Are you the kind of student who has a bunch of notebooks or Word documents full of drafts of poems, fan fiction stories, or plays? Or do you keep a journal or enjoy writing creative emails to friends?
If so, you may be wondering whether to share your work with the world, and, if so, how to do it. The good news is that you have many, many options. There is no bad news.
Write for You
It can be freeing to know that your writing doesn’t have to be seen by anyone but you if that’s what you want. For instance, you may keep a journal that holds your innermost thoughts and feelings, and you value the privacy of that space. Maybe you write just for fun and don’t want to take up any time researching places to submit.
Even many writers who publish their work will tell you that they write out of the sheer love of it, first and foremost, and that getting published is simply a nice bonus.
If you write without worrying about being published, you may also find that your thoughts flow more freely and the sentiments you express are more authentic. You won’t be trying to please some imagined “reader” whose expectations are different from yours. The results may even be better than something you write thinking it’ll be liked by other people!
So, even if you do hope to see your work published in the end, try to write like nobody’s watching.
The easiest way to get your work seen by other people is to self-publish it, but there are easier and harder ways to do that. The easiest way to self-publish is by sharing your work online, whether through social media posts, your private website, or your blog.
On Instagram, for instance, you can see what other writers are up to using hashtags like #poetsofinstagram or #instapoetry. For fan fiction writers, Wattpad and FanFiction.net are both good platforms.
Sharing your work on the Internet is often a great way to get feedback while you’re starting out as a writer, and can even be a way to build a supportive community of fellow writers online.
Bear in mind that if you also want to submit your work to journals or magazines, work you share online will usually count as being “published” already, meaning that if you post a poem or story on your blog, you typically can’t submit it again to a magazine.
A slightly more difficult, but often very rewarding way to self-publish is by sharing your work in a zine. Zines (short for “magazines”), have existed since at least the 1950s, reached a peak of popularity in the 1990s, and are now back in style again as more people embrace the crafty, do-it-yourself ethos of zine culture.
By way of equipment, all you need is a printer or photocopier, a stapler, and an understanding of how to construct book pages by folding paper. You can compose your zine on a computer and print it out, or letter and illustrate it by hand and then photocopy it.
Making and sharing your zines can open the door to a wider zine world. Many towns have zine fairs, zine libraries, art book festivals, and bookstores or coffee shops that will stock your zine, and zine culture places a strong emphasis on accessibility and equality. Check out Broken Pencil Magazine to learn more about zines and zine culture.
As a further challenge, you could publish your work in a handmade book. While this route involves more supplies, know-how, and fiddly bits, the results can be stunning and highly personal.
If you write poems, stories, or dramatic monologues that are meant to be performed out loud, look for youth-friendly open mic events (i.e. not held in bars you aren’t allowed to enter). The environment at these events is usually very supportive and encouraging, especially for first-timers.
Youth Journals and Magazines
In addition to self-publishing and performing, you can also submit your work to be published by others. It could be as local as your school paper or as international as a journal across the world.
Check out this list for some ideas of where to submit your work, but bear in mind that it’s only a start. Before you submit, be sure to read the magazine’s guidelines carefully; don’t send a realistic story about truck drivers to a fantasy magazine, or vice versa.
Youth Writing Contests
If you have some work you feel confident about, why not submit it to a contest? This list offers 33 contest opportunities for young people, but it’s by no means exhaustive.
If you do submit your work to a contest but you do not win, take the following into consideration: first, most contests receive many more submissions than they are able to publish, and second, the judges of each contest will have their own specific tastes, meaning that excellent work may just not be to the taste of a particular set of judges.
For both of these reasons, never despair if your work doesn’t win; it may win somewhere else!