As an editor, I love receiving emails from enthusiastic, potential contributors who are looking for advice regarding how to hone their craft and really get their work out there. It’s refreshing to get an email from someone genuinely seeking answers about what they can do to become a better writer.
For example, I recently received an email from an individual asking if I could provide him with any tips or resources (or both) that would help him improve his writing and in turn get his work seen and read by others. Below is an excerpt of the email I sent to this aspiring young author. I hope that if there are any other young writers out there who are working hard to perfect their skills, you will find this information helpful.
First and foremost, the best piece of advice I can offer is a shared bit of knowledge my favorite Creative Writing professor bestowed upon me my sophomore year in college. If you want to be a better writer, you’re going to need to write. You need to write a lot. You need to write every day. Scribble a short story, a poem, an essay, it doesn’t matter because 99% of the time it’s going to be crap anyway. But the only way to become a better writer is to write. If you want to be a great writer, you need to write and you need to learn how to proof-read. Go write your crappy short story and then proof-read that sucker and highlight the pieces you like. Re-write it. Proof-read it again. Highlight some more. Re-write. Proof-read. Highlight. Do this until the entire page is covered in the highlighter color of your choice and maybe, just maybe, you’ll have something that’s worth somebody’s time to read. If you really want to write, if it is the burning passion of your soul, you need to be willing to embrace the fact that this is how you will be spending the majority of your time. Re-writing crap.
Word for word that is the most straight-forward and honest advice anyone has ever given me. I truly believe every word of it with all of my heart.
Another bit of advice I can offer you is to tell you to get involved. There are classes, groups, workshops and conferences all over the place out there. All you have to do is look and have the guts to give it a try. Whether you’re a published or unpublished writer, I understand the thought of attending something like a conference can be intimidating. The experience itself can be frustrating. But you’ll never know unless you try. Newpages recently released their updated guide to some of the best conferences in the country. Give ’em all a look and see if you can find something to your liking.
A conference or small group gives you the opportunity to share your work with others and receive feedback. You get to brainstorm with other writers who can offer a fresh perspective, pick up other tips and tricks from old pros, figure out what direction you really want to take your work. Getting involved and associating with other writers (I know we tend to be a reclusive bunch) is one of the greatest favors you could ever do yourself.
Back to Newpages. NewPages.com is my go to source for literary magazines and all things writing-related.In fact, Decades Review is listed on NewPages but I’m sure you already knew that.
They’re a great source for researching writing conferences, creative writing programs and publishers. They list creative writing programs from across the country, contests, calls for submissions from top-notch magazines like Booth, Carve, and The Chatahoochee Review and new hot-shot literary journals like The Boiler, Cruel Garters and Niche; they even have a place where you can get your own blog listed, here.
So if you are really looking to get your work out there and into the hands and hearts of others NewPages has you covered, all you have to do is work up the guts to submit. From one writer to another, this is the best advice I can give you. I hope it helps.
Paige Edenfield, Poetry Editor
Decades Review accepts submissions year-round. We are currently reading for our October, 2013 issue. All submissions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can review the submission guidelines here.