It’s no secret that veterans and military-affiliated folks have built their own entire ecosystem on the internet. Like any other corner of the web, it’s simply like-minded people who share history and/or interests. Like almost any other thing on the internet, it can threaten to be an echo chamber that only reinforces certain views or ideas. However, at its best, the veteran community online can be incredibly insightful, a source of inspiring art and stories, and it can help give veterans a sense of community they may be lacking or missing.
If a veteran is looking to become a writer in this space, the first step is to embrace writing as their new trade. Once the practical skill is refined, the veteran writer needs to figure out what space he or she is going to thrive in. The military readership is so diverse and large, there are an endless amount of corners one could spend their whole lives writing about.
Some people like to tell true stories about combat on the ground, whether it’s their own stories or the stories of others. Some people like to focus on gear, how it functions and what the latest-and-greatest watches, knives, or guns are. Others focus on the adventuring outdoors, hoping to inspire their fellow vets back out into the wild. Other categories could include fitness, military history, technical aspects of the military (see: Alex Hollings and his fanatical passion for fighters), or an endless amount of other facets in and around the veteran/military sphere.
It’s important to understand that some corners pay more than others. It will always be easier to find pay writing topical articles having to do with current events, especially if you have a knack for wrangling up unique angles or interviews. It may be tougher to find paying gigs for generic fitness articles, though they certainly exist. Just remember that you don’t have to sell out and rant about why you hate/love the president in order to get paid to write. If the writing is good, someone will pay for it, even if it’s a niche. It’s just a matter of finding that person and putting your work in front of them, and then working with them to perfect the piece.
The types of articles might change depending on the platform with which you are publishing. A coffee company’s publication will more readily be looking for coffee-oriented articles, whereas a gun company’s publication is going to lean more heavily into the gear and shooting side of things.
As much as you’re pitching a story to your readers, you’re pitching a story to the publisher as well. The goal should be to make their job as easy as possible — grammar should be as flawless as you can manage, any relevant pictures should be in a regular image format and easily accessible, and the entire piece should be written in whatever style (AP, Chicago, AMA, etc.) the publisher requires. If that takes a bit more research, then so be it! This is your craft now, own it.
As your body of work grows, so will your demand. Continue to refine your work, continue to grow, continue to make yourself better every day (in writing and in general).
Writing is a lucrative industry, and anyone who turns their nose up at it as a payless job is simply uninformed. It’s a business, and at times it needs to be treated as such. Find practices that make you successful, that put money in the bank, and that fuel your passion. Don’t fall into the pitfall of assuming that because you’re now some form of artist (even if you’re a poet or a novelist), that it’s impossible to get paid. It takes work — often a lot more work than is required to succeed in other fields, but it’s all very possible.
Like a business, you need to know the ins and outs of the technical side of things. Some publishers might require a knowledge of Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or even WordPress (none of these are all that complicated for those of you who are not computer-savvy). If you don’t know something, be ready to learn.
And keep writing. Over and over, no matter who sees it or where it goes — keep writing. You CAN make a living off of it, but again, it just takes time, effort, and a whole lot of work.
Editor’s note: This article was written by Luke Ryan, a 75th Ranger Regiment veteran with four combat deployments.