Some days, I love the internet. Specifically, when I need a cupcake idea for my daughter’s third grade class, Pinterest is my savior. Or when political news grinds my nerves to nubs, I require two otters holding paws on Facebook. In these instances, the internet is my friend. When it comes to writing, though, we are typically mortal enemies.
And I’m not even referring to all the distractions. (That’s an entirely different post.) Instead, consider the speed with which authors can race from idea to submission to publication. There have been mornings where I drafted a poem, submitted it over lunch, and even received word that it was accepted all in a twenty-four-hour period. Awesome, right?
That lightning process conceals a few fatal flaws. Nowhere in a sprint to publication is there space to reflect, edit, walk away, and return fresh. In a world where submission buzzes at our fingertips, are we skipping essential steps to better our writing?
I am not eschewing the process but instead offering a brief checklist of considerations to make a squirrelly writer take pause before hitting send or submit. Here I offer a few warnings for falling for the sprint instead of pursuing the marathon.
1. Editing matters. And it rarely happens well within twenty-four hours. The piece is so fresh in our minds that even glaring errors are camouflaged by our own mental copy.
2. Editing in a vacuum is dangerous. Rarely do critique partners exist who can turn around a piece in hours, and without an outside eye, the writing solely lives within our tastes and judgment. It’s not a bad place to be, but it certainly shouldn’t be the only place.
3. Did you find the right home? Unfortunately, fewer writers take the time to read online journals and get a taste of what they’re searching for. Instead many are lured by the siren’s call of fast and free submission windows, often jumping right out of them and submitting to the wrong places.
4. Submitter’s remorse is real. I have submitted pieces that found a home when they weren’t nearly ready, but perhaps the journal was new or the editor saw a glimpse of brilliance and kindly accepted. Looking back years or even months later, I see changes I’d like to make because those few pieces don’t represent my best voice, and as we all know, the internet preserves things forever.
5. Avoid looking unprofessional. As an editor for a literary magazine, like a shark smelling blood I can usually tell if a submission was dashed off without proper care. Perhaps they spell the journal’s name incorrectly, or my name, or yes – their own. We might receive a document that still shows original edits or someone else’s comments throughout. Even if the piece is wonderful, I rarely stick with it when so many glaring errors turn me towards more professional submissions.
6. Self-publishing can rob you of collaboration. Many authors, frustrated at rejection, post their own works on a blog or website. The problem with this is that they lose the opportunity to enjoy an editor’s help to polish the piece, and they may not consider why it was rejected in the first place. Persistence is a writer’s lifeblood, but not with blinders on. Every rejection or critique should move a writer to a better place. Not just a different platform.
Instant gratification exists, and it’s intoxicating. But some wins are hollow ones, and not all pieces are ready for publication. Good writing takes time, and good submissions represent that effort. Give your writing the space it needs to thrive, and I guarantee you’ll love the results. In the meantime, head to Pinterest for a yummy lunch idea.
Writing has always been an escape, a passion, and a friend. I look for other writers who feel the same.