Do you want to write about your personal experiences? Do you have something to say that will encourage, uplift, or help someone else in their walk with God? The anthology – a collection of poems, stories, songs, or articles chosen by a compiler – may be the ticket.When I began writing more than twenty years ago, I wanted to produce stories revealing how God was working in my family. I feverishly wrote the stories despite warnings there was no market for personal experience. Years later, the market exploded with the Chicken Soup series and soon, many Christian publishers followed suit requesting personal experience stories. By then, I had written a number of them and began submitting. At last count, I have published in more than fifty, including Grace Givers by Integrity Publishers.
A good story begins with action that reveals an exciting, poignant, tragic, or funny personal experience. Write a strong middle, continuing the theme and making sure there is compelling dialogue
between the characters. The conclusion almost always ends with an Aha! moment—them point in time when you get it.
For instance, I wrote a story about my prodigal son, Donnie, who rebelled and left home. The Aha! moment materialized years later when he and his stepfather, Jim, were driving to the grocery store at Christmas. They sat in the truck listening to Christmas carols, neither of them speaking.
Finally, Donnie said, "Can you ever forgive me for all that I've put you through?"
Jim put his arm around our son. "I already have."
Aha! That's the moment! Your story should capture the reader's emotions in some way. Though it's about you (or someone else), provide something the reader can take away from the experience. In this case, the reader sees the act of forgiveness. Make your character struggle through a decision that leads to change. But don't preach. Be sure the ending is natural—and flows from all that's gone before.
You may write your own personal experiences, or you may choose an "as told to," which simply means writing another person's story from their viewpoint.
For Small Mercies, published by Guideposts Books in 2007, I interviewed a man with a disaster relief agency and wrote the story from his point of view.
When writing this kind of story place yourself in someone else's life, walk around in his or her shoes, and then write heartfelt prose. Try to capture the very essence of the person and the situation (anger, grief, joy) which engulfs him or her.
At the lowest point in Bennie McDonald's life he silently cried out to God, "This isn't fair, Lord. I've lost Ann to cancer, and my daughter was murdered. I've tried to do what You want—I've helped others. What do You want from me?"
By the time the reader gets to this point in a story, he should care what happens to a person.
At first, I gave away stories because it was more important to gain credits than dollars. I also gave away stories that hadn’t sold elsewhere.
Anthologies usually offer between $25 and $50 per story; however, some publishers pay up to $100. And, Guideposts or the Chicken Soup series, pay as much as $300 per story. While $25 or $50 doesn't sound like much, if you resell your stories like I do, you can put away a nice little sum.
For instance, one 800-word story, "The Greatest of These," sold eight or nine times. At last count, it had made more than $800, and it's still selling.
For anthologies, you usually sell what is known as nonexclusive rights, which gives the publisher the right to continue using your story in whatever form they choose, AND it allows you to continue selling your story. You must read the guidelines, however, because some book publishers request more rights than the usual nonexclusive ones (sometimes all rights, or even a variation of rights), which may hamper your selling a piece elsewhere.
Personal stories for anthologies are easy writing since there's little or no research involved, and you already know your story—inside out.
Like they say, there's no time like the present. Have you ever experienced an embarrassing or funny, moment? Have you gone through a tragedy that set your mind reeling, only to find that by trusting God, you felt peace?
Don't fret if you have never experienced anything monumental; anthologies are built around not only the difficulties of life, but also around everyday occurrences.
Anthology markets fluctuate, but at least one continues to issue submission calls regularly. Check it out:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. ~Ephesians 2:8-9
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But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. -James 2:18 NKJV