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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.


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 you’ll 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 write.

Published short stories are your textbooks. You’ll 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, Women’s 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 you’re a beginner. I’m 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 specifications.


If you’re 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 you’re 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 categories.

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 storywriter.


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 don’t think that you can’t 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 you’ll 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 couldn’t hurt. You need to lay your hands on a King James version of the Bible. I’m not trying to make you into a religious writer, it’s just that daily reading of a tiny bit of the oldest available version of our language helps you improve your own English. If you can’t 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. You’ll 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 Writer’s Market which comes out in October each year. You can get the electronic version and Writer’s 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. Don’t expect to use a Writer’s 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 you’ll 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).


People who make it in the writing business are the ones who hit their computer/typewriter keys every day for a specified length of time… at a particular hour of the day. They always go to the place they’ve chosen as their "writing place."


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 aren’t interested in trying to sell your confessions but after you’ve 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 we’ve just begun our confessions careers.


Successful writers keep on doing these two things over and over and over no matter how discouraged we may feel at the New York editor’s 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.


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 you’ve 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 Peggy’s website at: PeggyFielding.com

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