By Denise Mills of Imperfect Life Magazine
Ever since I was a young’n, I have written and illustrated short stories. Everything from political poems and war stories, to “The Life of a Pencil” (still my all-time favorite). For some reason, once I reached adulthood, my writing all but stopped. Isn’t it funny how the hustle and bustle of everyday life makes us too busy for the things we actually enjoy?
I started writing again-after an almost 25 year hiatus-in late 2015, and certainly seem to be making up for lost time. I get up at 5.30am for some crazy reason, and type up whatever thoughts pop into my head. If they’re coherent enough, I send them off to an online magazine before I head off to my day job.
I’m the editor of Imperfect Life magazine, a contributor for Huffington Post (thanks to these tips on Beyond Your Blog), and have written for Elephant Journal, Indie Chicks, Feminine Collective, BonBon Break, Ravishly, YFS Magazine, and more. I’m not listing ‘em to show off…I’m just sayin’! I’ve done it enough to notice some significant differences in how they work, and know what to look out for.
Here’s my top 5 ‘gotchas’ to look out for before you send your beloved article off into someone else’s hands:[bctt tweet=”5 ‘Gotchas!’ To Watch Out For When Submitting Your Writing”]
#1 You may lose your voice!
Ahh, good old editing. Sometimes, it’s just the luck of the draw. It’s a very real possibility that you may be stuck with an over-zealous editor who feels as though it’s their job to pull your paragraphs to bits, change your words, and leave your name stuck to an article that you feel is no longer remotely akin to anything you would ever write.
Perhaps I exaggerate slightly, but when I wrote for one particular magazine and was lumped with the apprentice editor, I was not impressed. Paragraphs that flowed nicely were pulled apart, words I’d never use such as ‘silly’ were thrown in. For example, instead of “I can’t believe I had such a thought”, one line read “I can’t believe I ever had such a silly thought!” It’s only minor, but in my opinion little tweaks like this changed the whole tone of the piece.
Unfortunately, that’s what happens when you tick that little box that says you’re aware your work will be edited. It might be changed, mangled and rearranged. More often than not, this doesn’t happen – but it’s something to be aware of. On a positive note, Huffington Post have never edited my writing in any way whatsoever beyond adding an extra dash or inverted commas, which is nice.
Some sites actually say ‘we won’t change your work, but we will check for any typos or grammatical errors’, which means you’re baby (your article) is pretty safe.
If you notice your article has been hacked to bits, I encourage you to contact the magazine. It’s your words, after all. When I contacted the publisher regarding my over-edited article, I did succeed in getting some paragraphs changed back to their original wording (although it’s still not really “me”…but an improvement, nonetheless).
#2 Your original work may not perform!
If an online magazine requires you to provide only original posts, it might be worthwhile checking what sort of shares similar articles on the site receive. The reason being, if your article doesn’t perform well, there isn’t much you can do! It’s gone, and if you want to resubmit it elsewhere you’ll need to make substantial changes. This can be particularly disappointing for articles that you’ve put a lot of work into.[bctt tweet=”On Submitting Writing: #2 Your Original Work May Not Perform”]
Most of the places I write for don’t require original work, which I think is good. It allows me to send my writing out to various places and see what happens. I’ve noticed the results can sometimes be surprising – with some posts on lesser known websites doing better than those on well-known ones. Possibly due to a more suited audience, albeit a smaller one.
#3 Paid vs unpaid – there are benefits to both.
I recently had a friend of mine say “I have no idea why anyone would submit anything without getting paid”. Really? To me, it’s just lovely to share a little piece of myself, for no reason other than I enjoy it.
Also, that line of thinking can be a bit short-sighted. Regardless of whether your posts are paid or unpaid, you always have the potential of increasing subscribers to your own blog by directing readers back to your website. You can use well-placed links in the article itself, or the readers can come to your site purely from the links in your bio. I’d recommend links back to your website in the actual article, whenever possible. I’ve found these increase the number of new readers to your site far more than when there are links in the bio alone (although this isn’t always possible – links need to be relevant).
#4 Some places won’t respond. It’s not personal.
When you send off your work and eagerly await a response, don’t be too offended if you don’t hear back. It really does not mean your writing is bad. It may be a case of the piece not suiting that particular magazine’s readers, or perhaps the editor was just having a bad day. Who knows? Just shrug it off and send it elsewhere.
In my case, the same article that led to me being a contributor for The Huffington Post was first rejected by another, lesser known site. Furthermore, it was submitted as original content, meaning I couldn’t submit it elsewhere had they accepted it. I’m very lucky the first place I sent it to didn’t like it!
Stand by your work and try again, don’t be discouraged.
#5 Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.
It seems obvious, but it is something to keep in mind. I’ve looked at some published articles I’ve written and cringed. “Couldn’t I have said that in a nicer way?”[bctt tweet=”On Submitting: #5 Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.”]
Unfortunately, we don’t have any control over how other people perceive us. But being mindful of how we use your words can lead to less of these cringe-worthy moments in the long run.
That’s all folks, hopefully you find these tips helpful when submitting your work in the future.
Denise Mills is the founder and editor of Imperfect Life online magazine. She’s a reformed perfectionist all about living her best life, connecting with others, and ‘walking her talk’ by being unapologetically imperfect.