Sunday, 23 January 2011

Writing from experience

I've been reading some magazine's recently in the name of research to identify some potential markets for my articles and I noticed that a lot of the magazines like personal accounts of events to fill their pages. Some pay a lot of money for these stories too. Then there are the magazines and newspapers who will pay for your account of your holidays and day trips. It can be quite a lucrative market and a way of getting published. Magazine's like Prima, Essentials, take a break and chat are hungry for real-life accounts and, in some of the magazines, it seems the gorier the stories are the better. You only have to see the headlines and titles of the stories to see the type of story they are after.

But if something dreadful had happened to you, would you want it splashed across the pages of a national magazine? I can see why you might if the money the magazine paid you for your story was for charity, but some of the stories in these magazines leave me thinking why people do it? Well, for the money I guess, or, of course, writing about what happened can work as therapy. It can also serve as a warning to others: this happened to me. Don't let it happen to you. I'm not sure I'd do it, no matter how much they paid. Could I write about something horrific that happened to someone I know, with their consent, either? The answer would probably be no. It takes all kinds of writer to write all kinds of things, maybe you're different and could write a piece like that. It's something to think about.

Personally, I'm quite a private person and I am very selective about what I choose to write about. It could be why I found the Life Writing part of the Creative Writing course I took difficult. I'm not a life writer, but there are plenty out there who have lead fascinating and sometimes tragic lives that they have no qualms about revealing to a wider audience. I've read a few autobiographies in my time and some of them have been great. I am amazed by how candid people are and it makes for interesting reading that made  me think. But we writers do have a nosy streak, it's part of the writers' toolkit, so it's no wonder we find other people's lives fascinating. So if you have a personal story to tell and want a wider , look at some of these magazines and have a go at writing down what happened to you and submit it.

Word of warning: make sure you are absolutely sure you want to share your experiences and are prepared for any potential fallout when it's published. People can be supportive but they can also be cruel. Make sure, if your story involves other people (and especially if it shows them in an unfavourable light) that you tell them what you are going to write about them and your intended market. You might like to take legal advice, as you don't want a libel or slander case to deal with, or having to deal with recriminations.

Good luck with your writing
Julie xx


  1. Thanks, Carole Anne,

    Other people's stories are sometimes interesting and inspiring but as for writing about it .....

    Julie xx