“Keep writing. Keep doing it and doing it. Even in the moments when it’s so hurtful to think about writing.”
People often wonder how I managed to publish an essay in an anthology at the age of 14. I never put much thought into how it happened but it seemed like once I broke through into the publishing ring and finally published my first essay, the process gradually got easier. Up until now, I have been published in six anthologies, had my work featured on Teen Ink, and I even started a blog where I publish one or more posts a day. I accomplished such a feat by writing all the time, revising happily, submitting great work, being patient, and using feedback.
The first step in pursuing publication is to write as much as possible with the intention of improving my writing. Over the past couple of years, I have learned to write well through constant practice. Indeed, practice makes perfect. Writers perfect their craft by writing regularly like an athlete training for a marathon would run on a daily basis. In addition to writing a lot, a great way to learn more is by studying the work of others. As an avid reader, I can honestly say reading expands my vocabulary, enriches my descriptions, and enhances my life. By reading and writing continually, my writing has reached new heights that I cannot even begin to imagine. Furthermore, the more experience I gain with different genres, the more material I develop for various streams of publication. This is incredibly beneficial in discovering my “writer’s niche.” It takes trial and error to figure out what I like to write about but more importantly, in finding my writer’s voice. Writing consistently develops my own, personal voice and ensures that I do not mimic or replicate another writer’s style. Once my writing has matured enough, I can begin to focus on revising and editing. Or as I like to call it…turning-first-drafts-into-excellent-final-drafts.
Read a lot of everything.
“Writing is revising.” Whoever said that line must be a genius. The saying is only three words but holds plenty of truth. Revising and editing with glee is an ability all writers should acquire for several reasons. All writers must revise their work despite how the difficult the process may be. For instance, the first manuscript I wrote entitled “Breaking Ground” is still undergoing several revisions regarding sentence structure, syntax, etc. Furthermore, I went through multiple drafts of my essay, In the Eyes of Imperfection, before I was completely satisfied enough to send it into a contest. The time spent editing my essay paid off however. As a result of all the time I spent editing, not only was the essay published, it even secured a spot in the top ten of my age division. I was delighted to have my essay published—receiving a cheque with my name on it was icing on the cake, sweetening the moment. If I had sent in the first draft of my essay, I certainly would not have come close to making the top ten much less publish it. Although, the revision process is not always enjoyable, it is necessary if one expects to see their work in print.
A look at the first essay I ever published entitled, “In the Eyes of Imperfection.”
After creating and polishing a creative project, I can submit my best work for the world to read. Honestly speaking not everything I write is great or is worthy of publication. Achieving such glory and acclaim is not exactly easy either. Passing the inspection of various editors, qualified judges, and keen agents requires writing that has merit. Any story, poem, essay, or play ever published stood out from the rest of the pack for a reason. Try to imagine a slush pile of manuscripts sitting on an editor’s desk. Then envision a savvy but extremely busy editor flipping through hundreds of pages of words in one day. The manuscript picked out from the pile is the one with an engaging opening, a fascinating plot, an interesting world with characters that seem to come alive and jump out at the reader. All these elements make the story stick out because the writing is memorable in a good way. Thus, this book is eventually published, turned into a high-budget movie, and millions of copies are sold all around the world. What happens to all the other manuscripts? They are tossed in the trash, forgotten about, and abandoned forever. The competition among writers is extremely fierce. In order for any of my work to catch the eye of an editor or judge, I had to send in excellent work so I could actually stand a chance among the numerous participants. Only the best work will rise to the top of the slush pile ultimately prevailing in the quest for publication.
The Creative Communication Essay contest award.
I am the least patient person ever. That is an understatement of the century. I knew however, to be successful as a writer I had to practice the art of being patient. Unfortunately, success does not happen overnight. No one handed me success on a silver platter. I had to work for it. These days instead of my patience meter being practically non-existent, I try to take a few deep breaths before letting frustration get the best of me. My patience has helped to alleviate stress whenever I faced an obstacle obstructing my way. Every now and then, writer’s block threatens to destroy my confidence to the point where I want to throw in the towel. Whenever this happens, I am ambivalent about chasing my dreams to be a published writer. Had I given up on my aspirations, I would not be where I am today. Successful writers must be patient, not only with themselves, but with the world around them as well.
Writers experience rejection all the time. Some of the best writers like Stephen King has taken criticism and learned from rejection. Even though overcoming rejection is one of the hardest things to do, writers must develop this skill at some point in their career. In spite of this, this universal writing experience should not be taken personally. Certainly, I seek feedback to improve my writing but negative feedback destroys my ego faster than a bullet travelling 30 miles an hour. To put it into perspective, some people will never like my writing. Period. I am okay with this fact because there are over 7 billion people on this earth yet I do not intend to please them all. Actually, that feat would be impossible. I could work on my writing all day for the rest of my life but there will still be people who dislike or disapprove of what I have to say. That said the process of rejection and growing from previous experiences is the only way any writer will ever get better.
Being published requires much more than relying on pure luck alone. A few years ago I never would have thought I would publish anything much less publish something at a young age. But if I could tell my younger self five things, they would be; write every single day, revise without complaining, submit awesome work, try to be more patient, and grow from mistakes by using rejection as a tool to motivate myself. Becoming a published writer is not easy but following these five steps pushed me closer to that goal every day.
This is one of the longest posts I have ever written. I didn’t technically intend on writing this in first person but I didn’t necessary have a choice. Read this post (Why I Love Writing But Hate English Class) to find out more. I did however, think that it would be helpful to share these tips with all the aspiring writers out there.