Advice to Writers

Advice to Writers


Where the work really begins. To me editing is discovering what it is you are writing about or to make the story or theme as clear (not obvious) as possible.

When editing or re-drafting your work delve deep to discover the essence of what you’re writing about and try to articulate it as simply as possible. ie: is it about love, anger, fear? Once you discover that, through working at your poem or story, then the choices of word, phrases, direction, should clarify. Also if you think you’ve finished your story, poem or play go over it one more time!

Tom Murray, Creative Writing Fellow, Tyne and Esk Writers, 26th April 2013.


In my professional life I was a librarian, and I often advised on legal issues of copyright and publication. Some folk have been raising the issue of what legally constitutes publication. Simples. Making a work available to the public, by any means, constitutes ‘publication’ in law, whether distributing in print form or online. So if you have poems or stories in a public blog or a public website, even if you take them down after a short time, that constitutes publication. Competitions and magazines which insist on ‘no prior publication in any form’ would have the right to disqualify you, unless the submitted work was substantially different from the draft published online.

Colin Will


I always advise new poets to send poems to magazines, and I think most other tutors will advise the same. For information, this year I have sent over 40 poems out to about a dozen magazines.

In 2013 I submitted work to the print magazines Magma, Agenda, Envoi, Ambit, Gutter, Iota, New Writing Scotland, Northwords Now and Poetry Review. Some were accepted, others not. I also sent out to the online magazines Ink Sweat & Tears, Every Day Poets, And Other Poems, Snakeskin, Contemporary Haibun Online and a few other online sites.

There is nothing wrong with recycling poems by sending them to a different magazine if they have been rejected by another. But I strongly advise against sending the same poem to several magazines at the same time. That’s known as ‘multiple submission’, and most editors hate this. Your name will be mud if you do it, when an editor finds that the poem she has accepted has also been accepted by another editor.

If you’re not sure which magazines to send your poems to, you should visit the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh and check out their current magazines. It’s free and freely accessible. You should look at the kinds of poems these magazines publish and decide whether or not your poems are appropriate.

All magazines and poetry websites have guidelines for submissions. Read them carefully, and do as they ask. If you don’t, your poems won’t be read.

If you have ambitions to have a pamphlet or a collection published, most publishers will look for a track record of publication in magazines before considering you.

Be prepared for rejection. It happens many times, even to established poets. Regard it as a fact of life, and don’t get upset or angry when you get a rejection note. Be philosophical. Sometimes rejections will come with helpful criticisms, but more often not. If your poem is rejected, read it carefully again to see if it can be improved for the next time you send it out. Don’t give up.



Most competitions are perfectly genuine and legitimate, but beginning writers are sometimes taken in by fake competitions which promise publication in anthologies which are never properly distributed. If a competition sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Take advice from others in the group; several Tyne & Esk members have been successful in writing competitions.


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