1. Learn to write stories of different lengths/mediums.
Don’t be tied down to every idea as a novel or a screenplay. Some ideas simply work better as flash fiction or as a poem. If you’re not diversifying your output, then you are limiting the impact of your stories.
2. Submit to the right magazines (at the right time).
Take the time to compile a list of magazines and what types of stories they publish. Read what they publish. You are wasting your time and the time of the editor if you are unfamiliar with what the magazine wants.
Make note of their submission periods so you can stay on top who is accepting what types of stories.
Always check to see when the latest issue or post went online, there are lots of defunct magazines that still say they are “open for submissions”.
3. Submit regularly.
Give yourself regular deadlines to have work completed and submitted for either publication or contests. In the end, if you aren’t satisfied with what you’ve done, you don’t have to send it in, but it gives you a goal and a date to complete your project by.
(Don’t pay to enter or for consideration unless you are extremely confident in your work)
4. Do your cover letter right.
Use the editor’s name, if you can find it.
Don’t use a form letter for submissions, even if the magazine uses one for rejections.
Keep your cover letter brief, don’t describe your work, just who you are and that you thought it would be a good fit for their magazine.
Keep your bio professional, it’s okay to express yourself, but don’t try to make a lot of jokes or seem quirky, it comes off as desperate.
Don’t list 1,000 credits, just your most recent/prestigious publications. If you have no credits, keep it simple: Lucy Gordon is a French-Canadian Poet. She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband Thomas and their cat Judy.
5. Don’t talk about writing, write.
It has been scientifically proven that talking about projects before they are completed gives one just enough satisfaction to feel like they do not need to complete the task. It’s better to share a finished product than an initial idea. Outside input too early in the creative process can muddle your vision and inhibit you from making something that’s truly your own.
6. Don’t be afraid to branch out.
Pursue your ridiculous ideas!
In Wonderbook Jeff Vandermeer talks a lot about how important the imagination is in the writing process and emphasizes the importance of “creative play” or simply letting your mind go where it will. Indulge your fantasies and daydreams (and nightdreams for that matter) you never know what seemingly absurd idea will lead you to an amazing, original story.
7. Write everything down.
Make list of your ideas, interesting names you hear, locations, moods, scenes, if something in your daily life strikes you, then make a note of it because you will forget.
Be organized, know where everything is. Don’t delete what you cut, set it aside for later use. Many times I’ve been inspired by seeing the scraps of two poems next to each other in my “cut document”.
8. Know the rules, so you can break them.
You’re going to do what you want anyway, but it helps to know what you’re pissing on and what you’re praising. Even if you want to write free form, non-rhyming poetry, it’s still helpful to learn about meter. If you never learn proper grammar, all your characters will sound casual and uniform.