How to Get Published

How to Get Published

Have you had the pleasure of seeing your name in print? There's really no feeling like it. Maybe you've seen your work right here in Teen Ink's proud pages, or maybe online, in a webzine or online journal. If you really want to take your writing seriously, then eventually you'll want to step on that path and send your work out for the wider world to read.

But how does it happen? How do you actually get published? How do you stand out, and what's the publishing process like? Here are a few insights into what to do and how to do it in order to see your name in print (or online).

First, know that most literary magazines are absolutely swamped with submissions. And I mean SWAMPED. There are thick stacks of what is known as "unsolicited submissions" in the email or submission managers or in paper piles in the office of every lit mag out there. It takes time and effort to get through all that writing and to sift through it for gold. So the most important thing you may have to do is stand out, and stand out fast -- meaning the very first page. If your story only gets good on the third or fifth or eighth page, chances are editors aren't even going to read that far. It may seem tough, but think about all those pages they've got to get through! And they want to make a truly vivid, exciting reading experience for their readers -- not a boring slog that maybe gets good halfway through. So make your first page great! Make it leap right into the action! And for goodness' sakes, don't start with someone waking up and brushing their teeth!

Second, know that in that mess of submissions, so many of them end poorly. They either don't have an ending at all, or they go for a big melodramatic cliché at the end. Don't have all your characters suddenly die in a car crash in the last sentence; for some reason, half of all the stories I used to read for a magazine's slush pile did this. But don't just trail off without any final punch of resolution either. Why have we been reading your story? Why does it matter? What final surprise will we learn about life, about your characters?

Third, be patient. Getting published takes at least three different tiers of patience at different times. First, you must be patient as you're creating the story. Good writing can't be rushed, and if you rush the story out without editing it, without making it as good as you possibly can, then you're basically wasting your time. With all the submissions coming in, lit mags don't need to hesitate over mediocre work.

The second kind of patience you'll need to have is patience as you're waiting for the story to be accepted. Stories that have won big prizes and have been considered the year's best sometimes have to be rejected twenty or thirty times before they find the right reader. You may have to be rejected many, many times; but it doesn't mean the story is a dud. Keep sending it out, keep polishing it, take any feedback you get, and don't give up!

Finally, the third patience you'll need to have is in waiting for the story or poem to appear. Even if you're accepted, you might be accepted six months or even longer in advance of the publication date! So tell all your friends, and keep that sweet anticipation warm in your heart. Many months later, you may get that glorious day when your name and your hard work appears in the pages of a real magazine.