My more mature bits sat me down and had a long talk with…the rest of…me about how I SHOULD NOT use some kind of dominatrix analogy to emphasize this point, so you have been spared mental images of me in stilettos and a riding crop.
And by that, I mean, submit your work to creative writing journals and literary magazines. A variety of them. On a regular basis.
Even if you consider yourself to be a novelist, poetry, personal essays, flash fiction, and short stories are great writing exercises to help you develop your skills on a smaller scale.
Committing yourself to routinely submitting your work to literary publications serves a multitude of purposes. First, it familiarizes you with the submission process. Sorting through publications, submission dates, length requirements, fees, and format requirements can be an intimidating process that you’ll need a few rounds to get used to.
Second, it introduces you to the experience of both acceptance and rejection. There is inarguably something terrifying about holding your personal creation up for judgment. Often this is the barrier authors have the greatest difficulty crossing. Submitting on a regular basis will familiarize you with the joy of acceptance and the disappointment of rejection.
You can’t let either experience go to your head.
Third, going through calls for submissions keeps you aware of current trends in writing. It is easy for writers to cloister themselves, thinking only about their WIP and reading only their favorite books. Keeping your finger on the literary pulse is essential to stay relevant.
Fourth, publishing in literary magazines is a great way to get discovered. Every time you publish helps your career. Your work in literary magazines is great on both ends. (Get your mind out of the gutter, you! Unless you’re writing erotica, then have at, I suppose.) When writing to agents, listing your published works lends substantial credibility and cachet to your query. Simultaneously, agents and editors comb literary magazines and creative writing journals to find the next big thing.
Okay, so how?
The universe of literary magazines is incredibly diverse, so I’m not going to post an eye-crossing list of links. I recommend searching for publications based on length and genre and then hone your search further from there. Submittable is an easily navigable submission hub, where, once you have created a profile, you can search using keywords.
If you are just getting your feet wet, consider targeting publications that cater to first-time publishers. Click here for a website with a helpful list. Remember that some publications have a fee to submit, some don’t. Some publications pay if they publish your work, some don’t. If you submit one piece to multiple publications, be sure to alert the other publications once one of them accepts. Keep track of which publishing rights publications ask for. Here is a very basic run-down of publication rights.
While submitting your work on a regular basis may feel like a task at first, you are developing important skills, habits, and strengths that will pay off in the end. If you are published in a periodical or have a favorite literary magazine, put it in the comments!
Rebecca Grubb is an editor and the creative force behind Sterling Words.