Eager to bring out your inner writer? Take a look at our three simple rules to help get you started 

Writing for publication is hard, right? Hours of research, sweating over punctuation, painstakingly trying to glue one word to the next.

But it need not be like that. There are so many different types of article – from letters to the editor and quick reflections on aspects of care, to longer pieces that sift the evidence, build an argument and present conclusions that have the power to shape practice.

And that, after all, is the point.

Nurses who publish are collectively widening the pool of nursing knowledge. They are encouraging their peers to think, reflect, get better at what they do.

They are helping to nudge the profession further along the evolutionary scale.

Added to that, by building a portfolio of published work that shows them to be articulate and up to date, they are also advancing their own career prospects. 

So how hard is it? In truth, not as hard as you might think – providing you follow three simple rules.

Rule 1

The first rule is to be absolutely clear about the point of your article. If you’re planning one about an overseas placement for example, is your aim to be purely descriptive – this is how they nurse in Ghana – or do you want to explain how you changed your practice as a result? A bit of both perhaps. Either way, make sure you know the key messages you want your reader to take away.

Rule 2

Know your audience. Who are you trying to reach? Is it fellow students? Mental health nurses? Nurses at all levels across all specialties? 

 

Rule 3

Know the journal or website you are writing for. Don't submit a 5000-word piece to a magazine that publishes nothing longer than 700 words. Note the style and the types of articles and think about how your piece would fit in. 

 

And now, to begin

Plan your article using whatever method works best for you. Think about structure. For example, supposing you want to write about your first encounter with a dying patient, a very basic structure might run like this: 

  •  introduction – here's what this article is about 
  •  context – setting the scene 
  •  detail –  this is what happened 
  •  aftermath – emotional fallout; action taken 
  •  conclusion – how this experience changed me. 

Of course, you must respect confidentiality and check any local rules about mentioning your employer or university by name. 

Remember though, this is not course work or an essay. Your aim is to write engaging copy that draws the reader in and leaves them with something to ponder. 

Once you've completed the first draft leave it alone and return to it with fresh eyes a couple of days later. Can you do anything to tighten it up? Perhaps seek the view of a trusted friend. Importantly, check your facts.

When the article is as good as you can get it, you are ready to submit it. If it's accepted, celebrate. If changes are suggested make them quickly and resubmit. If it's rejected, seek feedback and try again elsewhere.

One final thing – when the article is published it's in the public domain where others can comment on it and perhaps criticise it. Don't be put off by that. The cut and thrust of debate discussion and argument is how knowledge progresses. Just be proud you have contributed. 

Writing for RCN Students

  1. RCN Students submissions are open all year round. Take a look at the latest features. If you’re keen to write but unsure what to write about or where to begin, contact the editor at studentsmagazine@rcn.org.uk to discuss. 
  2. Write between 450-700 words following the rules above. Remember: be engaging, informative, original. 
  3. Submit your article as a word document to the editor with any relevant photographs.
  4. Your article will either be accepted with some revisions and edited for house style – or it will be turned down. 
  5. If your article is turned down it still might be suitable for another publication so don’t give up. Seek feedback if you’d find it helpful. If your article is accepted, you will be sent a final draft to approve and then it will be published....

Good luck!

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