Tuesday, 20 March 2018

At the risk ...

... of sounding grumpy ... 

From now on, I'm only going to answer womag qustions which are raised via this blog, and the replies will only be posted here. I get asked quite a lot of questions each week, via email, twitter and Facebook, often asking the same thing, or concerning something I've already posted about. I want to help, but answering takes up time and is only seen by the individual. Any questions posted here will be seen by others, who may be able to contribute useful information and/or may benefit from the replies.

You can ask questions, anonymously if you wish, either as a comment on any posting about the magazine in question, or on the monthly 'Your Go' post. Although I can't guarantee I'll be able to answer every questions, I'll always try to help.

Yesterday morning, I put up just such a post, inviting questions and comments. Following that I had five questions/suggestions – none of which were posted on the blog. I've had two more today. I'm finding this situation frustrating ... and yes, it is making me slightly grumpy.

If you're unsure how to post a comment to this blog, please see these instructions. 

Monday, 19 March 2018

Over to you

Here's another monthly random photo for use as a story prompt. 

It's also your chance to share success (or otherwise) ask questions*, report any womag news, tips, advice you may have, or make womag related comments or observations. (If you have news or a question relating to a particular magazine, it's also fine to add it as a comment to the latest post for that magazine.)

*If you can answer these, please do.

How have you been getting on? Sent any stories in? Had any replies?

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Look, cute dog!

I'm hoping that as I'm posting a really cute illustration, you're going to let me get away with a bit of bragging ...

Currently I gave a story in Woman's Weekly, The Weekly News and Take A Break's Fiction Feast, plus two in both Woman's Weekly Fiction Special and Allas.

I promise not to irritate the heck out of you by mentioning every story I get published, but this week has been exceptional and I just couldn't resist.

The illustration is from Allas. I almost always like the illustrations and photos selected to go with my stories in the various magazines, but there's something about the Allas ones which particularly appeals to me.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Update on YOU magazine

I've had two short stories accepted by South African magazine YOU. Two at once is something that's never happened to me before, so I was extra pleased to get that bit of good news.

Response times and procedures vary greatly from magazine to magazine. Personally I find it helpful to know what's usual for each – there's no point getting anxious after three days if the editor usually takes a couple of months to reply!

The process with YOU magazine is generally that there will be some kind of response very quickly. If the editor, Lynn Ely, is away from her office there will be an automatic response saying so, otherwise she acknowledges receipt personally and quickly – often by the next day.

Once the story has been read, there are three possible outcomes. This might be an acceptance or rejection. Lynn may also ask if she can 'hang onto' the story. Again this notification will come through fairly quickly; two to three weeks is common.

If she hangs onto a story, the wait for further news could be much longer. There is hope though – both of my recent acceptances were stories she'd held onto. Think of it as being shortlisted.

If a story is rejected, this is usually done without any reasons or feedback.

If a story is accepted, you will be asked to send in an invoice (don't get too excited by the huge sum mentioned as there are a lot of rand to the pound). You'll also need to send a scan of the photo page of your passport, due to their bank rules about overseas payments. The money will be paid directly into your bank, generally after one to two months.

Some people are understandably cautious about giving out bank and passport details. The choice is entirely yours, but if you're not happy to do that, then you'll have to forego this market.

Is this kind of information of interest/use to you? If I get lots of comments saying it is, then I'll continue to provide it for other magazines as I get responses. Otherwise I'll assume you'd rather not know and will stay tactfully quiet!

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Short story lengths

Shirley Blair has written a useful and interesting post on story lengths. Naturally it deals with the
requirements for The People's Friend as that's where she works, but I feel the advice applies to all womags.

To paraphrase and add my tupenny worth ...

1. Find out the word length requirements of the magazines you wish to submit to, and stick as closely to them as possible. (The magazine guideline quick links on this blog may help.) You won't be rejected because you've sent 2,003 words when they asked for 2,000, but if you send 500 or 4,000 then the magazine editor is very unlikely to be able to use your story, even if she loves it.

2. If you do send the 'wrong' length, accept that it will be edited to fit the space. This could involve cutting something you felt was important, or adding something you'd rather wasn't included. Such changes can happen anyway, but if your story doesn't fit as it is, the editor has no option but to either alter or reject it.

Remember editors are busy people. They may prefer to accept a story they can use as it is, over one which requires a considerable amount of extra work.

3. If you write stories in the lengths which are used most frequently, you increase your chances both of it being accepted at the first try and of being able to submit it elsewhere, should that prove unsuccessful.

4. If you need to add words then don't just pad it out with long winded phrases which will weaken the story. Instead add something of value and interest – an extra twist or touch of humour are often welcomed by editors.

5. When cutting words, double check you haven't removed something the reader needs to know in order to understand the story.  (This book contains useful information, including advice on writing to a word count.)

Do you find it easy to stick to word counts? If you ever struggle, do you tend to go over or under the requested figure?

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Dash it

On the last your go post, Patricia G replied...

"I'd be interested to find out what other Womag writers feel about the use of the m-dash used as a punctuation mark.
I often use it for dramatic effect but most writers published in PF and WW seem to avoid it. Is its use seen as 'sloppy' writing?"

One thing to keep in mind is the house style of the magazine. It could be that authors use them and editors take them out (or vice versa). I doubt any story would be rejected for use or lack of dashes, but if you've notced an editor has a strong preference it's something to consider during your final edit.

For those not quite sure of the difference between the dashes and how to use them...

An em dash (sometimes called m dash) is like this — . It takes up the same space as a letter m, hence the name. It can be used in place of commas, parenthesis (brackets) or colons. In this case it will have a space either side of it. Em dashes are generally considered more emphatic and less formal than the punctuation they replace.

Another use for an em dash is to show that letters or words have been deliberately left out, for example to avoid naming individuals or quoting swear words.

The en dash (or n dash) is smaller. The same space as a letter n. It looks like this – . An en dash is used to seperate a range of numbers. Eg The required word count is 800–1,000 words. It can also be use to form some compound adjectives.

Although they're different, it's becoming more common to use the same size dash for both situations. That's probably because, with most keyboards, one is much easier to use than the other. Remembering which one we should be using, and which key combination produces it can seem like an awful lot of effort for something most people won't notice anyway.

The hyphen is the smallest and looks like this -. Unsurprisingly, they're used in hyphenated words and names. Eg This post on dashes and hyphens was an eye-opener for twenty-six-year-old Lucy Barrington-Smythe.

What do you think about the use of dashes? Do you use them yourself? If you do, is it always the right one?

(If you're in the mood to read more of my writing tips and advice, take a look here.)

Friday, 23 February 2018

Woman's Weekly payments.

I've been asked about payments from Woman's Weekly as for some people these haven't arrived when expected. Don't panic! It's simply that these are now being made on publication, not acceptance as used to be the case.

Once your story has been scheduled (which might be quite a while after acceptance) you should get something through from Desknet and this will give the publication date. Payment will be made in the usual way shortly afterwards.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Want to talk about writing?

On #writingchat tonight we're discussing what stops us writing and how to get over it.

#writingchat is a weekly twitter event, with a different topic each time.  It's on Wednesdays, 8-9pm UK time. Everyone with an interest in writing is welcome to join in.

Please remember to use the #writingchat hashtag, so we can find your tweets and respond.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

There's just time ...

Today is the last chance to get All That Love Stuff, my collection of romantic short stories, for 99p (99c) as it goes back up to £1.99 ($2.99) tomorrow. Still, in my biased opinion either price is a bargain for 24 lovely stories.

There's also still time to book a place on the Writers' Weekend Workshop, run by myself and Anne Rainbow in Devon, 9th to 11th of March.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Over to you

Each month I'll be making a posting just like this one, so blog readers can share their success (or otherwise) ask  questions*, report any womag news, tips, advice they may have, or make womag related comments or observations. (If you have news or a question relating to a particular magazine, it's also fine to add it as a comment to the latest post for that magazine.)

*If you can answer these, please do.

I've decided to include a picture each month which you may, if you like, use as a story prompt. Do you like that idea? Have you ever written a story using a picture prompt?

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Valentine Gimmick

I have a story called Valentine Gimmick in the Valentine's Special issue of Ireland's Own. It's on their website too.

If you enjoyed that story, you might like All That Love Stuff – a collection of 24 short stories which is currently on offer for 99p/99c.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

5 Reasons Why You Want to Use Trello to Keep Track of Your Projects

Today I have writer and freelance editor Misha Gericke as my guest.

Thanks for having me over, Patsy!

A few weeks ago, Patsy got in touch with me and asked me to write a post about using Excel to keep track of writing and submitting projects. She did so for a good reason. For one thing, I adore Excel. For another, I have been using Excel to keep track of my goals and projects basically for as long as I’ve been writing. (Almost seventeen years. Shhh!)

Here’s the thing, though. Last year, I found something that works miles better than Excel for tracking projects. It’s called Trello, and I think if you’re anything like me, working on multiple story ideas in a year, you’re going to want to make the switch too.

These are my Top 5 reasons why:

1) Excel is actually designed to be a big, automated calculator.

It’s true. While the cells in Excel are good for making color-coded blocks, to fill in the things you need to fill in, and to see things quickly, those cells are actually there to take formulae, automate mathematical calculations, and to make sense of large amounts of numerical data.

Would you want to keep track of your deadlines on what amounts to a glorified calculator? Yeah…me neither.

2) Trello is designed as an app/website aimed at project management.

In other words, it’s literally made for you to know at a glance what’s going on, not only on one project, but all of them, simply, easily, intuitively.

3) Trello is easy and flexible to use.

When you sign up, you get a quick tutorial outlining how everything works. I suggest you play around for the tutorial for a few minutes, but I think you’d be able to do your thing immediately if you’re so inclined.

Basically, though, Trello is like a virtual pin-board with virtual post-it notes. You can make your tracking board as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.

More than that, Trello is available as a smart-phone app, so you have exactly no issues with updating your tracking board if you get news while you’re out and about. This right here is probably my number one favorite thing about it.

4) Trello at its most basic has everything you’ll ever need to keep track of your project status.

Easy duplication of tasks between boards? Check.

Color-coded labeling: Check. (Oooh, I do like a bit of colour coding!)

Space for comments, descriptions, updates? Check.

Easy-to-create check-lists: Check.

Easy-to-see due-dates? Check. (Those due dates also automatically change color the closer you get to them.)

It’s almost ridiculous how much information the cards can hold on Trello, and how Trello has managed to pull all that information together to both have everything at your fingertips and not overwhelm you with all that information.

This picture is of my general to-do list, because that’s where I make use of most of the functionality, to give you an idea of the information I can see at a glance:

And then, let me click into one of these cards so you can see what that looks like:

Another cool thing: Trello is awesome if you need to work with someone on something, because you can invite people to a board to coordinate.

But that’s not even the best thing. That would be:

5) Trello is free.

You read that right. While Trello limits the functionality for free users, the free version is so comprehensive and just plain useful that you don’t need anything more. And if you do want some of the extra services they offer, they’re not that expensive to get. In fact, you can get some perks just by inviting people over to coordinate with you.

So why not give Trello a try? You literally have nothing to lose.


Misha Gerrick is a fiction writer and freelancer who lives near Cape Town, South Africa. When she’s not working on either her own stories or someone else’s, you can find her reading, watching movies and series, needlepointing, or hanging out with her horse (which is the cutest thing you’ll ever find).

You can find her at these social networking links:

And at these freelancing platforms:

I'll confess that I do use Excel to track my submissions – yes, it's a big calculator, but it's a glorified one! ;-) How about you, do you have a system in place which works? Has Misha convinced you to give Trello a try?

Monday, 22 January 2018

A first for me!

After years of trying, I've finally had a story accepted for The People's Friend!

I first sent them something in 2004. Since then I've been accepted by 11 other UK magazines (some of which sadly no longer publish fiction) and temporarily given up with TPF on several occasions. Persistence pays though and I knew I could write, so I took another look at what they wanted and tried again.

Eventually I was contacted by one of the editors. He said he liked my story, but it wasn't quite right for TPF and suggested a few changes. Of course I agreed to try (I'm stubborn, not daft). The amended story was forwarded up the editorial chain – The People's Friend have a rigorous selection process to ensure the published stories are right for their readership.

Rewriting that story, and feedback my helpful and supportive editor has given me since, have helped me gain a better understanding of what makes a TPF story, so I'm hopeful of more acceptances in the future.

Now I'm an expert on the subject ;-) here are my tips for getting a story accepted for The People's Friend...

1) Read the magazine to get a feel for what they want (current issues, not ones you found in Granny's attic.)

2) Read the guidelines. (They're on this blog - see the 'magazine guidelines' tab above if unsure how to search for them. )

3) Follow the guidelines!

4) Check fiction editor Shirley's blog, for the latest requirements. Sometimes they'll want stories of a particular type, or be over stocked with those of a certain word length.

5) Write, or at least edit, something just for this market.

6) Act on any feedback or suggestions you may receive from one of the editors.

6) Don't give up.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Change at Spirit and Destiny

Katy Moon is no longer dealing with fiction at Spirit and Destiny. Any future submissions should be sent to tracie.couper (at) bauermedia.co.uk

Friday, 19 January 2018

Change at The Weekly News

I heard that Jill Finlay was leaving The Weekly News and emailed to check it was true and if she minded me posting the news here. Her reply is -

Yes - it's true! Next week will be my last with TWN, as I've got a new job as Production Editor for Girls' Magazines.

It's been 17 years since I started here - and 15 of that has involved fiction - so it's a bittersweet moment.

I'll miss the fiction and all the writers so much, but hopefully, the new system will keep it pretty much as it has been.
The team from The People's Friend have agreed to supply our stories from now on, so all submissions you would have sent to me need to go to weeklynewsfiction@dctmedia.co.uk

It's keeping it in-house and means our fiction slot will continue as it always has.

I have loved my time being Fiction Ed on TWN, but it really is such a good opportunity at the magazines that it's time to move on and take on some fresh challenges.

Next Fri will be my last day, so the countdown is on! 

You're very welcome to post on the womagwriter blog - the blogs are the best way to let everybody know about the changes, so thank you.

Goodbye, Jill and best wishes for the future.

UPDATE - The People's Friend editor, Shirley Blair, has blogged about this here. I'm pleased she says that they intend to keep the differences in fiction style between the two publications ad will be continuing to use Jill's guidelines and system of emailed submissions.