How can I write as a young writer in the Philippines?

As a writer, it’s been a long time since I’ve last written something on this page.

However, as the year 2023 arrives, I would like to start writing here again and give this page a second wind.

Without further ado, here’s the meat of what I want to discuss today in what I hope is to be a series of pieces that would help fellow Filipino writers answer some of their everyday questions:

One of the questions that people have always asked me is whether it is worth it to become a writer today in the Philippines or not. After all, who does not want to have people read your work? Who does not want to see one’s byline or author name? Who does not want to seek the immortality that is provided by words, literature, and art?

This is not intended to be an exhaustive or academic discussion – but rather, a short overview designed for the young Filipinos among there (that’s you and me) – based on what I saw so far and what I’ve experienced and learned from nearly a decade of writing essays, short stories, poems, and other forms of texts. Granted, I haven’t written a novel yet, but we’ll take it one step at a time.

The answers to this particular question actually have three aspects, all of which are integral to understanding the realities of being a writer here in the Philippines.

For today’s piece, here’s the question: How can I write as a young writer in the Philippines?

As a related question, is it easy to be a writer in the Philippine context today?

Here’s the answer, straight from the hip: It’s certainly easier now than it used to be before.

young writer in the Philippines
Certainly a very colorful journey 🙂

Back in the day, there were very limited paths for writers to practice, enjoy, and earn from their art (except for the professions of journalism and advertising/public relations, though they are a completely different class of writing) – and even fewer opportunities for writers to make it internationally and leave a mark in the global writing scene.

Think about the names of the writers you saw – most probably, you’ve all studied at least a couple of them at schools or discussed their works in your respective Philippine Literature classes…and you’ve read them inside pocketbooks, children’s books, comics, newspapers, and magazines.

You would notice that for a good number of them, it was a rather long and arduous journey.

Today, there are many ways to be able to show your work to the world, gain an audience, and let’s be frank here – break out and become a published author.

As a young writer in the Philippines, let’s go through the plethora of choices out there:

  • Submit to newspapers and magazines: Some pay, some don’t. Here’s a short list (not exhaustive):
    • Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Young Blood: They don’t pay as of this moment – correct me if I am wrong – however, you’ll see your name on print, online, and in the dedicated website! Also, if you’re lucky, you might be included in an anthology (and get your free copy of the book!)
    • Rappler: They don’t pay. Web-only, though they try to promote it well. Also, there’s a big audience…
    • Philippines Graphic: Print folio and web as well. Take note, traditional short stories and poetry go here. Back in the day, they paid P500 for poetry and P800 to P1,500 for short stories – not sure how it is in the new era. Also, all accepted works of fiction become entries to the Nick Joaquin Literary Awards (and if you win, you get huge prizes).
    • Young Star: Print and web. They paid somewhere around P1,000 for accepted submissions.
    • Transit Dialog: Personal essays and creative nonfiction only. Native to Facebook – it has a stable reader base, so people WILL READ your WORK. P1,000 for 500 to 800 words. Read the essays there to see what kind of content they accept for publication.
    • Novice: Print and web.
    • There are quite a number of other publications out there that publish collections from time to time.
  • Submit to literary anthologies and folios: Many of the major universities (and a good number of cities) in the country have their own respective literary journals. Understand their requirements before submitting – they focus extremely on quality and accuracy. Nearly all big anthologies compensate you for publication of your work (cash, free copies, and some even give you merch and stuff), and some even go the extra mile by providing royalties and after-publication opportunities.
  • Submit to anthologies by publishing houses: Same as above, though arguably more thematic and more writer-friendly (can attest to this after having multiple works published both here and abroad). Just take note that you should send top-notch work…and it may take a while for the royalties to come through – unless they decide to give advance royalties. Still, getting your own free copy (and being a part of a book signing/launch session) is really great! The same rules apply for special projects, collections, archives, and platforms – even though they are technically different categories.
  • Submit to competitions and contests: These usually carry a theme. Can be creative nonfiction, poetry, drama, fiction, microfiction, micro-nonfiction, or even experimental forms. Gives prizes for the top three as well as honorable mentions, and some even go beyond that! Goes without saying that you’ll get published, especially if you win. However, given the high stakes, it’s safe to say that it’s going to be very competitive….
  • Publish on Wattpad or some other online platform, too many to mention (good writing always gets noticed – also, it’s one way to build an audience): Good for short stories, serial novels, and general fiction. Sometimes, poetry also goes here. Just beware of plagiarism out there…
  • Get your own website: There are many cheap hosting solutions out there. With a little bit of technical groundwork and a consistent audience pool, you could monetize your website with ads and earn money from it. You are currently reading one, hahaha!
  • Submit internationally: Easy part is that there are so many to choose from – and so many places to submit – also, many of them do give generous amounts for accepted pieces, especially in contests and the like. The catch? You would have to step up your writing 100 times and still get a very high chance of not being accepted. Trust me, I’ve been there – however, when you do get accepted, it’s worth the pain train!
  • Traditional publishing: The usual – bring your best quality work, and if it gets accepted, you’ll work with the publisher to get your book out (and hopefully distribute it well). Be careful not to publish with disreputable publishers though, there are quite a few in the Philippine market. However, if you get a good one, then you’ll have a stable ground on which you can propel your journey further. Also, you can count yourself among the ranks of authors who have their own traditionally-published book/collection!
  • Self-publishing: There are a number of independent publishing houses where you can submit your work. Watch out for the things you need to do while publishing your book…and you also have to do the marketing, distribution, social media, and all the other stuff that a traditional publisher will do for you. The best thing about self-publishing is that you get to keep most or even all of your profits!
  • Publish on social media: You can always write on social media. If you already have a ton of followers on your normal social media feed (say, the maximum 5,000 followers), all it takes 1% (50 interactions/likes/comments plus related shares) to make a consistent audience. You can also publish on YouTube, Medium, and elsewhere – juts make sure it’s optimized for the platform! Take note that it’s a completely different approach; for most writers though, it’s a good secondary area that complements your actual writing efforts.

It takes some groundwork in order to find the best fit for you as a young writer in the Philippines. My advice is that you set aside time for writing and editing, improve your overall skills (and craft), and submit whenever you have an opportunity to do so!

Don’t worry about not getting accepted – it’s all part of the process. There are times when editors send their feedback regarding your submission – so you’ll be able to improve your writing level overall. Don’t give up – you’ll reach that goal, sooner or later.

And if you get accepted? Congratulations, you are now a published writer! Now, all you need to do is to stay consistent, level up your skills further, and hopefully gain the material that you need to have a book published (and get a good home for it). Trust me, becoming a published author feels great – though it would be a good thing to be thankful for it and keep your feet on the ground!

What’s more, if you get your desired readers and achieve your goals, you’ll be a long way forward in your writing path.

Hoping that this piece helps you a little bit on your way towards writing as a young writer in the Philippines!

Good luck, have fun, stay sane, safe, and healthy, keep writing, and keep slaying!

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