Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Found Sparkle?

We've just been on holiday (no, not another one – the trip to Scotland was a working trip ... mostly). Whilst in Greece I spotted a newsagent stand with British mags on it and couldn't resist flicking through to see if I was in any of them and was surprised to see I was (although not as amazed as I appear in the photo). The magazines must take a while to reach Greece.

Have you ever seen UK magazines while abroad?

Or looked at the magazines published in the countries you've visited?


For those wondering, the story was in Woman's Weekly (submitted and accepted under the old terms) and appeared in the UK a couple of weeks ago.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Paragraph indents, or lack of

Hi everyone - greetings from Greece! (I know those aren't Greek flags, but I wanted something to wave at you (and I haven't downloaded yesterday's photos yet – we were too busy winning the quiz.) Can you tell from them where we were a couple of days ago?)

I was asked a question via twitter, which I've only just seen. It went something like this ...  'When an editor asks for no paragraph indents, what should I do? Add a space or symbol? It looks odd with nothing.'

As one person is wondering, it seems likely others are too, so I've decided to answer on here. All you do is leave out the indents (or if, as is likely, you can't help but put them in as you write, take them out again afterwards).

If you think about it logically, the editor will have asked for the story to be sent without indents because she doesn't want them (if you look in the magazines, many don't use them). If you have indents, or anything else including blank lines, then these will have to be removed. That takes time; not much time per story perhaps, but it is 'one more thing'.

I do agree that it looks odd – and I confess that I can't write without something to diferentiate the paragraphs, but I do try to remove them before submitting if that's what the guidelines request.


Thursday, 1 November 2018

Anyone there?

Is it worth me writing posts this month, or are you all doing NaNo and so too busy to read them?

Friday, 26 October 2018

Studying the market

Us writers are often told we need to study (or research our markets). Not everyone does this. A lucky few of those who don't will naturally write in a style suited to wherever it is they're submitting to. Many more will keep getting rejections, unaware that they'd have more success either submitting elsewhere, or giving their work a few tweaks so it's just what the editor wants.

My tips for studying the womag fiction market ...

1. Start by looking at as many different magazines as possible and deciding which publishes fiction closes to the way you naturally write.

2. Check it's somewhere you can submit to and one which doesn't insist on terms you'd be unwilling to accept. (My magazine quick links on the right will help with that.)

3. Buy several issues over a continuos period, and read each just as though you were any regular reader. DO NOT rely on old copies. It was never a good idea to do that, but it's even more unwise now that so many publications have made big changes in their editorial teams.

4. Read the stories again, making a note of anything they seem to have in common. This might include age rage of main characters, whether they have happy endings, locations, if they're mainly seasonal stories, the gender of main characters...

 5. Now do the same with the way they're written. POV(s) used, tense used, presented chronologically or with flashbacks, told traditionally, or in a less usual style (via letters or emails, diary entries etc.)

6. Take all these into account when plotting your next story for this magazine. I don't mean you must use them all, or that you can't add other elements, just that there should be enough similarities for the editor to recognise it as suitable for the magazine.

7. Before editing, look at the magazines again. Do the stories contain many long words, are there lots of 'colourful' speech tags or is 'she said' preferred? Single or double quotes for dialogue? Tweak yours so it really looks the part.

Are these kind of tips useful to you? If they are, you might like this book.

Do you have any more suggestions for either studying the market, or using the information gathered to help your chances of success?

Monday, 22 October 2018

Seasonal stories

Womag editors are very keen on seasonal stories. I'm using the term 'seasonal' in a very broad sense here – it covers spring, summer, autumn and winter of course, but also Valentine's and Christmas, the holiday season, anniversaries of historic events ...

At the moment there are more ghost stories than usual (I have one in Take A Break's Fiction Feast). Soon there will be bonfires and as we're coming up to the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1 I'm sure that will feature in some magazines.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when writing a seasonal story –

1. Get it in early. In many cases six months in advance could be too late.

2. You don't need to be too obvious. For example a story about fresh starts or self improvement might be suitable for an issue with a New Year theme, even if you don't mention January 1st.

3. Don't write too many stories with a non annual seasonal theme. An Easter story which doesn't sell one year can be subbed elsewhere the next. A leap year story will have a longer wait and any spare Royal wedding ones you have left over might be gathering dust for a long time to come.

4. You can add seasonal details to almost any story with careful choice of the clothes people wear and food or drink they consume – wellies and roast chestnuts, ice cream and flip flops.

These can be switched if required. I've just had what was written as a summer story accepted for a People's Friend special which will go out in January. The original ice cream will be swapped for hot chocolate so it's a better fit.

5. If subbing abroad, remember their seasons, and even special days, may be different. You'll have a tough job selling a story about a Christmas snowball fight, or March Mother's Day to That's Life in Australia.

Do you prefer reading and writing seasonal or non seasonal stories? (If you like reading the kind of spooky stories which appear in womags at this time of year, you'll enjoy my latest short story collection, Slightly Spooky Stories II ).

Do you have any tips to share, questions to ask, or words of warning about writing seasonal stories?

Can you think of any 'seasons' I've not mentioned, but which could be used in a womag story?



Monday, 15 October 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.

What made you want to write fiction?

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Mulling things over



Sorry the blog has been rather quiet lately – I've spent two months travelling around Scotland and had very limited internet, so haven't kept up very well with what's going on.








I haven't done a great deal of writing either, but I'm thinking of setting a story on the Island of Mull (where these pictures were taken) so I can pretend the whole thing was research.








I've had emails, including some acceptances from Allas, My weekly, Fiction Feast and The Weekly News.














There was also news of a competition win and the request that editors keep hold of stories for possible inclusion in You (South Africa), The People's Friend and the My Weekly annual ... for 2021!









The trip has given me time to think about what I want from my writing. The rights issue with Woman's Weekly really dampened my enthusiasm for womag stories for a while.









Then one rainy day during the trip I was idly flicking through magazines in a shop and found one of my stories.







I realised I can't give up the way it feels to see my name in print and to know people are reading and enjoying stories I've written.










What's been happening with you whilst I've been away? Have you been writing? Do you have any sales or other news to report?

















Monday, 17 September 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.

Do you tell people you're a writer?

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Time's running out...


It's almost your last chance to get Perfect Timing for 99p / 99c. Tomorrow it'll be going up to £1.99 / $2.99.

Perfect Timing

Whether we have long hours to fill, or not a moment to spare, time plays an important part in all our lives. We might not watch the clock, but we can't escape the impact of the seconds ticking away. Time waits for no woman, neither will it accelerate at her command. It's no more considerate of men, children and teddy bears.

Being a little early, or late, can have a big impact; it could mean missing a train, inheritance, or much needed meal. Or help us catch a crook, rescue a neighbour, show us what's really important. Maybe it's not our own timekeeping we have to worry about, but that of loved ones, colleagues or adversaries.


You can read each of the stories in this book in just a few minutes, or enjoy all 25 at once over several hours.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Time for a bargain.

My latest short story collection, Perfect Timing is for sale at the introductory offer price of 99p / 99c for the next few days.


Perfect Timing

Whether we have long hours to fill, or not a moment to spare, time plays an important part in all our lives. We might not watch the clock, but we can't escape the impact of the seconds ticking away. Time waits for no woman, neither will it accelerate at her command. It's no more considerate of men, children and teddy bears.

Being a little early, or late, can have a big impact; it could mean missing a train, inheritance, or much needed meal. Or help us catch a crook, rescue a neighbour, show us what's really important. Maybe it's not our own timekeeping we have to worry about, but that of loved ones, colleagues or adversaries.


You can read each of the stories in this book in just a few minutes, or enjoy all 25 at once over several hours.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

In case you missed it ...

This comment was left on one of my earlier posts –

"Hi all (@cella @geraldine in particular),

Im writing from workers' rights campaigning group Organise (organise.org.uk), we help people get better rights from their employers. I saw the article about WW in the Guardian and wanted to get in touch to see if we can be of any help (we're free of charge by the way!). We have worked with everyone from academics to Amazon warehouse workers to help them get better rights at work. 

I would love to speak to someone, particularly Tara if anyone has her details, about how we can help. Please do contact me on usman@organise.org.uk "


It was an anonymous reply and I don't know anything about this organisation, but some of you may wish to make contact. The guardian article mentioned, is probably this one.

Thursday, 16 August 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.

What's the worst piece of writing advice you've ever come across?

Monday, 13 August 2018

That's Life and Fast Fiction (Australia) submission guidelines

That's Life! is a weekly Australian magazine published by Pacific Mags. That's Life Fast Fiction is the quarterly fiction special. (There's a UK magazine called That's Life, published by Bauer, but sadly they discontinued their excellent fiction page several years ago.)

The fiction editor is Jude Durant. All submissions should be sent to her by email Fastfiction (at) pacificmags (dot) com.au

Stories must not have been previously published anywhere.

One page stories, of no more than 600 words are wanted for the weekly magazine. A few of this length are also used in the quarterly magazine, along with some of around 1,600 words, but most will be in the 900 to 1,100 range.

Jude tells me that dialogue driven stories are preferred. They should appeal to women over 35.

A wide range of genres are considered including thrillers, revenge, sixth sense or spooky stories, romance and feelgood stories. Quirky or amusing 'light bite' stories are welcome, as are heartwarmers and those including animals or children.

Previous guidelines requested that the title, genre and word count be included in the email header and I still do this in case it's useful.

See this post for what happens after your story is submitted.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Guest post by womagwriter rights champion Carol Bevitt

My guest today is writing friend and #writingchat co host, Carol Bevitt. She's written an article for Writing Magazine on the Woman's Weekly all rights issue, and I invited her here to explain why.

I was as shocked as other writers when the news began to spread of Woman’s Weekly‘s new ‘all rights’ contract for fiction accepted for publication. The ongoing lack of communication with their regular writers created confusion, anger and obviously worry about the future of existing work in the system.

Although I wasn’t personally affected by the proposed changes, I’d hoped to submit to WW sometime in the future; as many writers have mentioned, WW is a benchmark for quality fiction, so a target publication.

When a writer friend (on Twitter) suggested I approach Writing Magazine editor Jonathan Telfer and tell him what was happening and ask if he could help in any way. He considered the all rights contract an important issue for the magazine to cover. My ‘Womag Rights’ article published in the September issue and in newsagents from today (2nd August) is the result.

I only had ten days and the article would not have been possible without the support and quotes from a number of womag writers. I wanted their voices to tell readers how and why this copyright change is disturbing. But equally WW’s owners needed to have an opportunity to give their viewpoint.

Being able to step back and look at – excuse the cliché – the bigger picture I was able to make the best use of my research, quotes and the possibilities if the new contract goes ahead. But most of all, I hope, that this tells the reader all they need to know about womag writers and the demands of their job.

Treat writers fairly and the womags they write for will benefit with quality fiction, while the readers will continue to buy the magazine. Result, everyone wins.

Now we just need owners TI Media to realise that...


Thank you, carol. Obviously I hope it will add to the growing pressure on the owners of Woman's Weekly to rethink this, but even if it doesn't, it will help make more writers aware of the implications of giving up all rights, and therefore be better able to decide if they're willing to do that. 

(For a little more on the WW issue, see Simon Whaley's latest blog post.)

Update – WW's owners have announced on twitter that they're excited about their rebranding. Some fiction writers are responding ...

Monday, 30 July 2018

Womag – a genre?

"How would you define womag fiction?" is a question I was asked recently.

The simple, although perhaps not very helpful, answer is, "It's any fiction which is published in a magazine aimed at women."

They do have other things in common. Usually they'll be an easy read – no overly complicated sentences or words requiring use of the dictionary and Google searches in order to follow the plot. There are exceptions, but generally they won't be shocking, or seriously disturbing – though they might surprise you and make a reader think. They'll be intended to appeal to women – but not just women. Many womags have male readers and are a keen to encourage more. Usually the stories have a happy ending, and generally the main character will have brought this about themselves, rather than relying on a handsome man to save her (often, but not always, the main character is a woman.)

Perhaps it's easier to say what they're not? They aren't all the same. They're not all written to a standard formula. They don't comprise just one genre or style. You're as likely to read a tearjerker as something which makes you laugh, a modern ghost story might well be in the same issue as a historical romance.

The lengths are different – anything from around 500 words to 25,000 for some serials. Then there are pocket novels, at twice that length, which are still often considered womag, despite not actually being printed within the pages of a magazine. Word length is the easiest thing to know you've got right. Simply get your computer to count the words in your document and compare it to the guidelines (found in the quick links in the right hand column of this blog.) A few words out will usually be fine, but the closer you can get your story to the required length, the easier it will be for the editor to fit it on the page(s).

Sometimes editors will also give guidance on the type of stories they'd like and subjects they do, or don't, want covered. Again the guidelines might help. Sometimes editors send newsletters, or write blog posts (Shirley Blair of The People's Friend has her own blog) with this information, or you may get clues from editorials or even rejections.

Reading the fiction in a particular magazine is, I think, the best way to get a feel for the genres and subjects they're likely to publish. If you can, do read several issues – and make sure they're current ones, not those your great-granny bought when she was courting!

Reading the magazines also helps with what I think is the hardest aspect to get right – the tone. With some the stories will all be warm, maybe even quite gentle. Others will feature some with a bit of edge or darkness to them. Some editors prefer traditional stories, with a single POV and linear layout. Others like twist endings, or something a little more experimental, even quirky.

Relationships are always a popular topic for womag stories. These can be romances, friendships or  stories about families. Keep It In The Family is my latest collection of 25 short stories, all in this latter category.  Most of them have previously been published in womags.

Do you agree with my description of womag fiction? Do you have anything to add? Can you think of any genre or category of story which couldn't be adapted to suit a womag?