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Confession Is Good For The... Wallet
by Julie Williams

My husband Paul and I have been invited to a wedding in Las Vegas. To Paul's surprise, I offered to pay for the whole trip with money I have earned writing confessions! During the last eleven months I've made more than enough to cover our air fare, hotel and even gambling money.

In issue # 09205 of Writing for DOLLARS! I wrote about my first foray into this little-known writing market — Confessions magazines. Now that I've had ten short stories accepted by four of these publications — True Story, True Love, True Experience and Black Confessions, I'd like to pass on twelve, tried and tested tips to encourage you to try your hand at a confession and earn some extra money. Trust me — the editors of the Trues are constantly looking for new stories.

1. Check out the website www.truesonline.com. Here, True Love's editor tells you how to write for her magazine, or contact Dorchester Media, L.L.C. at 333, Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001-5004 (212) 780-3500 for sample magazines. Read the stories, study their content and try your hand at writing one. Follow the guidelines on story length and submitting. Some magazines ask for the manuscript plus disk as an RTF file. True Confessions wants the manuscript and disk as a Word file.

2. Purchase Peggy Fielding's book, Confessing for Money, Writing and Selling to the Secret Short Story Market. This is invaluable and will give you all the points you'll need to structure a story. Then use your imagination.

3. Even if you're currently writing a novel, poetry or non-fiction, confessions stories take very little time and they're a lot of fun to write. Maybe during a period when you're having writer's block, take one of your novel's minor characters, give them a problem to solve and re-write it in first person POV as a confession. Let your character choose a wrong path, and see how it leads her into more trouble, and then let her find a better way to solve her problem.

4. Read your story to critique groups, or your trusted friend, colleague or spouse. Listen to their advice and suggestions and edit if necessary. Then submit the story. It can take several months to hear back from the magazine (I've been lucky and have generally had a response within weeks), but if you enjoyed the experience, don't wait - start another one right away.

5. Never send a confession story to more than one magazine at a time. If your story is returned, then you can send it off to another, sister magazine either as is, or go through it to see if there's something you want to change this time around. Does it have enough dialogue, inner monologue, angst? Peggy Fielding says, "If your reader (editor) cries, you are sure of a sale."

6. These magazines pay between 3 and 5 cents per word, and a couple of them also print readers' letters. I can't tell you how exciting it is to have a reader comment on your story — how it touched him or her, how similar to their own experience it was or how they learned something from your tale. This last point is crucial, I feel. Your story character has to find a way out of her problem (after taking one or two wrong turns), and if someone who is going through a similar experience can read your story and reap the benefits of your insight, then you will have achieved something special.

7. Whatever bad situation you create for your character, I can almost guarantee that it's happened to someone else, and these people are pleased to have it "voiced" by you.

8. Story endings don't necessarily have to be Hollywood Happy, but I like to give readers hope that people can change, and life can get better as long as folks are willing to try.

9. The magazines' expectations are for realistic, not necessarily factual (to you) experiences that show how someone solves a particular problem. They don't have to be about love, and the protagonist doesn't have to be heroine material, but more like the girl under the hairdryer next to you.

10. Use a variety of sources to find story ideas: newspapers, TV talk shows, gatherings at the water-cooler. Draw from your friends' experiences and re-work their observations into a confession. Get their permission, or make sure all the characters are unrecognizable.

11. Expect the editors to change your characters' names, if not the places, even though you have already done so (see #10).

12. Don't worry about not having a byline, since stories are all written in the first person. (At least you won't have to explain your slight writing deviation to the readers of your other work.) Your name will, however, be on the check!

Good luck. Who knows, maybe you'll be taking your spouse to Las Vegas soon!

© Copyright 2006, Julie Williams

Julie Williams

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