|Is your head full of story ideas? Write them down and submit them. [Photo: Drew Coffman/Flickr]|
I never used to submit my writing anywhere. I used to keep it all in a drawer, hidden from the world like a timid George McFly before the space-time continuum fell into place. When I finally did build the confidence to submit, I was very selective about the publications or competitions I chose. Over time I realised there’s value in submitting, no matter where. Here are some of the benefits:
1. Become a kick-ass writer
Writing’s an art that takes constant practice. The more you write, the more you get a sense of what works. Your mind processes the conventions and mechanics of writing; it sharpens to the craft. With its neuroplasticity, your brain has the potential to tune itself to meet your needs. So writing frequently can physically make you a better writer. Submit ten times this year and see for yourself. I always interrogate my prose more closely when I intend to submit it somewhere – I’m more driven to make it the best it can be, and afterwards I can almost feel my brain neuroplasticising.
2. Build your confidence
Getting published anywhere adds to your confidence. Don’t be overly selective about where you submit to – do that and you may never get published. Well-known publications and competitions get hoards of submissions, so even a cracking story might get lost in the pile. It may be easier to get noticed by smaller publications. This’ll help you figure out what’s working in your writing. So don’t be afraid to start small. Confidence building often starts at the bottom.
|[Courtesy of Graela/Flickr]|
3. Work with a pro
Once your submission’s accepted by a publication, you’ll probably get a chance to work with an editor. An editor helps you make your piece the best it can be – for both you and the publication. Writers are often very close to what they write. Working with an editor gives you an opportunity to see how your writing’s coming across. It gives you an outside perspective. This, and the editor’s suggestions and queries, can only help you improve as a writer.
4. Crack the whip (on yourself)
Submission deadlines are motivation to write. Feed off them. If the publication has a theme, use it to inspire you and prompt you in new directions. Also, many writers suffer from self-doubt. Submitting and succeeding might be the validation and motivation you need to release this self-critic.
5. The opportunity to get rejected. Yay!
Unfortunately, even the best writers need to get used to rejection. But rejection gets you thinking about why your story wasn’t accepted; what didn’t work. It might be soul crushing – and it might make you a little bitter – but it teaches you to revise and redraft. Writer James Lee Burke said, “Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.”
|According to rumour, William Saroyan was rejected 7,000 times before he sold his first short story, but he went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. That's persistence! [Photo (cropped): Al Aumuller/Wikimedia Commons]|
6. Pimp your profile
Any published work adds to your credentials when applying for grants, residencies and scholarships. If you’re trying to break into journalism, editors may be more likely to accept your pitch if they can see a sample of your published work. Being published shows you’re not an unknown quantity. It also makes a difference when submitting a manuscript to publishers or agents. Oh, and the next time someone asks you if you’ve been published, you can say “Hell yeah!”
7. Get your words out there
I often wonder how many masterpieces remain undiscovered because the authors haven’t submitted them anywhere. Don’t keep your writing locked away. It can’t be published if you don’t get it out there. Many of the world’s most successful writers have been persistent in getting their work published. It’s great knowing something you’ve written is being read by others. Your ideas might even change someone’s behaviour, maybe their life – such is the power of ideas. Submit wherever you can; share your ideas with the world.
Do you have anything lying in your drawer? Pull it out, polish it and submit it to a publication or competition. You've got nothing to lose!