Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Importance of Story

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

During the holidays, I was speaking with one of my relatives who I don't see often. She is a prolific reader and was talking with me about various books she was reading. Then she turned the conversation toward my books. “I loved reading your book Sojourner Truth,” she said. “I was amazed to learn in about a freed slave in upper state New York and her role in American history.”
Of the many books I've written, I was surprised with her choice. I wrote this book over 20 years ago. My name isn't on the cover or the spine of the book (something the publisher controlled). I wrote this book during a season when I was writing a number of books each year (and many of them were work made for hire—like this one—no royalties). This book is still in print and occasionally I will receive letters from school children about it.
Why did my relative love it? It was simply the unusual nature of the story.  The role of story is important in every book and every magazine article. How do you learn to tell these stories? I believe it comes from years of writing (practice) and reading good stories. You can also learn about story through reading and studying how-to books like Story by Robert McKee.
One of the key ways to practice is writing short stories or magazine articles. These types of writing are not 40,000 to 50,000 word pieces but more like 800 to 1500 word pieces which make them easier to produce yet effective to learn and reach readers. If you haven't written for magazines, I recommend you carefully study this article I wrote about the basics of a magazine article. While writing these shorter articles you will learn:
  • how to create an effective headline
  • how to draw the reader into your story with an opening
  • how to move the reader along with the middle section and maintain interest
  • how to draw the reader to a single point or takeaway
  • how to write to a word count of the publication (read their guidelines)
  • and many other related skills
What type of stories can you write?
I recommend you begin with the personal experience story. Each of us have personal experiences and some of those incidents can be woven into interesting magazine articles. Almost every type of publication will take these types of stories. You can use a market guide or search online for guidelines to see which places. If writing for the Christian market, make sure you have the latest edition of the guide since a lot of this information changes every year. Then you can submit the article or write a query to get it published. Yes it takes effort and time to learn the skill of telling good stories and getting them into print—but it is a key part of the writing life.
It might even take you into American history to write about someone like Sojourner Truth. How have you  learned the importance of story for your writing? Let me know in the comments below.

Story is one of the key elements in our writing. Get ideas about how to practice this important element in your writing from this prolific editor and author. (ClickToTweet)

Isaiah is one of the best-loved Old Testament prophets. Check out this new Isaiah Study Guide for the Passion Translation by Brian Simmons (@BrianWSimmon) I was honored to write a portion of this book and highly recommend it. (If you like the image and want to get the same for your book, check out this tool.)

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