Yesterday I had the great honour of being asked for advice on being a science writer. I thought to myself - I've finally made it! And then I had second thoughts. While I do write at ArachnophiliaBlog and for Unpopular Science, I need advice on advancing this side of my career as much as the next woman. Here's advice from a huge number of more established science writers.
But, for what it's worth, here's my advice to myself. Firstly, you need to blog. Anyone can set up a blog (or three) but you've got to keep writing. Practice writing. Do it every day. It's only by practice that you can unlearn what you have learned. Writing academically is not a great introduction to writing engaging and readable text. It's only though practice that you'll find your own unique voice.
Secondly, read. Read other people's blogs, read magazines, read books, read the back of the cereal box. Read lots. This isn't for information, but for style. Pick up lots of new tricks, tones, even new words, from reading writing you enjoy. It doesn't need to be another science writer, although there are some pretty great ones out there. Also, you're going to have to read some tripe, too. That's so you can learn what kind of writing to avoid.
You should get used to the idea that you're not going to earn money from this very quickly, unless you're very good and very lucky. Look out for unpaid opportunities to get your writing out there. If you're not getting paid, you will at least get your name on the piece. It builds your name, gives you more practice invigorates your writing by having to conform to a new style and/or type of content.
Where are you going to find these opportunities? I would say, Twitter. If you're not signed up to Twitter, do it. It's primarily a work tool. Follow great science journalists and read their articles. Search for writing opportunities, look out for science news outlets, share your writing with your growing band of followers. One tip though, don't push your writing every hour of every day - that will get you unfollowed pretty quick.
Follow scientists too, of course. Read their work, blog about it and tell them you've blogged about it. It's unlikely they'll be annoyed, unless you've really made a hash of it. Ask if you can interview them, in person or by Skype. Then you've got personal comments and a much meatier story.
And that's pretty much where I'm at. I'm looking at finishing my biology degree and practicing writing some more before I start the next stage, which is pitching articles to paper and online magazines. I need to get faster at following up stories, something that's quite difficult as I'm working and have lots of other commitments, including a toddler. That's what comes of deciding to have a career change later on in life. By 'eck, it's fun though.