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   Anita Bora


If you are a budding writer, poet or artist, the Web offers you many options to showcase your work. And it's easier than you think. Here's a guide on getting published online…

Get set, write

If you have a knack for words, start off by visiting writing sites, which have resources on grammar, elements of style, and different aspects of the written word. After all, the more error free your work is, the better the chances of your piece getting published.

Once you have your masterpiece ready you can submit it to sites like freshlimesoda.com, a popular destination for youth. Says Parmesh Shahani who started the site in 1999: "We have essays, short stories, poems, art, photography, columns, reviews and opinions on the site, all of which are original pieces of work and featured exclusively. Our bulletin board often gets jammed because messages are posted so quickly."

Getting published is a simple process, he assures. "Just search the Web for online magazines that you like, send in your stuff and wait for it to go up."

Another site popular with the Indian community is sulekha.com. It was started as a platform for non-professional writers, and it's easy to get your work published at the site. Says Lata Sundar, director of content and community, "It's primarily for people who do not necessarily write for a living but because they have a passion for it."

The site that started as a hobby among a few friends, today receives contributions from thousands of Indians all over the world. With over 200,000 to 275,000 page views a day, this is a great way to share your work.

Tips for Budding Writers
  1. Check out the publication before submitting material. Find out what kind of writing they publish.

  2. Acquaint yourself with the tone and general feeling of the publication, and give some careful thought to whether your work fits in.

  3. Check out the submission guidelines. Every journal should have instructions on how they wish to have work submitted. This could mean anything from a specific subject line to submission format (inline text or attachment) to requested details such as bio and address. Following these guidelines is the best way to keep a submission under the eyes of the editor. You could be submitting an amazing piece, but if the guidelines are ignored, it may never be read.
Barbara Fletcher, placesforwriters.com
  1. New writers trying to reach a wide audience should write for an online medium. With the rise of Internet and email use, writers can gain more visibility. Articles available on the Net are universally accessible.

  2. Don't write a long-winded piece. The attention span of the surfer is short. Your article is more likely to be read and appreciated if it's reasonably short (2000 words max). Be prepared for feedback.

  3. Don't be too sensitive to negative feedback.
Lata Sundar, Sulekha.com
Sulekha publishes both edited and unedited content. All submissions to the Articles and Comments sections are edited by the staff. Popular interactive sections include CoffeeHouse (a discussion board), Readers Comments, Sulekha Movies and Newshopper. A section on tips should help budding authors keep the errors down when submitting an entry.

The Small Spiral Notebook accepts stories and reviews of books, art and music. There are frequent contests for those creatively inclined. Stories.com allows you to create an online portfolio, read and rate writers and pick up tips.

It's easier for new writers to get started in smaller publications, points out Barbara Fletcher, a Canada-based poet and writer, who maintains placesforwriters.com. Says Barbara: "Well-established journals are very difficult to get into; often they seek known writers or material of very high calibre. Lesser-known, smaller publications have a tendency to publish emerging artists and writers."

Parmesh says freshlimesoda.com receives about 10 submissions on a normal day, and 15-20 on a busy one. All entries are checked for quality before they go online: "We try to limit our editing to basic punctuation and copy editing - unless the piece really demands a thorough makeover."

Penguin recently published Sulekha's collection of selected articles as a book - proof that amateur contributions can be of high quality.

Calling all poets

The movie The Dead Poets Society probably inspired you to scribble similar words in the hope that you can emulate a famous poet one day. Now those words don't have to go unread. Sites like ilovepoetry.com and poetrypoem.com encourage you to participate.

Parmesh reveals that the 'Poetry' section at freshlimesoda.com receives the highest number of visitors.

Poetry Poem allows you to publish your work free. You can also try haiku, a Japanese format. You can get familiar with the art and techniques of haiku and maybe even start winning a contest or two.

Other avenues

If art and design is your forte, True Fire could showcase your work in the following forms: clip art, digital art, drawing, painting, photography, Web art, film, etc. Check out this beautiful bluebird and this piece of digital art, St Gabriel.

If you want to voice your opinion and write reviews, consumer forums like MouthShut, EOpinions and Ciao provide a great starting point.

Pitfalls

Just remember not to get dejected if your work is not accepted. Most small online publications work on a shoestring budget and usually receive many submissions. Says Parmesh, "There are so many budding writers, poets, artists, musicians…. The quality of work I've come across is breathtakingly beautiful. And for that, one freshlimesoda is not enough. We need many more avenues like this supported in whatever way possible."

So be prepared for a little rejection along the way. The Rejection Collection, the writers' and artists' online source for misery and commiseration, will provide much needed inspiration to keep trying.

Pieces that are accepted could take a while to be published. Says Gulnar Mistry, who edits freshlimesoda.com's content, "We face a huge backlog and often people have to wait a good few months until their work goes up".

Get Published

-- Book Magazine
-- Bookends
-- Coffee House for Writers
-- Web Del Sol
-- Book Crossroads
-- Byline Mag
-- Lose your Identity
-- Potpourri
-- Beginnings

Also remember that in the beginning you are unlikely to be paid, and the only satisfaction you will get is recognition and the thrill of being published.

The reason, explains Barbara is that "online publications do not charge readers, so there is often no available funds to pay contributors. To decide to publish online is to accept that you are probably not going to be paid. Pride in your work being selected from the massive submission pool is the best remuneration you can expect."

Parmesh agrees: "That feeling of sharing a part of yourself with the world is indescribable. It is its own reward."

Expecting payment for work is a different ballgame altogether, according to Barbara. "If you want to be paid for your work and see your name in print, then submit your work via snail mail, wait six to twelve months for a response and if you're lucky enough to be published, you can expect some cash."


"I am doing what I like best"

Pallavi Baruah, a technical writer based in Bangalore, has found a creative outlet online. She writes, among other things, about the city she lives in and reviews of movies and products.

Having written well over 180 reviews and opinion pieces on MouthShut, Pallavi knows how to successfully get work published online. She has also started contributing to the UK-based site, Ciao. She shares some tips with Rediff Guide to the Net on how to become a prolific writer online.
Q.How difficult is it to get your work published online?
A. Not very difficult if you are Internet savvy and know the sites where to publish them.

Q. How much of your time daily you personally devote to writing? Is it a time consuming activity?
A. It does take time to come up with a detailed write-up. Sometimes research for accurate information may take a while. If I'm writing about a product, I would need to know the company details, ingredients, product highlights and promised benefits to the users.

Q. Do you follow any sites daily to find out the latest trends and make sure your writing is topical?
A. None in particular. Depending on the review I'm writing I browse sites where the right information is available. When writing about a face wash, my first input would be what I personally found useful or harmful in using the product and then I would browse the Net for more information.

Q. Since contributions of this nature are usually done gratis, what is one's primary motivation to keep up this activity?
A. Love of writing and basically being part of the writer's community, which helps to improve my work, get feedback, make friends and read what they write. It's a two-way street. I learn a lot and I like to think that my writing helps users make the right decisions or simply entertains them.

Q. What's the key to writing a good review?
A. First and foremost you could go through the sites you'd like to write for and determine which type of product or category to specialise in.

In case of reviews, writing is not enough. You have to rate the reviews of others too. Your friends will read and rate yours only if you do the same. You can start writing at MouthShut if you are in India. If you are settled abroad or would like to venture into a much wider writing sphere, you could try Ciao! and EOpinions.

In the case of reviewing, the right information has to be presented without any bias. Research is more necessary when one writes something negative about a product, place, movie, restaurant, food, etc. You have to follow certain ethics when you write, rate or comment. The guidelines are available at writing sites.

Q. Any tips for readers on how to start publishing their work?
A: The best way to start writing is by reading stuff by those who have already done so. A beginner will then easily get the flow of things.

The commercial aspect of this hobby is still vague. Some sites promise and deliver but they have certain terms and conditions. Most have contests where they give out attractive prizes. The bottom line is that my work is getting published and I'm doing what I like best.


Useful Resources:
-- Writing World
-- Write Resources
-- Write Page
-- Writers Digest

Forums:
-- Thought Cafe
-- Critter's Workshop
-- Writers Forum

Poetry Resources:
-- For Poets
-- Every Poet
-- Write Poetry
-- Poetry Portal

Also Read:
-- A guide to Web forums
-- I own a web site
-- No speak English?
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