A Toehold in Fiction Writing – Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

I typically write non-fiction: profiles, how-to’s, trend pieces and web copy. It amounts to about 25 to 30 articles and projects per month and represents the bread and butter of my writing. I write for a handful of publications whose editors regularly tap me, and if I pitch to them, they usually accept.

But, as an avid fiction reader, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at fiction. Sometimes, great story ideas just pop into my head and beg to be written. Other times, it’s bits of stories, such as an interesting character, plot twist or scenario that could be part of a good story.

The trouble is, most editors want a complete manuscript since the subjective nature of fiction makes it nearly impossible to rate a story based upon a query letter. Writing a story without a contract could be a complete waste of time if I don’t sell it.

That’s where writing short fiction for Sunday school curriculum publishers has been a terrific way for me to get my fiction writing off the ground. Instead of blindly sending in short stories, I applied to write batches of short, didactic stories for take-home papers and devotional booklets. I shared with editors my background as a Sunday school teacher and other qualifiers they want. I also sent a few samples of my non-fiction writing to show that I have been published in some Christian periodicals. They sent a contract.

With the first assignment, I had to provide a sample story before continuing to fulfill the contract, but I felt confident that we were a good fit because of my research about the publisher and their expressions of interest in my writing for them.

Within weeks, the publisher sent me an assignment for a batch of 13 short stories (including sample) to cover one quarter of Sunday school take-home papers.

I’ve steadily written short fiction for a couple of curriculum publishers for about a decade–all contract work–while building a fiction portfolio, honing my storytelling skills, and earning money, too. I’ve also been able write a few short stories that have been published in magazines, too.

Deborah Jeanne Sergeant writes fiction, non-fiction, web copy and marketing materials from her home in Clyde, N.Y. Visit her online at http://www.skilledquill.net.

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