Saturday, 29 August 2015

Rumour has it...

Actually it's more than a rumour. I have it on good authority that Take a Break's Fiction Feast want more one and two page stories. If you have anything suitable that's either 700 or 1,200 words, now might be a good time to send it in.

Here's my idea of a feast.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

An ad break

I'm going to be sending out occasional newsletters about my writing. If you'd like to sign up for them you can do so here.

Ok, that's done.

Here's a cute picture to keep you going until the next womag related post.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Interview with womagwriter Teresa Ashby

My guess today is Teresa Ashby.

1. When I first started writing short stories, two names appeared in every magazine I looked at - yours and Della Galton's. How long have you been writing womag stories and how did you get started?

I sold my first fiction story in 1984 to Secrets which was published by D C Thomson, but I started writing short stories a year or so before that. I had written a few (awful) novels by then. I used to invest in as many magazines as I could and after reading them, I’d count the words in each story. There weren’t a lot of guidelines back then, so you had to create your own. There were dozens of magazines which was good in a way as you had to learn to write in many different styles to suit each market.

2. Do you remember your first acceptance?

Yes, I do. It was called Happy to Oblige and the story was written about my two year old son trying to put my cat in the tumble dryer – he’d just come in out of the pouring rain. Thankfully I caught him. He was acting with the best of intentions and Leo came to no harm, but it sold my first story. The first thing I did when I got the letter was to phone my mum. Honestly, she was that chuffed, I still smile when I remember that phone call.

3. You've had soooo many since - do you still celebrate after a 'yes' and if so how?

I am always ecstatic when I have an acceptance. Mainly it’s a smile on my face and the push I need to get on and write more.

4. I know your family are important to you - do they still make it into your stories?

They sneak in sometimes without me even realising it. Same with the pets. Mainly I see my characters as people I’ve just met, but they often share some character traits with those I love – and a few people that I don’t (you’ll always need villains).

5. Do you have a strict writing routine, or is it impossible to fit one around the grandchildren and animals?

No I don’t have a routine at all. I write when and where I can.

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

At the moment it’s peanut butter on toast, but if anyone passing cares to throw me a tasty snack, I won’t say no.

7. You've published several collections of your short stories, could you tell us about the latest one?

Margaret’s Mouse &Other Stories is the latest. (US link) The stories were all published in The People’s Friend and there are twenty in all. It’s a mix of all sorts – but mainly about families with a bit of romance thrown in. (The collection is available at the special price of 99p/99c from today until Tuesday)

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

I think it must be when I sold my first serial in 1988 to My Weekly, “For The Children’sSake”. I bought my first computer, an Amstrad with what I earned from that. Then I was contacted by publishers in Norway and Italy who wanted to publish it too. It was also published as a pocket novel. Many years later I found out that I could also sell large print rights. That serial opened up a whole new world for me and I should say here that I am forever grateful to D C Thomson for the encouragement they gave me when I started out.

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

Read the magazines – the whole magazine that is, even the adverts. Know who you’re writing for and respect them. I think respect for the reader is vital. During a stay in hospital in 1985, the nurses
were only allowed to spend a maximum of two minutes in the room with me and one lovely nurse in particular used to have to keep looking at her watch because we’d end up talking about magazines. She said she loved reading the confession ones during her break. From that moment on, I thought of her when I wrote confession stories and imagined her reading them. I hadn’t thought about it this deeply before, but I definitely have someone in mind as my reader when I write –almost as if I’m chatting to them and telling the story.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Update from Jill Finlay

Jill has posted an update to her last post in the comments. I'm copying it here too, so no one misses it.

Hello again!  A few of you have mentioned the word count and the fact I'd said 1200-1500 instead of the flat 1200.
Yes, it was the case for a long time that the uppermost word limit would be 1200, but I realised that stories closer to 1500 were perfectly all right for the space, too, so I didn't want to restrict it to a rigid 1200 anymore.
For the supplement - and there will be another one! - we have space for a story of 2000 words, which gives a lot more scope. When I know the date of the next supplement, I'll let everyone know and anyone wishing to submit a longer story for consideration can do it then.
Thanks again for all your feedback and questions - it's been great to hear from you all. If you have any other queries, please get in touch and I'll do my best to answer them.
The guidelines will be posted on the Facebook page in the near future - huge thanks for all our new likes.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Guest post by womag editor Jill Finlay

Here are Jill's answers to questions left on my last post. She'll be looking at the blog over the weekend and if there are more questions, she'll try to answer those too.

Hi Patsy - thanks so much for the opportunity to have a chat with writers about fiction in The Weekly News.
You've asked how many submissions I receive roughly each month. It does vary, but it's usually somewhere between 40-60. June, for instance, was 52. (I had a count!)
Some writers will send more than one at a time - I even had a query last week from someone who was offering me 20!
However, a word of warning comes with that. What I often find with fiction submissions is that it's quality not quantity. Whilst you undoubtedly have more scope for success the more you submit, mailing over a huge batch at once sets alarm bells in my head.
That's an awful lot of writing from the same source. How similar will they be? And is it possible for one writer to have written 20 separate stories with TWN in mind? I have some writers who'll submit once every few months, and often, they're accepted, because they only send me what they know will hit the mark.
I've been following the recent debate on the forums about whether writers should read the publications they're targeting. To throw in my tuppence-worth - absolutely! Yes. Please, please do.
And don't stop at just the fiction section. If you read the entire paper, you'll have a far better understanding of the tone, the content, the target market.
You also mentioned the fiction supplement.
I was really pleased to get the chance to showcase fiction in that way, and we definitely have plans to do it again. What it does mean is that there will be a space for a longer story - around the 2000-word mark - for each supplement. Normally, we aim for 1200-1500, so it will give us a bit more variety.
At the moment, I don't have a specific date for the next supplement, so don't all rush at once sending in 2000-word stories! I'll spread the word once the plans are firmed up.
The supplement itself was well received by readers, and fiction always comes out well in any surveys we've conducted in the past. So doing another one can only be a positive for everyone.

Following on from the comments about reading the publication, and streamlining submissions rather than going for the shotgun approach, Helen Yendall has asked how to make the life of a fiction editor any easier. Ha ha - well, besides, the yacht, some sunshine, a trip to NYC and what I mentioned above, making sure your work has been proofread thoroughly is an absolute must.
Check your spelling (beyond spellchecker!), check the paragraphs, make sure the names of characters are consistent throughout (bizarrely, a common error - a character will have name change midway) and, in general, make sure it's easy to read.
I find myself reading stories at strange times of the day and often later at night, and if work is poorly formatted, regardless of how brilliant the ideas are, it can make things a little laborious.
I know that sounds a bit whingy, but it makes such a difference.
Occasionally, I'll get some stories in files that I can't open, so generally, either a Word attachment or pasting the story into the body of the email is the best way.
Please don't send hard copy anymore. Those days are gone, I'm afraid!
We still don't use stories written in the first person. It's simply a style preference. Sometimes, I have changed it to the third person myself, but ideally, if they could arrive that way, there would be more chance of acceptance.
Acceptance can only come about now if you've signed the DCT contracts. These were rolled out company-wide and were introduced to clear the grey areas of copyright and republishing. If anyone would like to read the contract with a view to signing, please contact me directly and I can send all the relevant information.
Email me at and I'll pick up all my emails there. There is an auto-forward set up when I'm not in the office going to but I'm reliably informed that the out-of-office reply is choosy about when it decides to work!
If I'm in the office when your email arrives, I'll try to respond immediately.
I've spread the word about the new 12-week rule, which seems to working . . . If you haven't heard from me within 12 weeks of submission, that means it's a non-acceptance and you're free to submit elsewhere. If you've been successful, I'll contact you with all the relevant info.
It was a time issue. It's a far cry from the responses when I first started doing this, but I couldn't keep people hanging on for months.

Sharon Boothroyd - thanks for your question about content. Yes, very much so light-hearted themes, although we do break out occasionally to have some darker topics. I did call a halt to ghost stories for a bit, as I had so many (Kitty asked about this, too) but I'm happy to read more of them now. If the twist is likely to be "someone was a ghost but we only find out at the end" I'm not so inclined to go for that, but stories with a more chilling edge or a spooky theme throughout are welcome.
There's nothing that I'd absolutely rule out, although we try to keep away from romance or "chick-lit", as other publications have the monopoly there and we do try to appeal to both sexes rather than just the ladies.
Sue Blackburn - yes, please email any submission to the above email address. The word count is 1200-1500.
Beatrice Charles - I'm currently revising the guidelines and I'm planning to post them on The Weekly News Facebook page. You'll find us there and if you "like" us, you'll be able to find links there once I get them posted. We should be at
I hope to utilise the Facebook page much more for fiction over the next few months, as it's one of the best ways to get information out there quickly.

For Fay Knowles and Sheila who live abroad, I'm afraid there isn't a digital copy of The Weekly News, but you can subscribe for overseas delivery. If you call +44 1382 575580, you'll get through the right people who can organise that. If you quote WNEWS, I believe there's a discount to be had!

"aw" has mentioned dialogue. That's a good question, because some editors have mixed feelings about too much or too little. Have too much, and it's a bit like a transcript with less scope for colour. Too little, and readers can become a little detached from the characters themselves.
So I suppose it's all about hitting the balance. Sometimes, a well-written piece of dialogue can save you a few hundred words of description, simply because nobody tells their story better than the character themselves.
We do have a style we use for dialogue, though, which means that each time a new person speaks - even if we know it's a conversation batting back between people - we denote who said what.
I did actually run into a bit of trouble once with that, because a writer felt I'd spoiled the essence of the snappy exchange they'd written. It was a fair point, and I understood what they meant, but our style is that we do mark who's speaking. So it's something to bear in mind when submitting to us.
Generally, I think readers feel closer to characters when dialogue is used, so I'd give it a go!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Coming soon - womag editor Jill Finlay

Jill Finlay, fiction editor at The Weekly News, is lovely - and I'm not saying that just because she was the first editor to send me an acceptance. Clearly she's also very brave as she's agreed to come onto this blog to answer some of our questions!

She says, "There have been so many changes recently what with the contracts and the way I’ve set things up, so it’ll be a good opportunity to clarify any fuzzy areas." 

If you have any questions for Jill, please leave them in the comments and she'll answer as many as she can in a later post.

Other feedback, comments and suggestions will be welcome too. "It’d be good to hear from writers/readers to get a feel for what everyone thinks and how I can improve things!" 

Monday, 10 August 2015


I've been asked to mention Magfest, which is "the International Magazine Festival and Conference". 

I'm not sure how valuable it will be to freelance writers, but I have been assured, "There’ll be a lot of DC Thomson staff there too so it could be a good opportunity for networking." The other thing which persuaded me to give it a mention is that it's being held in Edinburgh and I know how frustrating it is to those who don't live in the south of England to keep seeing adverts for interesting sounding events in London.

Friday, 7 August 2015

People's Friend Serial Writing Competition.

The People's Friend are running a serial writing competition. As well as the usual fee for publication, the winner will get £400 (plus loads of kudos from me! I've yet to crack either serial writing or The Friend) More details will be on their website and in the magazine on 12,22 and 29th of this month.

Thanks to Kathy Schilbach for passing on the details.

I don't have any pictures of The People's Friend, but a nice tranquil view of Scotlad seemed appropriate.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Got a question

People sometimes ask questions on old posts relating to their query. That's not a problem for me and I'll help if I can - but there might well be other readers of this blog in a much better position to answer and such questions aren't likely to be seen by them.

Therefore I've set up a new page "Any Questions?". If you have a question (preferably womag related !) or a comment or suggestion about the blog then that'd be a good place to stick it. Please also have a look there now and again in case someone has asked something you might be interested in, or to which you might know the answer.

Here's me hard at work in the office, just waiting to hear from you!

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.