Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Publishing as a Second Language—What It Means to Write on Assignment

by Linda Gilden @LindaGilden

As a new writer I remember hearing seasoned writers talk about writing assignments and wondering How do you ever get to that point?
The short answer is lots of hard work! But if you are one of those writers who would love to have editors calling or emailing you with an assignment, let’s talk about how to get there.

First of all, what exactly does it mean to write on assignment?
Writing on assignment is pretty clear. You are writing an article or book that the editor or publisher has asked you to write. He or she has assigned that project to you, has given you a specific slant, word count, and deadline. All writers hope to someday be able to write on assignment.

So, how do you do that? 
1. Perfect your writing style. Learn the craft of writing and how to do it with excellence. Editors appreciate and remember writers who always send material that does not need a lot of editing and turn their writing in on time.

2. Submit regularly. Editors need to know you are capable of writing well and meeting deadlines. When they see you are submitting regularly, they know you can do that. Pitching often to the same publication will give editors the opportunity to get to know you and your work.

3. Build relationships with those in the publishing business. At my first writers conference I met the editor of a devotional magazine. After a few conversations he asked, “Would you like an assignment for a week of devotions?” Scared me to death but I knew this was a big step in the direction of where I wanted to be as a writer. So I immediately said an enthusiastic, “Yes!” This was a great learning experience and the first of many such assignments. But it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t met the editor and spent some time getting to know him and his publication.

4. Keep your eyes and ears open. Article assignments can turn up in the strangest places.
  • You can search the internet and job boards to find writing opportunities.
  • One of the most interesting ways I found an assignment was from my washing machine repairman. He had fixed a washing machine the day before for a person who made a great feature story.
  • Look at magazine theme lists. Is there something there that interests you?
  • Talk to other writers who write regularly.

Many writers think if you don’t have connections there is no way to generate assignments. But looking regularly at theme lists, job boards, and talking to other writers will get you quickly on the right path. As you establish yourself as a good and dependable writer with a specialty in a few areas, you will come to mind as editors search for writers to cover specific topics.

Until you find yourself receiving regular assignments, why not give yourself an assignment or two. Decide on a subject, find a magazine that needs your information (be sure to study their guidelines), then put your deadline on the calendar. It won’t be long before editors will be giving you their deadlines to add to the calendar!

What experience do you have with writing on assignment? Share your tips and comments in the section below.

And don't forget to join the conversation!


Linda Gilden is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, certified writing and speaking coach, and personality consultant. Linda is the author of 19 books and over 1000 magazine articles. She enjoys every meeting with editors and knowing we are all part of the same team. Linda’s favorite activity (other than eating folded potato chips) is floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing grandchildren—a great source of writing material!


  1. Stopped everything I was doing this morning when I saw this email arrive. Now I know why. I never knew what it was called, but I've made a career of writing on assignment. :-) As "Light Writers" (thanks again Ms. Audrey Frank), we Christian writers all write on assignment, I hope. God's blessings for this informative and inspiring post Ms. Linda.

  2. I enjoy my "writing assignments". I write my own blog and contribute to three other blogs once a month. With four blogs and writing my own stories and searching for other writing opportunities, I stay busy and happy. :-) I pray and ask God to give me the words He wants me to share.

  3. Thanks for the inspiring post. Just what I needed to hear to get moving!