow of a well told yarn is beyond price. And in most newspapers, the humorous columnist joins forces with the writers of comic strips to act as a pressure relief valve to prevent ‘Bad News Overload’ before the reader turns to the Sports pages (and discovers that their team has lost again).
So, how do you get a start in the business? First the bad news. Competition is pretty stiff. If you don’t have a journalism degree then that makes it harder still, and even if you do, there’s not a lot of chance you will be selected from the group of hungry candidates clamouring at the Editors door.
The humorous column in any newspaper is often known as the ‘Toy Shop’. A much sought after place where journalists can write pretty much anything they want to write, and poke a rubber chicken at others. But mostly what they do is make a goose of themselves. Hey, if it gets’ laughs, that’s all that counts.
If you’re reading this, then it is a pretty safe bet that you are interested in becoming a humorous columnist, perhaps part or full time for your local paper, a magazine, or a web site. And I hope that the following tips, hints, and advice will come in useful for you. First up, some points:
- Humour is a very, very serious business. Ask any clown and they’ll tell you the same thing, “Funny = hard work.”
- Humour is subjective. What one person finds funny may be at complete odds with what tickles someone else’s funny bone.
- Humorous columnists are generally not funny people when you meet them, and they are certainly not much fun to be around when their deadline is approaching.
- Having ideas for three or four columns is fine. But you’re going to need several hundred if you want to be the next Dave Barry. Editors need consistency. Can you deliver the goods, week after week? Year after year?
- Dave Barry’s job is mine, understand? Mine!
Step One: Reading and Writing
The first step on the path to your new column writing life is to Read and Write. Seriously. Read as many different columnists as you can. Note their style, the way they use the right word at the right time to enhance the funniness of a sentence, or paragraph. John Cleese developed his writing style by spending hours as a young man writing his own Goon shows, trying to capture Spike Milligans’ genius, he did ok I suppose…
So, dig up old columns, scour your library, rummage about on the internet, you’ll find them, from Irma Bombeck, to Bill Bryson and Dave Barry, to Keith Waterhouse. All very funny people. And check out any columnists living in your area. These people are your competition, and it pays to keep an eye on them. Trust me, if you’re any good, they’ll be keeping an eye on you as well.
The one thing every comedian, clown, humorous columnist has in common is that they had to start from where you’re starting now. And if they made it, then you can too. How? By developing your own writing style. This will only happen by gluing your bum to your chair and typing until your fingers fall off… then typing some more…, then a little bit more. You can study to your hearts content, but it’s words on the page that count. Seriously, write at every opportunity, carry a notebook to jot down funny things you hear, or think of, then write about them later. I really can’t stress this enough, Write, Write, and Write!
[This article is continued in Writing a Humorous Column II.
(c) Copyright 2010. The author, Greg Bray, remains the copyright owner of the content of this post.