Friday, 9 December 2016

Christmas is coming!

I keep a list of every story I write each year*. It doesn't show the date, but the list is in order. The last one which appears in the current Take a Break Fiction Feast as Merry Christmas Ho Ho Ho was the last one I wrote in 2015, which means I started it between Christmas and the new year – and then had a long wait until I could submit it. If it had been rejected I'd have had an even longer wait before I could try again.

*I also have a spreadsheet for submissions, but this is a separate handwritten list in an old notebook.

Do you write Christmas stories, or does the limited opportunities to sell them put you off?

If you do write them, do you do it to the sound of carols and scent of mince pies, or in the summer when you can submit it as soon as it's finished?

Btw, if you, or anyone buying for you, haven't finished Christmas shopping, then here's something which can be delivered to your door and is easy to wrap.



Monday, 5 December 2016

A little chat

The delightful womagwriter Wendy Clarke has interviewed me about my latest writing project.

Don't forget that I sometimes host guest blogs or conduct interviews here. If you have womag related information, advice or good news you'd like to share or wish to start a relevant discussion, then please contact me.

I'd also  like to hear from people interested in providing a prompt or story inspiration idea.

Maybe you have a question about something to do with the womag market. If so you can ask it here. (You can also find the answer to a lot of writing questions here).

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Latest TABFF and WWFS

Both of the current issues of Woman's Weekly Fiction Special and Take A Break's Fiction Feast refer to Christmas on the cover, have excellent Christmas stories and cheery Christmas messages from the editors.

















TABFF is quite sensibly called the 'Christmas 2016' issue. WWFS is rather oddly called 'January 2017'. Am I the only person who thinks that doesn't make a great deal of sense?

Personally I find it confusing enough to submit stories months ahead of when they're set without publishers moving Christmas into January.














Talking of Christmas, if you're one of those people who're often stumped when asked what you'd like, can I suggest this rather excellent writing guide?

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

From Story Idea to Reader

My new book is out at last! Well, it's half mine ;-)

It's been quite a long time coming, but then there's a lot in it. To give you an idea how much, the contents are listed below. 

I've included the page numbers of the paperback version to make it more confusing give a guide as to how much space is devoted to particular topics. Eg the womag section starts on page 172 and the next one (on competitions) on 194, so there are 22 pages about writing fiction specifically for womags. Elsewhere 17 pages are devoted to finding ideas, 3 on speech tags, 5 on editing a story to the required length. You get the idea,

Section 1 Introductions Quiz 2. Anyone can become a better writer 4. Introductions 6. Getting started – what you need 9.

Section 2 What to write Writing more than you already know 14. 101 sources of writing ideas 21. Generating ideas – mind mapping 30. Which person to write in? 38 Mastering point of view 43. Plotting 53. Research 57. Naming characters 60. Titles 62. Beginnings 65. Different genres 69.

Section 3 How to write What you’ll need, once you’ve got going 74. The middle 81. Conflict 83. Editing for story length 85. Spoken word v Written word 90. The psychology of word choice 93. Stereotypes 96. Show v Tell 98. Tenses 103. Grammar – What’s the point? 107. Characters 117. Character questionnaire 121. Speech tags 126. Clichés 129. Keeping going 132. Endings 138. Story arc 140. Editing and proofreading 142. Presenting your work 145. Feedback 150. Different versions of English 159. More words per week 161.

Section 4 What to do with your work Womag fiction 172. 101 competition pointers 194. Other markets 204. Social media and the internet 209. NaNoWriMo 217. Blurb or synopsis? 220. Keeping track of submissions 224. Reasons for rejection 231.

Section 5 A writer’s life A proper writing routine 234. Accounts and taxation 236. Legal questions 241. Workshops and conferences 246. Self-publishing 248. Public speaking 261. Our typical writing days 266. FAQs 270. Glossary 27.3 Useful resources 279.

From Story Idea to Reader is available from Amazon as a paperback (£9.99) or ebook (£3.99). If you'd like it in a different format, such as pdf, you can obtain them direct from the publisher.

It's a little early for wine, so I'm off to celebrate with a cup of tea and a book biscuit.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Survey results

The results of the survey are –

I write womag fiction and have had some published.
  130 (62%)
 
I write and submit womag fiction, but haven't had anything published - yet.
  36 (17%)
 
I'd like to write and submit womag fiction
  28 (13%)
 
Other

  13 (6%)
 
Total who voted – 207

Not everyone with an interest in womag fiction will have taken part in the survey, so I think it's fair to assume there are quite a few more of us.

Do the results surprise you?

Monday, 28 November 2016

Last day

Today is your last chance to vote in my survey which is over there --->

The choices are:

I write womag fiction and have had some published.
I write and submit womag fiction, but haven't had anything published - yet.
I'd like to write and submit womag fiction.
Other

Please click on the answer which is most appropriate, and then on the 'vote' button. The survey is anonymous and you don't need to be a blog follower to take part.

I'm hoping the results will be hair raising! (Or maybe mildly interesting.) They'll be posted tomorrow.

Please feel free to add more info in the comments.


(Thanks to Justin Merrigan (our best man) for the photo, which was taken onboard a ferry coming back from our trip to Ireland last Christmas.)

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Take A Break Fiction Feast update

If you're still waiting for replies from TAB for work sent in July, be patient for just a little bit longer. Replies are being sent out. You can even be optimistic – I got a yes to one of mine yesterday! I believe the longer than usual response time is due to iffice renovations.

As previously mentioned, a short synopsis is now required (put this under the title on submissions). One reason for this is to help those who produce story illustrations. Because of that, you might like to give an indication of character's ages, the story location, and any important visual details. E.g. if the bride's dress is purple...

p.s. Less than a week left to take part in the survey. Please do 'vote' if you haven't already.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Guest post by womagwriter Penny Alexander

Today's guest is Penny Alexander.

I've been recalling a definition this week, the one that goes: “retirement is when you get up in the morning with nothing to do, and go to bed each evening having done none of it.” Anyhow, with time to ponder at last, here are a few of my thoughts about inspiration, writing and poetry.
The poems from my (now distant)  schooldays – with lines that still come easily to mind - were mostly from times even earlier than that.  Nineteenth century poets such as Keats and Browning ('My Last Duchess' – I loved the drama!);  twentieth century poets such as Drinkwater and Ted Hughes.  Away from school, Edward Lear was a favourite, and I still find any nonsense rhymes wonderful joggers of the imagination.

It wasn't until much later,  when I began writing, that I read more modern stuff and found out that a) poems didn't have to rhyme and b) any poet worth reading can squeeze two words together and magic up a whole world.  (A very useful skill in short-story writing, too, of course.) 

I especially love Causley, the Cornish poet, for the taste of salt and danger  in his poems for adults and children. Oh, and Sheenagh Pugh...  so keeping a favourite poetry book handy on my desk (along with a Dictionary and a Grammar) goes without saying.

And what about recalling and updating nursery rhymes? 'Bo-Peep' for example. (Daffy shepherdess (or similarly forgetful more modern protagonist) is unexpectedly saved from her own foolishness by actions of her hitherto unregarded woolly-minded work colleagues.)) Or 'Tom, Tom the Piper's Son': (Out of control teenaged son of local musician gets unexpected come-uppance while attempting to steal squealing squeeze-box-accordion from the band).

There are many, many more possibilities, I'm sure.




Wednesday, 16 November 2016

I've said this before...

... and I'll probably say it again.

Please don't sign a contract until you've read it carefully and are sure you fully understand and agree with the terms.

Asking for clarification of anything which isn't clear is not being difficult, it's just being sensible.

If you don't understand you can't agree, so you shouldn't sign to say you do. If you don't understand there's a big risk you'll accidentally break the contract terms.


Another thing I've mentioned before is the survey on the top right of the page. Please do 'vote' for one of the options if you haven't already taken part. It's anonymous and there's no need to sign in anywhere.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

F.S.I.T.R.

From Story Idea to Reader will be out on 30th November! There's a whole chapter about womags (I'll give you three guesses as to who wrote that!) but there's a lot more to the book than that.

From Story Idea to Reader is an easily accessible guide to writing fiction. Whether you are brushing up on your writing skills or starting out, this book will take you through the whole process from inspiration to conclusion. No matter if you are looking to submit your work for publication, enter a competition, or want to self-publish, this practical guide will help you every step of the way.

Between them, Patsy Collins and Rosemary Kind have sold hundreds of short stories, written sixteen published books and produced numerous articles for Writing Magazine and similar publications. They've both judged writing competitions and run workshops, and Rosemary has read and edited thousands of short stories and published dozens of books for other writers.


With the information, help and encouragement in this book, you too could see your work in print.


The paperback will be £9.99 and electronic formats £3.99. The kindle version can be pre ordered now.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Guest post by womagwriter Sue Johnson

My guest today is Sue Johnson.

I have always been the sort of writer who has several projects on the go. I usually have about fifty pieces of work in circulation at any one time because it stops me worrying about rejection.

I am published as a poet, short story writer and novelist and also create books and articles aimed at helping other writers. My involvement in women’s magazines began in 1999 when a college lecturer told me to rip up a story I’d written for an assessment. I sent it to a competition organised by agency Midland Exposure and ended up being taken on as one of their writers. The story was published in ‘Woman.’

Since 1st January 2013 I have written a poem a day every day. (It’s amazing what happens when you start making New Year’s Resolutions after a packet of wine gums!) Some of these have been published as single poems in small press magazines, or have gone on to form part of a poetry sequence or collection. Many of them end up as the nucleus of a short story or scene from a novel.

I have a vision in my mind’s eye of the words and ideas growing like pieces of knitting. The words can be unpicked and re-worked. It is great fun to take a poem that isn’t working, cut it up and reposition it on the page, adding new words if necessary.

The best advice I was ever given was to carry a notebook. Ideas spring from the most unexpected people and places. Many of my ideas are inspired by country walks and I also love writing in cafés. I’m very fortunate to have lexical-gustatory synaesthesia – many words and names have a specific taste. For instance ‘Robert’ tastes of strawberry jam, ‘punishment’ tastes of liquorice and the word ‘life’ floods my mouth with the taste of Marmite.


Many ideas for poems are inspired by childhood memories and these in turn spark ideas for characters and settings. The following poem, inspired by a teenage memory of going to the fairground became a short story entitled ‘When Fortunes Collide’ – published in My Weekly on 3rd September 2016.


Fairground

Music vibrates through the soles of our feet.
The smell of onions mingles with candyfloss
flash of lights mesmerises
colours collide like dodgems
and the Ferris wheel keeps a constant rhythm.

The fortune teller’s dark eyes glitter
when we cross her palm with silver.
Her words taste of new pathways
as she studies tea leaves on white china.
Outside her caravan a full moon rises.


Further information about my work can be found at www.writers-toolkit.co.uk or follow me on Twitter - @SueJohnson9

Saturday, 12 November 2016

No Family Secrets

I've released another collection of my short stories. The theme of this one is 'family'. It contains 25 stories, some of which have been previously published in womags and a few new ones.

It's available to buy from Amazon as a paperback or ebook, or can be read for free with kindle unlimited. I'm hoping it will also be available soon in some libraries (my other books are, so I have good reason to be hopeful).

As always, any tweets, Facebook shares or mentions anywhere will be much appreciated.


Perhaps Aunty Louise hadn't wanted to be told the truth about why her bum looked big in that dress. If so, she asked the wrong person; Tracie's mum never lied. Louise did ask though, that's why she was told. That's why there are questions Tracie keeps to herself.

Sue's mother always tells the truth, but people don't always listen. Jemima tells lies. Well, it's either that or get a job and pay her way and she's not really suited to that sort of thing. She's much better at manipulation, although perhaps not good enough.

Angela hasn't been strictly honest about the painting and Mary's mother-in-law has withheld important information. That causes upset in both their families, until the loving, honest support of their daughters-in-law put everything right.

Can lies ever be a good thing? Perhaps if they're told to preserve family traditions, or to allow a sick child to benefit from the help of a superhero, they're forgivable. The made up stories Jane tells little Charlie certainly have a positive affect and not only on her son.

Families, whether we're born or married into them, or choose them for ourselves all have stories to tell. This collection contains 25 of them.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Change at YOU magazine

There's been a slight change in the the way the YOU magazine editor responds to story submissions. She may send an acceptance or rejection as before, or she may ask to "hang onto it for possible use in future".

I had one of those requests a few weeks ago and wondered if it was a one off, so didn't mention it then. I've since had another, have heard of it happening to other people, and one of mine she was hanging on to has now been accepted. 


This seems a good system to me. A straightforward rejection is clearly not suitable at all, whereas one which is retained must be pretty much along the right lines. That information might well help us submit stories which are more suitable for this market.


What do you think? Is this an improvement on just yes or no?

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Guest post by womagwriter Lynne Pardoe

Today's guest is Lynne Pardoe. Although Lynne also writes lovely womag stories, I've invited her to talk about how she started writing non-fiction for this market.
It was 17 years ago I went part-time in my job a social worker because of ill health. I had the good luck to be invited to a party at Deb Dooley’s house in the next village along, Sheepwash. I hadn’t met Deb before but she was really nice, a journalist for the women’s magazines. "That's just what I want to do," I told her. 
"Why don’t you come on over and I’ll show you how I do it?" she said.
I didn’t need asking twice, I was there at the first opportunity. And what an opportunity! Not only did she turn out to be a fab friend, but she walked me through the process in those early days. When she showed me the collection of magazine articles she’d written, I thought she’d be showing me a folder, but it was a filing cabinet brimming full!
Basically the process is similar to that for a book, but shorter. You write the first few lines and then give a synopsis of the rest. Your aim is to imitate the style of the magazine you’re aiming at but with a totally new and different idea. So 'Take a Break' is totally different to 'The Lady'.
A good way to start is with a case study, and these need to be matched with the magazines target audience. Magazines for younger women will want case studies in a similar age group and likewise older women’s magazines. All will want people’s age, marital status and photos. Some magazines send a professional photographer. If your case study isn’t happy with this, it might be a problem. Most of the big charities and organisations have lists of case studies and can put you in contact; ring and ask for the press office. 
If there are any restrictions about what your interviewee will agree to, mention this when you pitch you idea, rather than let the editor find out later date and be really fed up because they've done a lot of work on it.
You also need to make clear you’re going to write the piece and aren't just passing on a lead. It’ll be cheaper for them to get one of their staff writers to do it, so make sure that doesn't happen due to a misunderstanding.  Don’t write the whole thing in advance, as the editor might want it done in a particular way, or involving a particular expert. They’ll also tell you how many words they require.

It often helps to find an angle, maybe the most bizarre aspect of your story. I have a rare condition which affects my arms and legs which started at my feet, hence the title about running in this article for Take a Break.
Some magazines have information in boxes or fact boxes at the side. Put these 'pull-outs' in your proposal too. You will get ignored a lot. Few editors write to say no, so move on if you hear nothing after a few days. Don’t send an idea out to several places at once because if several accept, the editors you turn down might not show interest in your future ideas.
Proposals are best sent to the relevant editor, i.e. health, features, sport et cetera. Ring the magazine to get the right email address. All the main magazines employ sub-editors whose job is to take your copy and make it exactly fit the magazine style. Your writing needs to be clear and concise. Once your idea has been accepted and you've delivered the work at the agreed point it’s not uncommon for one of the subs to ring you when the getting the magazine ready to print for clarification on a few points.
I have 'Country Living' in front of me. They have a case study for their regular rural business feature.
This is how I would have proposed this feature:
Case study idea Rural Businesses.
The Proof of the Pudding.
Susan Green has a confession about her observance of stir-up Sunday. "I’m too busy to worry about which direction the mixture is stirred in."
Continues: Susan’s age, career history, what spurred her into her rural career, how her business began, problems they overcame, photos.
It might include sidebars or boxes of extra information, interviews with established similar businesses, law on selling cooked produce etc. Look at a few magazines and see how you'd propose articles that are in there to get you into the feel of it. 
For further info see:https://www.journalism.co.uk/
The London School of Journalism runs some excellent courses, including some by distance learning. lsj.org/web/freelance.php
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is also an excellent organisation to join and can get you a press card which will help you get into events. https://www.nuj.org.uk/home/
The London branch has a page on typical figures for each magazine. Circulation figures can indicate pay. http://www.londonfreelance.org/rates/w1000mag.html
You can also stay at the wonderful place that started me off, Deb doesn’t run it anymore but it’s still a specialist writer’s retreat and I’m sure just as inspiring. http://www.retreatsforyou.co.uk/



Sunday, 6 November 2016

Kay Seeley's poetic prompt

I'm sure this fun poem by Kay Seeley will raise a smile from anyone who's ever attended a writing group. There are some great characters who could well be used in womag stories.

Kay tells me this group has now disbanded – there's probably a story or two in that!


A Tale for our Time

Writers come in all shapes and sizes,
Race and Religions and different disguises,
The quiet as a mouse, the blatantly loud,
The cautious, the reckless, the shy and the proud.
The weary, the dreary, the lustful and leery,
The hopeful, the doubtful, the dour and the cheery,
Into the library each Wednesday we troop,
The disparate members of our Writing Group.

Slowly but surely the writers drift in,
Here comes old Molly, still smelling of gin.
Next comes the man who’s convinced he knows best,
Sitting next to the girl with the ginormous chest.
Mad Mick the bouncer, who’s brilliant at verse,
Sits down next to Sarah, the Community Nurse,

We’ve got novelists, poets and screenwriters too,
From writing for children to something quite blue,
You’ll never get published, they mutter and moan,
Tales of rejection make everyone groan.
‘I hear that Romance is doing quite well,’
‘Oh no it isn’t, it just doesn’t sell.’
‘How about Sci-Fi, I’d give it a shot,’
‘Oh no,’ says another, ‘most certainly not.’

‘How about crime or historical thrillers,
A bloodthirsty saga of latter-day killers?’
‘You’d have to add zombies, vampires or ghosts,
But Celebrity stories are what they love most.’
‘Write what you know,’ they cry with one voice,
I know very little, so that limits my choice.

They grumble and mumble and twitter away,
Deploring the state of the book-world today.
If they can’t get published, then what chance have I?
I sit and I ponder as the minutes tick by.
‘What’s that I hear, no it cannot be real,
Old Jeremy’s landed a seven-book deal!
It’s out with the Champers, the biscuits and cheese,
Then back to the laptop and pounding the keys.