“Is my personal experience story publishable?”

One form of nonfiction is the personal experience story.

This type of story uses elements of fiction, including dialogue and scene-setting. With “creative nonfiction”, you get to flex both your fiction and nonfiction muscles!

It’s fun, because unlike with fiction, you don’t have to worry about making up the plot. You simply (or not so simply) tell the story in a way that helps the reader feel as if she or he were there with you.

Personal experience stories can be published in:

* Magazines.  You can embed stories (anecdotes of a few lines to a paragraph long) into nonfiction articles to add humor or illustrate points. You can also write stand-alone stories that run 1-2 magazine pages (800-1500 words, with illustrations). However, not all magazines have a section for this. Ones that do typically use only one story per issue.

* Anthologies (collections of stories), including Chicken Soup for the Soul.  This is a fun way to get published because these books are published internationally. Typical payment includes a one-time payment of a few hundred dollars, sample copies, and a chance to get additional copies at discounted rates to sell at your own book tables when you speak as an author.  I was intrigued to find one of my Chicken Soup stories, Southbound Miracle, republished in a Vietnamese magazine.

* Nonfiction Books. You can embed stories in your own nonfiction books just as you can in magazine articles. The key is to have your story reinforce a  point: a show-not-tell sort of thing. If you’d  like to see an example, you can click this link to a chapter in one of my nonfiction books, The Power of Parent-Child Play. I almost always begin my chapters with stories, then transition into how-to for the reader.

* Autobiographies. To be honest, the market for this is tough. Your book must offer take-away value for the reader. Publishers expect the author of an autobiography to have a very strong platform (existing fan base) and/or an extremely unique story that is relevant to readers today. Marketing a self-published autobiography can be an exercise in frustration and dwindle your finances unless you publish only for family. (More on book marketing in later posts.)

How do I recognize a story in the making, or know when an event is worth writing about?

* You may not fully recognize at the time an event happens how it may turn into a story that impacts readers. What you may realize is that the event is significant, jot it down, and later (perhaps decades later) realize why it is significant.

* Then you realize that incident gave you new insight, brought out strong feelings in you, changed your future, made you laugh, or made you relate to others in a new way. This story in the making may start out a simple strong impression, the germ of an idea you’ve jotted down, even sparsely.

As you mull the incident over or have similar experiences, that causes you to reflect back on it. The significance of it grows.

Something may seem funny–funny ha-ha, or funny peculiar–but you’re not sure why. Years later, that comment from a child (or a strange incident) you realize illustrates an interesting point perfectly.  Perhaps you have a story you have told and retold and you always get laughs or sighs.  All you need is a good reason to write it down/type it up.  A compilation on the theme of your story–a Chicken Soup deadline– may give you the sudden urge to do so right now!

Here are a few upcoming deadlines you might aim for! You might read some samples of previously published stories as well, to get a feel for how much detail you can fit in your own story.

Canada 2/28, Devotional Stories 2/28, Wedding 4/30, Life Purpose 5/15, Marriage 5/30, Christmas 6/30, Home 8/30, Positive Kids 12/31

If you submit a story after hearing about these writing opportunities here, tell me! I’d love to know if this sparked your enthusiasm.




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