Summer mini-writing workshop: On editing, submitting, and working in the biz

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Most professional writing jobs require a Bachelor’s degree; this is where writing internships (whether on-site or remote) can help employers get past that requirement.

Before applying for a writing job, ensure your LinkedIn profile is updated (with a current headshot—not you ten years younger and twenty pounds lighter) and that your portfolio is diverse (I included a flyer, newspaper article, and a press release, among others, in mine). Never include personal blog posts in your portfolio—only professionally published pieces.

I used to have little interest in writing short fiction because you typically only earn royalties on novels. However, I realized I had so many ideas that weren’t enough for a novel but were perfect for a short story; I could also finish them quicker.

Reading, writing, and editing your work is the cake, but professional development, such as attending (and participating in) writing workshops, seminars, and conferences are the icing.

Dialect and slang can be tricky, however, they can establish not only the region but the period in which your characters live. Just don’t go overboard and exhaust your reader with too many words containing apostrophes (e.g., gettin’).

If you think it’s petty when professors take points off a paper for not following MLA or APA guidelines regarding headers, in-text citations, and references, you will realize how important attention to detail suddenly becomes when you start sending your work out to publishers and keeps getting rejected for not being formatted properly. (Usually, publishers won’t even tell you why; it’ll just end up in the slush pile, so you’ll never know what you did wrong.) Plus, it’s silly to lose points on something so easy.

Write what you want to read. I’ve tried tailoring my writing to fit an editor or publisher’s vision, which doesn’t work and is why I rarely submit any poetry (much of which is just all in fun and not meant to be taken seriously)—only short stories and essays; however, personal essays have a short shelf life, as they often cover or touch on timely topics (for example, the coronavirus pandemic).

Whereas a short story is like a television episode, a flash piece is like a single scene. Rediscovering flash fiction has helped me revitalize old projects and ideas that weren’t working as full-length stories. Even deleted scenes from my novel have been repurposed as flash pieces, so don’t toss something just because it doesn’t fit into the home you built for it.

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