As many of you know, I wrote The Tao of Dating for Women because I saw so many lovely and amazing friends who were in pain — either because they were lonely or with the wrong man. I was majorly stuck finishing it, until I heard about my super-sweet friend Holly who had a live-in unemployed boyfriend Roger whom she supported… who was beating her up for 18 months.

That was TOTALLY NOT COOL. Properly motivated, I finished the book in a couple of weeks.

And yet, over the next five years, much to my chagrin, all bad dating-related things in the world did not come to an abrupt end. What?!

Now I know that experience is a great teacher. But I believe that sometimes it’s better to learn from other people’s experiences than to have your own — especially if those experiences are of the driving-car-off-cliff variety. Someone else did it, you saw the car go in flames, and now you don’t have to do it yourself! Hooray!

Moreover, scientists show that social learning is the most powerful way of learning there is. Short of watching someone do something right in front of you, stories are very powerful. You hear someone else’s story, and the lesson sinks in.

So I’m thinking if some sweet reads these stories, maybe she’ll be more savvy about not getting into relationships with the wrong people, at the wrong time, or with the wrong ideas. Maybe she’ll know to recognize the signs that someone’s not going to be a good match for her. Maybe she’ll reconsider before committing to a disastrous marriage. Or never let the abusive boyfriend into her life in the first place, because she could spot the telltale signs. Or avoid the bad boy who’ll break her heart in devastating fashion. Or stay clear of the sociopath that was going to take advantage of her resources.

If we can help even one Holly stay out or get out of a relationship with a Roger, I will consider the whole project worthwhile.

The good news: YOU can help. By sharing your story. Then other women can benefit and maybe not have to go through the full, um, learning process that you experienced.

Your stories should be under 1200 words. As a token of appreciation, I’ll be compensating you for your efforts if your piece is selected for the final book (this ain’t Random House, so think enough for a dinner, not a mansion). It’s best if you can make it lighthearted – a tragedy in retrospect has license to be comedy.

Sounds good? Great! If you’d like to submit your story, here are the guidelines:

1) 1200 words or less.

2) Write the story in the first person. It’s about you; it can’t be about someone you know.

3) Include in the story: how you met; how long the relationship lasted; ages of the people involved; the problem or situation at hand; how it ended; what you learned. If you can share what’s happened since then (“Now I’m married to a guy who treats me like the queen of the universe”), that’s useful, too.

4) Imagine you’re telling the story to a little sister or a niece. Include details to bring the story alive: where, when, how, with whom, and why. Be descriptive without being judgmental. Showing is better than telling; teaching is better than preaching. If you can make your reader laugh, cry, guffaw, gasp or get goose bumps, she’s more likely to remember the lesson the story is conveying.

5) All stories will include first name and city of origin when published unless you prefer to see the story published anonymously. If so, provide a pen name for yourself.

6) By submitting the story to me, you are agreeing to let me freely use it on the blog or the newsletter (with attribution, of course). If your story gets selected for the book, you will receive upon publication $40 for your efforts and a copy of the final ebook (and print book if there is one). If you refer someone whose story gets in the book, you get $20.

This is the first time I’m doing something like this, so I appreciate your feedback to make the process go to the satisfaction of all parties involved. Now get writing already, and send your war story to story[at]taoofdating dot com with “(your name)’s War Story” in the subject line. Submission deadline is March 21. Earlier submissions are considered first.