editing · Writing · Writing Career

Learn to Take Your Own Advice

I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. I still have bits and pieces of shorts I wrote when I was young, and somewhere buried in a notebook, I have a “Noir” story I tried to write in high school. My heart was in the right place, but my skills were lagging behind.

I got more serious about writing in my 20s, even as I pursued my teaching degree and taught professionally. In 2013 we moved to Wyoming, and I took a break from teaching. I got my first traditional publishing opportunity the following year, and after that, I took a lot of classes on writing fiction and comics. I still take classes whenever I can.

After someone was a jerk online last week, one piece of advice I always share with creator friends kept echoing in my head.

“You should hire an editor.”

While I still don’t think it’s right to be an asshole on online (people brush it off, but studies show online negativity can have a heavier impact than face-to-face interactions), I’ve been wondering why this tiny bit of advice was so controversial for some.

But that reaction did get me thinking about one thing I’ve noticed in the past 7 years in fiction/comics/blog editing and writing.

Letting others look at your work is difficult.

There’s a fear there, one that I often share, that if you let someone else influence your work or point out the flaws, they’ll end up chipping away at the parts of the work that make it yours.

While I understand that fear, I don’t think it’s completely true. You do have to grow thick enough skin to know when and where to stand up for your work, but most of the time your editors, writer friends, and artist friends giving feedback want to enhance your message.

But every time I get my nerve up and offer my scripts or stories up for critique, the work gets better, not worse. My editors and friends notice small details I can fix, characters I can deepen and imagery I can strengthen. As long as I stick to my guns, my voice does not get lost in the editing process.

I used to think when I said, “You should hire an editor,” I was trying to self-promote. I thoroughly enjoy the process of editing and helping others present their best possible story. But when I give that advice, even if I’d love to edit for my friends/acquaintances, that’s never my aim.

I don’t care if they hire me. I want them to seek feedback because I know it’ll help improve their story, and possibly, their writing process. It’s always helped me put a better foot forward with my own stories.

Putting yourself out there is hard, but worth it.

It’s also necessary for growth. And it’s often essential in comics because you usually work with a creative team.

Building the muscles for taking and integrating feedback will help you work with others. I’ve edited for people who are generous and kind, even when they have a conflict with the feedback I’ve shared. I’ve also given input to writers early in their careers who don’t think they need any help. These are always instances where they asked me to edit or review their work, so it was never unsolicited critique.

Learning to take feedback with equal parts grace and stubbornness is a good skill to have. Stand by what you want to keep in your story and fix what you can to make it better.

Writing Career

Creating a Basic Social Media Strategy

A lot of artists and creators I work with find social media daunting. What most people don’t realize is that running social media accounts can be a job unto themselves. For the last few years, I’ve helped clients grow their social media platforms with some basic strategies, and I wanted to share those tactics with you.

Start with One Platform

It can be tempting to start a Facebook page, a Facebook group, a Twitter, and an Instagram account for yourself or your brand all at once, but you will often find that yourself drowning in all the pressure to create content for all those platforms.

Start with one platform that fits your industry well. For example, the educational company I worked with used Facebook because many teachers use that platform. My artist friends tend to use Twitter or Instagram. Most of my comic writing buddies are on Twitter. Figure out where you can network and build an audience and start with that platform first.

You will also want to tailor your content to that platform, which we will discuss in the next section. Once you feel comfortable with your first platform, consider adding on a second social media account.

Create Your Calendar and Batch Your Content

The key to building a social media following is consistency. For clients in the past, I’ve started at the beginning of the month and mapped out content for their platforms. I’ve mapped out the content based on what socials they want to grow. I have even printed off calendars and created color-coded plans to know exactly what to create and when to post it.

You can figure out how often you want to post and what you should be posting by doing a bit of research. If you post too much or too little, it can impact your account negatively on some platforms, so be very careful with that. It can also be seen as spam by your audience if it’s not well thought out.

On average, here is a good rule of thumb for posting on different platforms:

Facebook3 Posts Weekly
Twitter3-30 Posts Daily
Instagram1-2 Posts Daily
Pinterest3-30 Pins Daily
LinkedIn2 Posts Weekly
YouTube1 Video Weekly

You’ll also want to consider how you want to use hashtags in your posts. Using too many hashtags on some platforms can be seen as spam, but platforms like Instagram use hashtags to help filter content to their users.

For me, I often print off or use a digital calendar to plan out posts for one or more platforms.

Engage with Your Audience

Posting is only half the battle. You have to follow people back, engage with their content, and build relationships to grow your following. If you post a question or something that leads a discussion, make sure to go back and engage with those that respond to you. If you treat social media like a one-way street, it will be more challenging to grow your following.

If engaging with others feels daunting, set a daily goal for engagement. Reply/comment 5-10 times a day, which should only take a few minutes if you do it all in one go. People love to feel seen and valued, so engaging with them is a great way to do just that.

Keep Going

Social media accounts take time to grow. If an account has several thousand followers, you can bet it did not happen overnight. There have been times it felt like I was posting to crickets, but as long as I stuck to it and engaged with those around me, eventually, things started to grow.

Writing · Writing Career

Building a Writing Career: How to Submit to Anthologies

Getting published seems like a scary and hard-to-achieve goal for a lot of the writers I’ve talked to, but one way to get your name out there is to submit to anthologies. It’s a great place to get started because you can focus on short fiction for a bit and learn about story structure.

If just one anthology accepts and publishes your submission, that’s it, you can say you’re a published writer. 

Finding Out Where to Submit Your Story

Literistic is a monthly email service that sends you a list of open contests, literary magazines and more. They have both a free and paid version of their monthly newsletter. The free version is quite a bit shorter than the paid, but if you are just starting out, the free version is a great way to get a feel for it and find a few different places you would like to submit your work to.

Many universities and community colleges have a literary journal/magazine or anthology that they publish yearly. They usually have open submissions but prioritize student authors or local authors. You can contact your local institution or take a look at their website to find out if they have a literary journal.

You can check out this link here for a list of the top 100 literary journals. This is a great list to get you started!

Read the Submission Guidelines Carefully

I’ve submitted several stories and though the process is almost always similar, no two submissions were exactly the same. Some journals want a cover letter with an author bio, while others just want your story. Some will want your name on every page, while others will only want your name on the cover letter. Make sure you read the instructions carefully and follow them very closely. 

Many editorial teams will not read your work if you did not follow their guidelines.

Rejection Happens

Now, just like any other submission process, you will want to ready yourself for rejection. Just because you did not get accepted, does not mean the story is bad or poorly written. It just means that it was not right for that particular literary journal. Hold on to the story, edit it again if you feel you need to, and submit it somewhere else. I personally try to submit to journals that either offer a free copy of the book/journal, or even offer some kind of payment for the story.

Keep Writing

The more short stories you write, the more work you have to submit. I keep most of my stories in a folder in google docs and when I find a literary journal I want to submit to, I see if I have anything already written or if I need to create a new story.

Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions, I’m happy to share more of my experience.