Wednesday, 10 August 2022


How do you feel about book reviews? Do you take any notice of them? Do you write them for any of the books you read?

Rosemary J Kind
and I have had a lovely review for the 2nd edition of From Story Idea to Writer.

"An excellent book on how to write commercial short stories. It is especially informative for beginners – if only it had been around when we started to write! But this book is equally helpful for those already writing seriously. It has two other big pluses - 1: It is very clearly written and 2: It skilfully encourages would-be writers to persevere and not give up.

The advice is given in an entertaining, encouraging way; some creative writing books can get a bit too intellectual, putting the would-be writer off completely, but this one has the opposite effect.

We liked the way the two authors (pictured at time of writing the 1st edition) gel with their advice – their styles complement each other all the way through. Rarely do their opinions differ and, if they do, each individual shows how her particular way could work as an alternative. 

How you approach the book is up to you – you might prefer to read it straight through, picking up points as you go, but it also works well as a ‘dip in’ source, where you just look up the particular writing problem that is bothering you at the time. Either way, you will find this book a great help; all writing aspects are covered. 

The marketing guide section is exceptional – rarely have we seen it explored so thoroughly. On the very important issue of discipline – getting down to writing - the advice cannot be faulted. There are so many writers of real talent who, alas, fail miserably because they lack the necessary discipline. Don’t be one of those writers - read this excellent book, learn from it and get writing!"

By Robin Dynes and Barbara Dynes who edit and contribute to Wessex Voice.

Obviously I feel very positively about this particular review! In general I do take notice before buying a book. I tend to look at the worst ones. Weirdly they don't always put me off, as what annoys one reader might not be a problem for another. If the above review tempts you to take a closer look at our book, you can do so here or ask you local bookshop or library to order it for you.

I try to leave reviews when I think they'll make a difference. 
Very occasionally that's when I've felt a book was a big let down – huge numbers of errors perhaps, or not being complete. Far more often I review books written by indie authors which I've loved. Us indies need the support more than the bestsellers who already have thousands of reviews!

Sunday, 7 August 2022

Five freebies

Free entry writing competition news

There's still time to enter Anansi's summer competition. They're offering small cash prizes and publication for poetry, short stories and flash fiction. I'm sure I must have something I could send.

The Blackness on Sea poetry competition, which has a large cash prize. £1,000! Poetry is very much not my strong point, but I'm trying to come up with something.

The Perito prize. The writer of the best piece on accessibility and inclusion will get £500. I've already entered that one.

The Orna Ross Green Stories novel prize. This one has cash prizes of £1000 and £500, plus help with getting published. I've written a novel which I think might suit the theme, but as I've already published it, I can't send it in.

The L Ron Hubbard writers of the future competition offers $1,000 to the winner each quarter and accepts several different genres – none of which I write.

My news

This small collection of my short stories is available to download free from Amazon, and some other retailers, such as Smashwords. That might only be news to newer readers of this blog, but I'm too busy drooling over the illustration for my story in the My Weekly Special to think of anything else!

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

A bit of a result?

Womag news

Here's some advice from Lucy, the fiction editor at The People's Friend which might help reduce the amount of time we need to wait for a response from that publication. (I've no idea if it was my Twitter thread and blog post she saw, or if there was another discussion which she's responded too. Either way, it's good to know that writer's concerns are noted.)

The photo is of a tree in my garden (ten points if you can identify it). Years ago I blogged about this tree and shortly afterwards it was mentioned in a response to one of my magazine submissions (not to TPF). That was the first time I realised it wasn't just writers who read the blog.

Free entry competition news

Thanks to Alan for passing on the details of Beagle North.  They're looking stories of up to 2,500 words with the theme of falling. There are small cash prizes for the winner and two runners up and the best 15 to 20 will be published in an anthology.

Friday, 29 July 2022

The last time

This is the last time I'll litter one of my posts with pictures from our trip to Ireland. If you see more they'll be there for a good reason, not randomly strewn about the place, just because I can.

Of course this rule doesn't apply to photos of our next trip, or the garden, interesting things I spot on a walk, cakes...

Free entry writing competition news

This competition from Exisle Academy is for "any genre, fiction or fact - that helped or would have helped you at a pivotal moment in your life" the prize is "up to $2000 worth of training and coaching with Exisle Academy", including the opportunity to discuss developing a book with our editors" plus optional publication on their website. You have up to 1,500 words and the closing date is 28th August.

I do sometimes base fiction on real life events, so might have a go at this.

The Morley prize is for 'unpublished writers of colour'. This can be a novel or creative non-fiction book. The prize is £500, plus a consultation with a literary agent.

I'm not eligible to enter this one. If I was, and had a suitable book to submit, then I definitely would.

The Daily Mail are running a novel writing competition with a £20,000 prize and agent representation. "The contest is for first-time authors who have not had any work of fiction published before." 

That's another I can't enter, but if I could I would.

Globe Soup run free writing challenges with £500 prizes. All those registered will be sent a genre and a secret challenge, and given a week to come up with a story of up to 2,000 words. That sounds as though it could be fun, so I've registered.

My news

I've started mentioning some of my published stories on my website again, so if you're interested in what inspired me, or if there's a true story behind the fictional one, take a look at the blog section there.

Womag stuff

There are some writing tips on The People's Friend website. They're written with that magazine in mind, but are also good general advice.

Would you be interested in more specific tips and advice about writing for this market?

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

From short stories to audio drama - guest post by Glenda Young

Hello, my name is Glenda Young and I’ve been writing short stories for women’s magazines since 2015. My weekly soap opera Riverside has appeared in The People’s Friend since 2016. Riverside is a joy to write because it’s fun, frothy and I’ve built up a wonderful community of endearing characters. 

It’s a feel-good story of family, friends and community featuring romance, heartbreak and secrets, as well as gentle wit and humour. Writing Riverside is the writing highlight of my week. I absolutely love it.

And I’m now honoured to announce that Riverside has been adapted into an audio drama. Not just that, but each cast member is either a current or an ex-soap star from TV and radio soaps including Neighbours and The Archers. 

The audio scripts are adapted and written by Ian Skillicorn of Wyndham Books from my original characters and stories. Hearing the voices of the characters I've created has been amazing. In fact, I had a few tears listening to the first episode. I’ve lived with these characters in my head for over 6 years and to hear them speak in the audio drama is beyond wonderful.

If you’re thinking of doing something similar, or anything else, with your short stories that have already been published in women’s magazines, always check the rights in your contract you’ll have signed with the magazine publisher. If you’re unsure about the rights, you can ask here on Womag where the friendly community will always advise. 

With Riverside, although I knew I held the rights to my work, I double-checked with The People’s Friend magazine before I embarked on the audio drama. 

Riverside the soap opera now has its own website at where you can check out the synopsis, cast and characters. Riverside will be available from Audible, Amazon and iTunes from Wednesday 27 July. 

Glenda Young


Monday, 25 July 2022

In case you were wondering...

 Here's the final result for the poll I mentioned in my last post.

I asked those who said 'no' why not. Those who responded said something along the lines of not having anything against the idea but that they didn't feel it would make any difference to them personally.

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Cut off period?

"Would you find it helpful if magazine editors were to give a cut off point, after which we could consider submissions as rejected ?"

That's the question I asked in a poll on the Womagwriter Twitter account. As not everyone is on Twitter, I'm also asking it here. If you'd like to participate in the Twitter poll there's still time - it's the pinned tweet on the account and runs until the 25th. Ideally I'd like actual responses to each individual story, and naturally I'd like them all to be positive! Obviously no editor can accept everything she's sent and I fully accept that I'll get rejections. The problem, for me, is when no answer comes at all. In that case can I eventually assume the story isn't going to be used and I'm free to submit it elsewhere? If so, how long should I wait?

I have stories which have been with a magazine for over two years. When I queried I was told they're still under consideration. That particular publication almost certainly will give me an answer eventually. Some never do, and they don't answer queries either. Personally I'd find it helpful if all magazines, where the editor doesn't respond to each submission individually within a few months, were to have a cut off point after which the author knew the story was no longer under consideration. So far over 90% of those who've responded to my poll say they would find this useful. Do you agree with them?

Wednesday, 20 July 2022

Back to normal

OK, normal might be stretching things, but I'm back from Ireland and attempting to get back into writing more regularly. I did produce some stories whilst away, and jotted down lots of ideas, but I spent more time exploring and having fun - and have the photos to prove it! 

Free entry competition news

The British Czech and Slovak Association have a competition for fiction or non-fiction writing. They have very specific requirements, which may seem off-putting, but do mean there are likely to be a fairly small number of entries, giving you a better chance of winning the £400 than if it were an open theme.

Womag / competition news

Both Prima and Best are running short story competitions. Best are offering £500 for a spooky story of up to 1,200 words. Send to

Prima are taking all rights on all entries. If you really want to give up the right to ever use that story in any way, just for the privilege of entering then you can look up the details yourself as I don't want to encourage anyone to take such a step.

Womag update

In case you've somehow missed it, there's a database of womag submission guidelines and requirements on this blog. I update it regularly and you can access it anytime from the link at the top of the page (is that visible on phones?) or here.

My news

I've had sales to TAB and TPF, but mostly there's nothing to report short story wise, not even rejections. It's demoralising waiting years for a definite response – I'd rather have a rejection than a 'it's still under consideration. Maybe it will be used next year.'

Update - I've just had another acceptance from TAB for a story sent out this week! 

As an experiment I took all my ebooks 'wide' ie, instead of being exclusive with Amazon I offered them through other platforms. I did sell a few, but not enough to make up for the loss in payments I got through kindle unlimited, so have reversed that decision. If you'd like to read any of my books through kindle unlimited (or buy the) you can find them all here.

How do you obtain most of the books you read? Do you use kindle unlimited?

I get quite a few books from the library. I love libraries, and love that some of my books are read that way.

A plea from me

If you find this blog helpful, interesting, encouraging or want it to continue for any other reason PLEASE leave a comment. These help the blog in lots of different ways.

Sunday, 17 July 2022

Over To You


Womag news

Do you have any womag news?

Are you researching, writing, subbing? Had any acceptances or rejections? Any other news?

Feel free to use the as a picture prompt. If you'd like other writing prompts, short exercises and story/scene suggestions then you might find this book useful.

Free entry writing competition news

I'd love to hear your competition news.

Do you have writing tips to share, questions to ask, or suggestions for this blog?

Friday, 8 July 2022

Rumours and photos and stuff


Recently I've come across rumours and reports that various womags are either ceasing completely or are going to discontinue publishing fiction. As far as I've been able to discover, these are all misunderstandings of one form or another. Sadly it does seem to be true that Secret Attic is no longer in operation.

Not quite true is the rumour that I've given up blogging and writing and am just hanging about in the campervan looking at the scenery and eating cake. Of course not! I've also been walking, photographing, swimming – and even doing a bit of writing. (I know you'll believe me about the photography part!) 

Keeping up with online stuff hasn't always been easy, so apologies for the lack of posts and replies to your comments.

Womag / competition news

Avon Books and My Weekly have launched a short story competition with a £1,000 prize. To take part you need to be female, over 45, unpublished and un-agented. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

From Story Idea to Reader - 2nd edition

Rosemary J. Kind and I have updated From Story Idea to Reader. It's still got everything which earned it review comments such as 'a great resource' 'very inspirational' and 'excellent book packed full of useful information'. Topics covered include getting started as a writer, finding ideas, writing for competitions, plotting, titles, blurbs, social media, feedback, editing and proofreading etc etc* but now there's more.

We've added sections on creating audio books, dealing with gender and creating covers. 
The sections on womag writing, self- publishing and the business side of writing have all been updated, as there have been a lot of changes recently.

The second edition is available as a paperback or ebook here, or can be read for free through kindle unlimited. The audio version hasn't been updated, but if you order that you'll also get a pdf of the new version, so won't miss out.

*See Amazon's 'look inside' feature for a full list of topics covered.

Monday, 20 June 2022

Any excuse

Here are some photos from our current travels in Ireland, plus a few bits of writing news to justify a post ...

Free entry competition news

 This short story competition with the theme clean vs green offers a £500 prize.

The theme for On The Premises latest short story competition is 'Objects In Motion' and first prize is $250.

Publication opportunities news

Thanks (again!) to Alyson for passing on some information – this time it's about a publisher looking for unagented authors of complete novels.

My news

You can read all chapters of my romance Escape To The Country for free here 

Saturday, 18 June 2022

Copyright - the early years

As part of out travels we visited Donegal Castle, in Donegal town, in County Donegal (photos taken there and at the abbey). We had a very interesting tour where we learned how little we knew of Irish history! The part which most captured my imagination concerned one of the earliest copyright cases. In around 561 a man called Colm Cille borrowed a bookfrom St Finnian. He may not have been a saint at the time, and Colm certainly wasn't as he copied the book without permission – books were a really big deal back then. When Finnian found out, he was rightly furious and demanded Colm hand over the copy (later known as the cathach). He refused and eventually the King of Ireland ruled on the matter.

The King said 'to every cow her calf, to every book its copy' and said that Colm should give up his plagiarised version. Colm didn't accept this and he and his clan went to war on the matter. Many lives were lost. Later Colm felt great remorse that his copying the book had resulted in such tragedy. He did many good works and himself eventually became a saint. 

Thankfully these days we don't tend to have physical battles over copyright rules, but it's still an important and emotive subject. That's why I (repeatedly) urge writers to read and understand contracts and competition rules before signing or submitting work and only proceed if they're willing to agree to the stated terms. I don't advise that anyone give up all rights on their writing – but the decision is yours.

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Over To You

Womag news

Do you have any womag news?

Are you researching, writing, subbing? Had any acceptances or rejections? Any other news?

Feel free to use the as a picture prompt. If you'd like other writing prompts, short exercises and story/scene suggestions then you might find this book useful.

Free entry writing competition news

I'd love to hear your competition news.

Do you have writing tips to share, questions to ask, or suggestions for this blog?

Saturday, 11 June 2022

Guest post by Geraldine Ryan – Little Murders Every Day


I’ve always loved the definition of a good story as one that consists of a beginning, a muddle and an ending. In other words, your story need something to happen. It needs a Plot.

Novelist E. M. Forster wrote:- ‘The King died and then the Queen died is a story. The King died, and then the Queen died of grief is a plot.’

So what’s the difference between a) and b)? Well, plenty. For starters a) isn’t going to make anywhere near your word count, is it? It’s over before it’s begun. Whereas, just think of all the questions b) provokes! Think of the muddles you can get the Queen into and then, finally, out of. Was her grief genuine? Was it, in fact, guilt that killed her in the end? Did she kill him? Or was it her lover who did the deed?

Plot then is what happens. Some writers insist they never plot. They start with character, they say, or setting. Look, there are no right answers or we’d all be Richard Osman by now. I’m somewhere in the middle of being a plotter and a pantser in that I know where I want to get to but I’m not always sure of the journey. As writer Flannery O’ Connor said:- ‘I have to write to discover what I’m doing.’

One thing is certain though. You need to give your character a muddle to get out of. And so, once your story’s finished and the muddle has been resolved, your theme will emerge. Because if Plot is what happens, then Theme is what the story says. It tells us something about the world and alters our view of it.

A plot can be plotted, but I’m not convinced that a theme can be themed. For example, there you sit at your computer, fingers poised. You need to come up with an idea for a story and quickly if you want to avoid getting the gas turned off.

‘I know!’ you tell the cat. ‘I’ll write about Poverty. Because as a writer of magazine stories that’s something I’m greatly familiar with.’

And then you sit there. And you sit there. And nothing happens. Because Poverty is a big word and a big theme and you just don’t know where to start.

Then you remember that young woman you pass on the street every day, huddled beneath her blanket, her faithful dog by her side. You don’t know her. Maybe you’ve never even spoken to her. Maybe you were too embarrassed. Felt guilty, waltzing past with your bag full of shopping – your vegan cup cakes and your packet of organic pasta.

Your mind wanders away from the girl beneath the blanket to the woman walking by. A character emerges. What if, suddenly, when she gets home, this woman’s high-flying husband is being led out of the house by the Police, having been accused of fraud. Suddenly she finds herself insolvent. So you write your story. Your plot gains momentum. And, once it’s finished, you discover the theme that has emerged. It’s not about poverty after all. It’s about something else altogether – loyalty, or self-discovery or finally understanding who your real friends are.

I’m not saying you can’t get a story by starting with a theme. But writing is about exploration. If you start with a theme already in your head, you’re likely to end up with a story that holds no surprises for you. It won’t throw any light on how you see the world and if it won’t do that for you then it’s unlikely to do it for your reader. Your story probably won’t be the story you’d have written if you’d started with a theme instead of starting with a character, putting her under pressure and tracking her journey. But it’ll be all the better for that.

If CHARACTER + MUDDLE + WAY OUT OF MUDDLE is a plot, then, depending on the sort of person she is, your character will react to her muddle in the way she generally reacts to muddles. And if she’s a different sort of person she’ll react to the same muddle in a very different way.

Each reaction to the same situation will be different because each character is different. And as long as the writer is faithful to the character they’ve drawn, once we put her under pressure, the easier it will be to trust that the direction she’ll take will be the one that best suits her nature and from there your theme will emerge.

Can I just add that I’m not talking about novel writing here – where undoubtedly more than one theme will emerge. I’m talking about short stories, where the number of words restricts or – depending how you look at it – focuses the writer. Because in a story of 1000 words, you’re going to have to make choices and get rid of anything you can’t devote proper attention to that might sidetrack the reader

American novelist and short story writer Gail Godwin wrote about the choices a writer has to make when beginning a new story, where lots of ideas collide and you have to settle on one.

“The choice is always a killing one,” she wrote. “One option must die so that the other may live. I do little murders every day.”

Sound familiar, fellow writers?

Geraldine has produced a collection of short stories, which is available here.

About the author – Geraldine Ryan is a proud Northerner who has spent most of her life in Cambridge – the one with the punts. She holds a degree in Scandinavian Studies, but these days only puts it to use when identifying which language is being spoken among the characters of whatever Scandi drama is currently showing on TV. For many years, she worked as a teacher of English and of English as a second or foreign language, in combination with rearing her four children, all of whom are now grown-up, responsible citizens. Her first published story appeared in My Weekly in 1993. Since then, her stories have appeared in Take a Break, Fiction Feast and Woman’s Weekly, as well as in women’s magazines abroad. She has also written two young adult novels – Model Behaviour (published by Scholastic) and The Lies and Loves of Finn (Channel 4 Books.) She plans for Riding Pillion with George Clooney to be the first of several short story anthologies.

Keep up to date with Geraldine’s news, be the first to hear about her new releases and read exclusive content by signing up to her monthly newsletter Turning the Page. By adding your details, you’ll also receive a free short story. Use this link to subscribe: