By Tracy Crump
Chicken Soup for the Soul® is looking for what I call “snapshot stories.” These true, inspirational vignettes have a definite beginning, middle, and end, telling a complete story in one snapshot of under 1200 words. Moreover, each story must be tightly focused on the theme of the title in which it appears. In my years of teaching workshops on writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul, I’ve reviewed a variety of stories and found that many writers find this a difficult task.
Below are four tips that help me focus my work.
- Read Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Study the stories and see how other authors wrote stories that held to the theme of the book. You will hold in your hand a guide to what the editors consider a focused story. Be sure to read books published since 2008 when Chicken Soup for the Soul changed hands.
- Read and reread the story callout or online description. And then read it again. I usually go back to the description multiple times while writing. The editors lay out clues about what they’re looking for in the callouts. Themes they’ve covered more than once (such as dog, cat, or Christmas books) will each have a little different slant. Watch for the nuances. What I Learned from the Dog and My Very Good, Very Bad Dog suggest varying ideas on the same subject.
- Keep suggested topics in mind but don’t be shackled by them. The lists of possible topics included in callouts often help me hone in on a story idea. But I have also gone my own route and come up with stories that are outside the list but still centered on the book’s theme. Don’t be afraid to try something different but keep the book’s premise foremost in mind.
- Cut anything that doesn’t stick to the theme. Once you finish the first draft of your story, go back and ruthlessly edit. The now-famous story I tell in my workshops is of a friend who asked me to look over her Chicken Soup story on the eve of the deadline. I had no time to be diplomatic, so I slashed a good third of the story that didn’t stick to the book’s theme. She rewrote and submitted it. Not only was that story accepted, but a year later, she reworked the part she cut and submitted it for a different title. That story was also published. Her experience illustrates how important it is to stick to the theme of the book.
Chicken Soup for the Soul is a fantastic market for beginning and experienced writers alike. One of the top-paying anthologies, they’ve been around for an incredible twenty-five years. Focus on writing a story that narrows in on the theme of their next book, and we may well be reading your snapshot story in 2019.
Tracy Crump has published two dozen stories in anthologies, including nineteen in Chicken Soup for the Soul. As co-director of Write Life Workshops, she has conducted workshops and webinars on writing for the series for ten years, and her “How to Write for Chicken Soup for the Soul” course is one of Serious Writer Academy’s top sellers. Tracy’s articles and devotionals have appeared in national publications, and she edits The Write Life, a popular writers newsletter that includes story callouts. She is a freelance editor and proofreader for Farmer’s Almanac and is represented by Bethany Morehead of Cyle Young Literary Elite. Visit Tracy at TracyCrump.com or WriteLifeWorkshops.com. This is the link for the SWA course in case it doesn’t show up: https://www.seriouswriteracademy.com/tracy-crump/