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Your Life in 1,000 Words: The Craft of Personal Essays

Tips on telling your story in a way that resonates with your audience

- October 28, 2013
There is intrigue in our daily lives, our reactions to events, and the harmony or dissonance between our goals and realities. All of these can become inspiring and salable personal essays. But crafting your experiences into written pieces requires focus, a cold eye for editing and professionalism when facing negative feedback. A good essay isn't some "dear diary" sludge of emotions or a verbatim tale of what happened at the dentist. A good essay is artful, honest and written with a strong angle. Most of all, it is written with an audience in mind.

And especially for fiction writers, I recommend the personal essay as a way to cross over into nonfiction. Like fiction, essay writing requires tweaking your observations into something meaningful and palatable to others. It can be creative and experimental, unlike the no-nonsense tone of traditional journalism. Your built-in sensor for pacing and plot will serve you well when writing essays -- I know because I made the transition from fiction hobbyist to paid nonfiction writer two years ago by way of the personal essay.

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