Telling True Stories
How can we make a living as writers? Telling True Stories narrates wholly how we can improve our writing and achieve those goals. The final chapter of the book focuses on how to build a career in magazines and books. When approaching an editor, think of a story that only you can tell. Make sure to follow up. Think small.
Earlier in the book, we learn that it is key to tell a story well enough that your audience wants to finish it to its entirety. I have to admit that I am guilty of often times skimming through a story to the core of it and then putting it down after I got the gist of it. The shorter and more concise a story is, the easier it is to read. A story that has sixteen parts to it is less likely to be finished compared to a story that has three parts to it. So think small and concise. The more detailed and ongoing and repetitive a story seems, the less likely readers are to finish it.
In the last part of the book, Jim Collins shares how to make it as a freelancer. Be prepared. If you are intending on writing for a magazine, READ the magazine prior. Know how to hook your story and make sure it fits well for the magazine you are writing for. Tell a story that only you can write. Use your networks, expertise, and profession to come up with an idea. Every person has a different story to tell the world. Use that. Remember that it is not necessarily what you say, but how you say it. If you can get a reader to read your story to the end, then you have done your job as a journalist.
Stewart O’Nan talks about time management in the final part of the book. I found that piece very interesting, especially as I sit here an hour before class, cramming to finish this paper. “There are only two difficult things about writing: starting and not stopping.” This is entirely true. I can relate to sitting there for hours on end trying to start something, but not being able to find the words or will power to do so. I work better under pressure and often times, my best work is completed minutes before deadline. Once I start writing though, there is no stopping. I finish it through to the end. I bang it out all in one sitting. O’Nan discussed seventeen rules that should be followed to manage your time wisely. The fourth rule stood out to me. Always carry pen and paper. A brilliant idea could spark you at any time. Unless you write it down, you are bound to forget. The sixth rule also peaked my interest. Never let a project sit for too long. The longer it sits, the more likely you are to forget the brilliant ideas you first thought of when assigned the project. The last real puts it all into perspective. Enjoy yourself. Do what you love. That is what life is all about, right?!
Geri Thoma talks about your book and the marketplace in the final part. This section peaked my interest right off the bat. He starts with, “There is one thing every nonfiction writer should try to keep in mind: Book publishers, agents, and editors all love you.” As a Sagittarius, this optimistic approach to knowing led me in. All the time and energy put into writing a book does get appreciated. Sometimes the stress and anxiety make it hard for us to see that, but our fan club does love us. Thoma says that it is good to be a writer who is involved and interested in the publishing process, but to realize that writers cannot control it. He says those are the writers he loves working with. It is important to know your role as a writer. Write well. Write often. Keep it simple. Tell the story. Your hard work will pay off. Breathe.