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  • Writer's pictureJen Kapral

How to Get Published in 25 Easy Steps

1. Brainstorm a whole slew of story ideas. Watch as they fly around you like gnats. Overanalyze each idea. Eat nachos. Finally pick an idea.


2. Agonize over whether you are a pantser or a plotter. Read a bunch of blogs about outlining and take a few quizzes. Was Hemingway a drunk pantser? Just how detailed was J.K. Rowling’s outline?  Research and download templates. Decide you don’t like templates. Spend weeks making detailed character sketches, including the minor character’s favorite brand of underwear (Calvin Klein because he’s so 90s hoity like that).

JK Rowling

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3. Sit down to write the story. Wait, there’s laundry to do! Look how cute the cat is right now. Oh snap, writers are supposed to have a social media presence. Lemme tweet something. And start an Instagram. And brew coffee. Writers must drink coffee right?


4. Turn off your wifi and write the story. Slug away at it for days or weeks or months until one day you’re done with a first draft. Smile proudly at your piece. This is how Michelangelo must have felt after he completed David.

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5. Read your first draft. Cry and consider quitting writing. It’s terrible, your ideas are terrible and there’s no character development and you could drive a truck through the plotholes. You should have written about that other idea. You’re not sure where to start revising.

sad leonardo dicaprio GIF

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6. Go back to your piece and move scene by scene.  Build in themes, arcs, details.  Take out the backstory, add dialogue. Wow, you’re tired. This is why writers need coffee.

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7. Send the piece to your critique group. Spend all week analyzing everything you did wrong with the story and mentally prepare yourself for an onslaught of criticism. The group will probably kick you out for being the World’s Worst Writer. You just know they’re side texting about how awful your story is.

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8. Go to the critique. GASP OMG they like your story!  But they give you a ton of feedback on things that need to change, things that you totally missed. Your skin thickens.

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9. Feel intimidated by the revision work you have to. Start another piece or focus on your job or family or video games or Netflix. You won’t admit it, but you don’t want to do the hard work of really revising this piece. The comments from the group sit in a folder on your desktop. THIS IS THE POINT OF NO RETURN. You must move forward or the piece dies a slow death in Microsoft Word.

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10. Pull out the piece and the comments. As much as you want to move on to the shiny new piece, dive into this piece. Make changes and hear the piece singing, at first softly like a bird, then loudly like a choir. It’s actually coming together!

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11. Give your piece to your Trusted Final Reader. Your TFR gives you honest and direct feedback. You listen and respond by yelling BUT I DON’T WANT TO REVISE ANYMORE. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE PERFECT. YOU CLEARLY DON’T LOVE ME. Go to a corner and sulk.

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12. Analyze TFR’s feedback. Decide what you really want this piece to be about. You may actually have to burn your piece and start new. Make your final revisions. This can take hours or months.

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13. Now it’s time to edit! This should be easy after all that damn revision. Oh shit, did you type boobs instead of boots? And what is a comma splice? This is soooooo boring. Ask that grammar friend edit it too because they love telling you things like “That gerund really shouldn’t be the subject.”

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14. Research a bunch of lit magazines. Read about submission guidelines and standard manuscript format and cover letters. Start to get intimidated. Push forward.

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15. Pick a magazine…upload your docs…hover over the submit button…then submit! You experience a rush of adrenaline! You carefully track everything in an excel sheet or Duotrope.

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16. Obsessively check your email and submission stats. Feel your heart skip a beat at every email ping. Do lots of waiting.

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17. Crickets.

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18. Get your first rejection. Ouch. Submit again.

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19. Get your next rejection. Ouch.

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20. Garner up enough rejections to swim in, like Scrooge McDuck in his money. You get used to seeing the word “unfortunately” in your inbox. You feel really, really sad. You wonder why we do this to ourselves.

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21. Work on your next piece and fall back in love with bringing characters to life and building a new world. The rejections continue, but you keep submitting, sometimes with zeal, sometimes after long breaks.

neil patrick harris yes GIF by Rosanna Pansino

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22. Wait…a personal rejection! You’ve WON! You feel (slightly) validated. You’re not the worst writer the world has ever seen, but now you’re even hungrier for an acceptance.

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23. You have 5, 10, 20 pieces out at any given time. Then…you get it! Your acceptance! Someone is willing to give you $ (maybe) and they will publish your piece. YOU ARE LEGIT.

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24. Your piece is published and you promote it and everyone loves you! Your Aunt Susan leaves comments all over social media and your mom wants a printed copy, even though it’s only online.

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25. Start again.

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