Tuesday, June 26, 2007

School of the Writer - Part I - The Big Picture

"SCHMIDT'S WRITING TACTICS"
FOR THE INSTRUCTION, EXERCISE, AND MANŒUVRES
OF THE WRITER OF CIVIL WAR HISTORY

When I started this blog a couple months ago, I stated that one of my goals was to relate what I have learned about freelance writing for historical magazines. There are those who (with some justification) pooh-pooh the contributions of what they dismissively call the "glossies" and to be sure the magazines can (and have) - as with an publication - abound in errors of fact and interpretation.

Nevertheless, they also serve as a springboard to "bigger and better" things - books, lectures, etc. - and, with the likes of Eric Wittenberg, JD Petruzzi, Mark Grimsley, Kevin Levin, and others making contributions to the "glossies," and new ownership and editorial guidance, their content is improving.

I've been writing for historical publications for almost ten years now. My works has appeared in North & South, World War II, The Artilleryman, Learning Through History, Navy Medicine, Chemical Heritage, and other magazines, and my column on Civil War medicine, "Medical Department," has appeared regularly in The Civil War News since 2000.

I'm not an expert writer - I have a lot to learn myself - but I am an unapologetic expert on the mechanics - the "tactics" if you will - of the publication process, and I can state that the work I invested in the magazines has led to other opportunities, including book contracts.
I'm convinced that a lot of people who could make estimable contributions to "popular history" publications don't do so because they are mystified by the process, and we're all the worse off for it. I hope over time to be able to share what I have learned and hope others will chime in with comments on the same.

As a first post, I'd like to start with the "big picture" - that is, to show the large market out there for aspiring writers who also have an interest in history. I'll try and limit my remarks to the "Civil War" market, but in terms of military history in a broader sense, the opportunities are even better.

Go to your local chain bookstore and you'll see my point. In the "History/Hobbies" section, you'll find a number of magazines including America's Civil War, Civil War Times Illutsrated, North & South, Blue & Gray, Civil War Historian, and others. Added to that are other publications you may not see on the newsstand but are widely circulated - Gettysburg Magazine, Civil War News, and Civil War Courier, just to name a few.

Now do the math: each of those magazines is published 4-6 times a year (or more)...each magazine includes 4-5 longer "feature" articles and another 4-5 short "department" contributions. That means there are opportunities for as many as 300 historical writing contributions a year! Add in other relevant publications and the number grows.

There is certainly room for any aspiring writer/historian to make a contribution in print. Over time, I'll try and take the mystery out of the process...

For me the "School of the Writer" can be broken down into a few steps:

A) Identifying and Understanding the Market(s)
B) Credentials
C) The Query
D) Research/Writing
E) Submission
F) Contracts and Payment
G) Fighting the Next "Battle"

I hope some of you will find this helpful and I'll be posting on "Identifying and Understanding the Market(s)" soon.

Best Regards,

Jim Schmidt

8 comments:

Stephen said...

Thank you for starting your blog. It is really helpful to those of us with a dual interest in medicine and history.

jschmidt said...

Stephen,

Thanks for your kind message. Keep looking at the blog...I'll be posting another past "Medical Department" column this week and will also give a "Heads-up" on some new Civil War medicine research that has come out in the past few months.

Stephen said...

I am always looking for new projects so I am hoping to maybe find some leads through some of your blogs. Actually I just submitted a review of tourniquets as a method of controlling hemorrhage to the World Journal of Emergency Surgery. It wasn't limited to the Civil War, but a decent part of the discussion involved the medical aspects of that conflict.

Don said...

Jim,

This was a great post. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the series!

jschmidt said...

Stephen - That sounds terrific! Let me know when it's published and we can talk about collaborating on a column for the Civil War News.

Jim

jschmidt said...

Don,

Thanks for the kind words! I'll add another installment early next week. To be sure, I got some great advice when I first started out writing for magazines and I hope I can do the same for others. Have you done any writing yourself yet?

Jim

Stephen said...

Jim, if you can contact me via e-mail: stephen(dot)richey(AT)gmail(dot)com, I will send you a review copy of the PDF.

Don said...

Jim,

No, I haven't done any writing for publication yet, but I think some veins of my research may lend themselves to articles eventually. Right now it seems like I have a little good info on a lot of things, but not enough to really work from on anything. In the meantime, hopefully the blogging will work out some of writing kinks.