There are a lot of writers in veteran circles — some write stories about their own experiences, others use their military knowledge to create relatable content for their fellow veterans (be it journalism, fiction, poetry, or something else). It’s important that these voices are heard, especially from the men and women who, at one point, put their time in the trenches. There will always be stacks of books by generals in your local Barnes & Noble, but it’s equally important to hear the perspectives and stories of service members who cut their teeth in combat at a very young age, and at a very ground level.
In general, veterans have a unique insight into the world, so long as they can adequately put their thoughts on paper. And if they don’t want to, veteran writers are under no obligation to tell their own stories. As mentioned before, the knowledge veterans carry can be incredibly useful — if they’re a journalist, they might know what stories really matter in the military-sphere that others could overlook. If they’re a novelist, they might hone in on the emotional details that might get breezed over from their civilian counterparts.
If a veteran decides they want to be a writer who works among other veterans, what does that path look like?
Like any other trade, one can’t be successful if they aren’t any good at it. That doesn’t mean having “good ideas,” though those are important too — it means knowing the craft of writing itself. It means treating it like any other practical skill like welding or gardening. Anyone can learn grammar, anyone can develop a functional style of writing, and anyone can form coherent thoughts in an order that makes sense, but those things don’t just magically manifest themselves on their own — like anything else, they take practice and repetition.
Once you have the skill, you need to get some eyes on your writing.
There are a host of veteran blogs out there that will take submissions. If you’re interested in publishing articles, find a business or non-profit you believe in and write about it, then submit to the blog. Or pick a facet of your own experience or someone else’s experiences, and write about it. Interested in poetry or short stories? A lot of these sites will take submissions for those too.
Let’s say you’re a novelist, or you have a group of short stories, or even poems and/or meditations. Once you have a polished work, you can start shopping those books around, learning the publication process, or self-publishing (and marketing) your own work. Whatever happens, you need to get eyes on the words you’ve put on a page.
Practice, persistence, publication. With those three elements, if you’re writing articles and blog posts then you’ll likely be finding your name circulating the internet quickly. From that point on, you’ll have a resume/portfolio to show potential paid writing gigs that you can do on the side.
If you are writing articles, then at the beginning of your journey, it doesn’t matter the size of your publication. We all want to be submitting to major outlets with millions of readers, but if you start on a small blog with a loyal few hundred eyeballs — your work will start to speak for itself.
Getting paid for your writing is not impossible, in fact, if you have a body of work to show, it’s not as difficult as one might think. Sure, getting hired by one of that major outlets right out the gate would be amazing (and I suppose it’s possible!), but at the very least it’s not far-fetched to imagine a paid side-gig quite quickly.
Eventually it will be perfectly feasible that 1) you get a full-time position writing for a military-oriented publication, 2) you freelance for multiple sites that add up to a legitimate amount of cash, or 3) you stick with a paying side gig simply because you want to and you’re passionate about it. This process could take anywhere between months and years, depending on how much you’re writing.
If you’re concerned about your identity as a vet, remember this: there will probably be a point in your writing career when ‘writer’ is as significant a label to you as ‘veteran’ — there ought to be nothing stopping you from expanding to other paying writing gigs if they’ll have you. The only reason this article is oriented to the veteran-sphere is to encourage veteran writers who want to work around other vets. It’s probably healthy to expand to other arenas in life, and to become so knowledgeable about them that you can illustrate them with your words.