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Get Discovered by Writing Short

Windy Lynn Harris, author of Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays, shares ten ways that writing short stories and personal essays can help your writing career.

Short stories and personal essays are submitted and accepted for publication every single day of the week. They’re popular to read and fun to write. Landing a journal byline is a terrific way to get noticed and earn future opportunities in both short- and long-form writing. Why not jump in and join the fun?

Ten Ways Publishing Short Stories and Essays Can Help Your Writing Career

  • Résumé material. Short story and essay bylines give you something to write in the bio section of your query letters to literary agents and book publishers.
  • Literary agents read literary magazines. They often discover new talent there.
  • You meet professional writers at every turn. Most journal editors are writers, too!
  • Magazines will promote your published work, giving you exposure in the industry.
  • Audience growth. You get to add links to your blog or website in your author bio.
  • Multiple avenues of exposure. Other writers published in the issue will promote the magazine, too, increasing your lift.
  • The skills used to create and polish shorter works strengthen your overall writing chops. Your longer works will reflect your efforts.
  • You can take bigger creative risks when the page count is low. Try out that awesome idea and see where it goes.
  • Getting something published means your prose has been given the stamp of approval in our industry.
  • A spring in your step. You gain confidence with each byline, making the next writing project feel a little less daunting.

This guest post is by Windy Lynn Harris. Harris is the author of Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Work Published (Writer’s Digest Books). She’s a prolific writer, a trusted mentor, and a frequent speaker at literary events. Her long list of short stories and personal essays have been published in literary, trade, and women’s magazines across the U.S. and Canada in places like The Literary Review, The Sunlight Press, and Literary Mama, among many other journals. She teaches the craft of writing online and in person. Learn more about Windy at

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The following is excerpt from Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Work Published:

Writing short stories and personal essays is a marketable skill in publishing. These types of short pieces are submitted and accepted every week. And the great news about this kind of writing: Writers don’t need a literary agent to participate in the process. We can independently market our prose and land bylines that make us proud. It just takes sending our work to the right editor, at the right time, and in the right way.

In 2009, I founded the Market Coaching for Creative Writers program to help writers get their short stories and personal essays published in magazines. In that program, I teach writers how to create targeted cover letters, professionally format their manuscripts, and find hundreds of perfect markets to match their voice. They study magazine guidelines and submission etiquette, learn the difference between copyright and the rights available to sell, and set up a system for keeping their submissions organized. By the end of a Market Coaching session, writers are not only able to submit their work to viable magazine editors with confidence; they’re able to repeat the process for every piece of short writing they produce in the future.

Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays is going to teach you all of those things, too and more. This book is a complete conversation on the topic of publishing short works.

The first part of this book is dedicated to storytelling because we must create the best version of our prose before reaching out to magazine editors. To learn how to recognize sharp prose, we’ll start by examining contemporary short stories and personal essays. Then we’ll study voice, scene writing, setting, characterization, point of view, meaningful dialogue, and theme. We’ll discuss how to craft publishable short stories and essays and how to revise them effectively.

All of these topics will likely be familiar to you already, but in this book we’ll study them through the tightly focused lens of short-form writing. Every craft chapter is specifically designed to help you excel in economical storytelling. You’ll learn to pay attention to every single detail.

The second half of this book is a complete guide to getting your work published. You’ll learn the five steps to submitting short prose and how to stand out from the crowd. You’ll learn how to market yourself before you have any writing credits and how to showcase yourself as an experienced, published writer. You’ll even learn how to become a larger part of the literary community. By the end of this book, you’ll know how to cultivate relationships with magazine editors and how to put together a support team of like-minded writers.

You won’t be alone on this journey. I’ve invited along published writers and journal editors to share their advice and anecdotes in these pages. These wonderful people have gifted their best tips, biggest regrets, and true stories of publishing success.

My hope is that you read these pages and know you aren’t alone when you submit your short work. You are part of a wonderful community of writers and editors who want to see you succeed. We want you to write what’s in your heart and then submit your work for the rest of us to read.

Now, let’s get to work; shall we?

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