How To Really Stand Out In the Publishing World | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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Writing isn’t easy, but there’s comfort in knowing you’re not the only one struggling. There are hundreds of thousands of other writers out there typing their way toward the exact same goals you are.

Which is great. Unless you want to stand out, which, predictably, everyone does.

What can you do that makes you, and your writing, unique? Standing out is almost tougher than the writing process itself, but we’ve come up with a few tactics you can try to make the road a little easier to navigate. 

Build a versatile portfolio 

The biggest mistake younger writers (of lesser experience, not necessarily age) make is believing that belonging to a specific writing niche means you can only ever write about one thing. Regardless of your niche and what kind of work you hope to publish someday, writing the same thing over and over again doesn’t do much to show off your skills, even if you have a lot of them.

Potential employers, agents and editors want to see your work, but they need to see a variety of writing samples. They need to know you’re flexible, experienced and able to write for a diverse market. Your portfolio should contain snippets from different newspapers, magazines and blogs, if applicable. Don’t have any yet? Here’s how you can get started.

Don’t expect to make it big, at least not right away 

Very few writers stumble upon instant success, especially their first time trying. Even if you’ve been writing for awhile, it takes time to really immerse yourself in a consistent style and find your voice. The first few things you publish, even the first dozen, probably won’t be great. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer.

Some of the most successful, well-known writers have been writing, rewriting and publishing for years. They didn’t find success overnight, and honestly, it’s not going to do you much good to expect to, either. For now, focus on refining your craft. Seriously. Put all your energy into getting a little better every day, and worry about publishing later.

Write because you enjoy writing 

Readers can tell when you’re fully engaged in a piece and when you’re not. We write differently depending on how passionate we are about certain subjects and ideas, even when we don’t realize it. If you’re writing just for the sake of writing, just to put your name on the Internet and increase your chances of getting published someday, honestly, you probably never will.

You need to write because you enjoy writing. If it’s not your passion, you’re not going to make it very far. Why? Because as we like to remind you here, writing is hard. It sometimes takes all your time and energy away from you. If you’re not fully invested in it, quitting will eventually seem like your best option. Besides, it’s not only ordinary readers that can tell when your heart’s not in it. Editors and the like can tell, too, usually within the first few sentences.

The biggest key to success in publishing is to never stop writing. Keep your eyes open for writing opportunities and know it’s okay if everything you write isn’t always your best. You’ll have good days and not so good ones. What’s most admirable in a writer, though, is pushing through till you make it count.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

How to Utilize Writing Opportunities You Can’t Fully Commit To | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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To get published, you have to act. Or in this case, write. As often as you can, wherever you can, at the highest quality you can possibly assert.

If you want to get your name out there, and solidify your brand as you grow, it’s important to take advantage of as many networking and skill-developing experiences as possible. To do that, you have to really be aware of the opportunities available, in case something comes along at just the right time.

It’s tough to stay up-to-date on what’s out there when you’re not currently in an active search. You’ll either end up trying to commit to too much or feel like you’re missing out on something that could really help build up your portfolio.

Here’s how to utilize those writing opportunities even when you know you can’t fully commit to them … right now, anyway. 

Ask all your questions before you apply and/or pitch

Job and internship postings, as well as pitching guideline pages, have a lot of information, but not always everything you’re looking for. While it might be tempting to “just apply anyway,” it’s a dangerous thing to do if you’re not sure exactly what an editor is going to expect from you from week to week, or even from day to day.

It doesn’t hurt to ask questions before you apply. Editors get questions from prospective writing applicants all the time (or they fully expect and welcome them, at least). How many hours/articles/pitches per week/month? What is the average length of one submission? What other requirements, like photos, go along with each general assignment?

There is no such thing as a “dumb” question, and it’s better to have more than enough details than to miss something important that might not allow you to make a full commitment. 

Create a potential list of pitches for future use 

Even if you’re not always writing, you’re probably always coming up with new ideas. That’s just how the brain of a writer works. Just because you have an idea, but don’t necessarily have time right this second to tell somebody about it, doesn’t mean you can’t save it for later.

It’s not healthy, though, to let your head get too crammed with ideas. They need a place to stretch their legs even when you can’t give them somewhere to run to yet. Write them down. Create a list of story ideas and pitches you might be able to use later. When you snag a free hour to write something, you’ll already have a list of ideas to choose from. This can help you make better use of your writing time, especially when there just isn’t a plethora of it sitting around.

Evaluate your current schedule and plan ahead

Editors, publishers, potential employers—they’re all looking for the same things: who are you, where are you and what are you doing? No matter what you have on your plate, it’s important to put your online portfolio—aka, whatever pops up when someone Googles your name—toward the top of your priority list.

To do this, though, you’ll need to take a good look at your schedule, both the current one and the future one. What do you have going on right now that’s keeping you from writing an extra article or two here and there? Will you still be doing that thing one month, three months, six months from now? Is there something you can put to the side, at least for a little while, to make room for a little extra portfolio-building?

Don’t take this to mean you should put off or completely ditch getting a college degree to focus on writing. Never. Do. That. Why? Oh, let us count the reasons. Actually, we’ll just have to give them to you in the form of another post.

Come back later this week for that. It’s going to be fun.

Keep writing. Even when you don’t think you can handle it. You can. You will.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Is Social Media Helping or Hurting Your Progress?

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At this point, it’s basically impossible not to be involved with some type of social media. Social media, after all, doesn’t just include social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Okay, so we’re going to have to get into more detailed explanations here in a second. This isn’t a social media blog, but social media does influence everything we do—including what, when, how, where and why we write.

Don’t believe us? What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Do you immediately pick up a book? Drag yourself downstairs to make coffee? Search for your running shoes?

A lot of us probably use our phones as alarms now. Which means, even without intending to, the first thing you might do when you wake up is check your phone. First to switch off your alarm, and then … what did you miss on Twitter after you went to sleep?

It’s great to connect with people online, especially if you’re virtually meeting up with other writers. But is your writing thriving, or suffering, because of it?

Social media vs. social networking

Okay, so maybe you’re one of the few who don’t check your Facebook notifications very often, are mostly silent on Twitter and can’t stand Pinterest or Tumblr. But do you receive any enewsletters via email? Visit any websites? Watch videos online?

If you do, you’re still interacting with social media, which is, according to Social Media Today, forms of online communication through which people “share ideas, information, personal messages, and other content.”

Yes. By reading this post, you are using social media. Boom.

In contrast, social networking is all about relationships. We create profiles on social networks in order to connect with other people, whether they’re friends, potential employers or just random people we have things in common with. Facebook and Twitter are social networks, where you might share an update or article (or a blog post you like, wink wink).

We use social media to learn new things and share our ideas. We use social networks to engage and go deeper. Which can be a great thing for aspiring writers. Right?

When does it help? 

Social media and social networking should always be used two ways: to talk and to listen. There’s plenty of strategy involved here, but we’ll get an expert on here to walk you through that (still promising). Browsing through taglines, article titles and just random posts from random people can inspire new ideas you may have never thought of otherwise.

It’s never a bad idea to promote your work and your accomplishments (in moderation), such as keeping your followers updated on your writing progress or announcing a new story that’s just been published somewhere.

You can also use it to connect with other writers and cheer them on when they’re hard at work on the other side of their latest tweet. Discussions with writers always somehow end up taking a turn for the awesome, especially if you’re the one to start one. 

When does it hurt? 

Honestly? When you spend too much time on it, use it incorrectly or use it for the wrong reasons. The first one is a no-brainer: the more time you spend mindlessly scrolling through your feeds, the less time you actually spend writing your own content, whether that be a blog post, chapter in your book or an article for some fancy magazine (go you!).

There are ways to use social media wrong, and using it for the wrong reasons is one of those ways. Yes, you should promote your work and be proud of your accomplishments … to a point. Don’t brag. Don’t make it all about you, all the time. No one wants to follow someone like that. Remember, you have to engage with other people, and approaching someone else only to talk about yourself is the same online as it would be at a dinner party. Awkward.

And for the love of God. #Stop. #Doing. #This. #In. #Every. #Single. #Post. You want to have a good reputation on social media. You don’t have to be an expert. But you need to at least try to act like you know what you’re doing.

How to find balance

It’s normal, probably even healthy, to spend a little time communicating with other people online. In some cases, it’s the only way you can catch up with friends and family who don’t live close. Checking out various forms of social media and hanging out on social networks can be great for generating new ideas, but it can also be distracting, and, if used improperly, damaging.

Always keep your end goal in mind. If your goal is to get published someday, treat your social media interactions the same way you would if you were interacting with an editor or agent. Keep your work and the work of your friends and colleagues at the center of your promotions, not yourself. Brand, but do it wisely. Be confident, but don’t be a snob.

We dare you to share this post on social media today. Share it with a fellow writer. Everyone’s presence online matters, and if you want to build a solid online portfolio to showcase your work, that includes your social networking profiles, too. There’s no way to escape it. Welcome to 2015!

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

How to Feel More Confident About What You Write

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Do you like to write? Well, do you? Now I’ll ask you a question with a less obvious answer: do you like WHAT you write?

I used to write Christian novels. I like reading them and there are authors out there who write them well, but I’m not one of them. And it’s not because Jesus and I have issues (we’re all good), it’s because it never clicked with me. I believe what I believe and it’s a staple in my life, but at some point in high school I realized I didn’t want to write for that audience 24/7.

The problem wasn’t the messages I wanted to convey or the lifestyles of the characters I wrote about. It was the fact that, simply, I didn’t like writing in that genre. And I realized that writing in a genre other than Christian fiction didn’t change my religion or the way I lived my own life. I wanted to write about different characters with different lifestyles, a different style. And once I started doing that, I started liking the end products of long hours spent typing away at my computer.

Now confidence – that’s a different story. And if you’re in the middle of writing a book and are high on caffeine and low on confidence, you’ve stumbled upon the appropriate collection of tips.

Write about things you’re interested in. You don’t have to be an expert about soccer to write about the World Cup – I write about health and fitness almost daily and I don’t even have my degree yet. No, you can’t claim you’re an expert on something when you’re not, but you’re not banned from writing about what you’re interested in just because you didn’t study it in school. The more you like something, the more you’ll watch, practice or research/read about it – the more you’ll know, and the more material you’ll have to go off of when you sit down and open your go-to word processor. Don’t write about the World Cup if you have no interest in it whatsoever, just because ‘everybody else is doing it.’ Stick to what you know – your love for the topic of choice will show through the words you use to write about it.

Don’t underestimate your ability to tell an amazing story. You’ve gone places throughout your lifetime and interacted with people whether you wanted to or not (I’m talking to you, fellow introverts). Even if you’ve never gone past your hometown’s official boundaries, you’ve encountered thousands if not millions of writing prompts just by walking down your front steps on your way to school every day when you were younger. If you’re afraid your ideas ‘have all been done before,’ snuff out that fear and make them come to life anyway. How many Disney classics were based on previously-written tales? A LOT. And all who grew up watching them don’t care if they’re technically fairly unoriginal. The more you practice writing, the better you’ll get at putting your own original spin on an age-old tale. You are a WRITER! Sit yourself down and crank out those stories you’ve kept floating around in your head your entire life. You won’t regret it.

Share your work. But Meg, I don’t like bragging about my writing. TOO BAD! Don’t even think of it as ‘bragging.’ If writers never promoted their own work to start out, no one would ever discover it. How do you think authors snag publishing contracts? By marketing their best work and being proud of it. Yes, be PROUD of it! You sat down and wrote a book/article/news brief/screenplay/haiku/instruction manual! WOOHOO! You accomplished something and you deserve a self-pat on the back! Now go email it to all your friends. If they don’t like it, there’s something wrong with them. Or, if you want to go the more logical route, they’re just not interested in the topic, genre or form of writing. Send it to 10 people and at least half of them will probably tell you you’re awesome and beg you for more reading material.

Do you like what you write? Maybe not. And all of us have pieces we wish we’d never written. But those are easy to save onto our hard drives and forget about, to leave more room in your brain for new ideas. Take your writing into your own hands (literally, as always) and love it. Love it as much as you love Disney movies and, okay, international soccer extravaganzas.

Love&hugs, Meg<3