CBC Literary Prizes

3 tips for crafting a winning story from former CBC Nonfiction Prize winner Carrie Mac

Carrie Mac, who won the 2015 CBC Nonfiction Prize, shares advice on how you too can write a winning story.
Carrie Mac won the CBC Nonfiction Prize in 2015. (http://www.carriemac.com)

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 CBC Literary Prizes.

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."     

YA novelist Carrie Mac demystifies the process of crafting a story in time for the 2018 CBC Nonfiction Prize. 5:14

Carrie Mac's comments have been edited and condensed.



In Partnership With


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.