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How To Sell Confessions Stories Fast!
by Julie Williams
Your confessions manuscript can sit on someone’s desk for
years. No contract means no payment, and you can’t submit
to another publication. So take your story up a notch! I’ve
had many stories accepted within weeks. What’s my secret?
Giving the editors exactly what they want. The following tips should
- Create an eye-catching title. This guarantees
the editor will want to read your manuscript. But a good title
alone will not suffice – the content of your story has to
grab her attention almost immediately. However, don’t get
too attached to your titles – they are frequently changed.
- Devise a strong opening. A story about an
alcoholic mother started with the words, “I fell apart after
my husband died.” This first sentence laid out the plot
and the problem for the editor, so that she’d wonder; how
did Jodie fall apart? Does she overcome her pain and loss? Is
it possible for her to move on? To find out, the editor had to
read the whole story.
- Stick to one main problem. Confessions don’t
need sub-plots. But if possible, let your character make more
than one wrong decision along the way. This heightens the angst
for the reader/editor, particularly if they know another bad choice
will only make things worse.
- Make your characters real. A former editor
of True Confessions said that confessions do not have
to be 100% accurate as long as there is an element of truth in
them. Whatever confession you can think up is sure to have happened
to someone, somewhere. So give your fictional characters jobs,
homes, families and friends. You need just enough detail to be
- Don’t have a cast of thousands. In “Single,
White Psycho,” I made my main character the youngest of
five daughters. However, throughout the story she interacted with
only one sister. And choose names carefully to reduce confusion
in the readers’ minds, but remember these may be changed.
- Use realistic dialogue. Editors look for everyday
language, not Shakespearean English. Give each character their
own “voice” to distinguish between them.
- Justify the bad decisions. Editors/readers
want to know why your characters chose the path that led to their
life crisis. Were they deprived of a parent’s love? Did
they fall into bad company at school? Do they have poor self-esteem
and if so, why?
- Explain the changes. Let the editor see the
steps your character takes to grow, and how they overcome the
obstacles in their way. People don’t wake up one morning
and have an epiphany. First your protagonist has to acknowledge
that she has a problem. Then she has to figure out a way to get
herself out of it. This could be by joining a group (e.g. A.A.)
or talking to a friend/counselor/trusted family member.
- Follow the subject matter through. If your
character reaches for outside help, you teach the readers that
they can get the same kind of support if they need it. Editors
like to feel they are passing on useful information through their
- Suggest education. Lack of knowledge (whether
schooling or specific to the problem) can be one reason why people
make wrong choices. The more information they have, the better
they can tackle their problems. If poverty is the root cause of
your character’s unhappy life, then attending night school
or community college can help lift them out of the poverty trap.
If he/she chooses to be better educated, it shows readers that
they can improve their chances of success, too.
- Add children to the mix. Not only can we all
relate to problems with kids, but also they can cause chaos in
a story. Think of their reactions to a divorced parent’s
blossoming relationship. Are they scared to have a new daddy?
Or is a marriage in jeopardy because one partner feels neglected
now that the kids are a priority. Children can also be a catalyst
for change when your character realizes she is teaching her children
the wrong actions through her own behavior. Editors like stories
containing conflict between parents and children.
- Locate the perfect setting. If you decide
to set a story somewhere you’ve never been, then research
it. You only need enough background to make the place sound “real.”
Or set your story in a fictional town in the state you live in
and know well. Confessions editors like stories set in middle-America.
Inject local color by mentioning hot, steamy Texas summers or
riding the T into downtown Pittsburgh. Or use a small town where
everyone knows everyone else. (This has endless possibilities
for friendly interference.)
- Stay current. What is the latest buzzword
in the news? Terrorism? Write about a new neighbor acting strangely.
Gangs of teenagers robbing local apartments? Maybe you suspect
your own son or grandson is involved. Kidnapping? The loss of
any child can be devastating. If your confession’s theme
is something that is taking place right now, or has recently happened,
chances are good that your story will be snapped up for publication.
As writers of confessions stories you know these do not have to
have Hollywood endings. However, try to leave your readers with
some hope that your character will have a better future. And your
own ending will be more than satisfying when you receive fast notification
of a sale.
© Copyright 2008, Julie Williams
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