Literary Journals: Should You Try New Things?

newspapers and journal on wooden stand

OK, let’s try this again. I accidentally posted this instead of the OTHER post from this week, but now you get the completed version.

Publishing in literary journals comes with a lot of benefits. For one, you get published, and you get to see your work out there for the world to see, which is always exciting. You also gain the chance to further practice writing and hone your writing skills each time you sit down to write for a journal instead of a longer project you might be working on. But that brings up the question: should you only write for the journals that publish what you know you want to write? Or should you submit pieces everywhere?

What if you did branch out? What happens then?

Writers like to say they only practice certain types of writing. And that’s OK! But it’s perfectly normal for writers to dip their toes in different writing mediums. Sure, they may be known for certain things, but exercising variety in what you write helps you grow and better understand your weaknesses and strengths as a writer. So, should you only publish work in the mediums you want to always write in? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

closeup photo of journal book and pencils
Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on

Improving Your Skills: Let’s start with the benefits of writing in all kinds of literary journals. All writing you do can improve your skills. After all, the more you write the better it makes your writing. It also helps to write more so you can continue learning about your craft. When you do write more, you can recognize where your weaknesses and strengths lie. Literary journals are a great outlet to figure these things out.

When you take the time to go after the opportunities you’re interested in, no matter the genre, you get to practice all kinds of techniques and explore various kinds of storytelling ideas. For example, suppose you started out by writing poetry. After a few months, you discover several science fiction magazines that spark your interest. You start to read them, and then the “germ of an idea” appears. You try your hand at sci-fi, just as a refreshing new direction, and suddenly there’s a whole new process to writing that you wouldn’t have experienced if you just stuck to poetry. In the end, you can take what you learned from this new experience and apply it to your typical writing process.

Helping Build Your Platform: Besides improving your skills, you also gain a platform. What do I mean by that? Well, as a writer, things like publications and networking help more people learn about you. The places where you publish and promote your work is your platform. It also gives your growing audience an idea of what you enjoy writing and how you write. When you write for different literary journals, you broaden and expand your platform for a variety of readers. As you advance your career, people will recognize that you have versatility as a writer, and not just passion and talent. Not to mention that new and interesting publications will demonstrate your commitment to the craft and your willingness to be a better writer.

Missing Specific Weaknesses: On the other hand, if you start writing all different types of writing for a variety of journals, you might miss out on the weakness you have. Think about it, if you go from flash fiction to poetry to a fantasy epic just this week, do you really get the chance to make sure you’re writing everything well? What if you struggle with imagery, something every bit of writing needs, but you don’t realize it because your focus is constantly changing?

Literary journals can be overwhelming. We want the satisfaction of publication, but there’s a steep learning curve. Journals give writers the chance to practice writing for publication, allowing us to grow in the process. Consider trying new things and see where it takes you but do so mindfully. Write down what you think are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer, then address them each time you sit down to write for a journal. Your hunt for various opportunities will then translate to your writing growth since you know what to improve on.

It’s not bad to only focus on one genre. After all, that’s how you can really hone in on one specific aspect of writing you want to improve on. But you shouldn’t be afraid to branch out. If you do, you might just discover a passion for another genre you previously hadn’t explored. Additionally, taking the time to understand where your weaknesses and strengths lie will be essential in the long run. Look for variety in what you publish, but focus on specific skills if you find an area or two lacking.

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