How Submitting to Publications Made Me a Better Writer
Self-publishing is rewarding but…
I’ve been blogging since 2017 and it’s been quite the experience to put words onto digital paper, sharing my personal stories and insight. From keeping a diary to entering short story contests during grade school, writing has been in my blood since I could remember.
Owning a website where I can freely create as I please, no holds barred, is incredibly rewarding. Self-publishing allows me to write, record, film whatever floats my boat and deliver it to the world with the quick press of a button. Anyone with an Internet connection can read, watch and listen to my content.
As an Asian female, I’m grateful I live in a country (Canada) and grew up during a time where I have the opportunity to do this without having to jump through hoops or cross any red tape. I feel empowered to have a voice in this world even if only 1 out of the 7.8 billion people hear me.
But what if the rest of the 7.8 billion people also want to listen but can’t find me?
Increases my exposure
I’ve been writing on Medium for a few years now and every so often a publication would reach out to me and ask if they could publish an article I wrote. I would always agree. It was easy. They would add me as a writer and all I had to do was click the three dots and select “Add to Publication.”
Then they would accept; I had the reassurance that they would because they told me to. I only submitted it when they asked me. It was safe, no need to go through the nail-biting uncertainty of potential rejection. I’d get a small spike in my views and reads but then the numbers would resume back to normal.
But it got me thinking…that one article published by a publication increased my exposure temporarily.
What if I published more than one?
What about 31? Like one for every day of December?
It would be easier for people to find me and to hear my voice. So I took the challenge to write one article per day and have it published by a publication.
The numbers were astounding; my views increased by 50% and reads increased by 40% compared to the previous month.
I enjoy seeing the statistics but it’s not the numbers that excite me. It’s the lessons learned from putting myself out there, overcoming my fears of what others think of me, challenging myself and improving my skills as a writer that motivate me to keep going. As my mom always tells me whenever I wanted to quit piano or Chinese school,
“What you learn is yours to keep. You can share your gifts with the world but no one can ever take that away from you.”
So here’s how submitting to publications made me a better writer.
Developing grit and thicker skin
The first time I was rejected was from P.S. I Love You. I had to apply to contribute to their publication. As part of the application, I sent them a draft of my article, “You Need Your Emotions Validated Whether You're From Venus or Mars.”
The editor responded saying they ‘liked it’ and added me as a writer. I submitted but shortly after, it wasn’t accepted. I was confused because I thought it was a shoo-in. Then I became disheartened and disappointed.
However, I quickly licked my hurt ego and mustered enough courage to try somewhere else.
This is a defining moment because I chose to move on instead of dwelling and stewing in self-doubt. It’s at this point where not only did my skin get thicker but so did my grit. Anyone can call themselves a writer but a good writer has the guts to keep writing after experiencing defeat.
No guts, no glory.
I realized the type of article I wrote had an intersectionality theme, discussing gender stereotypes and how they affect romantic relationships. So I submitted to An Injustice! and it was accepted.
Just because a publication doesn’t accept one of your articles doesn’t mean they’ll reject the rest. Instead, view it as an opportunity to learn more about the publication, read a few of their articles to get a feel for what they typically publish, and it doesn’t hurt to review their guidelines once more.
I didn’t give up; since then, several of my articles have been published in P.S. I Love You.
In addition, there are plenty of other publications that are accepting submissions; it just takes some time to research which ones interest you, fit your style and align with your values.
However, it doesn’t mean you can’t stretch your writing ability and challenge yourself to write about interesting topics that you haven’t written about before.
Stretching my range of writing styles
Every publication has its own unique flavour. Although you can get a sense of their style by reading their articles, it’s not until you press that submit button where you actually get to see whether your style fits theirs.
The more submissions I made, the better I understood what type of articles a publication looked for. Whenever it was rejected or if there wasn’t a response, I knew I needed to adapt and adjust my style of writing if I wanted to keep submitting to the same publication.
Some prefer providing real-life experiences in a narrative style rich in context and description to activate their readers’ senses. Some want a persuasive style that embeds personal stories to back my opinion (usually the title). Some want a step-by-step, expository guide that explains exactly how I did something.
It keeps it fun and exciting to explore different writing styles, becoming more adaptable and pushing my creative limits.
If you’re not growing, you’re dying.
Expanding the number of topics I cover
When I first started blogging, I heard this word about a thousand times. I think folks often confuse the word niche with the word topic. I’d like to think of niche as all-encompassing areas in my life that I’m comfortable in, have a passion to write about and help others with. I can stay in my niche while covering numerous different topics.
As you can see in my profile, I typically write about self-love, relationships and culture. These are my bread and butter.
One of the ways I found publications to write for was to browse the ones I followed, looking to see if they were accepting submissions. Then I started following more of them and noticed the range of topics that they covered; it gave me ideas that I’d never thought I’d write about.
I started writing about food, cooking, yoga, fitness, health, podcasting, making videos, content creation, writing …
To be frank, I never thought I would write about writing and this article wouldn’t have existed if I didn’t start submitting to publications. However, I’m genuinely enjoying sharing my experiences and writing journey with my readers.
The next topics I’d love to cover are how to save money and manage finances.
Building trust and clout with my readers
Continually putting myself out there and submitting to publications allows my readers to see I’m serious and committed to improving as a writer. It shows tenacity and determination to keep trying. When I get better at writing, my articles will get better and my readers will find more value in reading then.
In addition, many readers on this platform are writers so it builds a sense of camaraderie as we’re all trying to make it big (or at least make enough to pay the bills). From writer’s block, dealing with rejection, feeling burnt out, lacking focus, creativity, or motivation, we are in the trenches together, inspiring each other to keep our spirits high when we face those challenges of being a writer.
Validating my writing ability and giving me the confidence to start freelancing
Am I as good as I think I am?
My husband thinks I am. My kids think the world of me. My friends support me all the way.
But are they just saying that because they love me?
Writers are sensitive beings. We are artists trying to create masterpieces with 26 little characters. No paint to mix. No clay to shape and mould. No marble to sculpt. No Roy, G, or BIV. Just black letters on a white screen attempting to convey a meaningful message that touches the hearts and minds of the people viewing it.
When a publication accepts an article, I do a little happy dance. It feels good to have my efforts validated. I have yet to start my freelance career but as more of my submissions get accepted and the more confident I become, the less scary it seems to leave my 9–5.
Learning to work with editors
Sometimes a publication will come back and give feedback on my article. It’s like they want to publish it but there are one or two things missing or it’s not adding up. Those bits of advice are gold because they’ve gone through my work and are able to identify gaps that I wouldn’t have thought about.
For instance, when I submitted “How To Generate Writing Ideas About Personal Growth” to The Brave Writer, I had originally called it “How Generating Writing Ideas About Personal Growth Made Me Personally Grow.” The editor wrote back and told me the point of the article was confusing.
Was I giving advice to my readers on how to personally grow?
Or was I giving advice about how to generate writing ideas about personal growth?
They were right. I fixed it immediately and it was accepted.
Since then, I’ve started incorporating that valuable piece of feedback into my writing, ensuring my articles are cohesive with a clear focus.
Gaining insight into how publications work
Editors see thousands of submissions a month so they’ve developed the skill to weed out the stronger ones from the masses. Writers and editors have a symbiotic relationship. They share a common goal: to have articles published.
The more I submit to publications, not only do I become a better writer but I also get to learn more about how editors and publications work. Eventually, as I continue building my experience getting published and working with editors, I’d like to start my own publication, wearing both hats and seeing both sides of the same coin.