This week I'm proceeding like the weather. I arise fairly clear-brained when skies first lighten and work on my writing. Then as clouds gray the late morning I go back to sleep. Finally sunshine removes the covers, and in its somewhat coherent glow I read.

I was asked to be an actual Creative Nonfiction Reader for the fall issue of Relief. Already I'm expanding my literary education and, as usual, recognizing my shortcomings. Instinctive rather than academic, I can tell you when I think a submission is delightful, but I'm hard-pressed to express the merits of its story arc or suggest what sort of tweaking might lift the final paragraphs.

Guess that's why I'm reading, not editing.

I can, however, recognize when a writer uses spell check without attention: We where in the car when it began too shudder. An essay with several such errors is bound to lack attention to other details, as well.

Armed with a smidgen of knowledge this morning, I shall henceforth dispense advice to writing students. I feel like doing so, I'm at my blog, and so I will.

First, though, let me bring up a point about blogging. I've read good blog posts this week. The problem was, they were submitted for consideration to a literary magazine. If they'd been on a blog, dozens of comments would have flurried around them. Praise would have been aptly bestowed. But for their authors to expect recognition and exposure in a journal, they should have worked them into more than simple, immediate blog post material.

Now back to me on my blog (with no real credentials) telling student writers a thing or two.

A cover letter really isn't the place to state, "I wrote this piece as a Creative Writing class assignment." Two days in, I've seen several such introductions, and already I groan at them. Not that I've come to think no one should submit to a journal one of their papers from class. I just recognize in the essays I've read (and I remember too well from personal experience) a sense of, "Wow, I finished a piece of writing! Sure, a teacher prompted me to do it, but she said it's good, so, let's see, I'll just send it right out for publication!"

Doing so almost guarantees rejection.

An essay needs to be reworked, rewritten, pummeled, squeezed, and refashioned for the arena into which you are sending it. I can say (backed up by words from other authors and some hard lessons of my own), it's best if the specific publication grabs you in some way when you browse samples from its website or read its statement of purpose. Try to take the cues of the editors who'll be reading your stuff. Do you think they care about the same things you do?

When you're really ready to send off your piece, whether it began as a post or assignment, you will have reshaped the essay into something barely resembling what you first wrote and posted or handed in.

You may tweak the work even further, after launching it into the wild blue yonder. You will still likely be told "No thanks" by some editor somebody. But you'll be making strides, learning pointers for later, for next time. You grow yourself and your writing when you spend the time crafting, continuing, beyond workshops, classrooms, and blogs.

Off into reality...!?


Marianne Elixir said…
Was this for me?! Anyhow, thanks for your advice.
Deanna said…
For all who attempt this stuff, Marianne, definitely including myself.

It was so good seeing you Friday and watching Soren "conduct"! I wish I'd been more coherent. Ah, the day will come...