Working with Editors: How Writing for Magazines Can Improve Our Essays, Poems, and Fiction

Last week marked another first for me as a writer. Thus far, I’ve had personal essays and poems published (click here for a list), and now I can add magazine article to the list.

All of this is part of my journey of self-discovery: Am I a novelist? An essayist? A poet? A freelancer? An editor? A ghostwriter?

For many of us, the answer is yes. At this point in my career, I am keeping the focus on finishing my YA novel, but when my brain can’t take any more teenage drama, I turn to just about every other kind of writing as a way to keep working. As an author, I’m still trying to find my sea legs. I’m still looking for where I best fit in.

For me, the journey to having an article published was very different than having an essay or poem accepted. Here are the things I’ve learned through this process:

  • The time involved varies greatly. My initial pitch was accepted the day I sent it; once I sent my finished piece, I didn’t hear back for two months. Two different times I wrote emails asking, “When can I expect to hear back from you?” Thankfully, reason took over and I hit “delete” without sending them. Then again, once the piece had gone through revisions, it was published within two days.
  • Editors are more involved in editing and revisions. This makes sense; they are buying an unwritten article, as opposed to an essay or poem that they read before accepting. Therefore, I had to be willing to let the editors have a larger degree of control than I am used to.
  • At the same time, the piece still has my name on it. There were three times when I felt the need to push back on a suggested revision—and each time the editor accepted my position.
  • Working so closely with an editor can transform a piece. My original piece lacked all the things I love about my personal writing—it had absolutely zero voice—because I felt constrained by the word-count limit. The editor picked up on this right away and gave me suggestions for improving. Further, as we worked on the revisions, my editor came up with several phrases that I absolutely loved—words that felt like they must have been on the tip of my tongue but I just didn’t realize it. Finally, editors are masters at slashing unnecessary words and phrases. It was cool to watch her cut away at bits that I didn’t recognize were dead weight until they were gone.

All this to say, I’m grateful for this chance to work in a different genre, writing for a different audience, collaborating with magazine editors (thank you Natalie Singer-Velush and Beth Kramer). I am certain the experience will sharpen my writing in all of its forms.

And I’m looking forward to my next article!

 

Photo credit: April Killingsworth from Los Angeles, United States (Typewriter) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
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