I have a confession to make: Since November, I’ve been regularly submitting the few pieces of my writing that are polished enough to send into the world to lit mags. But rarely, so rarely, have I actually…read…lit mags.
It’s terrible. Around 75 percent of lit mag submission guidelines suggest that writers read the magazine to get an idea of what the editors like. This makes sense. But I haven’t done it.
I have no excuses, really. I like reading, I intend to support lit mags, and I want to find the best places for my writing.
So I’ve decided that in February, it’s time to actually read lit mags.
My challenge to myself is this: Every day in February, I will read a few pieces from a lit mag. Ideally, I’ll read a different lit mag each day so I can get a wide variety of literary tastes. I’ll keep track of which lit mags I read, and I’ll tweet about my favorite pieces.
Of course, I’ve already broken my own challenge. I didn’t read any lit mags on Feb. 3. But that’s okay; I don’t need to feel bad when I don’t perfectly keep the challenge—that isn’t the point.
The point is to be more intentional with my time. You see, when I’m working, sometimes I reach that point in editing when I need to see other words—literally anything—other than the words I’m supposed to be editing at the moment. That happens to me a lot, and while I’m trying to be more focused, I figure it won’t hurt to click to a poem or a flash fiction piece instead of mindlessly scrolling through Twitter or checking Submittable for a new “in-progress” for the tenth time that day.
The point is to discover authors whose work I like through reading their pieces in lit mags. There are so many talented writers out there; it would be silly of me to only read the writing that’s been published in books when there’s so much (free) reading material available online.
The point is to get a feel for a lit mag’s vibe before submitting to it. Not only does this save the editors’ time, as they don’t have to slog through my submission that clearly doesn’t fit their lit mag’s style, but it also saves my time, as I don’t have to waste time submitting and then anxiously awaiting a response to my piece that obviously isn’t a good fit.
The point is to read a wide variety of perspectives, forms, and styles. I’m still finding my voice and style as a writer, and I’m finding it varies a lot from piece to piece. Reading a range of writing will help me figure out what I like and what works and doesn’t work in other people’s writing. This will help me both in my own writing and in my editing, as I’ll have a more diverse idea of what good writing can look like.
And finally, the point is to support lit mags.