Friday, August 6, 2010

Writing Personal Experience Articles (part 3 of 6)

To write a successful Personal Experience (PE) story, first you need a unique story. Second, your story must have universal appeal.

As you tell the story, you show that your experience appeals to a wide audience. That is, your learned insights hold meaning for others.

In my HomeLife article about forgiving another missionary, the universal appeal was that all of us struggle with being hurt by others, especially when we feel we’ve done nothing wrong. It took me a long time to want to forgive the man and even longer to admit that I might have had some culpability in the situation.

As I told my story, I showed readers how Cec Murphey learned to forgive someone who had hurt him. I could have said, "I learned four principles from this experience." Instead, I chose to show the four things (not numbered) by relating my progress from wanting to forgive to being free. Either method can work as long as we help readers grasp what we’ve been through.

If my articles don't have universal appeal, I have nothing to share.


  1. Your blog on writing articles could not have come at a better time for me. I saw a contest in a magazine and decided I would try for the $3000 prize money. It is a personal experience article and I am taking it to our Word Weaver group tomorrow. However, after reading your blog, I have some revisions to do. The magazine also gave some suggestions on guidelines for their contest that I am applying. Thanks for your help.

  2. Cec, I have a question. I have a PE article that could be geared toward two different reader groups. I could write it one way to help parents teach their child, or I could write my experience for general adult readers. My question is, can I take the same idea and write it different ways and submit to different magazines? When I query an editor, am I pitching my idea or my story?
    Thanks. This series has been so helpful.

  3. In answer to Jackie's question, you pitch your story/article. Your query implies you have written it and would like the editor to see it to consider for publication. If you haven't written it, you pitch the idea. I suggest you not pitch the idea unless (a) the editor knows you and (b) believes you can deliver quality work.

    If you think the article could fit two different groups, you may use the idea as many times as you wish, but you have to change enough of the material so that it's not the same article.

    PE articles always have takeaway value and you might change the point of the story. I suggest you also consider different illustrations.

    For instance, my friend Patrick Borders once sold an article to Guidepost about being a stay-at-home father. In Touch wanted an article from him on the same topic. He supplied it but was careful not to make it the same article.

  4. Great going Cec! Just amazed how you keep going. Thanks for your commitment to raise good christian writers, and your initial training that started me a decade ago. I am always thrilled to boast about you in the LORD.
    Your friend from India, Noel Kurian.

  5. Carol asked about setting goals. I'm not a goal setter; I'm a pragmatist. When I began my writing career, I intended to keep improving and tried to learn everything I could about writing and marketing. I had no dreams or plans. I simply wanted to write and to publish. And I worked to make that happen.

    If setting and attaining goals stimulates you, do it. I received my first book contract another writer told a book editor about me (and praised my work), and he called me.

    Carol and others who have not done anything to make your dreams become reality, perhaps you need to ask yourself a question: WHAT is going on that hinders me from taking the next step?

    Ask and listen for the answer. I don't know if the answer will come from your inner being or from God (I sometimes confuse them), but I know that by listening patiently and openly, I usually get an answer.


What are your thoughts?