Think you have something to say?
Maybe you do. EMS is interesting, and so are a lot of the people who deliver it. You may have observations and insights worth sharing with your fellow practitioners, or tales of drama and derring-do that will thrill the public at large. But they can't entertain or enlighten anyone if you don't have a forum by which to tell them.
Anyone can blog or Tweet. But for maximum exposure in top online (like this) and print (like EMS World Magazine) venues and even the mainstream press, a little professional guidance couldn't hurt. So here, from a professional writer and editor of 20 years' vintage, are some tips to getting published for the aspiring EMS wordsmith.
1. Have something to say. This sounds obvious, but a lot of writers have come before you, many of them quite good, and truly new ideas are rare. What can you contribute that's fresh, unique or meets a need? Do you have particular expertise or an unusual take? Is there something in your individual experience that can help others understand something better? Will your perspective interest others?
You do have one big advantage being in the EMS field: What you do is important, interesting, and in dire need of explanation to the masses, who generally understand it pretty poorly. If there's not something you're keen to say to your colleagues in care, maybe you can help educate the public at large. They sure need it sometimes.
2. Do your homework. Google your topic and find out what's been written. Check Amazon and, to the extent they still exist, libraries. Identify possible outlets. Contact editors and ask about their areas of interest and current content needs. Book and periodical publishers generally offer author guidelines with submission instructions. They often have differences in readership, style and tone. EMS Magazine, for example, is a trade journal, not an academic journal. A rigorous scientific study might not be as good a fit there as, say, a more conversational report sharing one of your department's best practices. The latter, conversely, wouldn't be of interest to JAMA. Who might be a good match for what you're writing?
3. Writing for mass communication starts with the 5 Ws: who, what, where, when, why. These are the essential elements and should go at the top. Never "bury the lead," as they say in journalism school. Print venues often have space limitations and may have to cut; sticking to the "inverted pyramid" style taught in journalism schools--most important stuff first, descending importance as you continue--makes copy easy to trim.
The lead--your first few sentences--is essential to hooking readers and making them want to keep reading. Make it compelling:
Bad lead: Disseverance of the caput from the neck of an organism is incompatible with continued life function.
Good lead: The last thing I expected on this call was a severed head.
Don't assume knowledge on the part of your readers. Avoid clichés and professional jargon. Don't try to impress editors or readers with big words and fancy flourishes--you're writing to be understood, not considered for a Pulitzer.
4. Source it. Do your background reading. Talk to experts. Ask questions. Writing can be a learning experience for the writer as well as the reader. If you're making big claims, back them up. In the medical fields, sources like PubMed can be invaluable for searching scientific literature. And the Internet makes research easy.
5. Edit yourself. Never use 10 words to say what you can say in three. Excess verbiage is the No. 1 problem, at least for us, when editing contributors' articles. You don't give consideration to adding a new ambulance; you consider it. Strong verbs are essential, and active voice is better than passive. We added a new ambulance beats A new ambulance was added.
6. Fact-check the stuffing out of it. Accuracy is most publishers' paramount value. Nothing diminishes the respect a reader or editor has for a contributor like misspelling names, misstating dates or mangling other details. We'll fact-check you too, but the fewer errors you make us catch, the better your odds of producing an accurate piece.