So many memoir and creative nonfiction writers struggle to get their first publication credit. Here’s what they don’t realize: they’re focusing on the wrong thing to get published. 

What editors and publishers are looking for isn’t the traditional hero’s journey arc or a trending topic. It’s actually much more interesting than that!

I’m Nicole Breit, creator of the Spark Your Story Lab, and I help writers craft their best work and share it with the world. In this video, I’m sharing the one thing editors and publishers want to see in their slush pile but rarely do.


Watch The Video Here.


In ‘Do This One Thing To Get Published’, You’ll learn:

  • How to think like an editor
  • The answer to what editors and publishers want to see in their slush pile
  • How to write your story in a way that will surprise and delight the readers (And an example of an essay that manages to do just that)
  • Something I like to do before I sit down to write




Your key takeaways from ‘Do This One Thing To Get Published’.

Of course, editors of literary journals want to see excellent writing. They don’t have time to devote to helping writers make their prose sparkle.

Of course, they want to find themselves immersed in the writer’s world. As a reader, that’s what I want, too – to fall under the writer’s spell and be irresistibly consumed by their story.

Think like an editor for a moment.

You’re sitting at your desk, opening your email and you have 30 stories to read. Twenty of them are about relationships – stories about love and loss. Ten are about identity and belonging: our relationships with ourselves and the world we live in.

In the pile is one essay on one of the big universal themes I’ve just mentioned. But it is presented in a way the editor has never seen before.

It doesn’t look or read like all the other essays in the pile. It is unique. It surprises them. It is showing them a new way to look at an old subject because the writer has approached it differently.

That, my friends, is the answer. 

Editors and publishers and contest judges want to see something they haven’t seen before.

So the question for you is no longer Am I good enough? Will I ever get published? Will anyone care about my story? 

It’s How can I tell a story on a theme that has been written about again and again in a new way that will surprise and delight readers?

In other words: your story isn’t what happened to you. Your story is in the shape.

Now, there are literally countless ways to surprise and delight a reader.

I’m going to show you an example of an essay written by Emily James in one of my creative nonfiction classes.

This story is about the passage of time, a sense of nostalgia for what has already been lost and anticipatory grief over future losses. 

“Deck” was published at Atticus Review and it’s a great example of what a visual essay can look like.

This piece is visually interesting. The essay is laid out in landscape orientation and the page is sectioned into seven columns. Each section is varied in length and is divided by a line the width of the column. 

By arranging the sections of her story this way Emily is telling a story textually and visually. She has arranged the words on the page to create a visual impression of the wooden boards that comprise a deck.

Is the story interesting and well-crafted? Absolutely. It may have been accepted on the strength of the writing alone. But I’m certain when the editor at Atticus Review was struck by its uniqueness and the power of this interplay between form and content.

Choosing a form or frame for my story is something I like to do before I sit down to write. Imposing constraints – like attempting to write an essay in five columns – helps me focus on the challenge at hand and enjoy the experience of discovery. It makes the writing more fun!

If you want to learn more about how to write creative nonfiction that gets published and wins awards click here to check out my FREE TRAINING.

Discover the key to streamlining the publication process today!