By Tracy Crump
Story or testimony? That’s the quandary many writers face when writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Chicken Soup is the best-selling series in publishing history and a golden opportunity for Christian writers. With titles such as Count Your Blessings and Answered Prayers, many people believe Chicken Soup is a Christian series. According to the editors, however, their books are intended for the general market. Yet they allow authors to write about God for any of their titles. Consequently, Chicken Soup gives Christian writers a chance to share their faith with a wide range of readers.
So what’s the problem?
One of the Chicken Soup guidelines states they don’t want testimonials. That often proves a stumbling block for Christian writers because testimony can involve more than a salvation experience.
The following will help you distinguish between story and testimony:
· Let God drive. As Christians, we want to tell about what God has done for us and why He did it. That’s where we often cross the line into testimony. Keep in mind that Chicken Soup is all about story. Let God’s actions drive the story. Let God speak through the circumstances.
· Leave preaching to the preacher. Avoid words such as should, must, ought to, have to, need to. These are preachy words we sometimes feel we need to get our point across. They tend to jab a finger in the reader’s face and have no place in Chicken Soup books. Use story to win your reader.
· Incorporate faith-based values. Center your story around scriptural values such as love, truth, justice, mercy, forgiveness, or self-control. When you do, God shines through your words. God reaches people in many different ways.
· Avoid Christianese. Terms like sanctification, justification, the foot of the cross, and the blood of the Lamb mean nothing to many people. Use words that someone who has never attended church would readily understand.
· Omit Scripture. I do not see Scripture quoted in Chicken Soup stories, with the exception of their recent devotional books. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t refer to truths or events in the Bible. Just avoid quoting chapter and verse.
Every one of us who is a disciple of Christ bears the responsibility of sharing our account of what God has done in our lives. But as writers, that telling must differ according to the publication we’re writing for. If we push the limits beyond what Chicken Soup guidelines allow, our stories will not reach their diverse audience.
After all, you never know when someone who wouldn’t touch a devotional book will pick up Chicken Soup for the Soul and read your story of God’s faithfulness.
Tracy Crump has published thirteen Chicken Soup for the Soul stories and conducts workshops and webinars on writing for the best-selling series. Her next webinar is scheduled for July 16, 2014. Go to WriteLifeWorkshops.com to register or to subscribe to her popular e-newsletter, The Write Life, which includes anthology story callouts. Tracy also writes a column for Southern WritersMagazine and publishes articles and devotionals. But her most important job is grandmother to three-year-old Nellie.
Chicken Soup for the Soul gives Christian writers a chance to share their faith with a wide range of #readers @TracyCrump. (Click to Tweet.)
How do you distinguish between story and testimony? Find out at The Write Editing @TracyCrump. (Click to Tweet.)