Writing Inspirational Stories

I decided to try it. Writer’s Digest holds semi-annual writing competition, and one of the categories is Inspirational. For years I’ve received the promo material for this contest and never entered this category. I wrote a couple stories for the Genre Fiction category, but Inspirational had me stumped.

A friend of mine even told me a few years ago that she finished in the top 100, I think it was. What exactly was the “Inspirational” category, I asked her. Oh, anything, she said. Stories? Yes, she said, her entry was a story.

So last year, I decided to try it. Except, what exactly was an Inspirational story? I didn’t have a clue, and wasn’t sure I really wanted to figure it out.

Here it is, a year later, and there was that Inspirational category staring me in the face again.

So what is an Inspirational story?

Too late, I saw this year that Writer’s Digest did a good job answering that question. These stories have explicit religious messages. Here’s the pertinent paragraph:

Inspirational: An article, essay or story with an explicitly religious, spiritual or otherwise inspirational focus. An article that’s suitable for Guideposts or St. Anthony Messenger, for example, would be inspirational. An essay on how the power of Christ, (or Buddha, or Allah or Vashti) touched your life would be inspirational. A story about the power of religion, the power of prayer, or the power of the universe would be inspirational.

That would have helped, but I don’t think I was too far off. I figured an Inspirational story should be one that showed change, inspirational change.

OK, I was struggling. Was it like a Hallmark feel-good story that brought you to tears or gave you a warm feeling or a heavy sigh?

This was definitely a challenge, one I didn’t know if I was able to figure out.

For that matter, I’m not sure I’ve got short stories figured out.

A few years ago, Writer’s Digest carried an article about writing the shorter kinds of stories. This came out some time before their Short, Short Story Competition. Anyway, the gist of the article was that voice was the all-important component for the shortest of stories. So that’s what I worked on.

But this year, in one of the recent issues of the magazine there were a couple articles about crafting short stories. One was “Letting Plot Guide Your Narrative.” (Oh, it’s not all about voice, then, at least if the short story isn’t of the 1500 word kind. I wonder about the 2500 word Inspirational kind). The other was “Broadening Your Story’s Scope” (in 2500 words? In the Inspirational category?)

OK, I concluded, this is definitely harder than it looks. But try, I decided to do. And did. Turned it in this afternoon, just before the deadline (midnight tonight) before the deadline (May 20, if you pay a late fee).

Now I’m wondering how inspirational Inspirational stories need to be. 🙄

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Time still to vote in the CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award Poll and in the What do you read poll. Also, have you passed the links along to others in your circle asking them to vote? If you do, you’ll win … my undying gratitude. But maybe I need to hold a book drawing. Hmmm, now that might just happen.

Published in: on May 2, 2011 at 7:49 pm  Comments (4)  
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  1. Good luck with your story! I keep thinking about doing one of these Writer’s Digest contests or some other contest. I really need to try. I’ll see how it works out for you.

    Tossing It Out


  2. Maybe they give critiques? Some contests do. I’ll be interested to know what you learn from this. An inspirational short would be difficult to write, I think, but it’s kind of outside my scope.


  3. Thanks, Arlee. I have no idea how many people enter the Inspirational category, and I’ve not read any of the past winners, so I have no idea if I hit the mark.

    I like the challenge of writing short stories, though. I think they help me develop as a writer, so I keep plugging away. Contests are good for me because they put me on a deadline.



  4. Sadly, Jill, they don’t give you a critique. In fact they only notify winners. They give you a date, and if you haven’t heard from them by then, you didn’t win.

    No, for me the benefit is in the writing. I can look back at old stories and see the progress I’ve made. And they are so much more contained than a novel.

    If I could start over as a writer, I’d do as many short stories as possible before I ever started a novel.



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