How to Get Your Writing Published
When I graduated from college with a creative writing degree, I was understandably confused about how to get published. Saying you want to write professionally is one thing, but actually doing it – and getting published – isn’t easy.
Still, there’s a lot you probably already know about how to stick through with it and believe in yourself if you’ve made it even this far. One thing that’s helped me is working on the Oak Park-based Chicago area publication Callosum Magazine. At Callosum, we offer Oak Park and Chicago area writers and artists opportunity to get their names and work published, while also offering constructive feedback. Here are 11 tips on how to get published from someone who’s still fresh in the game.
1. Think Local: Think Oak Park, Think Chicagoland
Here in Oak Park, Callosum Magazine has worked primarily online, but being locally based also has given us the chance to really highlight local talent. Writers in Oak Park, Chicago, or the neighboring suburbs benefit from this kind of interaction.
The internet has certainly created a system in which writers can work from anywhere. Those resources are great and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Yet it’s also valuable to know what publications near you are looking for material. Since I graduated from college, a significant portion of my income has come from writing for the local newspaper in my college town. It’s been great for experience, and the journalistic writing has encouraged me to engage more with my locales and meet other creatives. Having regular work with deadlines has pushed me to keep a stronger work ethic than I would if I was just trying to work remotely on things, and also forced me to write about things I would never consider otherwise.
Often, as writers, we focus on the big, more over-exposed publications, but there are many, many smaller journals, presses, prints and et cetera around that need writers. You’re a writer. Present yourself!
If you’re in Oak Park, or even the Chicago area, Callosum Magazine offers creatives of all stripes a chance to get work of their choice published, as well as participate in performances. Have you been working on anything? Whether your work is complete or incomplete, submit online.
2. Ask Questions!
It’s easy to be caught up in the mindset that any questions you ask to an editor or publication is a sign of weakness, but it’s better to know what you need to do before you turn something in, instead of after. Similarly, when getting feedback, don’t be afraid to ask for specifics. The more you know, the more you know.
3. Meet and Support Other Creatives
When networking, we often get caught up in trying to please those that we see as higher-ups, but some of the most meaningful relationships, and rewarding in the long-term, will be those that we make with our peers. Find other creatives you really like. Networking is a long game, and friendships are great too! Join writing groups and open yourself to constructive criticism. Thinking about other people’s writing from the perspective of a creator will help you too!
4. Remember Your Worth!
It’s easy to be discouraged as a writer, especially when you feel like the kinds of things you write aren’t getting recognized or seen. It’s easy to put on blinders and attribute that to your voice being unimportant or unwanted. This is especially true for those in marginalized communities, but there really is a genuine push right now to improve upon that. Many publications are actively seeking to amplify underheard voices.
If you’re not seeing a certain kind of voice out there, you’re probably not the only person missing it. Look at your differences, whatever they may be, as an asset, not a detriment. This isn’t to say write lazily because you are who you are, but understand your differences as a writer are just that, differences. If everyone wrote the same, they’d probably have replaced us all by robots by now.
5. Make Mistakes!
Similarly, understand that nobody is perfect, and most of the writing you come across in your day-to-day life is generally planned-out and edited professionally. People get rejected from publications all the time as well, the same way they get rejected from jobs, colleges, and marriages. In life, you may never stop finding rejection, in some degree, but you can learn to roll with it. Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected over 100 times. A Wrinkle In Time was rejected by over 26 publishers for being “too different." It’s going to come your way either way, but the more comfortable you are seeking publication and the more willing you are to be seen and acknowledged, there’s another chance. It might seem like a logical fallacy, but just by being out there, you are getting out there.
Remember, again, in this age where real artificial intelligence has not yet really presented itself, we need writers. We need writers to write well, interesting, moving, informative, creative, funny, bizarre things. Perhaps we always will. In the business space, that’s the writing that often sticks out. Remember when Groupon was king? A lot of their strength was in their witty prose, some of which was written from the perspective of a cat! Editors read lots of material that’s like or similar to other work. Give them something to remember.
Look at criticism less as something hostile, and more as a conversation with your work. Some of the most meaningful interactions I’ve had with texts of my own and others has been through reading criticism. No work is perfect.
6. Nothing You Write Will Change The World
Recently, I was having a conversation with one of the best poetry professors I’ve ever had. One thing she reminded me is, in the large scheme of things, nothing we write will really make an impact. She said this should be seen as liberating. It’s not our job to single-handedly do anything in this world. We’re here to understand the world, rationalize, explore it, interrogate it, more than change it. This isn’t to say you can’t enact social change, but think of your work as a vote, not a campaign.
7. Consider Audience, or Don’t
Talking to this professor, we also discussed the importance and unimportance of audience. The metaphor we landed on was cooking. We both agreed that we cooked better food when we knew somebody was going to eat it. I always felt like I was writing better essays and poems when I had a workshop for them. If you feel like you’re not motivated, sometimes a little extrinsic pressure can be helpful – although, of course, we’re all different.
If you’re looking for someone to give your work the attention it needs, Callosum Magazine also can read and help edit your work, even if you don’t want to publish it.
8. Do It Yourself!
Plenty of writers can cultivate spaces for themselves. Even if you don’t want to start the next Gawker or Callosum, a stylish blog can offer an untested voice a solid résumé. You can list your own publications as well, but if you have something that’s more of a passion project, a personal blog can be a strong place to make a case for yourself. Websites like Medium offer a pretty simple system with a big potential audience and a method to monetize your writing.
9. Revise! Reduce! Recycle!
Even if you don’t have an editor, it’s great to share your work and return to it. Certainly, some projects belong in the past, but there’s no shame in recycling an idea. Ray Bradbury got arrested once for walking on the street, and he ended up turning that into a short story, an essay, and a character detail for his novel Fahrenheit 451. Great writers borrow, for sure, but they also borrow from themselves.
10. Learn to Juggle
One thing that has benefited me is lateral movement. We’re all different, but if you’re like me, you might relate. I work in a lot of different mediums, music, writing, journalism, video production, visual art, etc. I don’t always have the best work ethic, but I make up for it by forcing my procrastination to be productive. If I can’t be writing, maybe I can be drawing, playing guitar, reading. We all deserve leisure time, but if you find yourself procrastinating when you should be creating your next masterpiece, maybe try changing medium or project. You can always come back to your magnum opus when you’re ready.
11. Write From Life
Ideas that the personal, political, and analytical are distinct are increasingly getting broken down. Some of the best writing coming out right now blurs the line between fact and fiction, poetry and prose, politics and art. If you’re writing, there’s probably something you believe, deeply. You don’t need to find it or say it outright, but you don’t need to hide it either.
Get Your Writing Published with Callosum
Now that you know how to spread your word, you can put it into action. At Callosum, we accept all work – yes, all writing. Plus, we'll look at it with a fine-tooth comb. After you submit your work to us, we'll send you our suggestions. You don't need to take any of our suggestions; or, you can accept all of them. Flip your revised piece back to us, and sooner or later, you'll be published. Plenty of other artists have done it. So submit to us today!