Tips For College Writers

I am a writer who is also a twenty-something who is also a college student. I subscribe to three different creative writing magazines and follow numerous blogs on writing. I have found advice aimed at junior high and high school writers. I have also found plenty of sites and publications aimed at post-college professionals who write full-time or on the side.

For college writers and us twentysomethings who dream of being a paid writer or a published author, there is a serious lack of resources and advice to help us achieve those dreams. Perhaps it’s because many operate under the assumption that you can’t make a living as a writer. Perhaps it’s because, practically speaking, creative writing is not the best career choice when exiting college. Whatever the reason, our niche of writers is left in the dark.

I think this needs to change. As a college student and aspiring writer myself, I have found a few tips and tricks that have allowed me to pursue my dream of writing even in the midst of finals, financial ups and downs, GRE-taking and life-planning. I want to share these tips for college writers with you, my fellow writers and creatives.

1. Find a buddy

I wish I hadn’t waited until my junior year to set a schedule with another writer. I’ll admit, I didn’t always get a lot of writing done, but knowing I had a writer-friend who I would see every week encouraged me to at least be thinking about writing. I was constantly aware that there was something I could be writing, editing or submitting. 

Find a friend who writes and set a schedule. Meet every week. Set goals. Revise each other’s work. Submit to literary journals together. Encourage each other to constantly be active in your writing life. 

2. Take a workshop

Whether you’re an English major or not, chances are you can participate in a workshop on campus. Get in touch with a creative writing professor and see which one he or she thinks you would enjoy. Audit it if you have to, just get yourself in there. Sometimes structure is all you need to get yourself writing. 

3. Get involved with the lit mag

Almost every university has a literary magazine that the English department publishes. My university’s literary magazine is run and published by students. There are staff members who aren’t English majors who still have the opportunity to select and edit pieces for the magazine. 

If for some reason getting on the literary magazine staff is not an option, be sure to submit work. Most campus lit mags accept anything from photography to poetry. 

If you’re fresh out of college, there are plenty of literary magazines to submit to as well. Websites like Duotrope and Poets & Writers have databases dedicated to literary mags. You can narrow down the selection by genre, subgenre, whether or not they accept reprints and whether or not they pay. I got six whole dollars for a poem by submitting it to a handful of small literary magazines. It’s not much, but it did buy my lunch.  

4. Find a writing job or submit guest posts

There are plenty of blogs and websites looking for freelance writers. When starting out, don’t look to get paid, necessarily. Look for opportunities for experience. Get in touch with a blogger who writes about things you know and inquire about guest-posting. Find a site you enjoy that takes on new writers. While it’s nice to be paid for your work, getting experience and exposure is just as important when starting a writing career. 

Consider starting your own blog to keep you accountable and to build a portfolio, even for your creative writing.

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5. Read.

Yes, we college students and twenty-somethings are busy but in all honestly, we won’t be getting any less busy anytime soon. Read anything and everything you can get your hands on, but focus especially on books that are similar to the genre you wish to write. 

6. Write.

“Duh,” you say, but this is actually the hardest one. You can try and follow all the tips above but if you aren’t writing, you won’t get anywhere. Set a goal for yourself. It can be small, like one short story per semester. Every time you “finish” something, set it aside for a few months before you edit it again. Keep a writer’s notebook. Make sure you do your best on any class writing assignments. Get off Facebook and Pinterest and just write

Because that’s what it comes down to. Don’t trick yourself into thinking writing shouldn’t be a priority at this time in your life. If writing is your passion, you must pursue it no matter what else is going on. Don’t miss out on a social life. Don’t let your grades slip. But don’t let your writing fall to the wayside either. If this is where you want your life to go, chase it with every ounce of energy you have. 

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Photo via Pete O’Shea