February 8, 2017

Why You Should Write For Your Newsletter and How To Do It

Writing for your local newsletter may seem like a daunting task. Many people find the thought of writing for an audience akin to speaking in front of a group of people or cuddling up with a spider in their bed. In reality, writing an article is a very easy thing to do and not as scary as you might think. Knowing the basics of writing and why your Chronicler is always looking for submissions can help alleviate some of the fear you might experience while sitting down with pen and paper trying to formulate an idea.

Write What You Know

Many people in the Society for Creative Anachronism have a certain area or areas that they focus on. It is their passion, their desire, their main focus in The Dream. This simple fact is actually a benefit when writing an article. Write about what inspires you or what you like to do in the Society and you will be surprised how easily your words flow. When you have passion for a subject, sharing that subject becomes second nature.

When you write about something that you are familiar with you have a tendency to write with authority on the subject. Your resources are already gathered and you have an understanding of the concept of what you are going to write about. This cuts down on the time needed to actually complete an article and, in the end, lessens some of the stress you might experience while writing the article.

Take Your Time

A rushed product is easily discernible as such; take your time with your article. If you are set on a self-imposed timeline, make sure that you plan your project in advance. Most Chroniclers understand your time constraints and will post your submission in the next month's newsletter should you not be done with it before the deadline. This is not a bad thing; you want your best work published.
Take time to proof read your article; checking for basic spelling and grammar mistakes. Some writers ask their friends to proofread their material before sending it in to the Chronicler; a step that is invaluable when producing a quality article.

Make sure that you have your list of resources included in the article so that other people may join in your interest without having to scour the library or Internet for more information.

It Doesn't Have To Be Perfect

Many of us are not professional writers. Because of that, we often think that our written works are not valuable or are too amateur for publication. This is not true, especially for a local publication such as your newsletter. Perfection is hard to attain, if not impossible. Simply do your best and don't worry about the small things that didn't get caught along the way. As long as your information is correct, there really isn't a problem.

There are some tricks to help you out! You can find numerous resources online that will help you develop your writing skill. Find a couple of them and try out their tutorials. You can also practice writing; either by keeping an active blog or a personal journal. By writing often, you can expound upon your skills and help yourself become a better writer. Lastly, utilize the sources you may already have on hand. Do you know somebody that loves to proofread? Can you find the spell check on your computer (or do you have access to a dictionary)?  Do you know what a thesaurus is and how to use it properly? Do you understand the basic grammar rules?

Why Your Chronicler Needs Submissions

Let's face it; your Chronicler needs submissions because it's a lot of work to write all of the articles for a newsletter on top of compiling the information and the actual creation of a newsworthy publication. A lot of work goes into creating a newsletter of any worth; with some Chroniclers spending the entire month just getting ready to publish one newsletter and starting the whole painful process again and again.

Additionally, Chroniclers will write articles for which they find the subject pleasing. A Chronicler does this because they fall back on what we discussed before: writing what we know. So while the majority of the group may be interested in the marshallate skills and Viking age technology, the Chronicler discusses Byzantine sub-cultures and writes depressing poems. Because there is a rift in interest between the populace and the publication; the populace may be less likely to read the newsletter since it doesn’t contain anything that they find interesting. This is bad for both parties involved.

The whole purpose of the group's publication is to communicate with the populace, not to become a sounding board for the Chronicler. In the end, the newsletter belongs to the populace, not just the Chronicler.

Planning Your Article; The Absolute Basics

First of all, you need to contact your Chronicler with your idea. Trust me, they will be very excited. Ask them if they have a word count maximum. Some publications are short on space because they are printed on actual paper and mailed out. Other publications may only provide an electronic newsletter, in which case more often than not, a word count maximum is irrelevant. Find out from your Chronicler before writing your article. However, don’t let word counts deter you from an amazing written work. Ask the Chronicler if they wouldn’t mind splitting the article into two or more parts for publication in future newsletters if your word count is unrestrained.

Choose your topic and come up with an interesting title for your submission. Long, extravagant titles can be exciting to see and lets the world know that you know everything about this subject but it may deter the reader. Instead, choose something catchy or funny that simplifies the idea you are trying to make. Of course, this isn't always possible, but a good idea to try to follow.

Plan your article. Create a topic sentence for each section of your article and start writing. This helps many people in their articles because they can jump from one section to the next as ideas come into their heads. You can always go back and move sentences or entire paragraphs later on.
Last, but not least, check with your Chronicler to see if there is any forms that you may need to fill out. Chroniclers may need a release form for your work depending on the Kingdom you reside in. This allows your work to be legally printed in the newsletter. It may not sound like much, but Chroniclers need this paperwork to help ensure that you get credit for your work.

How To Submit An Article

So you've written an amazing article on the Socio-economic structure of pre-Roman cultures in the Mediterranean, had it proofread by no less than twelve college students and managed to keep it under 2,000 words. Congratulations! Now what? The first step, the most obvious, is to submit it to the Chronicler for publication.

Ask your Chronicler what type of format they prefer. Some Chroniclers prefer a Microsoft Word Documents, but in all actuality, most any normally used format is appropriate. These formats include Word Document, PDF, or email for text-based submissions. The reason behind the preferred format is that the Chronicler's computer may only be able to handle certain programs. A good fallback, should the submitter and chronicler fail it have a program that works for both of them, is to send your article by e-mail.

Generally, most Chroniclers will have a certain deadline in place for submissions of any kind. The deadline is not there to dissuade you from submitting an item to the newsletter; it is simply there to make sure that the newsletter can be completed on time. Many Chroniclers are relaxed on the deadline, others can be quite serious about it. Never assume that the Chronicler has just placed an arbitrary date for a deadline and make sure your project gets submitted early. Early submissions are generally placed in better sections of the newsletter ensuring that readers can easily find your article.

Beyond Writing; What Else You Can Do

Perhaps you don't quite have competent writing skills. There are things that you can still do to help out your local newsletter. Draw a picture, take photographs at an event, or offer your time to proofread articles. Anything that you can help contribute or work on can be a benefit to your local Chronicler.

Photographs fall under a different type of category than the written word. Take a moment to ask your Chronicler the rules regarding publishing photographs and how to submit them. There is paperwork to fill out, even if you took the photograph. This paperwork helps to ensure that you are getting full credit for your work.

Final Thoughts

Make sure your work is unique, or at the very least, has the appropriate references. If you happen to have a book on ancient Roman poetry that you would like to share a few of your favorite verses with; you can do that if you include where the original material can be found. If you found an amazing picture online, reference the source so the Chronicler can include that in the newsletter.

By submitting articles or other material to your local Chronicler you are not only making their job easier, but you are helping your local group to grow and learn in new and exciting ways. That’s what the Society for Creative Anachronism is all about; learning from each other. So do your part; teach us what you like to do, teach us what your passion in the Society is.

One more thing-- if you end up writing that paper on Pre-Roman socio-economics… please send me a copy for submission to my newsletter.

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