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New Authors’ Workshop


On Sept. 8, two experienced EMS editors and authors will host a workshop for new and “would-be” EMS authors. Kim McKenna, with more than 10 years’ experience as the publications editor for the National Association of EMS (NAEMSE) and more than 15 years as a textbook author, editor and features writer will lead the seminar. Accompanying her will be Bill Raynovich, current NAEMSE publications editor and EMS author. Together, they’ll be inspiring EMS authors, editors and reviewers to develop ideas for publication and to start getting their ideas into print.

Anyone who has ever thought that they had a great story to tell—or believed that they had an important idea they wanted to share with their professional colleagues—should start writing and get published. It’s easier than many EMS professionals realize. You only need to have a worthy idea and follow up by doing some background work and then do some serious writing and editing to get your ideas published. OK, it’s that last part that’s the catch, right? How can you become a published author and editor if you’ve never done it before? Here are a few helpful tips and ideas that Kim and Bill will cover in the seminar.

1. Decide to do it! That’s right, setting a goal of getting a journal article or textbook chapter, or even an entire book into print is the first and most important step in getting published. In fact, it is so important that it’s safe to say that no article or chapter or book was ever published that someone didn’t decide to write and get published. If you would like to be a published author, you have to decide to do it. Once you make the decision, believe it or not, you will have taken the first huge step toward reaching your goal.

2. Pick your topic or theme. Most of what gets published has less to do with the author’s inspiration and has more to do with what publishers want to publish. It’s easier to get your work published if you find a topic that’s wide open and ready for your submission. For example, if you believe you’re the foremost expert on such well-known topics as airway management, ECG interpretation or spinal immobilization, you might have trouble getting your article published—no matter how good it is. This is because of the saturation of articles in those areas. You’ll simply have a better chance of having your work accepted for publication if you introduce some new or refreshing topic or theme, or at least a new approach or research results that deal with topics that have been heavily covered in the literature. Being fresh and interesting will increase your chances.

3. Consult and confer and collaborate. Once you have picked a publishable topic or theme, it helps to talk with experts and colleagues about your ideas. Determine their thinking and where they agree or disagree with you. Make sure you cover all the possibilities and anticipate the thousands of readers with different ideas who will be reading it. Some of them will respond with comments about what you have written. It’s really good to have thought through all of the potential issues and complexities before your work gets published.

4. Become the world’s leading expert. That’s right, be the most informed professional in the world on the topic. Find what interests you and read up. If you’re writing about chocolate overdoses, locate every paper ever written about chocolate and read them! The more of an expert you become, the more new and exciting ideas you’ll develop about your topic. That will lead to a more powerful and compelling article. Needless to say, this means taking lots notes and keeping track of what you’ve learned along the way, as you’ll need to attribute everything that you’re putting into print in your article or chapter or book.

5. Begin writing! This is the biggest challenge of all. Every author dreads facing the blank page. That was true just before this author began hitting the keys that ended up as words on this page that you’re now reading. At some point, it becomes time to do the writing. You just have to begin pounding keys or pushing the pen. You can’t worry about how good or bad it is. You can’t worry about whether you’re wasting your time. All you can do is commit to getting words down so that someone else can eventually read them. Editing comes later. Write! Write! Right!

6. Edit. Go back and make it better. Then go back and make it better yet. You can expect to make a trillion mistakes at first. You might misspell words or use one word where a different word would be better. Most new authors tend to make a lot of grammatical mistakes. It’s helpful to use style manuals and grammar books to improve your writing and you can also show your work to an experienced author or editor before you submit it. Believe it or not, editors don’t mind getting submissions with grammatical mistakes so long as the ideas are worth publishing. Those grammatical mistakes are easy to clean up and the ultimate article is worth the effort. Go ahead and write and don’t worry about making mistakes (but do run it through spell check before hitting “submit.”)

7. Prepare the final manuscript. To get your work published, it has to be submitted in an acceptable format. You need to prepare it in the style that your target journal wants. That means that the references have to be properly cited, and you need to reference every detail or statistic that you’re stating is an established fact. You'll also need to structure the article logically. That typically means it should have an Introduction, Background Literature, Main Body, a Summary and a Conclusion. Just read some journal articles and textbook chapters to see how they’re structured and copy those styles.

When you do get published, you will make a contribution to the profession by adding to the body of knowledge. Remember, publishing is just teaching with words.

Here are two inexpensive books that can help you improve your writing skills:

Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. This small and readable book is a standard on almost every author’s bookshelf.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Why commas really do make a difference, by Bonnie Timmons. This small book is a painless and delightful primer on punctuation.

For the author preparing a paper for a scholarly journal or an academic paper, these two guides are essential:

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Seventh Edition, by Joseph Gibaldi.

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition, by the American Psychological Association (APA).


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