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12 Tips for Getting Published Sooner

People ask, "Shouldn’t I be getting published by now? How did you become a published writer? How can I get my novel, short story, article published?" Luck sometimes plays a role, as it did for me. I worked on my writing for years, mostly without trying to get published. Then I entered the right contest at the right time, and winning a major contest is an excellent way to raise interest in your work!

Normally, the writing and publishing process is straightforward: Learn, practice, ask for knowledgeable feedback, and submit your work to magazines and journals until someone accepts your writing for publication. Constant improvement and perseverance is the big secret to getting published. Sorry! But I can provide a few tips...

Do You Need a University a Degree or Formal Training?

I took the university path to becoming a writer. I studied English Literature, took creative writing classes, and got a couple of degrees. I value my degrees. At university, I learned the value of lifelong learning, and having a Master's degree has provided opportunities I would not have been offered otherwise. I learned a great deal from my professors and my peers, but an expensive university education is not the only route to publication and life as a professional writer.

Writing Classes

Community colleges have continuing education courses that range from $30 to $100 per three-hour class, or $200 to $400 for several weeks. Your instructor will generally be a published writer, though not always well known. Many libraries offer similar writing classes. Until you’ve taken some courses and have had some feedback, getting published is the least of your concerns. You need to understand craft first. More than anything you need to hear what others have to say about your writing.

Writing Groups

You may also seek out a writers' group, or form one of your own. If the group is well read, knowledgeable, and above all honest but kind with their critiques, they can inspire you and provide invaluable advice. Avid readers often know more about writing than they think they do. They have gut feelings. Even more valuable than their feedback is what you will learn as you reciprocate. Nothing will improve your writing and your chances of getting published as fast as analyzing someone else's work.

Internet Feedback

You can also submit writing for feedback to free writing sites on the Internet. Use caution and join a positive environment only, where the people are polite and sensitive in their responses. Observe before you commit. Facebook and MySpace have some helpful groups.

In my university creative writing classes, the professor provided feedback, but comments from fellow students were equally beneficial. I learned that if one person commented on some aspect of my writing, I should consider the comment and possibly make a change. But if several people commented on the same element, it required serious attention.

Similarly, I learned that what one reader liked, another could vehemently dislike, and vice versa. This taught me to trust myself. Getting published requires self confidence and the ability to trust your judgment.

Writing Mentors

If getting published is your goal, save up or dip into your savings and hire a mentor. The most cost-effective and beneficial writing feedback I received over the course of my writing education came through private mentoring. Later, the feedback I received from writers I mentored led me to believe that it remains one of the most beneficial and cost effective avenues of all. I always recommend mentoring for both unpublished writers and anyone who wishes to refine his or her writing skills. A good writing mentor will help you take your writing to the next level.

Writing Conferences

Attend writing conferences as often as time and finances allow. You will meet other writers, both published and unpublished, you will workshop your writing, and you'll get one-on-one feedback. Not only that, you'll have fun, and the intensity of the atmosphere will leave you inspired and confident that your writing has value.

Writing Books

Finally, don't forget to read about writing. Many good books exist to help writers hoping to get published. The ones that have been most helpful to me over the years are listed in my writing library and they’re all readily available at bookstores or online.

Find Help Wherever It's Available

Pick up knowledge from professionals wherever and however you can. Good writing practices lead to getting published faster than poor writing practices, which only lead to the same wrong actions performed repeatedly. So gaining knowledge, by whatever method, is the essential first step. A sound knowledge of writing structure and technique—well practiced—will result in publishable writing, and in some cases, real art.

Value Craft

I focus on the craft of writing because it provides the crucial foundation for good creative writing. It's the part that can be taught. At some point, most people acquire the skills needed to arrange words into structurally correct sentences. We put the subject before the verb, the adjective before the noun, until we're no longer conscious of the numerous and varied formulas we use to sound quasi-intelligible.

But to create art, and to sustain a reader's interest for three hundred and fifty pages of a novel or a book of any sort, requires the knowledge and mastery of specialized skills most people never acquire.

Professional creative writers understand why words placed in a particular order create the desired effect, or do not. They know that a series of long vowels will darken a mood, while short ones will speed the pace and lighten it. They know how to use dialogue and internalizations, or the lack of them, to create tension and build active scenes with good momentum. They know which scenes heighten reader emotion, where they must never use backstory, and how to resolve a whole slew of writing problems that will prevent others from getting published.


Your writing will not get published if it remains in a folder in your file drawer, as mine did for so many years. Do your research and find the markets that publish what you write. Target ten of them, and send your work to each of the ten. When a submission is rejected, send it to the editor at the next publication on your list. This strategy is so important that I've written a separate article about it, but follow this submission practice without fail, targeting the same ten markets repeatedly, and you will be published by one of them. I've seen it happen time and time again.


As mentioned at the beginning of this article, contests can jumpstart a career. I recommend seeking them out and submitting. You may receive plenty of rejections. And then, one day, you will receive an acceptance letter instead. Watch my contests page for current writing contests, find a copy of the publication, and review it. If its editors publish what you write, submit. If your writing is ready, you have little to lose and much to gain. Entering the Chapters/Robertson Davies contest is one of the best writing decisions I've made.

Markets for Unpublished Writers

Seek out publications and contests that favour unpublished writers. Rejection does not mean that your work is unpublishable. It may only mean that the publication to which you sent your manuscript could not use your work at this time. Often that will be because your competitors are established authors. If you seek out publications that encourage unpublished writers, you level the playing field.

One good source is Page Forty-Seven , online anthology on this site.

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