Sunday, February 17, 2019

5 Ways Online Magazines Can Energize Your Writing Mojo

It's no secret that the Writing Life can contain a few pitfalls. Slogging through the query trenches is a lonely, soul-crushing experience, often flavored with loneliness, angst, and self-doubt.

One antidote to such misery -- far better than spiraling into either a Fitzgerald or a Hemingway of despair -- might be online magazines. Literary ones, genre ones, big ones, startups: each has a special place in the heart of my career. The top 5 reasons for my love affair:

This is no time for a trail ride...
1. I Feel the Need; The Need For Speed
Every writer knows this business of ours moves at a g-l-a-c-i-a-l pace.


Writing a good book takes months, at least. Often, it takes years. Finding representation can take longer than your child lasts in elementary school. Getting a publisher to take a chance on you is an exercise in not eating one's own liver.

But magazines, especially digital ones, have a much shorter publication schedule. The submission-to-publication time frame is measured in mere weeks or months, instead of geologic eras. While I'm waiting for a book editor who has had a manuscript since May to make a decision, a short work sent out this month can be published before the snow melts. That's about as close to instant gratification as the writing world gets.

2. Exciting Editorial Interaction
Every publisher, every publication, has a particular vision, tone, or style that sets it apart from the rest. This includes e-zines, from the bigwigs to the tiniest literary startup. Working with editors to polish shorter pieces for their publications builds critical skills and awareness that will be invaluable when working with an editor on longer projects.

There is no such thing as "too many bylines."
3. Bylines, Beautiful Bylines
Call me shallow, but I like seeing my name in print. "By Ami Hendrickson" never ceases to fill me with an Enterprise-sized payload of warm fuzzies.

Fun fact: people who are not in the publishing biz (your mom, your kids, your dentist) often do not make a distinction between having a book published and having a thing published. They do, however, understand being unpublished.

While waiting for the book deal, the script option, or the staging of your play, placing a few poems, or articles, or short stories with e-zines can not only help mitigate Byline Fever, but it can also help shut up those people who wonder aloud, within earshot, when you're going to be a "real writer."

4. Reckoning with Rejection
We fall down. We get up again...
I know some writers who are paralyzed with fear at the thought of rejection. Somehow, they have equated rejection with failure. (This, of course, is ridiculous. Even Lin-Manuel Effing Miranda got rejected when he applied for the Jonathan Larson grant in 2004.)

Getting published is like playing a massive game of Concentration. (Remember, from when you were a kid? There's a deck of a jillion picture cards. Each card has a match. You lay all the cards face down and then turn two over, hoping for a match. You get a match, you keep the cards and go again. No match, your turn is over.) You send out a piece hoping it finds an editorial match. If it does, it gets published. Yay! Confetti-flinging ensues. If it doesn't, you send it somewhere else. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I used to worry about rejection. Now, I realize it's just part of the game. FWIW, I even sent queries out when my husband was dying. I figured no rejection could possibly compare with losing my WunderGuy. You can't win if you don't play. You can't get published if you don't go out on sub. If rejection worries you, let the quick turnaround of e-zines help you get used to it. The sooner, the better.

5. Bend! And Stretch! And Reach for the Stars!
The shorter length of pieces for online magazines allows me to stretch myself, trying something new with presentation, or with language, or with ideas, without committing months of my life to it.

If I run across an interesting tangent in my research (helloooooo, YouTube rabbit hole about Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians...), exploring it in poetry, or flash fiction, or flash non-fiction allows me to sink my teeth into it far enough to know if I need to devote a larger chunk of my writing time to it -- or if I can let this Bright, Shiny Object lie and return to my work-in-progress.

You never know what new interests you might discover if you give yourself permission to try them. I once wrote a contest winning six-word short story ("No taxidermist loved his daughter more.") that not only brought with it a lovely, unexpected winner's check, but it also permanently kick-started a love of micro-fiction.

Added bonuses:
As I review an e-zine to see if what I've written might be a good fit, I invariably find new writers that I like, wrestle with new ways to look at the world, and discover some new technique to put into play. My research almost always results in immediately improving my writing -- whether I submit something to them and get it published or not.

Bragging Rights:
If you've had something published online recently that you're proud of, tell me about it. It's ok to brag. Let the world know what you did this nifty thing.

I'll go first: I'm thrilled that my poem "Drive By 'I Love You'" was published this past weekend in The Cabinet of Heed.

Ok... Your turn!