3 tips for crafting a winning story from former CBC Nonfiction Prize winner Carrie Mac
Carrie Mac won the 2015 CBC Nonfiction Prize for her nonfiction story, if you have a good seal, the chest will rise, which was inspired by her work as a paramedic. How did Carrie do it? She offered her tips to CBC Radio's Up North's Jason Turnbull for how you can create a standout entry for for the 2018 CBC Nonfiction Prize.
The 2018 CBC Nonfiction Prize is now open for submissions. You could win $6,000 from Canada Council for the Arts, a 10-day writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and have your work published on CBC Books.
1. Be persistent
Carrie says: "I submitted many times before I won — I think many people do this. Including the piece that eventually won, I had submitted three times before. Having not won, I revised it, polished it and sent it out again. The story that ultimately won is a story that I have told many times to friends and in front of audiences as a writer. I knew if you have a good seal, the chest will rise was a story I wanted to put onto a page and send out into the world."
2. Familiar is better
Carrie says: "Sometimes I don't like writing at all, but I feel compelled. I do what my gut tells me to do. I've been a storyteller as long as I've been a writer, so the stories that sit with me are the ones that don't go away. I don't think people have to dig too deep to find them. I think they should reach for what is within their grasp in terms of the stories that keep replaying in your own mind. It's easier than trying to dig deep and start with nothing."
3. Use your judgmental friends
Carrie says: "I also recommend people record their stories. Record into a microphone or smartphone and play it back to listen for gaps or things that need improvement. With a word count restriction, you do need to murder your darlings and cut out gigantic swathes from the fabric of the story that remains in the end. You can also ask friends to weigh if you have friends that are super critical — those are the best kind."
Carrie Mac's comments have been edited and condensed.