You’ve decided that you’re ready to take the leap into submitting your work to the big world. Or, you’ve already taken that step, but find yourself frustrated by what seems to be a steady flow of polite rejections. I’ve been a professional writer for over 31 years, a magazine editor, and a judge for literary competitions. While the world of publishing now moves at the speed of the internet, some criteria for excellence haven’t changed. Here are the keys that guide my professional writing life.

1. Know your market.

Learning where and who might love your work is easier than it’s ever been before. Who needs a personal assistant when we have Matador Marketplace and Google? Make it part of your writing routine — after you have written — to spend a half hour on the internet researching potential venues.

2. Both within and outside of what you learn, write about what you are on fire for.

If an editor has the choice between a ferociously researched article that just lies on the page and a piece that clearly came from a writer’s experience and passion, most times the editor goes for the fire.

3. Keep a submission notebook.

I started mine with the first short story I sent out in 1986. When a piece was accepted, I highlighted it with a bright, fat marker. When it was rejected, I drew a thin narrow line through it. Six months after I had started to submit work, I looked at the journal and not only was delighted by the way that pink, green, and blue outweighed the thin black lines, but at the way that the data let me know that I was a working writer.

4. Write a short and precise pitch.

Editors may be some of the busiest people on the planet. We love looking at a pitch and knowing immediately what it’s about, that the writer can write and has understood what we are looking for.

5. PROOFREAD, USE YOUR GRAMMAR/SPELL CHECK AND ON-LINE COPY EDITING SITES

This is capitalized for a reason. Check out Grammarly. Avoid beginning your piece with dialogue. Make sure you sentences are active. And, read the piece out loud to yourself –or ask a friend to read it. You’ll be amazed at how that can shape the work.

Photo: martinak15