Thursday, August 5, 2010

Guest Post by Writer Stefanie Wass

So I belong to a great critique group.

We meet monthly in-person to critique each other's work.

My critique group member, Stefanie, who has written two middle grade novels (and is also in the query trenches), also teaches writing workshops and has had her short stories published in various places, like Chicken Soup For the Soul Books. We all know those books, right?
So she's making money on the side while writing her novels. Don't we all wish we could write for a living in one way or another (ignore me right now if this is not true for you)?

So here's her advice. Take it away Stefanie!

Ten Steps to Writing a Chicken Soup for the Soul Story:

1. Immediately Put The Reader In The Scene: Start the story with a quote, describe the setting/backdrop, or describe a challenge to be overcome. Write from the first person point of view.

2. Stay Focused: Tell about one heartwarming event or incident, like the Saturday afternoon you spent making cookies with your kids. Don’t tell everything that happened on Saturday or every detail of your children’s lives!

3. Action, Action: Readers like fast-past stories. Don’t meander and tell unimportant details. Your story should be 800-1,000 words max.

4. Include Elements of Good Fiction Writing: Did you include clear story structure, natural-sounding dialogue, descriptive setting, metaphors and similes, musing voice, personification, and a definite theme?

5. Wrap It Up: End by showing positive change, an uplifting message, a lesson learned. The reader should feel good about life!

6. Don’t Hit Send! Re-read your story aloud. Tighten extraneous words. Use spell-check and Stunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Replace weak verbs. Vary sentence structure. Remember E.B. White’s advice: “The best writing is rewriting”.

7. Find A Critique Partner: Ask someone to read your story and ensure it has universal appeal, is emotionally honest, and isn’t overly melodramatic or “gushy”.

8. Still Don’t Submit! Double-check the writer’s guidelines. Does your story theme meet current publication needs? Print out a hard copy of your story for safekeeping.

9. Submit! Follow the online submission guidelines:

10. Read! (And write!) Write another story! Read examples of personal essays to see how it’s done. (Good sources: The Art of the Personal Essay, by Phillip Lopate, The Best American Essay Series, edited by Robert Atwan, Fifty Acres and a Poodle and Growing Girls, by Jeanne Marie Laskas, and the Cup of Comfort and Chicken Soup for the Soul books.)


***You can visit her website to find out what she writes and to read one of her Chicken Soup stories! And also to find out the dates of her next workshops.


Matthew MacNish said...

Great advice, thanks ladies!

Maddy said...

Great advice, even for us bloggers!! I reread a post 100x times before hitting publish. And sometimes, I still find things that I could've rephrased or paraphrased once it's live :)

Together We Save said...

Wonderful advice, I love Chicken Soup for the Soul, I always feel better when I pick up and read a story or two.

Lourie said...

This is fantastic advice! Thanks for posting this.

Erica Mitchell said...

Wonderful advice, and oddly never have read chicken soup for the soul. But I really need to. Thanks for the advice and I hope you found out about your handwriting ;)

Tahereh said...

awesome tips! thanks so much for sharing!!

Sharlene T. said...

This is wonderful advice... thank you, so much, for sharing and for giving us the link for submissions... when you can take a break, come visit

Twitter: SolarChief

Anonymous said...

Great tips.

Unknown said...

This was awesome!!! Such awesome advice!!!

PS did you stop by and grab your blog award from me?? :)

Jackee said...

Wonderful advice--I need it as I'm trying my first attempt at a short story. Thanks, ladies! (And I'm jealous you can meet in person--I don't live close enough to any writers to do that.)

Have a great weekend!

Unknown said...

Great advice. I also had a story published in a Chicken Soup book and this is definitely good advice.

notesfromnadir said...

Couldn't agree more with #6 - don't hit send until after all these steps are meticulously followed. I'd also add a nice little waiting period of anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending upon the writer.

Also, it's great that your're encouraging people to write for this series of books as it's an easy market to break into & it spreads a lot of good cheer! :)

BonBon Rose Girls Kristin said...

Welcome and thank you for the wonderful post!

Kay said...

WOW! Excellent advice? Can I share this with my students (8th graders) when I teach memoir/personal narrative? I'd love to give them this link.

Christina Lee said...

Kay, sounds fine to me ;-)