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How To Become A Confession Story Writer
by Peggy Fielding
Charles Dickens gave really useful advice for
confession writers when he said, "Make them laugh, make them cry, make them
wait." We can do that.
PUT YOUR LONGTERM DREAMS ON
You may have decided some time ago that you want
to be a short story writer. If you really want to be a short story writer youll
need to read short stories. Try to get hold of the commercial or literary
magazines that may be the markets for the type of story you want to
Published short stories are your textbooks.
Youll need to read them and analyze them. There is no shame in modeling your
first few stories on stories that have been published. We all learn from our
predecessors efforts in whatever field. We all stand on the shoulders of those
who have gone before us.
Of course, Poe and Hemingway and Fitzgerald are
all wonderful but you need to be reading and modeling your work on the short
stories of present day writers just to keep yourself in the modern current. You
are writing for a different world than Faulkner occupied. Look at Joyce Carol
Oates or Robert Love Taylor if you want to be a literary light. Read the short
story writers in the current Redbook, Playboy, Good Housekeeping, Womens
World and other slick magazines if you want to be a commercial short story
writer. The literary short stories and the commercial short stories live in two
separate countries and never the twain shall meet.
But the good news that this book brings you is
that you can start your short story writing career in another way. You can start
writing for the hidden market for short stories, the market which buys and keeps
on buying, even though youre a beginner. Im suggesting you practice your
writing in the more accessible market, that is, the confession market. There are
10 magazines in the MacFadden Sterling group of confessions. All are waiting for
a story from you. All you must do is write to their particular
SURVEY THE MARKET
If youre determined to write fiction, short or
long, you can do it. You can break into the marketplace with fiction and you can
make some money doing it. But there is a catch. You must study your market and
you really must come down from your ivory tower.
What kind of fiction are most publishers
searching for? Genre Fiction, which is a fancy writer word for saying they want
fiction that falls within a category which they publish. Mystery, science
fiction, westerns, adventure, romance and confessions are all "genre" or
category stories. If you really love a good mystery and youre willing to study
the market and learn how to write a mystery story, you will, with persistent
effort, be able to sell your mystery short story. The same is true for the other
Short fiction has categories that are reasonably
easy to break into. The easiest are the short mystery, the inspirational/
religious short, the romance short story and easiest of all, the confession.
Confessions are easier to sell because there are more magazines that buy them.
While you continue to try to perfect your commercial slick magazine short story
or your literary short-short story, you can practice your art right now by
studying the confessions market. Studying the market means you must buy and read
the magazines from front to back, including ads, letters, poems, cartoons, and
articles. That is the first step to becoming a knowledgeable confession
GET THE RIGHT TOOLS
You must have a typewriter, word processor or
computer to make it as a writer. The computer will make your writing life ten
times easier and more productive but dont think that you cant write
confessions and sell them from your typewriter. You can still do that. It is
just a bit more difficult to work that way than with a computer.
Other tools youll need will be reams of good 18
or 20 pound bond paper, metal paper clips and business sized envelopes as well
as manila 9x12, and blank computer discs to copy your stories to. You need a
really good, first rate, dictionary. More than one couldnt hurt. You need to
lay your hands on a King James version of the Bible. Im not trying to make you
into a religious writer, its just that daily reading of a tiny bit of the
oldest available version of our language helps you improve your own English. If
you cant bear the thought of having a Bible in your house get a volume of
Shakespeare and read a tiny bit of that material each day before you start work.
Youll also need a volume of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White which you
also need to dip into each day. I keep my copy in the bathroom. Become a master
of our wonderful language.
There are other books that are essential to your
well being as a writer, such as Rodales Synonym Finder I turn to my
copy nearly every day. It is so much easier to use than a thesaurus. You also
need to have the new Writers Market which comes out in October each
year. You can get the electronic version and Writers Digest, publisher
of the volume, now keeps that electronic version up-to-date by the month. The
electronic version is a bit more expensive than the traditional volume. I am a
dinosaur so I prefer the printed version which is updated each year in September
and the print version costs less than electronic version. A serious writer
cannot be without this particular book. It is a market list giving addresses,
what the publishers are looking for, whether the magazine takes fiction or
nonfiction and what the editors want to see from you. Dont expect to use a
Writers Market for more than one year, It becomes obsolete very soon after you
buy it because the publishing business is always in a state of flux. Without
question youll want to have your very own copy of the book you are now reading,
Confessing for Money, which you can order from AWOCBooks.com for $14.95 (plus S&H).
FIND A TIME AND A PLACE FOR
People who make it in the writing business are
the ones who hit their computer/typewriter keys every day for a specified length
at a particular hour of the day. They always go to the place theyve
chosen as their "writing place."
WRITE EVERY DAY
Writing every day is the way to make it in the
writing business, confessions included. Not only do selling writers write every
day, they send out what they write. They send their work to a contest or an
editor or an agent. Of course, agents arent interested in trying to sell your
confessions but after youve had some successes you may wish to start writing
books and that is when you will be able to find an agent to help you in your
business. The agent is way on down the line for us when weve just begun our
WRITE IN ONE SITTING IF
Successful writers keep on doing these two
things over and over and over no matter how discouraged we may feel at the New
York editors rejection of our fine confession stories. We go to the same place
every day at the same time and start work on our latest confession idea, then we
finish it and send it out. It is a good idea to do your first draft in one
sitting, if possible. That makes for continuity within the story.
EDIT WHEN COLD
Pouring out your story onto the page the first
time around is the hot work. Thrilling, but I think cold work is even more fun.
That is when you go over the structure youve built in the heat of a moment and
you make repairs, additions and deletions. The rewriting is a bit like working
on a puzzle some writers think. Most confessions need at least three rewrites to
become publishable stories. If you do a lot more rewriting you are making
yourself work for almost no money even if you sell your story.
© Copyright 2003, Peggy Fielding
Peggy Fielding has published jillions of confession stories. She frequently lectures on writing confession stories. Visit Peggys website at: PeggyFielding.com
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