Monday, 27 July 2015

Guest post from Womagwriter Noreen Wainwright

When Noreen Wainwright mentioned that she'd had a story accepted by The People's Friend after a zillion attempts, I invited her over to share that experience.

The two voices

When you’re plodding away, desperately trying to get that elusive acceptance for one of your stories you may find that you have two voices in your head...then again, I hope I’m not the only one to experience this? One voice says - or shouts - that it is really time to give this up as a bad job and to express your creativity in an easier way, such as cobweb-knitting. The other voice, of course, tells you that you will get there in the end that it’s persistence that marks out the pro from the dilettante. I was glad that I listened to the second voice when I finally got an acceptance from Shirley Blair at People’s Friend. It was a great feeling – a true buzz.

I don’t know how many of you identify with this but I have found it much easier to be published and earn money in other areas of writing. Actually, I think it probably is easier to have non-fiction pieces accepted. What am I saying – it was even easier to get a publisher for my first crime novel than it was to wriggle my way in though the almost impenetrable fortress of People’s Friend. But, you know, we are writers; we are compelled to do it and there’s nothing like a challenge. I’m already thinking about  my next submission to People’s Friend and I’m also working on a humorous story because I keep reading how much editors love it when a story makes them smile. I hope that sparks off lots of ideas in you all, oh and listen to the second voice, the one that tells you the acceptance will eventually come.

You can get Noreen's latest book here.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Not the Best News

Sadly Best magazine have again dropped their fiction slot. (The associate editor who dealt with fiction has promised to let me know if this changes and I'll pass on any news I get.)

Presumably they don't think the readers are interested in fiction. If that's not the case we need to let the editors know. We can do that by buying magazines which carry fiction and by contacting them to praise any stories we particularly enjoy, or any increase in the amount of fiction carried and to protest if fiction is reduced or dropped.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Are you up to date?

I won't mention names, but I recently came across someone who, from her comments, was clearly using very old copies of magazines for her research. It might seem like a money saving idea to use the copies you found in the cupboard under the 1973 tax paperwork but it'll cost you in other ways.

There's no point crafting the perfect story for a magazine which no longer prints fiction, or which now has very different requirements in terms of length and/or style.

Most of us can't read every issue of every magazine, but it makes sense to read several current issues of whichever ones we're targeting.

Check any notes, lists or spreadsheets you've made for yourself too. Are all the details correct or are you saboutaging your chances by submitting work the editor simply can't use?

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Guest post by Womagwriter Carmen Walton

My guest today is Carmen Walton.

A question I ask at the beginning of my writing workshops is what is preventing your stories from selling to magazines? There are many answers to this but they all tend to lead to one main obstacle that prevents us from selling fiction to magazine editors. Focus.

Let me put it like this. If a passing stranger was asked out of the blue to suggest a gift idea they might suggest this.

Some thorough questioning, consideration, research and effort might reveal enough details about the recipient of this gift to reveal that what they really want is this.

Without focus being applied to the writing and sending of stories fiction editors are likely to be faced with drills when what they wanted was a decent bag.
So how do we focus?
Time is precious and often there doesn’t seem to be enough of it to go round. However, it’s important to invest the time to consider the needs of the magazines and their readers to make the most of your writing efforts.
Look inside the magazines.
Visual clues exist on every single page and in the tone and content of articles and features. It’s up to us to interpret those clues and give the editor the story they want and not the story we wanted to send. From reading a magazine you might
  • Determine the age group of the reader. Some topics are universal and others are more relevant to certain age groups than others. Have someone in mind when you write.
  • Consider the magazine’s content. Are there lots of diet and fashion articles or is emphasis on homemaking? What are readers interested in?
  • Read the stories in the magazine on a regular basis to determine what is chosen. Does the magazine use the first person point of view or the third? Are the endings twist in the tale or happy ever after?  Has a story similar to one of yours already been used?
  • Do the advertising pages promote expensive or inexpensive products? Does your reader enjoy a lavish lifestyle or are they budgeting? Write about a world that your reader is comfortable in.
Like the business of gift giving, sending stories should be personal and meaningful.
  • Don’t recycle old stories without thoroughly editing and shaping them to suit.
  • Don’t send stories that are thinly veiled vessels for your rants and gripes.
  • Do read the fiction guidelines that are readily available via this blog and all the magazine websites.
  • Do respect word counts and the advice given about what not to send.
The ideas you gather as writers can be used to create stories covering a wide range of topics and genres and can be placed in a variety of historical settings. Guidelines let you know what isn’t desirable but the people who manage the magazine spend time and money making sure they know who their customers are and what they want. It’s a business after all. With so many possibilities the main thing all the magazines ask you to do is entertain their readers. Have them cheered up, moved reassured or uplifted.
It’s a case of making sure you cheer the editor up when you give her the equivalent of this.

Instead of depressing her by giving her this.

Remember, it’s all about focus.

Carmen Walton is a freelance writer and creative writing tutor who, when she takes her own advice, sells short stories to women’s magazines. She will be running a day long workshop on writing fiction for women’s magazines on Saturday 26th September at Waterside Arts in Sale, near Manchester.

Waterside Arts Centre, Sale, Manchester. M33 7ZF

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Formatting your manuscripts

Several people recently have told me they're unsure how to format a manuscript for submission to a magazine, so I thought I'd offer a few suggestions.

1. Always read the guidelines and follow any rules or suggestions regarding formatting (and everything else!) Unless the guidelines state otherwise ...

2. Use a plain, standard font in a reasonable size.

3. Put your name and contact details on the story document, even if you've used a covering letter or cover sheet.

4. Any covering letter should be brief. Editors are busy people and if the story requires masses of explanation then it probably needs to be rewritten.

5. If sending by post, print on one side only and number your pages.

6. If emailing, format as for printing and be sure to save the document in a standard format (e.g. .doc) so it can be opened, or include in the body of the message.

7. Double space. (That's the lines, not the words or letters)

Don't get too stressed over formatting. It's the story which is important, not how it's presented. As long as it doesn't break any submission rules and can easily be read, you'll be fine.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Guest post by womagwriter Maggie Cobbett

My guest today is Maggie Cobbet. She's sharing her antidote to despair.

It’s very discouraging when a painstakingly crafted submission fails to hit the spot with editors.  My personal antidote for many years has been the writing of ‘fillers’.  Dashed off in minutes and sent on their way by email, they can be surprisingly lucrative. As well as mining my own store of opinions, jokes, anecdotes, household hints and family albums, I never leave home without a camera phone and notebook in my pocket. Snippets of conversation overheard on the bus, weird signs and advertisements, odd displays in shops etc. can all provide useful material.

 Examples of good markets for 'fillers' are cheap and cheerful magazines like That's Life and Chat and, more surprisingly, perhaps Reader's Digest. Requirements and email addresses change all the time, so make sure that you check these before you send off your gems. I spend hours each year browsing the newspaper and magazine shelves in search of new opportunities and also keep an eye open for in house magazines that reward contributions from customers.

I save a proportion of my 'filler' money each year to pay for my place at the Writers' Summer School, an August week I would recommend to any aspiring or seasoned wordsmith. Its programme of courses, workshops, talks, discussions and entertainment all contribute to what the old hands call 'the magic of Swanwick' and first timers are welcomed with open arms? (Two of those arms will be mine this year, as I'm helping to host a table for newcomers on the first evening as well as running a workshop later in the week.)

You can get Maggie's book, which gives more hints and tips on filler writing here.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Commenting on blogs

I've heard from a couple of people that they have trouble commenting on Blogger blogs. As I like to get comments, it seemed a good idea to try to help. This will seem like a lot of instructions, but honestly it's easy once you get the hang of it ...

Under each post you'll see little icons for sharing the post on twitter, Facebook etc (feel free to use those if you like!) Just above you should see either 'No comments' or the number of comments already made. Click on that and a box will appear for you to write in.

Under that you'll see 'choose an identity'. If you have a Google or Blogger account, select that and it should fill in your details. Open ID can be used if you have a Wordpress blog. If you don't have one of these accounts, or prefer not to link to them in your reply, or are having difficulty using them, then select either of the bottom two options.

With the name/URL one you can type in your name and I, or my guest, will know who to reply to. You can also add a link to your blog if you wish.

I also allow anonymous comments (this isn't an option with all blogs). If you wish to remain totally anonymous then obviously that's the one to go for. You could add a name or initials to your comment if you would like to make replies easier.

Once you've made a selection, you'll see the bit about proving you're not a robot. On my blogs (and most others) this has been disabled and you can safely ignore it.

Click 'Publish your comment'. Here the comment should appear very quickly. With some blogs you'll need to wait until it has been approved.

Comments can't be altered once you've made them, but you can remove your own and the owner of the blog can remove anyone's.

Hope that helps. Feel free to practise - you can try guessing why I picked the photo to go with this post, or just type 'test'. If you're still having trouble, you can email me (address under 'contact' tab at the top) and I'll see what I can do.

Finally you're never obliged to leave comments on blogs, and I know sometimes there's not time, or the internet is being anoyingly slow, or we just don't have anything to add, or get distracted and move onto something else, but all bloggers and guest posters appreciate comments. It makes us feel it was worth writing the post.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Ireland's Own

Here are the latest guidelines for Ireland's Own. (Yes, that is me with Sean in the Ireland's Own office. I snuck in one day and he's too polite to throw people out)

Ireland’s Own includes a short story and a number of non-fiction items in the regular weekly issue. Each month, we produce a Special issue devoted to a particular theme (i.e., Christmas, New Year, St. Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Spring, Summer and Winter, etc).
Material with a seasonal theme should be submitted three months in advance to accommodate publishing schedules.

In general, we favour fictional stories of a maximum of 2,000 words, written in the ‘straight forward’ style, typifying the ‘good yarn’. The magazine is not an outlet for experimental or impressionistic writing. Tales should reflect the magazine’s ethos, having good general appeal developed through a well-explored story-line, with an Irish orientation where possible.

Non-fiction items of 750-900 words, accompanied if possible by a reproducible illustration, are also used, especially informative articles with a strong Irish background and general appeal.
Memoir pieces of about 800 words are quite popular and general interest and historical articles are also used.

We have no requirements for poetry.
The editor reserves the right to alter scripts if editorial adaptation is required.

Email copy may be sent to the addresses at the end.
Emails should be just typed in a straightforward manner, with no unnecessary capitals or spaces between paragraphs or lines.
We endeavour as far as possible to return all unused scripts, but we do not take responsibility for mislaid or lost texts and we urge all contributors to retain copies of their work. Please ensure that your name and address appears on all submissions as covering letters can become separated from articles/stories in the sometimes long interval between submission and usage. We need those details for the despatch of voucher copies and cheques in the event of acceptance.

We generally pay €65 per 2000 word short story, €50-€60 per article and €15 - €20 per filler piece. Voucher copies are despatched; cheques are issued a few weeks after publication.

While we do not wish to discourage anyone, it should be noted that we have a large corps of regular contributors who look after most of our needs, and we have a considerable stockpile of accepted material on hands. Even when material is accepted, there is likely to be a lengthy delay before publication.
Sean Nolan, Editor.
email: sean.nolan (@) people or write to Ireland’s Own, Channing House, Rowe Street, Wexford.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Interview with womag (and pocket novel) writer Sally Quilford.

Sally Quilford is my guest today and she has lots of information about pocket novels.

What exactly are pocket novels, Sally? And what got you started on writing them?
Pocket novels are 42k-50k novels sold in small magazine format. They’re published by DC Thomson, and there are My Weekly Pocket Novels (they’re 50k) and People’s Friend Pocket Novels (they’re 42k). I got into writing them when I heard a friend talking about how she wrote for them. At the time they were only 30k, and I’d been stuck on writing short stories (with some success, I should add) but wanted to stretch my writing muscles, so to speak, in order to try something longer. I was amazed when I sold the first one I ever wrote!

Are they generally romances, or do your PNs cover a range of genres? 
They are generally romances, and with a male/female romance at the centre of every story. But you can include lots of sub-genres in that. I’ve written Regency romances, Victorian romances, Wartime romances, western modern romances, family sagas, murder mysteries and romantic intrigue (though it’s fair to say that most of my novels contain an element of intrigue).

Most recently, editor Maggie Swinburne (nee Seed) has been looking for series of books about the same characters. I have just completed my third novel about 1960s police woman Bobbie Blandford, called Big Girls Don’t Cry (the first two are called The Last Dance and Runaway) and am just about to start writing the fourth novel. The important thing to bear in mind about series romances is that they still have to be stand-alone stories, so that the new reader coming to them doesn’t have to have read the previous books. That can be quite a challenge, and I find myself repeating a lot of information in books, but that’s necessary for the new reader to catch up with the story.

My next pocket novel, due out around 30th July 2015 is a Gothic romance called The Dark Marshes.

Are there any rules or guidelines to follow?
The stories are mostly sweet romances, with no explicit sex, though it is possible to get reasonably steamy as long as it’s tasteful. The novels must be 42k for The People’s Friend and 50k for My Weekly Pocket Novels. There must be a central romance, even if the novel steps over into other genres. And there must be a happy ending. The stories themselves, even if there’s a murder mystery, must not get too dark and dreary. The full guidelines are available from DC Thomson.

Do you pitch the idea first, or present the finished PN?
In the first instance, if it’s your first novel for them, it’s best to send 3 chapters and a synopsis. Then they can advise you if you’re on the right track. Once you’ve had a novel accepted, you can send full novels. I prefer to do that as I don’t always know if an idea is going to work unless I write it all. If you have an idea you’re not sure about, you can always email either Maggie (My Weekly Pocket Novels) or Tracey Steel (People’s Friend Pocket Novels) to see if they like the idea. But you need to be able to deliver it once you’ve pitched it and not keep them waiting too long.

The pay for these isn't huge - are there other benefits to writing PNs?
No the pay isn’t huge, but once you’ve had a novel accepted, you can then send it to Ulverscroft for Large Print Publication. They pay a bit more, and you also get Public Lending Rights when it goes into a library. You can also put your work on Amazon Kindle yourself. I don’t do too badly out of my old pocket novels.

You've re-released some of your PNs for kindle. Can you tell us about that?
I’ve released all my previous PNs on Kindle. It’s very easy to do. All you need is a Word file, then convert it to web page, filtered and load it up to Amazon. There are sites, such as, where you can buy royalty free covers, then Amazon have their own cover image software where you can perfect it with a choice of fonts and colour schemes. I sell mine very cheaply at 99p each, but I feel that’s fair enough. I also make money if people borrow them through the Kindle Lending Library. In fact I make more from lending than from selling! (You can buy all Sally's books here)

Are you a disciplined writer who works every day, or do you wait until you're in the mood?
I have to be in the mood, and then I’m very disciplined. I can only write if I have a solid idea, but once I have an idea, it eats away at me and my keyboard until I’ve completed it. That’s why it’s worth me writing the pocket novels, despite the low pay. I can write one within a month (not that I always do!)

The right writing snacks are very important - what's your fuel of choice?
I’ve just finished eating a packet of Cheesy Wotsits, actually. But shortbread biscuits are also a big favourite.

What has been your happiest or proudest writing moment so far?
It’s hard to say. Obviously the first time I had a pocket novel published was a tremendous boost. But I think my proudest moment was when my family saga, The Steps of the Priory, was published by Ulverscroft. It was the first time I’d seen it in print and the cover was wonderful!

Do you have any advice for people who may be considering writing a pocket novel?
Enjoy yourself! If you enjoy what you’re writing it will come across to the editor. You may need to tone down any darker urges. And that can be hard, even for someone as upbeat as me. I used to joke that pocket novels were like Heartbeat and The Darling Buds of May but with all the sex and violence removed. That might be an exaggeration, but they do present a rose coloured world where the good are rewarded and the bad get their comeuppance, and whilst there may be thrills and spills, nothing really awful ever happens. That’s why the readers love them. They know they’re going to get a good read that leaves them feeling that all is right with the world.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Fillers and letters

Even if your aim is to write fiction or 'proper' articles, it's worth taking a look at the opportunities for filler pieces. These include tips, funny true stories, cute pictures of children or animals and opinion pieces or rants. Often there are also opportunities to ask questions of experts or to have you say on previous articles.

Writing these pieces is creative in its own way, is an interesting way of studying the market and is good practice at getting our point across in just a few words (the shorter the better for most of these).

Not all markets pay, or sometimes there's a prize or payment just for the 'star' letter, but the majority of women's magazines pay for all items published. The usual amount is £25, although it varies from £5 to £100. That's not bad for a few sentences, especially as these items can usually be submitted online. Including a photo means your letter is far more likely to be used.

If any magazines you read (womags or otherwise) have opportunities for these, please share the details below.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Pen names

Some magazines, including My Weekly and People's Friend don't like the same author name appearing twice in the same magazine. If more than one of your stories are selected for the same issue you'll be asked to provide a pen name. This happened to me recently and I selected two names I'd used for characters as I'd already checked these weren't the real names of anyone famous.

You might be asked to provide a pen name if your real one is the same as another author's or you usually write in a very different genre to that which the magazine publish. Or perhaps you'll have your own reasons for using one.

Have you ever needed a pen name? How did you choose it, or how will you pick one if you do get asked?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Guest post from Womagwriter Simon Whaley.

Simon Whaley is my guest today and he's kindly agreed to explain copyright. It is quite a long post, but please do take the time to read it if you're at all unsure about all the different rights. Whether we write as a hobby and only sub occasionally, or try to earn a living from our words, it's VERY important we understand this stuff.

Simon says - The womag market is ever-changing, and one area that continues to change is the contract womag writers are offered. Gone are the days when womags asked for First British Serial Rights.

As soon as we create something our creation is protected by copyright. It’s automatic. We don’t have to register it. (Things are slightly different in the USA, but that’s down to their legal system.) It’s the Berne Convention that explores the principles ofcopyright, which many countries (but not all) have signed up to. 

Owning the copyright in our work enables us to exploit our creation. It gives us the right to grant licences to others to make use of our words, usually (hopefully!) for some money! Once you give (or sign away) your copyright you no longer have the right to give others permission to use your work. The new copyright holder now has that permission. So never sign away your copyright, unless you fully understand the consequences.

Think Three!

As copyright holders, we license our short stories, and this license usually covers three main areas:

1) Media format (print, electronic, etc)
2) Region (Britain, Australia, Worldwide … I’ve even seen ‘The Universe’ used once!)
3) Time period (12 months, 18 months, exclusively)

The traditional First British Serial Rights we used to offer would give a magazine the right to be the first in Britain to print our story in a physical magazine (hence the word ‘serial’). Because we’d given them first British rights, we could also offer first rights in other countries at the same time (Australia, South Africa, etc). Until that magazine published the story in Britain, we couldn’t do anything else with it (in print format) in Britain. Once the magazine had published it in Britain, we could (in theory) offer another British magazine Second British Serial rights.

Publishing is Changing
But the world has changed. People read digital versions of magazines on their tablets and smartphones. Magazine companies HAD to change their contracts just to keep up with technology. They needed to ask for electronic rights, so they could legally use our stories in their digital versions of their publications. Magazine companies have also consolidated, buying other magazine organisations around the world, and their contracts now reflect this. It means we MUST understand what we’re signing up to when we sign a contract, because we’re legally bound by it.

It doesn’t help that some legal departments don’t fully understand their own contracts. Several years ago, I sent one contract to the Society of Authors (members can use their free contract vetting service), where I was told that the contract contradicted itself so many times it wouldn’t stand up in a court of law. (And this was from a well-known womag publisher.)

Untangling Clauses
One womag publisher asks for First Use With Extensions. This means they want to be the first to publish your story. (And as no region has been stipulated then they're asking to be the first in the World.) The contract goes on to explain that extensions means in any media format. So they may use their first right in print, or electronically, or in any other format they can think of. Usually, it’ll be print format, but the contract gives them the flexibility to use it digitally, or even on the back of a baked bean tin, if that’s what they wish.

This contract also asks for an 18-month exclusivity arrangement, which means the story can’t appear in any other format, anywhere in the World, for 18 months after the womag has first used it. (Note, that’s not 18 months after they accepted the story from you, but 18 months after they first published it.) Exclusive means just that - no one else can use that story … including you. So if you want to create an anthology of your short stories and sell that on Amazon, you can’t use this story in such an anthology until 18 months after the womag has published it. (At this point, I should clarify that this particular contract does say ‘without prior written agreement from the publisher’ - so, in theory, you may be able to do something before the 18 months is up, but you need the womag publisher’s written permission to do so.)

Consider the Contract As A Whole
Always read a contract in its entirety. For example, one womag publisher asks for First World Rights, which means they want to be the first in the world to print your story. That may seem reasonable. In theory, once they’ve published it in the UK, you can still offer first rights to another publication in another country. However, this particular womag publisher has a clause that says they also have the right to re-use your material (for free) in any other magazine owned by their company, anywhere in the world. At first glance this may not look too troubling. But suppose you sell First Australian Serial Rights in your story to an Australian magazine, giving them the right to be the first magazine in Australia to use your story, and then you discover that the British magazine has just used your story (for free) in one of their own Australian magazines? The magazine you’ve just sold First Australian Rights to, can’t now use those rights, because they’ve already been used!

Of course, if the British company doesn’t own any Australian magazines then you know you can safely sell First Australian Rights directly to an Australian magazine. But once you’ve sold a story, you have to be careful about where else you offer it to, to ensure you don’t break any clauses in the contracts you have already signed up to.

Moral Rights
You may see moral rights being referred to in a contract. Moral rights are those which give us the right to be recognised as the creator of the story. This is sometimes called the right of paternity, and means we should be credited as the writer, because this work is our own creation. Some contracts ask for the moral rights to be waived or removed. The reason for this is because editors sometimes rewrite stories. They may change the ending, or change characters names (because they have too many Janes or Traceys in this issue). Waiving, or removing, moral rights gives editors the flexibility to do this.

To Sum Up
This subject matter is too complex for a blog posting, and please remember, that I’m no legal expert either. But the golden rule should always be:


And if you don’t understand something, then ask. No one will think any worse of you. In fact, and editor may respect you more for asking. It proves you’ve read the contract!

The Society of Authors provides a useful free guide to copyright andmoral rights (anyone can download a copy, it’s not just for members).
(PS, you don’t need to be a published author to join the Society. If you have had a ‘body of work’ published - such as articles, or short stories - then you may be eligible to join.

The National Union of Journalists also offer some basic advice about copyright.

The UK Government has some useful background information on copyright here

About Simon Whaley

Simon Whaley’s short stories have appeared in The People’s Friend, Take a Break, Fiction Feast, The Weekly News, Ireland’s Own and Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special. He’s published an anthology of short stories: Ten Teatime Tales.

More information about Simon can be found on his website.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Guest post by womagwriter Carol Bevitt

Today's guest is Carol Bevitt. She tells me she's taken some time to discover her writing skills, but is now happily working on a couple of novellas for publication, before moving on to a full length novel. Carol is a firm supporter of writers' receiving fair payment for their work and knows joining ALCS helps towards that.

The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society is a not-for-profit membership organisation, run by writers, for writers.’

Membership of The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) is a pain-free method of boosting your writing income, by benefitting from payment of ‘secondary royalties’.

You’ll find a step by step process to follow on the website to join, and while you need to send the application by post, that’s it. A membership pack arrives through your letterbox and from then on you can manage everything online by logging into the members section. You can currently add details of your work published in the UK going back to January 2012. (There are a few exceptions of course, but you’ll find details of what doesn’t qualify on the website.)

There is a cost, a one-off £36 fee - which will be taken out of your first payment. But if you are a member of any of their listed writers’ organisations then the joining fee doesn’t apply, so make sure you mention it on your application.

You’ll receive the monthly e-newsletter ALCS News that has helpful and interesting articles, and news of important issues to all writers from the ALCS’s lobbying and support of writers’ interests.
The ACLS website has plenty of links for further information, and if you’re uncertain of anything you can ring them, they are very helpful.

My tip for making the process as easy as it can be: don’t rush completing your application form, and if at all possible do it on a week day, so you can ring for clarification if you have a query.

ALCS membership is worth the time.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Interview with Womagwriter Geraldine Ryan

Today's guest is Geraldine Ryan.

1. When did you start writing, Geraldine - and why did you choose womag stories?

Too many years ago to remember, Patsy! When I first started writing for publication the market was a lot bigger than it is now so it seemed the obvious market to aim for, particularly as I’ve never seen myself as a literary writer. In parallel to writing womag stories I was also completing a novel and trying to get an agent.

2. Is there a particular genre within the womag market which you particularly enjoy writing?

I think all my stories are about relationships really. Even the crime serials. I’m not that keen on romance unless I can find some humour in the situation and I prefer to write urban settings than stories set in the countryside.

3. Are you a disciplined writer producing a steady stream of stories, or do you wait until you're in the mood?

A bit of both really. I’m usually working on something. At the moment I’m working on a serial, I have the idea for a story in my head and I’m honing a TV script. A writer is a writer even when they’re not writing. This last week I’ve been kept awake by various ideas, as you can see by my photo. It’s not a job that keeps office hours.

4. You've written serials for Woman's Weekly, could you tell us how you go about that?

Oh, gosh! How long have you got? Writing serials is hard. The majority of my serials have the solving of a crime as the plot. But my characters and their relationships will still be my priority – see above. I have a tendency to start writing before I’m ready because I get impatient and I’m a pantser rather than a planner. It is not unusual for me to have to rewrite an episode up to three times before I get it right. Basically writing serials is just a question of putting your nose to the grindstone. It doesn’t get any easier – for me at least!

5. How much impact does the editor have on the direction the serials take?

Pace, I think, is the most difficult thing to get right when you’re writing a serial. If you’re right in the middle of the story sometimes you can’t see that the pace is wrong. It takes a good editor to have the overview and to be able to see that. Also, the editor knows what her readers like and what they don’t like too so you’d be minded to listen to her and not think you know best. You do need a fair amount of self-discipline when it comes to writing a serial because it’s easy to lose your way and go off at a tangent – allowing too much ‘air time’ for a minor character or a scene which might showcase your finest writing but ultimately does not further the plot. A good editor will bring you back to heel. I ought to be put in the dock for the number of darlings I’ve murdered over the years. It’s always my best prose that gets decimated.

6. How does writing serials differ from shorter stories?

Obviously you need more plot in a serial – often a sub-plot as well as the main plot. A serial needs more characters and those main characters in particular have to be fully rounded. You need to work more on your setting too. What they have in common is the need for pace, a satisfying shape and the right ending.

7. The right writing snacks are very important - what's your fuel of choice?

I’m not a snacker, actually. Three meals a day woman me.

8. I've heard that some writers use real people and situations in stories to work off frustrations or put something right. Do you ever do that?

Yes, all the time. I wrote a story about being bullied at school once, getting my own back on the two girls who did it. Plenty of my own personal dilemmas and problems appear in my stories but I couldn’t possibly say more than that publicly.

9. What has been your happiest or proudest writing moment so far?

It will always be getting that first story accepted. And only last week an editor told me that a story I’d written had made her cry and the editor of the magazine to jump for joy. Now I call that something to be proud of.

10. Can you pass on a tip for other womag writers?

You hear it said that there’s a formula for writing women’s magazine stories. Well, if there is one I wish someone would tell me!
I think you have to write the story you want to write.
Don’t shy away from challenging themes but bear in mind if your story is going to address a difficult subject there has to be something redemptive in it. If you want write misery lit then you’re aiming at the wrong market.

Stories sneak up and you when you least expect them. Keep your eyes and ears open at all times. That way you’ll never run out of stories.