Modern Love Column Submission Tips - Lessons Learned
modern love submissions

The New York Times Modern Love Column Submission Tips and Lessons Learned

Updated April 3, 2020

Ever wished you knew EXACTLY how to crawl into an editor’s brain and figure out how to get to the top of their submissions pile?

As we were reviewing a recent draft of a submission for a client, to provide feedback and edits, I thought it might be a good idea to see what advice existed out there to help his submission get to the top of the queue.

The New York Times has a special page that gives you the official submission guidelines for the Modern Love columnbut certainly someone out there has to have some tips to get your submission noticed, right?

Indeed, they have!

On the Modern Love Facebook page, Daniel Jones offers his editorial insight from over a decade of managing the column.

The tips aren’t the easiest to find–it took us a couple hours to go over a few years of updates. But they are there, and they are good. Not only for writers looking to submit their work to the column, but also for writers looking to submit their work to ANY publication or site that strives for quality content.

You can view all thirty-nine of Jones’ submission tips (as of November 23, 2015), along with some other interesting pieces of writing advice we picked up from their shares, here:

Modern Love Column Submission Tips

(↑↑↑ That right there is a link to a regularly updated Google Doc of advice from Modern Love editor Daniel Jones and his team, collected by our team here at CYC. It was last updated April 3, 2020.)

For those looking to TL;DR this, here are some of our favorite tips for you to consider in your next proposal:

  • Submission Tip #3 – “Often I receive essays that are several hundred words too short for the space.” — Don’t over-do it, but an editor will always be ETERNALLY grateful to have too much writing to work with than too little. It is easier to edit down when you notice a thin area. It is a total pain to try and stretch out already-thin writing even thinner to get to a solid word count length.
  • Submission Tip #5: Writing Credits Don’t Matter  “If your essay is rejected, it’s not because you didn’t have a connection or credits. If your essay is accepted, it’s not because you have a book coming out. It’s because you wrote an essay that made me stop drinking my coffee.” — You need to submit a post or an article to an editor that is going to stop them in their tracks. (Hello?! Writing has got to be crazy good to make me put down my coffee!) In the world of writing, it doesn’t always matter who you know or don’t know. What matters is that you’ve written something worth reading.
  • Submission Tip #18: There Will Be Edits – “You will participate in an editorial exchange that might be easy or difficult and can involve two drafts or five drafts or seven (or more). Most of this process will involve cutting and clarifying, but sometimes it also will involve asking you to add new material.” — We’re biased on this one here at CYC, but when we work with writers on their content, they are always surprised by how long a thorough editorial process can take. Every single one of those drafts and rewrites and pieces of feedback are shaping your work to be the best version of itself. That is pretty great if you ask me! Take the time to learn from the process and evolve your writing craft. The next time you submit something, it will be THAT MUCH BETTER.
  • Submission Tip #23: Last Proof – “Nearly everyone stumbles over these kinds of issues, so no judgement, okay? (I mean ‘judgment.’)” — The last step in our editing process for content? A final proofing sweep. After a few drafts and three friends reviewing your article and things getting moved and paragraphs getting re-written… a lot can get misplaced or overlooked. You need someone to come in with fresh eyes to do a final proofread and catch all the typos and errors before an editor does. Otherwise it is a “one-two-three strikes, you’re out” kind of deal-breaker.
  • Submission Tip #24: When Not To Submit – “When you have just churned out a draft of a fantastic essay, it feels great, right?” — Our Senior Editor calls this the incubation period. That time after you’ve powered through your ugly first draft and are ready to dig in again and make it something that should actually be shared. Harsh? Calling your pretty beautiful bouncing baby first draft ugly? Truth hurts, friends. As Jones notes further down in this tip: “To write, you need both a huge ego and a beaten-down ego. The huge ego allows you power through a first draft and believe that people are dying to read what you have to say. The beaten-down ego makes you return to the draft later and wonder why anyone would want to read such drivel.”
  • Submission Tip #29: Issues of Voice – “In our finicky perfectionism, we go over the thing so many times that the words and sentences start to form a kind of song in our heads, and it’s jarring when the notes are then rearranged or a few of them are taken out.” — Voice is one of the most important components to your writing. When someone suggests that you change the way you are saying things, it feels like they are stealing away a piece of your mind that you have offered. That sucks. Sometimes, their advice is going to help you break some nasty patterns or habits that will make you become a better writer. Of course, sometimes they are totally off, and you should fight for your right to say whatever the hell you were going to say anyway.
  • Submission Tip #31: Awareness – “I think a writer needs to be smart.” — The most grammatically perfect works of literature do not stand out if the writer is only good at stringing beautiful words together. They stand out because your reader has given themselves over to you, trusting that you are going to tell them a compelling story that they will walk away from improved and inspired. You need to understand what you are writing about. You need to be aware. You need to have thought the heck out of every possibly reference and angle and concept possible before hitting that scary Send or Publish button.
  • Submission Tip #37: Where Is The Air? – “When a story feels closed off and airless, the reader loses interest and wanders away.” — Ever-read-a-story-that-feels-like-the-writer-is-spitfiring-the-words-at-you-in-a-way-that-you-can-barely-tolerate-let-alone-understand?!?! How about the meandering essay that takes four paragraphs to say what could have been said in one? Feel like you almost got the point of the article, but the writer held just enough back that you couldn’t fully engage? Don’t do those things in your own writing then.

If you want to see all the submission tips and advice we’ve collected, pop on over and check out our guide to Daniel Jones’ Modern Love Column Submission Tips.

We are not affiliated with Daniel Jones, Modern Love, or The New York Times in any way. We just spent hours of our lives sifting through the Modern Love Facebook page to collect the submission tips Daniel Jones (Modern Love’s editor) has offered over the years. For more information on these tips, please visit the Modern Love Facebook page, Editor Daniel Jones on Twitter, or Projects Assistant Miya Lee on Twitter.

Make sure you check out Modern Love in The New York Times, the Modern Love Podcast, the Modern love streaming series for Amazon Prime, or Daniel’s books on what he’s learned from editing the column for over a decade, Love Illuminated (Harper Collins, 2014) and a collection of the best articles from the column, Modern Love: True Stories of Love, Loss and Redemption (Penguin, 2019).

This article was originally published May 20, 2015

About the Author Elisa Doucette

Elisa Doucette is a writer and editor who works with professional writers, entrepreneurs, and brands that want to make their own words even better. She is the Founder of Craft Your Content, and oversees Client Strategy and Writing Coaching. Her own writing has been featured in places like Forbes, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Yahoo! Small Business, and The Huffington Post, among others. She also hosts the Writers' Rough Drafts podcast here on CYC. When she isn't writing, editing, or reading words, she can usually be found at a local pub quiz, deep in a sun salutation, or binging TV shows for concept ideas and laughs.

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