Submitting to the nationals can be a little - okay, a lot - overwhelming. But there are ways to build up enough courage and confidence to actually hit the "send" button on those queries. Next week I plan to submit to a few national magazines, and here's what's working for me:
Get to Know Editors and Magazines as You Would a Friend
There are certain people who you just click with, and there are certain magazines that also click with you as a reader and writer. Take the magazine I discovered this week, Brain, Child. It's a literary magazine filled with personal essays that mothers write, about life as parents. Reading those essays felt like listening to a friend, and I automatically began mentally writing my own related stories. So I already know the readership is interested in what I have to say, and have an image in my mind of the type of person I'll be "talking" to. She's a woman who gets bored at home, likes to analyze things and loves her kids in huge, sloppy, unhealthy doses. And she's not scary in the least.
Googling the magazine's Editor-in-Chief Marcelle Soviero brought up an interview that revealed her as a mother of five who works above her garage, and a fellow freelance writer until she took a chance and bought the magazine last year. This is who I'll be sending my article to - not so scary anymore, either, eh?
Don't Do It Alone
Things are always easier with support and company. Because I recently moved and don't know any writers or writing groups in the area, my "company" and motivation is an old freelance book by Jenna Glatzer called, "Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer." Reading a few pages of this book every day has inspired me to give the nationals another try, and provided an encouraging and knowledgeable writer's voice to listen to.
The online world is also full of electronic courage. A few weeks ago, I rediscovered a freelance blogger who just happens to be hosting a weekly Writer's Challenge to motivate her community of readers to write and submit work. Look for the support, and it's amazing how it always seems to have been there, waiting.
Recognize that You are ALREADY Writing for the Nationals. Kind of.
It's easy to get caught in the "not good enough yet" trap. But if you've been writing for some time and are being accepted by smaller publications, chances are your writing is ready for a larger publication. I used to think I needed ONE GREAT IDEA or THE PERFECT QUERY before being ready for national magazines. And guess what? Nothing was "great" or "perfect" enough in my eyes. Now I realize that all of those smaller pieces I wrote WERE national-magazine-worthy, with a few changes.
If we could all remember this, the The Nationals will no longer be worthy of caps. Or procrastination.