Get Your Words Out

English: This is an image I took in Saigon, Vi...
English: This is an image I took in Saigon, Vietnam last year (2008). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I promised my current cohort of community health nursing students the information in this blog post, but I wanted to offer it to other people—nursing or otherwise—who are interested in getting their writing in print (both traditional and virtual publication).

Here’s my advice for getting your health-related creative writing published. In follow-up posts I will provide specific resources for where to get published, as well as some ethical/practical writing guidelines specific to narrative nonfiction (true stuff written in an engaging, literary way). This information is mainly for writers of short-form (typically 6,000 words or less) fiction and non-fiction, and poetry. It doesn’t include advice for academic journal writing or book-length works. The following recommendations are based on my personal experience (mainly publishing narrative nonfiction in literary journals), as well as the collective wisdom of the wonderful people in my Seattle writing group—The Shipping Group.

  • Submit your best work. The most important self-editing advice I ever got was to read my own writing out loud to myself (to my always attentive and appreciative Corgi/don’t try this with cats as they bore easily). You can pick up a lot of things that don’t ‘sound right’ by reading your work out loud.
  • Have your writing (essay, poem, etc) vetted by other people besides your significant other/spouse/co-workers who may not be objective enough to provide you with kind but honest feedback.
  • If you are a student, take advantage of the writing support resources at your school for editing and feedback (mainly for essays, but they should also have resources for writers of poetry and short fiction).
  • Find a local (or virtual) writing group to provide support. Indie bookstores and public libraries are good sources to find local writing groups.
  • Balance the advice of ‘submit your best work’ with the equally important reminder that some people take this too literally and never submit their writing.
  • Do your homework to make sure your writing piece fits the current submission criteria for the journal/blog, etc you are targeting. Read their submission criteria descriptions. Read samples of their published work. Ask their contact person for clarification if you are unsure of something. The contact people are generally really nice and helpful so don’t be afraid of them!
  • Begin a daily practice of repeating the mantra, “Rejection only means I am submitting my writing. Rejection only means I am submitting my writing….”
  • If something you submitted gets rejected one place, immediately submit it somewhere else.
  • If something you submitted gets rejected, but the editor writes you a personalized note of encouragement, take it seriously. That means they took time to tell you something specific that was positive about your writing.
  • Celebrate any and all of your publications. Writing itself is a radical act. But since most writing is intended to have an audience, achieving that communication link with a wider audience through publication is truly a radical act. So celebrate your accomplishment.
  • Keep writing…..

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