Great Medium Editors Are Superheroes

From a sample group of one — me!

(Ava Sol on Unsplash)

38% → 34% → 28% → 10%. Those are the rates at which my submissions on Medium have been rejected from January through April. (Yes, I keep a spreadsheet. No, I’m not a crazy person… not entirely.)

Looking through these figures, I thought, You’re getting better at this, Wildstein! It hasn’t been a solo journey, though — even if Stephen King tells us, “Writing is a lonely job.”

Enter superhuman Medium editors.

I’ve been here for about one year, but only really started taking it seriously in early 2021. I credit this “serious start” with one particular piece that showed me how an idea can be hugely improved upon by working with other human beings. (I can’t thank Marta Brzosko and Chad Prevost enough for taking a chance on me — more on them later!)

Editors Aren’t Bouncers, They’re Guideposts

Editors are not hindrances to your work getting out there. Especially on a high-volume platform like Medium, there is simply… a lot of content. (J.J. Pryor suggested upwards of ~1.4 million new stories added each month.)

I used to get fussy with rejections, thinking: I’ll just publish it myself, I don’t need [Publication X]. That was a mistake. I didn’t realize just how valuable editors’ feedback was. As soon as I opened myself to their improvements — and yes, with very few subjective exceptions, it’s all about improvement — I noticed tighter stories, better flow, and more readers.

I want to gush about some of my favorites, and how their collaboration has made me better. Here are a few superheroes — with a bit of flavor from my experiences — in no particular order.

Toni Koraza and Pamela Hazelton

If you’ve been around the Medium block, you’re likely familiar with many publications’ “no less than” mandate for length. Typically four or five minutes. But not on 2 Minute Madness (2MM). They stick to (you guessed it) two minutes, carving out a real niche. And gosh, two minutes can be difficult.

My writing style typically resembles this: First, write a placeholder headline. Then, write my underpinning ideas in a few paragraphs. Finally, go back and add transitions, continuity, headers, etc.

The first two steps typically get me near two or three minutes. For some pieces that I simply couldn’t build on, that was typically where I’d stop and submit to 2MM. But Toni and Pamela have worked with me to realize the power of preciseness, and how you can say a lot by not saying much at all.

More than that, they’ve taught me to have confidence in succinctness, by leaning in from a place of conviction and experience.

Elizabeth Dawber

There may be a few editors at Curious and Start it up, but I want you to know about Elizabeth. To be frank, a lot of my stuff (more than half) doesn’t make it into either publication, but when I have the opportunity to work with her, those pieces get way shinier.

Above all, I appreciate the extra few seconds she takes to let me know why something isn’t accepted, especially when it’s highly objective. Like if a similar piece was just published, or if the content just isn’t right.

On the pieces that do make it through, she helps me build on external references and consistency in tone of voice. That last part has been helpful given my sometimes-sporadic writing style.

Chad Prevost and Marta Brzosko

These are my homies from Big Self — a publication worth knowing. Back at the turn of the New Year, I had just finished a 2,400-word essay on servant-leadership and had no idea what to do with it.

I discovered Big Self and quickly became enamored with their focus on self-discovery. After submitting the piece, Marta spent significant time with me on taking a good thesis and actually making it useful. Her suggestions were clear and straightforward, and she prompted me to repeatedly put myself in readers’ shoes.

I’ve shared several stories through the publication, and over the past couple of months especially, Chad has helped me put gravity around pieces that were 30,000 feet in the air. He would tell me things like, “I’m tracking you abstractly, but it would be helpful if you provide examples.”

I can’t imagine how much better Medium writers would be if all editors provided that kind of care for contributors.

J.D. Harms and Jessica Lee McMillan

I’m a recovering rock n’ roll singer who prided himself on lyrics. On Medium, I’ve tried to pivot my lyrical style into poetry. Sometimes this works, other times… not so much.

In Scrittura, J.D. and Jessica have worked with me many times on refashioning words that might fly in a rock song, but not so much in prose or poetry. They have a deep, poignant understanding of the way words can beautifully weave together to form mental imagery — and they’re not shy about working with their writers on that.

One of their unique superpowers is encouragement. There were several pieces I submitted (especially recently) that were incredibly meaningful to my heart, but they wouldn’t quite translate for readers. Rather than let me give up and toss the words, they helped me dive deeper.

They have a serious commitment to their craft, and their desire to bring others on board is palpable.

Kyrie Gray and Terry Trueman

Kyrie and Terry edit for two different publications — Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven respectively — but they’re the people I turn to for stories about humor and satire.

I recall a friend once saying that “all humor writing is shit writing,” but the more I work with Kyrie and Terry, the more I realize that is nonsense. Again, in full disclosure, a lot of my pieces don’t get accepted. But even when they don’t, I get great feedback on ways to heighten the humor arc. And Terry has become something of a Medium-private-note friend whom I hope to meet one day in the American Pacific Northwest.

(A fun sidenote: They must be teaching me something, because the only ‘top writer’ tag I’ve ever achieved is in satire.)

Jordan Gross

One of the things that makes Jordan so great is, frankly, his likeability. He’s also the kind of person I wish I was at his age — smart, friendly, innovative, and incredibly spirited.

I have the distinct honor of knowing him as a fellow Big Self-er, and also as editor for Mind Cafe — one of those tiny little publications with ~140,000 followers. Mind Cafe’s tagline is “relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness,” and on a few occasions, Jordan has been forthright enough to tell me when my articles are too dense. He’s expert about helping writers distill down complicated messages to be widely digestible.

His bag is self-improvement, and he practices what he preaches. That really comes through in his own words — like his freshly published book (!) — and in the counseling he provides writers.

Brittany Jezouit

On this list, Brittany may be the one I most gel with regarding vocations. We’ve both done time in the nonprofit space, and she’s really helped me understand how my craft (fundraising) translates into marketing/branding.

In Better Marketing, some of my pieces in there do remarkably well, while others get minimal traction. But Brittany has an eye for exploring the vast expanse that is marketing, and taking chances on the fringe.

For instance, I’ve written about great emails and terrible social media posts, but I’ve also written about stamps and the former American retail giant, Sears. In all instances, she’s great about helping me tighten up when I’m being too florid without changing my voice.

Last Words

Since we turned the page to 2021, I’ve published nearly 80,000 words on here — remember, I have a spreadsheet. That number would be far lower without the support and guidance of the 11 fine minds above.

I’m eager to continue learning from them as I dive further into the remarkable depths of Medium. Happy writing, y’all — and happy reading!

Small southpaw writing about organizational life, kindness, and creativity.

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