Friday, 23 July 2010

Two Weeks Holiday!

Hurray! We're off to sunny Spain tomorrow, camping near Santander. Hoping for better weather than we had in Wales last year .

See y'all when I get back! Don't forget to keep sending me lots of snippets of news and articles while I'm away, so I'll have lots to post up when I'm back!

New romance novel critique service

Liz Bailey sent me this, which might interest those of you working on romance novels:

Author Elizabeth Bailey is now offering a mentoring service to help unpublished novelists achieve publication standard. Liz's credits include 18 historical romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon and a modern mainstream lite lit novel that made the Booker list in 2005. She has read and critiqued for the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writers' Scheme as well as running annual arts festival workshops and seminars for over 15 years. Actress, theatre director, playwright and experienced teacher as well as novelist, Liz is now doing editorial assessments for writers alongside writing historical crime. More details on her services from Liz at

And while we are on the subject of Mills & Boon, note they have a new competition out. See here for details. Open to all unagented writers who've not yet published a novel.

So dig out your romance, get Liz to critique it, then send it off to the M&B competition! And good luck!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

People's Friend - no more contributor copies

Bad news, folks - People's Friend will no longer be sending out contributor copies. They've put this decision down to the difficult economic climate.

Regular contributors can get a discounted subscription rate; also PF will email a PDF copy of your piece as it will appear in the magazine, if you ask for it. But no more posted free copies.

With thanks to Elizabeth for forwarding on this piece of news.

Sunday, 18 July 2010


Write from life
Lynne Hackles is running a competition to win a copy of the second edition of her How To book, Writing From Life. Go to her blog here and then follow the link to her website to find out how to enter. I have a copy of the first edition, and it's one of the most inspiring writing books I've come across. (To my shame I never got round to reviewing it on here. Shame on you, womagwriter. Shame!) Anyway, the new edition has a gorgeous purple cover, so even if you don't win the competition, it's worth buying to brighten up your bookcase, and liven up your writing.

More on Pocket Novels
Over at The Literary Project, Gemma Noon has handily pulled together Sally Q's top tips for writing pocket novels. Definitely worth taking a look. My Weekly are actively looking for new writers of pocket novels at the moment. Although the pay isn't huge, you can most likely sell the novel again to a large print publisher, then enjoy many years worth of public lending rights payments. Check out Sally's other posts on pocket novels, too.

Wacky site which might inspire you
I really like dipping into the How To Be A Retronaut site now and again. Latest post is 15 of the world's most wacky museums. How about a visit The International Banana Museum in California, anyone? There has to be a story idea in each of the museums featured...
I also particularly loved an older post, showing colour film of 1920s London.

Friday, 16 July 2010

How To... win £200 for an article

Here's an interesting site - How To books available free to read online, including some on writing which I really must investigate more thoroughly. And they are expanding - accepting How To articles on any subject for publication online. There is payment - what you get depends on how popular your subject area is, but the payment should keep coming each month once your article is online.

They're running a competition - all articles submitted during the month of July are automatically entered. The one judged the best wins £200, in addition to any money it earns from being published on the site.

I know several readers of this blog write articles as well as fiction. If you can write a How To, why not submit it to the site? Looks like a great opportunity, if you're an expert in something. Hey, you're all experts at womag writing - there's a start!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

My Weekly guidelines July-Sept 2010

With many thanks to those who forwarded these on to me!

MY WEEKLY GUIDELINES NO. 13. ( July 14 – September 8)


Hello and thanks for your continued interest in writing for My Weekly.
As I’m sure many of you know, for the past year I have been the sole member of the Fiction buying team. It has undoubtedly been as great a challenge to you as to me. And I can only thank you very much indeed for your patience.

Don’t despair if you haven’t heard from me in the past 6 months, please believe me I haven’t forgotten you. On the contrary, I’m working hard to give you the feedback all my writers need and deserve. It’s essential to produce the best My Weekly fiction.

Please read the notes below which are printed in bold as they are very important to you and me!

Maggie Seed, our My Weekly Pocket Novels Editor, is still looking for novels so don’t forget to read her words of wisdom after your usual category listings. There’s also some info on Features.


Please get back to me if your manuscript isn’t acknowledged within two days. Sometimes my mailbox closes when I receive large files and I am then unaware of manuscripts sent.

Can I please remind everyone that I can consider only one manuscript per month from authors who have already had acceptances from My Weekly.

Email, postal addresses, phone numbers etc should be marked on the manuscript or Word document

Please pay attention to the story lengths as they are important

For your manuscript to be considered, it’s imperative you mark prominently on your envelope or email into which category your story falls and how many words it is. If you don’t do this, I’m afraid your work can’t be considered.

Our author box has changed. Can you please now give me 30 words about your inspiration? Please include this on your manuscript or Word document.

Do remember NOT to include any formatting such as tabs or page breakers in your Word document.

Lastly, I am not looking for any more sci-fi themes in any of the categories, at the moment.

Happy writing!

Liz Smith
(Commissioning Fiction Editor)


As we now edit on screen, please take a moment to check your manuscript and ensure that:

Double quotes (“…”) are used for dialogue throughout
You have avoided excessive use of ellipses (…) and exclamation marks
There are only SINGLE spaces between words and sentences (please eliminate all unnecessary spaces)
To enable you to see exactly where spaces and new paragraphs occur on a Word Document, go to the tool bar at the top of your screen and find the button with the “backwards” P. It will say Show/Hide when you move your cursor over it. Clicking on this will bring up these “invisibles”.
If you are emailing your story, make sure it is as a Word attachment and not in the body of the email
You are enclosing only a SINGLE MANUSCRIPT, not several at once, and that your story is in a standard plain type of 12pt.
All manuscripts must be typewritten, with accurate wordage supplied.

How Do I Submit?
Please send stories by email to
or by post to: The Commissioning Fiction Editor, My Weekly, D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd., 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL.

What Are The Required Categories?
You’ll find our present requirements overleaf, not only the types but the lengths.

Will The Categories Remain The Same?
No, they will change as our stocks fill up in some areas and deplete in others. Therefore, if you have an idea that doesn’t suit our present requirements, don’t despair - it may do so in the future. However, please be guided by the wordage mentioned.

How Will I Know When The Categories Have Changed?
There is an expiry date at the top of the first page of these guidelines. You can then request our latest guidelines by post (please enclose an S.A.E.) or by email
Well, here are the details you’re anxiously awaiting, so get your thinking caps on and good luck!

 Display clear intent X Use black humour
 Be uplifting, have message of hope X Describe graphic violence
 Offer different points of view X Construct stand-up humour
 Have strong central characters X Rely on continuous one-liners
 Be evocative and atmospheric X Include overt sexuality or
 Use light and shade smuttiness
 Use natural, modern dialogue X Rely on formulaic predictability
 Portray relationships realistically X Construct contrived storylines
 Introduce humour where appropriate X Overlook punctuation/spelling
Try to move the reader and grammar
 Uphold family values X Use unrealistic dialogue
 Check all facts are accurate for a specific age group
 Set stories in other countries X Portray one-dimensional
X Use clich├ęd situations and dialogue


I am looking for a limited amount of Xmas/New Year stories, in all the categories, especially twist in the tale and coffee break ­– light-hearted as well as moving and heart warming (no bereavement themes, thank you!)

I have enough Hallowe’en stories in stock, but no November 5th ones

Can you please mark Xmas/New Year/Guy Fawkes’ stories clearly on your envelope or covering letter for priority reading.

LONG READS (2,500-3,000)

- Emotionally engaging
- Light and shade
- Strong continuous plot
- Intrigue
- Interwoven plot lines
- Complex relationships
- Recognisable people in recognisable situations
- Escapist
- Adventure
- Balance of surprise vs expectations

Twist In The Tale (between 1400 and 1600 words) Your Inspiration
I’m particularly looking for light-hearted themes, or very moving

- “clues” must not be misleading
- positive, pleasant outcome
- characters well rounded, need not all be likeable
- revenge must not be vindictive
- a nice surprise instead of a “con”
- ensure crime themes have emotional engagement
and some sympathetic characters.

Coffee Break (700 Words Only) Your Inspiration
I’m particularly looking for light-hearted or very moving themes

- include a frisson of excitement, hint of passion
- character studies
- unusual, offbeat subject monologues,
- humorous
- conversation – can be all dialogue
- a moment in time
- pulse racing, without being sexually explicit

Romance (1200 words + 2000 words) Your Inspiration
I’m looking for light-hearted or very romantic themes

- believable characters
- unusual theme/situations
- try not to be too predictable
- doesn’t have to have a standard happy ending
- engaging dialogue
- must still be hopeful
- inspiring
- light and shade work well
- try to ring the changes with themes
- convincing emotions


My Weekly features are written on a commission-only basis. If you have an idea you’d like to pitch to us, please email the following:
Health – Karen Byrom
Celebrity, General Features – Susan Anderson
Real Life – Sally Rodger
Fashion/beauty/diet - Audrey Patterson
Travel – Gladys Sturrock
Cookery – Alison Graves

Please address: For the Attention of Maggie Seed

Love! Romance! Passion! Adventure!
Avid fans of romantic novels can get their fix from My Weekly Pocket Novels!
Two published every fortnight.

We look for stories with a strong, developing romance between two identifiable characters. Within the time it takes to read one of the novels, we would like the reader to share and experience the breathless/breath-taking excitement of a growing relationship.
Do: Create characters our readers can identify with, rejoice with or grieve with. They can have flaws.
Do: Thrill and intrigue the reader. You have two hours (roughly) to take the reader through a gamut of emotions and resolve the dilemma, mystery, pitfalls and obstacles.
Do: Include a heart-stopping moment! Key moments to consider: She realises she likes him; she thinks he is lost to her forever; that second-chance moment when she realises happiness can be hers…THE KISS!
Some questions you might like to answer: How can she resist him? How did he misjudge her? What kind of a woman is she?
Do: Set our pulses racing (ooh la la!) BUT remember we want passion, not pornography!
Do: Use dialogue so the reader can participate in the story’s development rather than being told in large chunks of straight narrative.

Plot: There can be a secondary plot to help develop the romance. For instance, there are often complications and misunderstandings between the hero and the heroine, or there is something vital at stake, such as a child, an inheritance, a relationship etc.
Crime and intrigue can feature, as long as they don’t distract from the developing romance.
Who: Our heroines vary in age from their early twenties to middle-age and are compassionate and morally sound. They are more modern in their relationships, thoughts, feelings and experiences when the novel has a contemporary setting.
Where and When: Stories can be set anywhere in the world and can be contemporary or historical.
How: The story is usually told from the woman’s point of view, although occasionally it is from the man’s.

Please send in a synopsis and the first three chapters in manuscript form or via email.
If we wish to proceed, we will ask you to send in the full novel electronically.
Word count: around 30,000 words, no more than 32,000.
Double spacing, double quotes, single space only between full stop and next sentence. No tabs or page breakers.
If accepted for publication the completed novel must be presented electronically in a format compatible with ours (i.e., Word or rich text format)

Please send to:
My Weekly Pocket Novels
D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd.,
80 Kingsway East
Dundee DD4 8SL

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Salt Publishing

I was interested to read on The Literary Project earlier today that Salt Publishing are planning to start a new imprint for romances. It's to be edited by poet and author Jane Holland whose mother and sister were both romance writers, so we can assume she knows what she's doing!

But Salt, like so many other independent small publishers, struggles to keep going. Last year (or was it the year before?) they launched the Just One Book initiative, asking everyone who wishes to see small publishers survive to buy just one book from them. Ideally direct from the publisher. Since then, I've made a point of buying books from small publishers and have read some gems (see my brief reviews on my books blog).

This year, Salt are 10 years old and still feeling the pinch of the recession. So they've launched the Just One More Book initiative. If you care, buy a book and pass the message on. Especially if you've a romance novel tucked away in a drawer that you are thinking of submitting to them some day...

Six months on...

The 100 Stories for Haiti project has raised thousands for the Red Cross. The book is still available to buy, and the need to raise more money and more awareness is as strong as ever.

See here for the background and a link to where you can buy the book. Bi-weekly podcasts about the project are here.

Or just make a donation direct to the Red Cross, here.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Positive Words

From Sandra James, news of a non-paying Australian market which may be of interest to some of you. Here's her email to me:

Like you, I have been writing stories for women’s magazines for a few years although not as prolifically. I’ve had stories in My Weekly, Woman’s Day (Aus), That’s Life, online and in literary journals and until a year ago, when I moved house, was teaching several writing groups at community centres here in Australia. In 2002, I realised many of my students and fellow writers were becoming discouraged at the limited publication opportunities and decided to start my own magazine for writers. I was a single parent with limited funds, so raised the initial cash selling crafts, plants etc at local markets. The result – Positive Words magazine – has been published every month since November 2002 featuring stories, poems and articles from writers all over Australia as well as the UK, Spain, Luxembourg, USA, New Zealand and Africa. It is sold by subscription and only just manages to cover printing and postage costs (I don’t draw any wage etc), but is hanging in there and providing a great publication opportunity for writers. I have seen some great results, especially when new writers are first published and, of course, from my own experience it all adds up and helps to build confidence. (Hence the Positive - it's all about doing something positive instead of leaving work on a drawer or on the computer.)

I thought some of your followers might be interested. Unfortunately, there is no money for payment but published contributors receive a complimentary copy of magazine. Of course, subscriptions are very, very welcome but contributors do not have to be subscribers although subscriptions help to keep it going, which hasn’t been easy.

Sandra James
Editor: Positive Words magazine
PO Box 798
Heathcote 3523
Victoria Australia

Email enquiries are always welcome at but stories must be sent by post.

International subscription rates for POSITIVE WORDS
Single issue……………$8.00 (Australian) includes postage
Six month subscription………$45.00 (Australian) includes postage
Twelve month subscription……….$88.00 (Australian) includes postage
Sample copy........3 x International Reply Coupons(available from Post Offices)
# For gift subscriptions please send the relevant amount together with address and details of the occasion (birthday, Christmas etc) and the relevant issues with a suitable card will be forwarded to the recipient.
# Payment should be via bank draft drawn on an Australian bank and made out to Sandra James or Rainbow Press (not POSITIVE WORDS). Some people choose to send cash and lthough I have not had any problems over the past eight years, it is at your own risk.
## Alternatively, subscriptions etc can be organised by direct deposit. Please contact me at the address below if you would like to use this option.

Selection Criteria
Positive Words publishes poetry, short stories and articles. Preference is given to poems up to one page and stories and articles up to 1000 words. Please remember that Positive Words is a family magazine and submissions should reflect this (i.e. no bad language or explicit sex scenes). Submissions should be in hard copy first although an email copy will be requested, once accepted, where possible. Please include an addressed envelope and IRC for return and notification. (or an email address)
Positive Words magazine – Sandra James (Editor), PO Box 798, Heathcote 3523, Victoria, Australia.

I like the idea of providing a publishing opportunity for new writers - we all need to start somewhere. Thanks for this, Sandra, and best of luck with the magazine. You've done well to keep it going since 2002 - long may it continue!

Short Story Tutorial

Sally Z's short story tutorial continues with part 5 on Words, words and more words. Click here for the full set so far. If you're a word-freak (and aren't we all, being writers?) you might also like to check out World Wide Words and sign up for their weekly newsletter.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Cosy Crime

Sally Q has written a post here on the dos and don'ts of writing cosy crime stories and novellas.

As cosy crime stories are required by most of the womags, it's a must-read for all!

Monday, 5 July 2010

Womag gossip

1. With thanks to Norman for this - it seems Liz Smith at My Weekly might be finally getting on top of submissions, after what's been a tough year for her, being left as the only fiction editor there. She accepted one of his stories only three days after he subbed it, which has to be some kind of record! She is still considering stories sent months ago as well, so don't worry if you haven't heard. Just be patient (which I suspect may be the most important trait for any womag writer).

2. While on the subject of My Weekly, I note I failed to pass on the last set of guidelines. I believe they are only valid till next week anyway, so there's not much point posting them here now. Please, if you receive the next set soon, send me a copy for the blog! I'm not actively chasing guideline updates myself any more. (I don't mind getting hundreds of emails forwarding the guidelines - it'll make me feel loved if nothing else.) Note My Weekly are sadly still not able to accept submisions from writers they have not previously bought from.

3. With thanks to Patsy - it seems Ireland's Own is a bit swamped with material at the moment, so only the most outstanding stories will stand a chance of being accepted, and even then it'll be a long wait to publication. Probably best giving that market a miss for a while.

4. Finally, do go look at Patsy's blog, where she often posts details of competitions of interest to romance or womag writers. She's also a brilliant photographer, and you might find story inspiration in the photos on her blog.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

The Lady/M&B - National Trust competition

With thanks to Linda who sent me these details -

Mills and Boon are running a compeition in conjunction with The Lady magazine and The National Trust.

The theme is to create a romantic short story using a National Trust venue as a setting. The deadline is 31 July and the wordcount is 1500-2000 words (max 2000). The winning entry will be published in The Lady and the runner up will receive a hamper of books worth £200. Entry and competition terms and conditions can be found on The Lady website.

(For overseas blog readers, the competition is open to anyone worldwide. The National Trust is a charity dedicated to preserving the best bits of British heritage, whether it's a stately home or a beautiful piece of countryside. Take a look at their website to find an inspirational setting for your story.)

Updated 7th July to correct the details re maximum word count, thanks Ruth!

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Woman's Weekly - latest news

Those of you on Woman's Weekly's mailing list will have had an email containing the following information, but here it is for the rest of you. Thanks to those blog readers who forwarded it as well.

As I mentioned in the last post, serials can now be 3 or 4 parts. WW would like new serial writers. Serials should reflect real life and be compelling, with a MC whose problem is not resolved until the very end. They're not looking for romance or chick lit, or anything too action-packed. I believe pay is quite good for serials so why not give it a go?

WW particularly need 2-page stories at the moment, length 1700-2000 words. No less than 1700. No longer than 2000. Please avoid sending odd length stories of 1300-1700 as they don't fit either one page or two page slots. Also required are longer, 5000-8000 word stories for the fiction specials.

If sending a story by email, do ensure you include the story info (title and word count) and your name and contact details on the story document itself, and not just in the covering email. We've discussed this before - put your contact details EVERYWHERE!

Before sending your story, do check it for unintentional tense changes or characters whose names vary. Try my read-it-aloud tip to spot these mistakes?

WW like double quote marks for speech, and single for thoughts. It'll make their life easier if submissions are already formatted in this way!

Edited 13/7/10 to amend 2-pager word counts following some clarification from BigFatLion.