Thanks in large part to the blossoming of the internet, being a “writer” has paradoxically become much more simple, yet, at the same time, much more difficult.
Simpler because anyone can blart out any piece of writing, publish it onto the web, and by some mysterious force I still have yet to understand, become popular. Or not. The web exists as a global platform upon which even those with the smallest of voices can still find themselves addressing the masses. No longer are angsty teens left reciting bad poetry to their journals. Now they post their bad poetry to Instagram and Facebook and, more often than not, get a few likes. Does that make them writers? Of course it does. They’re writing, aren’t they? We all start out writing terrible things. The difference is how much exposure those terrible things were given. And what kinds of support we were given when we did show off our terrible writings. Which brings me to:
More difficult. While writing in this day and age is immensely popular and easy, pushing our writing beyond our circles of family and friends is growing more and more difficult. Getting it into the hands of publishers and presses and short story compendiums is quite challenging (as it should be!) because so many people are doing it now. Sending in unedited, unprofessional pieces to the slushpiles of agents and inboxes of press interns is as easy as clicking the “Submit” button, where before you were forced to pay for shipping and handling. This makes standing out from amongst the rabble more and more difficult by the day. So just how do you stand out?
Well, there’s no simple answer to this. There are, however, plenty of ways to increase the chances of standing out. The most important of which is also probably the least liked: finding an editor for your work. Getting professional editors to work with you on your stories has a plethora of benefits (a second pair of eyes is there to tell you what works and what doesn’t, excesses of your story get trimmed down, new ideas are unearthed that might shift the story in a way you never expected). The only kicker is that getting edits on your work is a little expensive. And for writers who haven’t quite made an impact in the financial sector of storytelling, dropping a healthy dollop of cash into an untested story might seem a little risky. But never fear, dear readers! For I have come across a wonderful resource:
Tethered By Letters (TBL) is an online nonprofit that sets out to help writers grow and learn about the art of writing, with all of its intricacies and pitfalls. What they offer is a thriving community and a free editorial service for short stories or chunks of manuscripts, and the only payment is that you become an active member in their community! That you interact with other writers and offer words of advice or input. This editorial service has actually become so popular, that TBL has created a Kickstarter campaign to bring in even more professional editors, giving writers within the TBL community a broader range of editorial feedback on their stories (which, after editing, are often included in TBL’s own literary publication).
In my experience, getting as many eyes on my work before I send it out to larger institutions is one of the most important things I can do for my manuscripts and short stories. And when professional editors are literally giving away their time and energy to ensure that this generation’s flock of writers have what they need to grow into the excellence that is expected of them, the last thing you should do is turn them down. So give their editorial service a go. Join their community. Interact. And, if you feel like they’re undertaking a worthy endeavor (which I most certainly do), toss a few bucks their way on their Kickstarter page. The rewards are rad and their success means that all those sad, angsty high school kids will have a place to learn that regurgitating Hot Topic slogans isn’t cool anymore.