Unlike many professions, a road map to becoming a gunwriter is hard to draw. If you talk with gun and outdoor writers you’ll find the paths they took vary a great deal. Still, there are some things you can do that will help you achieve your goal. If you’re interested in how I got into this business, I did an article for the American Handgunner 2010 Annual. You can order it HERE.
STEP 1: Have a desire to share your experiences with others. This could be because you are somewhat narcissistic (This is a character trait of some BGs) or maybe because you are just a friendly, helpful kind of guy. I think my desire has always been my deep love of firearms and hunting and interest in sharing with other shooters and hunters.
STEP 2: Learn how to write. Its true that to be a gunwriter you do not have to be the next Hemingway. However, you do need to be able to write declarative sentences and tell a story. Editors make a lot of bad writers look good; me included. I never really learned to write well, never mastered the English language and could care less what a pro-noun is. So I have to write the way I talk. That’s easy for me but does not make for very eloquent prose. Learn how to write, it will make the process so much easier.
STEP 3: Gain experience. This is the fun part but takes time. You need to learn about guns and how they are used. I did this a great deal on my own while still in school and then received a lot of help from Uncle Sam and as a police officer. If you want to write about hunting, then you have to hunt, and hunt as many different critters as you can. This can be difficult for an easterner on a tight budget because in the east there are not as many different animals to hunt as in the west. You might be the best whitetail hunter ever but without some experience hunting other big game you will have a harder time relating to readers who have most of their experience hunting other animals.
STEP 4: Learn rejection. This is impossible for some and I had trouble with it early on because I sold the first several stories I submitted. Then I hit a wall and could not sell anything. A year or so of that taught me two things; just because and editor did not buy my story did not mean it was bad – usually another editor did take it. And, what we gun and outdoor writers write is not bible verse. A week or so after a reader gets it, its in the trash or lining a bird cage.
If you want to learn how to deal with rejection I would suggest you start asking every beautiful woman you see for a date. You will have to learn to deal with it fast but every now and then you will not be rejected and it will make your efforts worth the suffering. Alternatively, if you are a happily married human just ask for a discount everywhere you shop.
PART 2 will deal with how articles are submitted and what they should contain.