Sunday, 31 January 2010

International magazine swap?

Picking up on a comment left by Claire from downunder on my last post - is anyone interested in an international magazine swap?

Study your markets, we are always told. But it's tricky for we Brits to get hold of copies of Woman's Day or Australian That's Life, and the Aussies can't find The Weekly News or Take A Break. Ireland's Own never graces British newsagents shelves, and the only South African You magazines I ever saw are those I bought while on holiday there.

So, how about this -

If you have back copies of magazines you don't want, and are prepared to post them abroad in return for back copies of other magazines, leave a comment after this post, saying what you can offer and what you would like in return. You need to include some method by which people can contact you - if leaving an email address I would advise disguising it a little to avoid getting automatic spam, eg write '(at)' rather than the @ sign.

Then anyone interested in what you are offering who can provide what you are looking for, can contact you directly.

Note I'm not coordinating the swapping - just using this blog as the meeting place, or swapshop. (Just call me Noel...!)

What do you all think? Shall we give it a whirl?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Point of View

Very useful, must-read post here on Nicola Morgan's blog on Point of View.

Now we all know and understand POV don't we? But it never hurts to be reminded, and to do an exercise to prove you really understand it.

At my writing class last week, Della Galton talked about POV, and then had us do a really interesting exercise. We wrote a short snippet (3 minutes-worth) in third person POV. Then we each read our work out, and discussed at what point does it become irrevocably the character's point of view.

Here's the very rubbish piece I wrote at the time:
Skirt, blouse, jacket. Mary had laid them all out the night before. With shaking hands she dressed, then cursed as she put a fingernail through her only pair of un-laddered tights. Never mind, she'd wear her long boots instead of shoes, that would cover the ladder. But would boots seem too casual, she wondered. Maybe she would have time to buy a new pair of tights on the way to the interview...

So, when does this become definitely Mary's POV, and can no longer be someone else's, or omniscient? Fourth sentence, I'd say - the point where we go into her thoughts with 'never mind'. Before then, it's possible there could be another character in the room, observing Mary, shakes, curses and all, and there's nothing to prevent the story continuing in his POV.

With short stories, it's essential to get into POV as quickly as possible. It anchors the reader, and sucks them in. You need to know who you're reading about, and who the main character is within the first few lines. Generally speaking the first character mentioned needs to be the main character, and the story should be in their POV (there are exceptions to every rule of course!)

I found this an extremely worthwhile exercise. The better writers in the group all seemed to establish POV in their first sentences, and that is something I will try to do with the next story I write.

Another tip, to make a story stronger and more emotional, is to write it in first person and then change to third person afterwards. You'll end up with a very close third-person story, probably closer than if you'd started out writing in third person. I must try this too!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

100 Stories for Haiti

Here's a worthwhile project. Donate a 1000-word story to an anthology, proceeds from which go to the Red Cross for the Haiti disaster appeal.

Edited to say the deadline has been extended to midnight, Wednesday 27th. You have another 30 hours to send something!

Here's more details from the link:

We want short story submissions to help raise money for disaster-stricken Haiti. Out of the submissions, 100 pieces of fiction will be chosen to appear in an e-book and paperback, the proceeds of which will go to the Red Cross.

If you want to send a short story, please follow these guidelines:

•Do not exceed 1,000 words.
•No stories containing graphic violence, death or destruction.
•We want stories with a lot of HEART, a dash of COMPASSION, and unmeasurable amounts of HOPE. Stories that anyone can read. Stories that leave you feeling as though life really is worth living.
Send all stories in the body of an email to:

Stories sent as attachments will *not* be opened. Write “Submission” in the subject of the email.

Please follow the above guidelines carefully, and include your full contact details.

Stories must be received by Midnight, Monday 25 January, 2010.

Nick Harkaway, author of ‘The Gone Away World’, will be editing a story for the book as well as penning the introduction.

The e-book will be sold on The paperback will be published and sold by Unbound Press, and will be available online about a week after the release of the e-book.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Plugs for Sally

Just wanted to make sure you're all aware of Sally Quilford's shiny new website and invaluable competition calendar. Bookmark both!

Woman's Weekly latest requirements

With thanks to Sally for passing these details on - Woman's Weekly are currently looking for stories of all lengths, but especially 1000-worders and the longer, 3-6000 worders, now they have 10 fiction specials a year to fill.

They would also like more serial writers. Serials should be in 3 parts, each 3,800 words. Email with your idea in the first instance, in case they've recently bought something similar.

Submission format requirements:
  • include name, contact details, title and word count on the first page of your submission
  • ensure pages are numbered
  • use double quotes for speech and single for thoughts
  • check your work for consistency especially tenses and characters' names

Now then, I know where I've been going wrong with Woman's Weekly. I tend to use single quote marks for speech, and none at all for thoughts. Will put that right in my next submission!

(It is always worth checking house style, and amending as necessary before sending your work off. Another tip is that if you, unlike me, always use double quotes for speech when typing, it is much easier to do a change all from double to single quotes before subbing to a mag which prefers singles, Take A Break, for example. Changing all singles to doubles is terrible, isn"t it? Haven"t we all been there, done that? Note to self, take own advice on this.)

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Lit mags listing - UK and Ireland

Useful post here (thanks Tania) listing UK and Irish lit mags which publish short stories, both paying and non-paying. You know how sometimes you write a story, and it doesn't come out quite right for the women's magazines? On those occasions, why not take a look at Tania's list and find an alternative market?

Monday, 18 January 2010

Historical Fiction

I often take a look at Nicola Morgan's blog, which is highly recommended for all those writing, and trying to publish, novels. A few days ago she wrote a brilliant post about writing historical fiction which I think applies as much to short stories as to novels.

While the women's magazines mostly publish stories with a contemporary setting, they do take some set at least partly in the past. I've sold a couple of 'time-slip' stories - where my characters found themselves falling back in time for a few moments. I've also sold one which jumped between a historical plot and a contemporary one, the two stories unravelling side by side (and all in under 1000 words!) Nicola's advice about getting the dialogue right but not too dated, doing the research but not overloading your story with it, and ensuring your story is believable in the context in which it's set, is all just as important for short stories as it is for novels.

It's occurred to me it'd be worth knowing exactly which magazines will take historical fiction and which tend to shy away from it, so we can target our submissions. If anyone's got any ideas on this please add a comment here. I'll do some analysis of whatever magazines I have lying around at the moment as well.

Edited 27/1/10 to add this link which contains links to good sites for historical research.

Friday, 15 January 2010

My Weekly guidelines Jan-Feb 2010

Briefly, here's what they're looking for from now till the end of February, for publication in April/May.

  • Twist in the tale - 1400-1600 words, especially light-hearted themes or very moving
  • Coffee break - 700 words, again either light-hearted or very moving
  • Romance - 1200 words, especially light-hearted

Looks like we'd better stop writing all those heavy angsty stories and try something more light and fluffy! Remember, only one sub per writer a month, indicate clearly on your submission its length and which category it fits, and if you've previously sold a story to My Weekly, mark your submission for the attention of Liz Smith.

Send submissions as a MS Word attachment to

Good luck all!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Great posts on the short story

I mentioned here that Sally Z was starting a series of posts analysing what makes a great short story. She has now completed a number of thought-provoking posts so it's worth popping over to take a look when you've got a few spare minutes. Here are some links, or just scroll back through her blog for the last couple of months.

Shape and Structure
Handling emotions
Detailed discussion of a published literary short story
Sense of place

Something to look forward to

OK so we are all fed up with snow now. Thought this cartoon, from the marvellous Harold's Planet, might raise a smile. Maybe you can even use it as a story prompt...

Friday, 8 January 2010

Our beautiful country

Isn't this the most amazing image? Coped from BBC News website, this is Britain as seen from a NASA satellite yesterday.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Prima - latest Wise Words topic

The latest topic for Prima's Wise Words slot is:

If I were the Prime Minister I would...

Complete in up to 30 words, and email to including all your contact details, for the chance to win £25 for each one published.

I could finish the sentence in one word: Resign.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Writing a My Weekly Pocket Novel

If you're at all interested in writing a pocket novel for My Weekly, then this post by Sally Q is a must-read. She's written a couple, and has shared her experiences and knowledge for anyone else writing for this market. Thanks, Sally!

Official guidelines for pocket novels are on this blog, here.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you all! Hope you had a great Christmas and New Year. We certainly did. This photo was taken outside the back of our hotel on Christmas Day. Skiing was excellent, though weather conditions were somewhat changeable. We survived the attack of the relatives over New Year, and have come through it all in one piece, though with considerably lighter wallets.