Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Writing Personal Experience Articles (Part 4 of 6)

Every Personal Experience (PE) article needs one more crucial ingredient. Before you end, you have to answer this question: So what?

That leads to the final ingredient for PE accounts. It’s not enough to have a learning experience, even one with universal appeal; we have to answer the implied question: How does my experience help others? What meaning does the story hold for readers?

I concluded my article on forgiveness by sharing that years after I had forgiven the man, we met unexpectedly in the United States. When I stared into his blue eyes, I knew I had forgiven him and that I cared about him. We warmly hugged each other. By describing our meeting, I pointed readers to the healing results in the other person and in me and said that when we ask forgiveness, each of us benefits.

So what? We haven't finished an article or story until we've answered that question.


  1. Lon Solomon from McLean Bible Church in D.C. area uses this all of the times as he wraps up his sermons. It's how he ties what he taught to the parishioners daily life.

    Jodie Wolfe

  2. As I have begun rewriting my stories I have been asking this question "whats the point? why would anyone want to read this."

    You gave me some clear direction in this Cec thank you.

    So what.

  3. Thank you Cec for such good information. I have a question. I have noticed that many publishers state, "no essay submissions". Would you address the definition of "essay"? I am assuming they are referring to the "show, don't tell" rule, but is there more to it than that? Any insight you could offer would be helpful.

    As always, we appreciate you!

  4. he concept of personal experience--stories of what you have gone through with a takeaway ending that helps readers in their life journey.

    Too many submissions are exhortations, sermons, or amplifications of a point of view. For example, I've turned in a book called The Christmas Spirit will come out in late 2011. We solicited stories that exemplify the spirit of Christmas. (Notice, I used STORIES.)

    One of the first PE submissions I read came from a woman who said that Christmas was her favorite time of the year and extolled the joy of the season and closed with a lengthy poem. It wasn't t a story and there was nothing in there of her experience.

  5. OOPS. Somehow the first line got lost in my comment above.

    Nan asked about essays. I assume they mean they want stories. That's the concept of personal experience.


  6. Thank you, Cec. That explanation is what I believed to be true, too. I wantd to make sure I had the correct understanding.

    Bless you!


What are your thoughts?