Reading An Essay
Every day, myriad people read a personal essay in a newspaper, magazine, or online. Some hear them via radio programs. The personal essay is of interest to readers because it usually touches on something they can relate to or it appeals to their emotions. It might bring tears or hearty laughter.
In the personal essay the writer uses an true incident to bring a point, or perhaps a life lesson, to the readers. If there is nothing to be learned by the reader, then the writer has written an anecdote, nothing more. That universal truth, or golden nugget, the reader is left with tops the list of what a personal essay must have.
If there is a large market for personal essays, there is also a lot of competition to move to the head of the line and get your essay published. What things do you need to make an editor sit up and take notice?
New: Editors see so many submissions that use the same topic or same theme that they all begin to run together like colors in a tie-dyed shirt. They want new material, a new slant on an old topic. Or maybe a whole new topic--one that hasn't been done so many times that no one wants to see it again.
Relevant: Does it have any meaning in today's world? Will it appeal to the 21st century reader? Is it something readers care about? Can readers relate to your topic and your key lesson?
Surprise: Is there a surprise in your essay? Something that will make readers sit up straighter and pay closer attention. Or is your style of writing the surprise? A different writing style can be like fresh air in a stuffy room even if the topic has been addressed multiple times before.
When you finish writing, revising and editing your personal essay, ask yourself about the three elements above. If you come up with negatives on one or all, your chances of being published diminish. It should tell you that you need another revision. Don't we all hate to admit that we should do one more? Of course we do but we also know that it will be to our advantage.
Is there more to writing a personal essay than these three points? You bet there is but that's a topic for another day.