Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year!

It's a grey and murky New Year's Eve down here on the south coast, but I'm sure tonight will be sparkly and merry at my neighbour's New Year's Eve party. While I wait until it's time to get ready to go out, I thought I'd come up with some new year's resolutions and look back on last year's.

Last year, my writing resolutions were to complete a first draft of my novel by the end of June, and finish the edits by the end of the year. I'm delighted to say I achieved both goals, and in December sent my novel to a literary appraisal agency to get a critique of the whole thing. I'm still waiting to hear back - no doubt there'll be a lot of work to do on the novel before I can start sending it to agents or publishers.

My non-writing resolutions for 2011 were to keep running every week if possible and increase my distances until I could run 10km. By March I was able to run 10km, so that resolution held too!

So, what are my aims for 2012?

  1. Lose 10kg by the end of the year. Not by following any strict diet but by changing my eating (and drinking!) habits.

  2. Keep up the exercise - swim most weeks, run most weeks, try out a Zumba class.

  3. With hubby, do up the living room.

  4. Write a story a fortnight until the end of March, and get them sent out.

  5. Develop my idea for a new novel, and start writing it. By the end of the year, be about half way through the first draft.

Did you achieve your aims for 2011? What are you targetting in 2012?

Happy New Year to all my blog readers, and may 2012 bring you everything you are hoping for!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Things to do before you go back to work

Bored of leftover turkey and TV yet? I'm not, but in case you're needing something to do this week here's a couple of suggestions:

1. Try Sally's 100 question quiz to wake up your brain.

2. Decide on your New Year's writing resolutions for 2012 - remember to make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-framed). I'll be posting mine up at the end of the week, and reflecting on last year's resolutions.

3. And while you're at it, think of a new year resolution that's gone wrong, write a 250-word story about it, and enter Della's little competition to win a signed copy of her new book Moving On. Free entry, email your story to Della by 10am on 4th January.

4. If you're stuck for resolution ideas, consider entering Sally's 100k in 100 days challenge. Starting 1st January, write 100,000 words in 100 days - this can be a novel, a couple of pocket novels, several short stories or articles.

By the way, skiing was fab. Plenty of lovely soft powder snow - we needn't have worried!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

So here it is... Merry Christmas!

OK so it's not quite Christmas yet, but I'll be off on the annual Christmas skiing trip on Saturday so this will be my last chance to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! We're off to Austria this year, and have been watching the snow reports nervously, half resigned to it being a walking holiday rather than skiing. Thankfully the lifts have been running and more snow is due over the next couple of days so we could be in luck after all. Keep your skis and poles crossed for us, folks!

I've a few items of news for you:

Helen Hunt is running a Hop On, Hop Off writing course next year - there are five modules you can take in any order on dates which suit you. £100 for the full set but there's a hefty discount if you sign up before the end of this year. She's an excellent tutor and has sold dozens of stories to the womags so this course is well worth signing up for. It doesn't matter where you live - this course runs online! Full details on her website here.

Everyone who's anyone seems to be getting their pocket novels republished as large print books these days! Sally Quilford's My True Companion will hit the libraries on 1st January, and Douglas McPherson's Nashville Cinderella (written under the psuedonym Julia Douglas - he doesn't mind me 'outing' him!) is also about to come out. The books are also available directly from Ulverscroft - a great Christmas present idea!

Check out also Sally Q's author page on Amazon - many of her pocket novels are available for Kindle. You don't need an actual Kindle to read them - you can download free software for your pc here. Oh look, Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After is available as an ebook!

Talking of Tears and Laughter - check out our blog where all the authors are writing about the inspiration behind the stories in the anthology. There's a new post every few days.

And finally, win yourself an Arvon writing course in 2012. Here's how (with thanks to Kath aka Kate Hogan). 2000 words on the theme of 'identity', by 14th February, prize is £500 plus a place on an Arvon course. Free to enter!

Right, well that was a bit of a link-fest. Hope Santa brings you everything you asked for, hope your Christmas Day is merry and bright, and may my week before Christmas be white!

Added 10:30pm - just seen that Helen Yendall came 2nd in Best's fiction competition - well done Helen! Winner was Brenda Reid. Stories are published in the current issue of Best, out now.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Della's new blog

Another must-read blog to add to your favourites! Della Galton has added a blog to her website. Go read it to find out what she got up to on a recent solo writing retreat.

"Solo writing retreat." Don't those three words make you green with envy? Think I must have been a hermit monk in a past life.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

That's Life - WF interview with fiction editor

The latest (January 2012) issue of Writers' Forum includes one of those marvellous Meet the Editor articles, this one written by Glynis Scrivens and the subject is Anthony Lambert of Australia's That's Life and Fast Fiction. Here's a brief summary of the main points, but as always do consider buying the magazine - it's on sale in WHSmith or you can subscribe via the link above.

  • Categories include romance, thriller, light bite, sixth sense, heartwarmer, revenge and tear jerker.

  • Stories vary from 700 words (1 page) to 2800 words (4 pages)

  • Stories need to be credible. Check everything actually works in your story.

  • Setting should usually be Australia unless there's a real need for the setting to be elsewhere eg a Scottish castle

  • Male viewpoint stories are welcome

  • Send seasonal stories six months in advance (and remember Aussie seasons are opposite to those in the UK!)

  • You can submit by email, and should receive an auto-response acknowledging your submission

  • Stories previously published elsewhere in the world (not Australia or New Zealand) are welcome, but Anthony will buy second rights for these, so you will earn less. (Beware, the UK Woman's Weekly is on sale in Australia.)

  • Anthony keeps a stock of shortlisted stories to fill gaps. But if you haven't had a response after six months assume your story is rejected. You are welcome to resubmit if you think the story is particularly good.
The basic guidelines are unchanged since this post so I won't repeat them.

Email submissions to

Monday, 28 November 2011

My blog post on Tears and Laughter blog

I've written a post about the inspiration behind my two stories in Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After - please see here.

Also, I'm delighted to see this blog has over 500 followers! Welcome to followers #500 and #501; you've made my day!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Amazon Reviews

Superb post here by Anne Allen on Amazon reviews. In an ideal world, everyone who ever posts book reviews on Amazon would read this article.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Tears and Laughter Blog

Just a quick post to say the Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After blog is now up and running, and over the coming weeks we'll be posting about our inspiration for the stories in the book. I find reading about how other people came to write a story often sparks ideas of my own, so I hope you enjoy following this blog. I'll be posting there next week.

Also, if you've bought and enjoyed the Kindle edition of the book, please do consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you're waiting for the paperback - it should be released soon! I'll post again when it's published.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Could you write a comedy script?

If so, why not enter Circalit's competition - write a 3-5 minute comedy sketch, and the prize is to have it produced by an award-winning producer.
(If you think you can't write a script, why not dig out one of your humorous stories and try converting that. Plenty of tips here on how to write a screenplay.)

If scripts don't appeal in any way, it's still worth having a look at the Circalit competition pages - they are running a wide variety of comps at the moment, from pitching a feature film to 500-word flash fiction comps. Some of the comps are even free to enter!

Edited 23/11/11 - also look at BBC Writersroom for tips on script-writing.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

100k in 100 days?

Could you write 100,000 words in 100 days? That's an average of just 1000 words a day, which isn't too daunting, is it? Sally Quilford is setting up a challenge to run from 1st January, for, well, 100 days of course! You can write anything to make up the 100,000 - a novel, two novellas, 100 short stories or articles -whatever you like.

For more details and to sign up, go here.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Tears and Laughter - Kindle edition now available!

I am delighted to announce that the Kindle edition of Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After is now published!

You can buy it here for just £2.99. A bargain for all short story lovers!

(If you don't have a Kindle, you can download a free Kindle app for your computer, ipad, iphone, other smartphone. See here for details.)

If you're a good old fashioned paper-book lover or just prefer to read in the bath, I'm sorry but you'll need to wait a little longer for the paperback.

We're also on Facebook, Twitter and we have a website. We'll soon be blogging regularly on the website - make sure you follow us to hear about the inspiration behind the stories!

‘Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After’, a vibrant collection of wonderful stories from some outstanding UK writers.

Twenty-six stories that encompass the dizzying heights of happiness, the heartbreaking depths of sadness and every emotion in between.

A housewife with a surprising secret
A beekeeper with a problem
A most unusual undertaker
Angels, ghosts, aliens

Find these and many other intriguing characters in ‘Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After’.

The writers included in this book have had hundreds of short stories published in women’s magazines, won or been placed in dozens of competitions, published novels and written non-fiction for many UK magazines. The idea for the book came from the successful ‘A Story A Fortnight’ writing group which brought the writers together in a project which has inspired and supported them in their short story writing.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Home For Christmas: Guest Post by Cally Taylor

With extraordinary good timing, my copy of Cally Taylor's new novel Home For Christmas arrived in the post today. What a gorgeous sparkly cover! Makes me want to get the Christmas tree out already! Cally is offering some fabulous prizes just for 'liking' her facebook page - go to her blog here for all the details.

The post which follows is an updated version of an article by
Helen Hunt which appeared in Writers' Forum a couple of years ago, reproduced by kind permission from the author.

Cally Taylor's second novel, the romantic comedy ‘Home for Christmas’, was published by Orion in November 2011. The novel, set in Brighton, follows Beth and Matt as they examine their love lives, jobs and living situations in their search for happiness. Cally says, 'I really wanted to write a novel about the lengths people are prepared to go to in their search for happiness. In a lot of chicklit novels that search is centred around the main character’s love life but I wanted this novel to be more true to life – more rounded – because it’s normally a combination of factors that leads to our happiness (or unhappiness!).

Cally is now working on a synopsis for her third novel but in her early days as a writer she wrote a very different sort of fiction. Cally honed her craft writing short stories for magazines and competitions, and many of the skills she developed have helped immensely in her novel writing.

'Openings are hugely important in short stories,' she says. 'You’ve only got seconds to grab the attention of a busy editor and convince them to continue reading your story. An opening to a novel is equally important. When you’re subbing your novel to agents your manuscript will end up in a huge pile of submissions so you need to grab their attention. If the beginning of your novel isn’t strong they’ll just pick up the next manuscript. When you've got an agent that same opening has to appeal to an editor and, ultimately, a customer browsing in a bookshop.'

Pace is also vital in both short stories and novels, according to Cally, 'With a short story you’ve got a limited number of words in which to tell your story. You can’t spend ages on the beginning and rush the middle and ending – they have to be evenly weighted. Short story writing taught me that description can slow a story whilst dialogue can speed it up. Using a mix of long and short sentences also helps vary pace. By writing short stories you learn to sense whether the pace is right, and when you’re writing a novel you can apply the same principles to scenes. If a scene seems to be dragging, it probably is!

'That’s where editing comes in – when I was writing short stories I learnt to never send off a story until I’d read it aloud at least once. When you write you ‘hear’ your words internally. It’s not until you read them aloud that you hear them as a reader would.

'Another important part of editing is ruthless cutting. Frequently, I pruned short stories from 3,000 to 2,000 words in order to hit a particular word limit. I had to apply that same ruthlessness when I edited my first novel “Heaven Can Wait” from a 100,000 word first draft to a much less baggy 80,000 words. Every word should count and if a particular scene bores you it’ll bore the reader, so cut it or rewrite it until it sparkles!'

Writing short stories can also help you build up a writing track record which will appeal to agents. 'If you’ve fought off competition from other writers to win a prize in a competition that proves that you can write well. A list of magazines that have accepted your stories shows the agent that your work has been vetted, and accepted, by a professional editor. A writing CV shows you can produce polished, professional fiction and that’s definitely attractive to an agent.'

Cally's novels are aimed at women of all ages who like romance, a laugh and maybe a little cry too. Cally says, 'I think my short stories appeal to the same audience. I aim to touch the reader emotionally. If they laugh or cry I’ve done a good job. A couple of the magazines I write for have included a brief mention of my novels at the end of the story which is useful for publicity, but my main hope is that women who enjoy my short stories might see my novel in a bookshop and think, “Oh, I read a lovely short story by Cally Taylor once. I’ll see what her novel’s like.”'

The biggest challenge in moving to novel length writing is stamina, Cally thinks. 'The short stories I write tend to be about 2,000 words and I can finish one in one sitting. Writing a novel is a much longer process and I initially found it strange to spend so much time with the same set of characters. Writing a novel takes an enormous amount of determination, motivation and energy. Almost every writer I know gets to a point in a novel when they have a fantastic idea for a new novel and are tempted to ditch the one they’re working on and start again. That’s particularly tempting when you’re used to writing short stories, but you must push on and reach the end. It’s normal to fall out of love with a novel while you’re writing it but you’ll inevitably fall back in love with it again.'

Cally has some advice for anyone thinking of writing a novel. 'I’m not much of a plotter,' she says. 'I tend to know the beginning and the ending and let the characters tell me how to get there. But breaking your idea into chapters can be helpful as it reduces it to manageable chunks. Try not to be over-awed by how long a novel is and set yourself little targets like “I’ll write 500 words today,” or “I’m going to keep writing until I finish this scene”. Writing is such a solitary business that joining a writing group can be helpful too. You can swap notes with other writers, encourage each other to keep going or even challenge each other to write a certain number of words by a certain date.'

Cally sees herself continuing to write short stories as well as novels, and sees advantages to both. 'With novels you’ve got more freedom, and a lot more words, to flesh out your characters,' she says. 'I get to know my characters so well when I’m writing a novel that they’re like real people to me. Because you’ve spent so much time with them you grow to care for them – which makes it much harder to throw obstacles in their path and do horrible things to them! It’s important that you find something likeable – or fascinating in the case of the ‘baddies’ – in the characters in your novels because you have to spend so much time with them. Characters in short stories are more like snap shots than fully-rounded characters, but on the plus side, with short stories you’re constantly creating new characters and dipping into their lives.

'With novels you can explore sub-plots – something you don’t have time for with short stories – and you can play with structure and point of view. With ‘Home for Christmas’ I was able to tell the story from the point of view of TWO main characters – one male, one female - and that was hugely enjoyable.

'In a novel you’re exploring a period of time in great depth. You can take your time building up to an emotional punch. With shorter fiction you’re stripping out everything extraneous to that punch and getting there faster.'

‘I’ll keep writing short stories though,' Cally says, ‘because I love writing them and because it’s so fulfilling to create something finished in a relatively short time! A lot of the ideas I have aren’t suitable for a novel – either because they don’t fit within the genre I write, or because they’re too skant to support 80,000 words – but are ideal for short stories. And I never ignore what I hope is a great idea!'

'Editing is very different from writing a first draft.,' Cally says. 'It’s much more logical and clinical, so it doesn’t take long before I crave the buzz I get from writing. Short stories are like a little writing fix and help break up the, sometimes tedious, editing process.'

Cally's come a long way in her writing career, and at the moment life is really hectic. 'There’s a lot to juggle,' she says. 'I have a day job, I’m promoting “Home for Christmas”, a short story anthology called ‘Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After’ that I’m involved with and I’m putting together a synopsis for novel 3. Oh yes, and there’s another novel that I’ve been working on (20,000 words written so far) that I’ve had to put on the back burner since giving birth to my first child at the beginning of October! If the press report a huge rise in coffee sales in Bristol you’ll know why!'

Some things stand out as making all the hard work worthwhile. ‘I recently received a beautiful, sparkly copy of ‘Home for Christmas’. When I’m having a stressful day and the phone won’t stop ringing, the baby is crying, emails are clogging up my inbox or I’m struggling to edit a scene I look at that book and I’m reminded how extraordinarily lucky I am.'

Beth Prince has always loved fairytales and now, aged twenty-four, she feels like she's finally on the verge of her own happily ever after. She lives by the seaside, works in the Picturebox - a charming but rundown independent cinema - and has a boyfriend who's so debonair and charming she can't believe her luck! There's just one problem - none of her boyfriends have ever told her they love her and it doesn't look like Aiden's going to say it any time soon. Desperate to hear 'I love you' for the first time Beth takes matters into her own hands - and instantly wishes she hadn't. Just when it seems like her luck can't get any worse, bad news arrives in the devilishly handsome shape of Matt Jones. Matt is the regional director of a multiplex cinema and he's determined to get his hands on the Picturebox by Christmas. Can Beth keep her job, her man and her home or is her romantic-comedy life about to turn into a disaster movie?
Buy ‘Home for Christmas’ on

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Nanowrimo - guest post by Brittany Lyons

It's that time of year again when the mad amongst us are scribbling furiously in an attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Blogger Brittany Lyons offered me a guest post about the Nano challenge, how it began and what you can get out of it. She also mentions a challenge set by to write a 600-word story in a month - come on, all of you can manage that!

Or write a 500-word story, and enter it in Tesco's current competition to win a Kindle. Write a lot this month or write a little - it's up to you but write something and make it count!

OK, here's Brittany's post and I hope it inspires you all!

Nanowrimo - a Challenge of Epic Proportions

If you love to write bu have trouble forcing yourself to sit down and just do it, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, may be for you. NaNoWriMo is a fun contest that takes place every November, in which participants attempt to write 50,000 words in one month. Anyone who makes it to the goal of 50,000 words before November 30 “wins” the contest, and is award with a badge for their blog, Facebook profile, or wherever else they want to put it. But it's not really about winning—it's about writing.

2011 marks the 13th annual NanoWriMo contest. Last year saw over 200,000 participants—an overwhelming number compared to the first NanoWriMo contest in 1999. The contest began as a private challenge between founder Chris Baty, a writer living in San Francisco Bay, and 20 of his friends. Baty's friends didn't have writing PhDs, but they all enjoyed reading and wondered whether they could complete a novel in a month. Since “The Great Gatsby” was a group favorite, the group decided that any work the same size as this classic—50,000 words—would count as a novel. Six of the original 21 participants completed their novels by the end of the month.

The contest has grown over the last 13 years from a personal challenge to a social event. NanoWriMo has an official website where participants can keep track of how many words they've written and how close they are to their goal. The website also offers forums where writers can discuss their work and difficulties they have with the writing process, and socialize with other writers. In addition to online forums, writers can learn about and attend "write-in" events at local libraries and independent bookstores, where they can meet other writers in person.

The event's primary purpose is to jump start your novel writing, and so it focuses on quantity, not quality. Anybody can succeed at NaNoWriMo if they write 1,667 words a day, all month long. Some professional writers object to this, saying that even though a writer can produce a finished book in 30 days, it's unlikely that the book is ready for publication. However, this objection misses the point of the competition. NaNoWriMo isn't about creating a finished book; it's about getting
that all-important first draft out of the way. Once NaNoWriMo is over, writers can work on revising their novels and getting them ready for publication, if they so desire. Some NaNoWriMo-inspired novels have been published and have even been successful.

Because NaNoWriMo focuses on word count rather than the story itself, it has also attracted bloggers, poets and short story writers looking for help with establishing a regular writing routine. Those 1,667 words a day don't have to be directed toward a novel, as evidenced by the self-publishing company's NaNoWriMo short story contest. The contest encourages participants to write, polish, and self-publish a 600-word story. At the end of the month, the selected winners receive great prizes like the Barnes and Noble NOOK and up to $500 in cash. So even if you aren't a novelist and never intend to become one, NaNoWriMo is a great way to both
get involved with the writing community and motivate yourself.

It's very easy to sign up for NaNoWriMo. Simply go to their website, choose a username, and provide your email address. You can report your progress on a daily basis, and even share excerpts from your work in progress if you wish. Between November 25 and November 30, participants upload their novels to validate word counts, and anyone with 50,000 words get the winning graphic—and the satisfaction of having reached a huge goal.

Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog. She blogs at

And if you think it's too late this year, there's always next year. Thanks, Brittany!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Writing women's fiction podcast

Ian from National Short Story Week offered a podcast on writing women's fiction for this blog. Well, I almost bit his hand off in accepting it!

He says: It is one of three online radio specials of broadcaster Sue Cook's programme for writers, "The Write Lines". The Women's Fiction programme is a panel discussion with Rowan Coleman, Sophie King and Sue Moorcroft and is packed with tips, insights and suggestions.

The other programmes are on British Short Stories and Children's Fiction. You can listen to all of them here or click below for the Women's Fiction one.

If you enjoy listening to fiction can I also recommend the Women Aloud CD of short stories - buy it here and see a review of it by Helen Hunt here.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Happy Birthday Woman's Weekly!

WW is 100 years old. The issue now out in the shops is the centenary issue, and contains a facsimile of the first ever WW, dated 4th November 2011! It's a real collector's edition - get out there and buy it, everyone!

In 1911 the magazine included:

  • cartoons showing why 'a woman's work is never done'

  • lace and crochet instructions

  • the first parts of two serials

  • a full page advertorial for Antipon, a fat-reducing medicine

  • 'pin money pages' - readers' recipes

  • real love stories - readers are invited to send in their stories of how they met their partners, and all those published receive 'a charming little jewel-box'

  • several dress patterns for women and children

  • 'I agree, do the housekeeping yourself!' - a story of how the complaining husband managed the home

  • an article 'How to become a nurse'

So - not too far removed from the kind of thing you'd expect in a current magazine!

As well as the facsimile, there's also reprints of problem page letters and ads from the past century, and lots of features comparing 'then and now'.

It's a lovely magazine - loads in it, especially for history lovers like myself. With enormous thanks to my lovely mum for alerting me to this very special edition.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Christmas is coming...

Oh yes it is! It's November now, time to start thinking about presents and turkeys and baubles.

And books - Cally Taylor's second novel is about to hit the shops. It's entitled Home For Christmas and sounds like the perfect stocking filler for everyone you know who enjoys romantic comedy.

Cally's asking bloggers to help launch her book, by blogging on 10th November on the theme of 'All I want for Christmas'. See here for details and to get involved. She'll be guest posting for me next week as well. All that and caring for a newborn baby as well - what a superwoman!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Tears, competition, laughter, pocket novels, happy ever after

A few bits and pieces for you -

How about this - an estate agency running a writing competition! Well, we all have to branch out, I suppose. Anyway, the competition is being run by Peter Barry agency; the theme is, perhaps not surprisingly, 'Moving Home'; the closing date is 12th December and the top prize is £750. There's no entry fee and you can email your stories, so there's nothing to lose! Full details here

Sally Q and some other writers of pocket novels have set up a blog dedicated to the art of the 50,000 word romance. Here it is and may I especially draw your attention to Sally's superb post on Conflict which is as applicable to short stories as it is to pocket novels. If you're a writer of pocket novels or a wannabe writer of them, this blog is definitely one to follow.

And finally, I'm delighted and proud to announce the launch of the Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After website! Yes I know I've linked to it before, but there's a lot more on it now, including profiles of all the authors (including me) and tasters of some of the stories. The website was built by the incredibly talented Leigh. The book is due out as an ebook before Christmas and as a paperback soon after. I'll post again (of course!) when it is available; or sign up on the website to be the first to hear.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

I've fallen in love...

... with Wimborne Minster, the dear little town only half an hour's drive from me, which held its first ever Literary Festival today

... with Malcolm of Gullivers Bookshop who organised the event, and indeed with the bookshop itself

... with Martin Brown who illustrates the Horrible Histories, whose energetic talk kicked off the festival. There were lots of kids in the audience for this one. Everyone was given a drawing pad and pen, and he had us all drawing faces, and giving them expressions to make them come alive. Well I'm used to giving my written characters voices and actions to make them come alive, but it was great fun trying the same thing with rough cartoon sketches!

... with the books of Elizabeth Cooke, Imogen Parker and Natasha Solomons . All three authors spoke brilliantly about their writing careers and their books. I already had a couple of their books but ended up buying several more, as you do. My TBR pile is ridiculously high now.

All in all I had a great day out. Three members of my writing class were there too, so we had a lovely lunch together, following which I am sorely tempted to buy this .

A blog reader was there too, and somehow recognised me - Excuse me, but are you womagwriter? she said. My fame spreads. Hello Beryl - I said I'd give you a mention!

Hopefully this will become an annual event. I'll definitely go next year. I had such a lovely day - these local events are definitely worth supporting. I've come back inspired to write more, read more and go to more literary events. Wish there were more hours in the day!

The lovely Malcolm also promised to give Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After a push when it is published. Ebook coming in November, paperback early next year. I'll post more on this later, you can be sure of that!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Historical short stories - guest post by Joanna Barnden

I'm a fan of historical fiction - just as well as that's what I'm writing! I like to read historical short stories too. So when Joanna Barnden, womag writer and historical novelist, offered a guest post for this blog I asked her to do something on writing historical short stories for the women's magazines. Here's the result - many thanks, Joanna!

Please do go and visit her website. She's sold about 150 short stories, and runs writing courses and offers critiques at a very reasonable rate. Her novel is currently with an agent.

Writing historical fiction

Magazine editors are always asking for that terrible conundrum – stories that are both recognisable AND original. Providing such a tale is the great challenge for the womag writer and given the scarcity of original plots, one of the best ways of livening up a story is with its setting.

This is usually thought of as a matter of geography and, indeed, I always urge anyone who has visited (or better still lived in) an unusual place to use it in their fiction, but of course there are myriad places to visit if we consider the idea of setting historically.

Historical fiction is very popular at the moment and whilst it’s a genre that does lend itself to novels, there is room for short stories too. ‘Oh but the research!’ I hear you cry and yes, that is a concern, but in a well written short story centred around an exciting character, a few facts coupled with a decent imagination can go a very long way. With the wonders of the web at our fingertips it’s never been easier to find out about Victorian England or Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Scotland, or even penal Australia – so what are you waiting for?!

Here are a few benefits and pitfalls of historical fiction:


- Readers love learning about new places and, to some extent, facts so use that to give them a world they know little about.
- Social and legal differences in past times can give you a whole new set of tensions to play with. People love historical romance because there are so many more social obstacles in a couple’s way. Equally, historical crime can be fascinating because of differences in the justice system and, perhaps more crucially, in forensic knowledge. A very simple thing like setting a story in a world without phones can make a huge difference to its dynamic.
- Going back in time can also give you a whole new set of personal problems for your
characters to deal with. Going to war is the obvious one, but there are many more – such as going into service, or into the workhouse or being present at a key historical event.


- It is very easy to get carried away with your setting, especially if it fascinates you. Do NOT let your setting dominate and do NOT fill your story with facts. You must present the world as your character sees it, and much of what is intriguing to you as the writer (and to your readers) will be totally normal to them, so present it subtly.
- A strong, engaging character is crucial, as is a decent plot arc. A clever setting is not enough – you still need a vibrant STORY.

So who takes historical fiction?

You’d be surprised! People’s Friend is the only magazine that openly invites historical submissions, both for short stories and serials (though they are a little overloaded with the latter at the moment), but plenty of others will consider it if well done.

People’s Friend like all historical fiction as long as it’s set in a socially recognisable world, so after about 1700.

Women’s Weekly are always on the hunt for originality and are quite happy to consider stories set in any period as long as they are ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’ – a good maxim for any story but especially pertinent for historical fiction which must be vivid and not just a dry description of a different time.

Yours like stories set in previous eras but more ‘nostalgia’ than ‘history’ (though who’s to say where the former becomes the latter!) As a rule of thumb they’d be unlikely to take anything pre-

My Weekly will consider historical stories, though they are still only accepting work from writers previously published with them.

The Weekly News tends to prefer modern fiction, though anything in the last century would probably be fine.

Take a Break are pretty resolutely modern day, though they do welcome a good ghost, so perhaps that offers a historical angle for the clever writer?

So, if you fancy trying out a new era, I’d urge you to give it a go, but do remember that your period, however fascinating it may seem to you, is ultimately little more than a background for your vital story ingredient: your character and their personal, emotional journey.

Great article, Joanna - lots to think about there! I sold a partly historical story to My Weekly once - it was set partly in 1850s Ireland and partly in the modern day. I also sold a ghost story with a historical (WW2) angle to Take A Break's Fiction Feast, so I think you are right suggesting that's the way to go to get history into TAB!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

National Poetry Day today

To celebrate my birthday
which happens to be today
I thought I'd write a post to say
It's National Poetry day!

To give you something new to try
I thought it would be fun
To ask you write all comments in rhyme
This post could run and run!

As you see I'm not a poet
Just as well I know it.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

News round-up

1. NAWG short story competition, closing date 31st October, 1st prize £250, to be judged by Linda Lewis. Entry fee £5, for an additional £3 Linda will provide a detailed crit of your story. Full details here (scroll down).

2. Helen Hunt's next writing workshop is entitled Moving On. To be held on 29th October in Northampton, fee £35 which includes lunch. Full details on her blog here.

3. As part of National Short Story Week (November 7th to 13th) a charity audiobook of women's short stories entitled Women Aloud has now been launched. Two hours of stories for £9.99 - details here. Some top names have contributed stories to this anthology. It's the first time I've heard of an audiobook of short stories and I think it's a great idea! Play them in the car on long journeys or buy as a gift for your mum/aunt/grandmother.

4. And some magazine guideline updates - clarification on required story lengths for Australian That's Life Fast Fiction - the editor buys mostly 700-800 word one-page stories, and 1200-word two-pagers. He also occasionally buys longer stories of about 2700 to spread across four pages.

5. Woman's Weekly Fiction Special is increasing to 12 issues a year from 10. They'll need more stories! Pop over to Helen Yendall's excellent blog here for their latest letter to contributors to see what they do and don't want right now.

6. And while you're looking at Helen's blog, see also her series of Magazine Madness posts in which she describes dozens of markets for fillers and letters.

There you are - plenty for everyone and I've caught up with passing on all the lovely snippets and bits of news people have sent me. Thanks to all who've been in contact lately - much appreciated.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Bad girl anti-chicklit

When I get my Kindle, which will be next week for my 21st-ish birthday, I'm going to download Sally Q's pocket novels onto it first. I missed them when they were out in print, and don't feel old enough to borrow large print books from the library just yet, so at 98p the Kindle downloads look like a bargain.

Then I'm going to download womag writer Sarah England's book Expected, now available as an ebook. She describes it as humourous bad girl anti-chicklit, which sounds like just the thing to make me chuckle embarrassingly while on the train to work...

I think this is where epublishing comes into its own. To provide a market for writing which is overlooked by mainstream publishers - such as novellas or quirky books publishers are too afraid to take a chance on. We can easily buy the marketing-backed books on the 3 for 2 tables, but books on a smaller budget need word-of-mouth and benefit from the instant accessibility you get with downloads. I wonder, would themed short story collections do well as ebooks - what do you think? Would you buy them?

Wednesday, 28 September 2011


If I can work out how to do it I'll make this a sticky page at the top of my blog.

There are dozens of 'how to write' books out there - here are a few I recommend for writers of women's magazine fiction. I own and have read most of these.

How to Write and Sell Short Stories by Della Galton
Does exactly what it says on the tin. If you're aiming at the womags then this is definitely the first book you should buy. Easy to read, no nonsense style, lots of quotes by women's magazine writers - read the book to join the club!

Wannabe a Writer? by Jane Wenham-Jones
Well, do you? Jane will tell you how to become one, and she'll make you laugh as she does so. A really great read.

Wannabe a Writer we've heard of? by Jane Wenham-Jones
The sequel. These days, getting published is not enough. Then you've got to get out there and market yourself. Jane tells you how, in her inimitable style.

Write On! The Writer's Help Book by Adrian Magson
Presented as a series of articles on all aspects of writing, from finding an idea to finding a market, this book is sure to inspire you. If you're a beginner writer this one's a must. If you're a jaded old hack, this book will revitalise you.

Write to be Published by Nicola Morgan
This one's more for novelists than short story writers, but if you want to know how best to approach agents and publishers then this one's for you. The first half of the book covers making your book the very best it can be; the second half covers sending your book out there into the big wide world.

Writing from Life by Lynne Hackles
Write what you know, they say. Well the thing you know best is your own life - Lynne tells you how to turn your own experiences into profitable prose, both fiction and non-fiction. This book is packed with writing exercises guaranteed to get you going.

Love Writing by Sue Moorcroft
A complete guide to writing romantic or erotic fiction, from chick-lit novels to womag stories via pocket novels and serials. Sue has published hundreds of stories and several novels, as well as being a writing tutor, so she knows what she's talking about.

A 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance by Kate Walker
Kate writes several romantic novels every year for Mills and Boon, so she's got the art down to a fine tee. Or a fine 12 points. She makes it all sound so easy. Follow her advice, and maybe you'll find it is!

Diamonds and Pearls, edited by Elaine Everest
And finally, study the market, say all the writing tutors. If you're targetting women's magazine fiction, what better way than to read a collection of stories by the best women's mag writers around? Proceeds from sales of this book go to a breast cancer charity.

Gosh, don't they all look pretty? And have you any idea how long it has taken me to put this post together?!?!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Commissioned stories only please - for discussion

There's a worrying trend in some of the magazines on the fringes of our markets (eg Candis, Woman and Home) whereby they include fiction but only commissioned stories from novelists with new books out. That's fab for the novelist, who'll no doubt sell a few copies of their novel to readers of the mag, but a bit rubbish for the short story specialists. They may sell dozens of stories to TAB, Woman's Weekly, My Weekly etc but these commission only mags are effectively closed to them.

I suspect there are three main reasons for magazines following this policy:

1. A story by a well-known novelist might attract more people to buy the magazine, or at least to read the story.
2. The editorial staff believe stories by published novelists will be better quality.
3. By commissioning stories, the editorial staff won't have to wade through an enormous slushpile to find decent stories to publish.

Let's look at these reasons in depth.

1. A story by a well-known novelist might attract more people to buy the magazine, or at least to read the story.
That's undoubtedly true if the novelist is a really big name - Fay Weldon, JK Rowling, Annie Proulx. But probably not true for mid-list or first-time novelists. Indeed, readers might be more familiar with certain short story writers, if they also read some of the other women's mags. Indeed, long before I began writing short stories, I was familiar with several names from reading the magazines, including Della Galton and Teresa Ashby. (And my mum considers many of the regular names to be old friends.)

2. The editorial staff believe stories by published novelists will be better quality.
I'm not making this one up. I think it was the editor at Candis who said this, as justification for switching to commissioned stories only. Hmm. I have no doubt that published novelists can write really well (and honestly, I have nothing against novelists, I am one!!) but it is the short story specialists who know the markets best and are aware of which plots are too overdone etc. There's a letter in the current Writers' Forum which expresses surprise at a story by a well-known novelist in Woman & Home magazine. I haven't seen the story, but the letter-writer says it relies on that hackneyed twist of using the main character's identical twin.
Similarly, when Best relaunched fiction in the summer, the lead story by a published novelist used the age-old MC-thinks-spouse-is-having-an-affair-but-it's-all-a-surprise-for-MC plot (going by my goldfish memory here).
Commissioned stories will certainly be well-written, but if the writers don't know the markets the stories could be so predictable they'll put readers off. It's the short story specialists who know how to put a new spin on an old tale, or how to come up with something completely original.

3. By commissioning stories, the editorial staff won't have to wade through an enormous slushpile to find decent stories to publish.
I can't argue directly with this one - it's obviously going to be less work to use commissioned stories only. I guess they'll have to pay more per story, but will probably make a cost saving overall, as the magazine may not need to employ a dedicated fiction editor. BUT - this goes back to point 2. A dedicated fiction editor wouldn't make the blunder of accepting a story which relies on a yawn-inducing twist - they'll have seen it done too many times before. And it's in that slushpile that the best stories by the best writers are found.

What do you all think? Are there other reasons for using commissioned only stories? Is it a trend that more and more magazines are likely to follow? Can we do anything to reverse the trend?

Feel free to comment anonymously if you want (remember, this blog is read by fiction editors as well as writers!) but please be polite and professional in all comments.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Shall I ask for a Kindle for my birthday?

Do you love them or hate them? Given that I will probably still buy paper books if only to inhale, is it worth me getting a Kindle for use on holidays and long train journeys?

Answers on a postcard please, or failing that in the comments below. :-)

Monday, 12 September 2011

Mail on Sunday start-of-novel competition

This year, the Mail on Sunday competition for the best first 150 words of a novel was won by a Bournemouth lady (Yay! Go, Bournemouth!) - Marion Richards. She's given me permission via her writing tutor, women's mag writer Hilary Halliwell, to publish her entry - see below. Well done Marion!

The next competition is now open - and here are the details.

You need to write the first part of a novel, between 50 and 150 words. Your entry must include the word 'row' - in any format, eg rowing boat, blazing row, row of tulips. Closing date is 28th October 2011. Send your entry to The Mail on Sunday Novel Competition, PO Box 150, Rochester, Kent ME1 9AG. You must include full contact details (name, address, phone no and email) on the same page as your entry. Judges are Fay Weldon, James Buchan and Sarah Waters (wow, two of my very favourite authors in that lineup!)

First prize is £400 and a place on an Arvon course. Five runners-up get book tokens to the value of £150-£300. Entry to the competition is free.

So, nothing to lose and loads to gain! Here's Marion's entry so you can see what impressed the judges this year. The word to be included was 'set'.


The word splits my ears.

A guard grabs my arm, marches me down concrete steps and throws me into this underground cage – like I’m no better than a wild animal straight out the jungle.

“It’s your home ‘til morning,” says the uniform. “They’ll be shifting you on tomorrow – somewhere permanent.”

“Where’s that?” I ask.

Uniform’s keeping the answer to himself and I’m left in this rathole wondering what’s gonna happen next.

“Make yourself comfortable, lad,” he says but I know he can’t mean it ‘cos there’s only a rusty bunk and buglife for company. He hands me a tin plate and mug. Then reels off mealtimes as though I’ve booked into some posh-nosh hotel.

His bit done, he makes his exit. The door clangs. The key turns.

Footsteps echo down the corridor. Uniform’s gone.

“It’s a set-up!” I scream. “A bloody set-up!”

But nobody’s listening.

Well that certainly grabbed me! Where's the rest, Marion?! Good luck to all who enter.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Pocket Novels Workshop

Sally Quilford, Queen of Pocket Novels, has put together a workshop to share her experience and advice re writing these novels. Full details below. If you're interested in writing pocket novels this workshop will be well worth attending!

Pocket Novel Workshop

Saturday 22nd October 2011
Chesterfield Market Hall, Chesterfield, S40 1AR
Cost: £35.00 to include unlimited beverages and biscuits!

How to Write Pocket Novels for My Weekly and Peoples’ Friend

Sally Quilford, the author of six pocket novels (to date) will talk you through the process of creating a 50,000 word romantic novella for My Weekly and Peoples’ Friend.

The workshop will cover:
The basic requirements: format, word length, characters, structure, narrative, dialogue etc
Writing a traditional romance – the conventions
The Morality of Pocket Novel World
Approachable Heroines
Rewarding Heroes
The First of a Million Kisses
Compelling secondary characters
How to come up with plots and sub-plots
After your pocket novel is published: Going into Large Print

(The running order of the workshop may vary from above but will cover all these points and more)

Requirements: The workshop is open to both men and women. If you have not done so already, try and read at least one novella from each line (My Weekly and Peoples’ Friend) before you arrive so that you have some familiarity with them. They are available to buy at Tescos, Sainsburys, Asda, WHSmiths and larger newsagents and cost around £1.99 each.

More details and how to book and pay for workshop

Send a message via Sally Quilford’s contact page at

Saturday, 20 August 2011

While Womag's Away...

I'm off on holiday tomorrow for 10 days - to Northumberland and Durham, mostly camping but also staying at a friend's farm for a couple of days. The boys are hoping they'll be allowed to drive tractors...

Here are a few snippets of news to keep you busy for the rest of August:

1. Helen Hunt is running her second Writing for Women's Magazines workshop on 17th September. Full details on her blog - here. Cost is £30 which includes lunch and a critique of a story to be sent before the course. That is such amazing value for money - if you are anywhere within reach of Northampton it'd be criminal not to go!! Feedback from her last course: 'Very good value for money', 'The course is excellent and a must for anyone wishing to break into the woman's magazine market', 'Very supportive and constructive feedback', 'A fantastic day'.

2. Helen is also offering critiques by email, starting at £15 a story, which is again brilliant value for money. See her blog for details.

3. If you like writing historical pieces, fiction or non-fiction, take a look at this new magazine Vintage Script. They can't offer payment as yet but it would be a publishing credit. I'm considering subscribing to this as I love history (and am writing a historical novel).

4. Bedtime story competition with some nice prizes - £500 first prize - closing date 28th October, 1500-3000 words. This one's free to enter, so there's nothing to lose!

5. And another competition at the Boston Review, first prize $1500 and publication. They want online submissions so I assume the competition is open to anyone in the world. Closing date 1st October, fee $20 which can be paid by credit card. Max word count 4000 words.

6. But BEFORE you enter either of those two, take a look at The Write Place competition, which has a closing date of 31st August, so not much time left. Top prize £100, entry fee £4.50, and the judge is womag writer Linda Lewis aka Catherine Howard. Max word count 1500 words.

7. Finally if you're into Twitter but don't know how to get the best from it, or would like to try Twitter but don't know where to start, Nicola Morgan has written the perfect ebook for you - Tweet Right.

Enjoy what's left of the summer, everyone!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Write On! competition - the winner!

Hi all

Firstly thank you all so much for all your wonderful entries for the Write On! competition. My son and I had great fun reading them. He made all the decisions, so if you didn't win and think you should have - don't blame me! Given that some of you entered several times I'm guessing you enjoyed writing these as well.

My son read them all twice, then rated them 1, 2 or 3. He discarded the 3s, read the 2s again then discarded them, then re-read the 1s and decided on a first, second and third. Then he slept on it, re-read the top 3 this morning but decided to stick with his decision. He'd scrawled 'I want to read this one' beside the winner. (And it's a real scrawl - he's left-handed and it was his left wrist he fractured. On the mend now, and cast off in 4 weeks. Thanks for all your good wishes for him.)

OK, so, drum roll......

the winner is......

Geoff, with his first entry, which I've reproduced below. Well done Geoff! You realise you're going to have to write this novel now...! Please email me using the link on this blog and let me know your contact details so I can pass them on to Adrian Magson who will send your prize.

2nd was RainbowLou with her entry which begins Who says boredom won't kill you?
3rd was Beverley with her entry which begins Former child progidy Max...

And Womagwriter's Honourable Mention goes to Elaine for her non-fiction book, 50 Things a Teenage Boy Should Never Tell His Mum. I need that book, Elaine, so I can see through all their ploys...

Well done to all.

Winning Entry
When he got the text, teenager Jack Stone prayed it was a joke:


Jack ignored the first instruction . . . and found out it was no joke at all. The bus smashed into the bus queue, killing them all instantly.


In this action-packed thriller, Jack Stone races through the city, committing crimes to order for an unknown master. If he doesn't, his master kills.

Unless Jack can find out . . .

His Master's Secret.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Euro Writer

Calling all non-fiction writers - take a look at this site for a list of English language magazines from across Europe which take articles from freelancers. Handily organised with links to the magazines' online guidelines, and with contacts and requirements/payment details listed for each one.

And don't forget there's still time to enter my little Write On! competition. My son is now back from his camp, complete with plastered arm, and is very much looking forward to judging the comp!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Write On! Review and competition

I spent a happy Sunday afternoon sitting in the garden sunshine with Adrian Magson. Well, not the man himself but his new must-have for a writer's bookshelf: Write On! The Writer's Help Book. Here's a brief review of the book, followed by a chance to win a signed copy for yourself.

The book is presented as a series of essays, written in an engaging, chatty style. You can read the book straight through from start to finish as I did, as it covers covers everything from 'I wanna be a writer!' to ' Wahey I'm published!' Or you could easily dip in and out of it, open it at random and read a chapter or two. The chapters are organised in sections, eg Writer's Block... or Not?, Kick-Starting Your Mojo; Editing - so whatever your need the book covers it. It's full of ideas and most importantly, inspiration. You find yourself desperate to get back to your current writing project but at the same time wanting to keep reading the book! I definitely recommend this for all writers - beginners who've yet to find their niche or submit anything, through to experienced writers needing a friendly nudge in the right direction.

Magson even manages to use one of my favourite words, pronking, which is not one I ever thought I'd see in a book about writing. I'm not going to tell you in what context - you'll have to get hold of a copy yourself to find out!

So - how to get a copy. Order from Amazon or enter my little competition below. (I was going to put a link so you can order it direct from the publisher Accent Press but can't find the book on their website yet.)

OK, the competition. What I'd like you to do is write a brief description (blurb, pitch, just a couple of paragraphs) of a book aimed at teenage boys. This can be either something you're working on, or something you've made up on the spot - I don't mind. Post your entry as a comment below. You have until 6pm on 17th August.

Why a book aimed at teenage boys?

My poor 16-year old son is away on Explorers camp this week, and yesterday evening I got that phone call every parent dreads. Hi Mum, it's me, I'm in Swansea hospital because I've fractured my wrist playing Laser Quest. They want to keep me in overnight so the specialist can see it tomorrow and decide if it needs an operation...

He's all right. I spoke to him again today and he didn't need an operation after all. He's had a plaster cast put on and is now back at the camp, but excused from washing up and toilet-emptying duties. He'll be missing out on lots of activities, and I'm going to have to cancel loads of things we had booked for the rest of the hols. So your mission in this competition is to cheer him up!

Entries will be judged by my son (who doesn't know it yet) with my help. Tips: wacky and/or lots of battle scenes. We'll post the result up on 18th August, then I'll pass the winner's details on to Adrian who'll send the prize himself.

So come on, get yourself into the mindset of an injured 16 year old and see what you can come up with!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Bumper Post!

The magazines all publish Bumper Summer Issues so I thought I would join them, as there are loads of snippets of news to tell you all about.

Firstly, I was out shopping today and bought 3 items in WHSmiths which I urge you all to buy also. They are:

1. Writing Magazine, the issue dated September 2011. It contains a marvellous article by Vivien Hampshire, entitled Save Our Short Stories. She's interviewed several fiction editors, and gives a run down on which magazines are not entirely closed to fiction and which are still accepting fiction or even expanding their fiction requirements. She recommends (as do I!) joining the Bring Back Fiction campaign on Facebook. Great article, Viv, and thanks for the blog-plug!

Added 22:20 - just realised this mag also includes an article by Elaine Everest on using your own experiences in your writing, and she's quoted me. I'm everywhere, me! Another reason to buy the mag!

2. The latest issue of Best, which contains a short story by Bernadette James (well done Bernadette!) It also contains a fiction token - you need to collect 4 to enter their forthcoming £1000 short story competition I posted about a couple of weeks ago.

3. Sally Q's latest My Weekly pocket novel, entitled Sunlit Secrets. I believe it's the first 50,000 word pocket novel she's had published (after several 30,000 word ones). It occurred to me that pocket novels are a low-cost, low-tech alternative to Kindles. I've been considering buying a Kindle to keep in my handbag so I would always have something to read. Pocket novels do the same job, for just £1.99 an issue! By the way, get over to Sally's blog for the chance to win a copy of Sunlit Secrets, and also to take part in her forthcoming birthday bash. She even gives away her age. Which I, being two years younger than her, would never do. Oh, oops.

Now then, here's a new ongoing monthly competition site for short stories. It's run by experienced writer, competition judge and Writers' Bureau tutor Andy Ellis. The interesting thing about this competition is that Shirley Blair, the fiction editor of People's Friend, has been in conversation with Andy about these competitions. It's possible that in future winning stories will also be considered for publication in People's Friend. Andy's accepting stories in 4 categories - romance, historical, horror (not for PF!!) and children's. Entry fee £7. Top prize is 70% of total entry fees. Go take a look.

Adrian Magson, whom subscribers to Writing Magazine will know through his regular columns, has written a How To book - Write On! which has just been published. He's sent me a copy, (thanks Adrian!) and has offered a signed copy to a reader of this blog. I'm going to run a little competition in a couple of days time, with this book as the prize so make sure you come back here and enter! The book looks like a very useful addition to any writer's bookshelf - I'll review it when I've finished reading it.

National Short Story week is not until November, but do bookmark this site and keep an eye on what's going on.

Thanks to everyone who has emailed me via this blog to tell me of their successes. I love to hear how this blog has helped people on the road to publication. It's great to know it's not all doom and gloom, and new writers are still able to break into the markets and sell their stories. Keep it up, everyone! And if you do come across a new market or writing opportunity, let me know!

And to those who've asked - editing of my novel is going well. Summer's difficult because of holidays, but I've been able to get on with it in between camping trips. Still on target to have it ready for submission by the end of the year. I veer between thinking, hey, this is ok! and blimey, this is awful. Which I guess is normal and healthy behaviour for novelists.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Historical shorts

With thanks to Romy who sent me a link to this site which is looking for historical short stories for a new publication, Snapshots of History. It looks as though it runs along much the same lines as Scribble where non-subscribers pay £3 to submit, subscribers can submit for free, and the author of the 'winning' story per issue is paid. I think I'll subscribe to this one for a year and see what it's like - am into historical fiction these days!

While we're talking history, here's one of my new favourite blogs - The History Girls - which carries a new post every day and is seriously eating into my editing time.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Best is the best!

With thanks to Pat who alerted me to the return of fiction (for the summer at least!) to Best magazine. I've been out today and bought the current issue, dated 26th July, and am delighted to see it contains 6 pages of fiction - 3 stories. One is by novelist Erin Kelly who also introduces the fiction pages - with these words:

"It's so important that people read... We all need a bit more downtime, to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea and lose yourself in the plot."

I couldn't agree more! Except to add that the curling up can be done just as well with a fiction magazine.

Best are planning to include a coffee-break read in every issue for the summer. And maybe (I'm guessing) if the stories prove popular and they get some positive feedback, they might consider including a coffee-break tale every issue indefinitely...

Also, they announce a short story competition. First prize is £1000. You need to collect four Short Story Vouchers from the next few issues, and then complete the entry form which will be included in the September 6th issue. The winning story will be published in Best.

Other opportunities for writers of fillers include:

  • Cleaning tips - could earn you £50 - on a postcard to Amaze Aggie, 33 Broadwick St, London W1F 0DQ

  • Letters - £50 for star letter, £25 for all others printed - to
I've just flicked through the magazine today, but like the look of the mixture in it. I always did like Best - their real-life stories are good ones you can relate to (not the 'my husband ate my baby' type); there isn't too much celebrity gossip; there are good fashion/health/food articles (some great BBQ ideas in this issue!) I have 3 hours on a ferry to Cherbourg tomorrow, so guess how I'll pass the time?

Finally - PLEASE if you are a writer of womag fiction, DO go out and buy Best this summer! We must support our own markets!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

BBF & MBNV & cycling

September's Writers' Forum arrived today, and I was delighted to see the subject of the dwindling commercial short story market well aired in a fabulous piece by Douglas McPherson. Sounds like all is not lost at TAB weekly - occasional stories are still being bought for that magazine. And although The Lady have stopped fiction, they'll read anything sent in and if it's brilliant, they'll publish it. Same at Candis where officially they're only taking commissioned stories.

Added at 22:18 - Pat reports in the comments that Best has fiction in it this week, and also announces a fiction competition. Rush out and buy it, everyone! Their FB page is here if you'd like to go and comment.

If you haven't already, do join Julie P's Facebook campaign to Bring Back Fiction - here. We can make a difference!

If you're writing longer length romantic fiction, the M&B New Voices 2011 competition is approaching, open to anyone who hasn't had a full length novel published.

I'm away next week - cycling and camping in the Cherbourg peninsula. Won't be doing anything like the milage of the TdeF riders, but then again, they don't carry heavy panniers, tents, sleeping bags etc. See you when I get back. Happy writing everyone!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Tour de France

Is anyone else a fan? Him indoors and I are glued to it for three weeks every July. We have a long-standing dream to buy a campervan and follow the Tour one year. When it came to Britain back in 1994 we cycled those legs ahead of the race, and went to see them both. Same again when it went to Ireland a few years later.

Those who don't watch cycling perhaps think it's just a huge number of cyclists all trying to be first over the line. It's actually so much more than that. The Tour de France is a 3-week long race, winding its way through France and often crossing borders into neighbouring countries. It goes over the Pyrenees and Alps. There are flat stages, hilly stages, sprints, time trials. There are three main competitions - the Yellow Jersey, the Green Jersey and the Polka Dot Jersey. The Yellow is worn by the current overall leader - the person with the lowest overall time. The Green is won by the person with the most points from sprints. The Polka Dot is won by the best climber. So no matter what your speciality is in cycling terms, there's a prize to aim for. If you're a sprinter but no good at climbing, go for the green. If you can ride uphill quickly, go for the polka dot - King of the Mountains. Or you could try to be part of a breakaway - a small group of riders who get ahead of the peloton (main group) - and try to win one day's stage.

And then there's the team dynamics. Cycling is most definitely not each man for himself. The top sprinters rely on team-mates to lead them into the sprint. You save approximately 30% effort if you ride close up behind someone else, in their slipstream. So a team which includes the best sprinters will position themselves near the front of the peloton as they near the finish line, and each team member (known as domestiques) will take a turn at the front, cycling as hard as he can to keep the speed up. Finally with just a couple of hundred metres to go, the last team member will peel away leaving the sprinter to go into top gear and hopefully win the stage. Those team members give their all, but get no fame or credit for it outside of the cycling community.

TdeF cyclists must be amongst the toughest sportsmen in the world. There was a horrific accident the other day which sent one rider flying into a barbed wire fence. He was patched up and back on his bike in minutes, and went on to finish the stage and gain the Polka Dot jersey. He needed 30 stitches. He's still in the Tour, still cycling, and is my new favourite cyclist. (Johnny Hoogerland. He's cute too.)

Finally, at the end, the man in the Yellow Jersey at the end of the race is the overall winner. But every man who's made it to the end - the race traditionally finishes on the Champs Elysee in Paris - is a winner.

So what has all this to do with writing? Well I suppose we could come up with some tortured analogies. The different jerseys are like different genres. A climber will never win a sprint - a top romance writer is unlikely to publish a best-selling thriller. But they're all valid, all worthwhile, and each of us has our own specialities and strengths. Each stage win is one cyclist's 15 minutes of fame, just as each book launch is one writer's moment in the spotlight. The domestiques who launch the sprinter to his win are like the unsung heros - agents, publishers, editors, cover artists - behind a bestselling book. The cyclists picking themselves up after a crash and going on to finish the stage - well those are like writers after a rejection of course. Get up, dress your wounds and keep on trying. Don't give up.

The Tour de France is about so much more than the glory of the final overall winner, although that's the man who'll be on the front pages at the end, dressed in yellow. There are lots of winners along the way. And losers, and plenty of drama.

It's like a three week soap opera. I love it. Really, I just wanted to write about the Tour. They went over the Tourmalet today (big hill. Him indoors wants to cycle up it someday. I'll drive the support car.) Sammy Sanchez, a climber, won the stage, sadly taking the polka dot jersey from Hoogerland.

And finally, a quote from Lance Armstrong for all those slaving over edits - Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts for ever. Now that IS relevant to writing.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Calling all dog owners - a plea for help with articles

I've had this plea for help from womag writer and freelance journalist Elaine Everest (who also edited the brilliant Diamonds and Pearls anthology). She needs to write a couple of dog-related articles by the end of next week. She says:

I need to interview one person who goes or has gone camping and taken their dog.
It's not for a dog magazine. I would also need the person to send me a good
quality image of them/the family and the dog with a tent in the scene.

Also, do you have a dog (or had a dog) and changed your working life to fit
around his/her needs so that the dog is not left alone all day? This may have
meant working part time, were allowed to take the dog to work with you or
perhaps you started your own business so the dog could be with you?
I have to find three case studies for this feature.
Again, a good quality image of you and your dog is required.

If you can help, please contact Elaine directly at elaineeverest (at)

As for me, I've only got two puddy-tats so can't help. Got the first one after I began home-working, to keep me company!

Gratuitous photo of my cat Mir looking Evil...

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A couple of wildly different writing opportunities

If you're feeling particularly arty and literary, have a look at the Creative Works competition over at Aesthetica magazine. Deadline 31st August so there's loads of time. Aesthetica is a well-established and respected literary and arts magazine, available from WHSmith or on subscription, or from various art galleries etc.

If you're feeling more like playing with the latest apps on your iphone instead, then here's a site where you can download them for free, in return for writing a brief review. Might be of more interest to your resident teenagers, so feel free to pass this on!

Or if you'd rather stick to writing womag stories - it's time you were getting on with some Christmas themed stories. So what if the sun is shining and you aren't in the mood - that's what a writer's imagination is for!

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Short Story Workshop

The markets may be dwindling, but that's all the more reason to polish up your writing and targetting skills to get yourself ahead of the competition.

If you're within reach of the Northamptonshire area and free on Saturday 30th July, why not sign up for Helen Hunt's short story workshop? Helen's been writing for the women's magazines for a few years, and has had tremendous success, especially with Woman's Weekly. The day costs just £30 and includes a critique of a story to be sent beforehand by email.

Click on the link above for full details and how to contact Helen. I bet it'll be an excellent workshop and you'll learn loads.

I'm off on a course myself on Sunday in Bath - How to Sell Your Novel, run by Sarah Duncan. Am nowhere near wanting to try to sell it yet, however! I believe there might still be places available on that course - email sionhillcourses (at) if interested.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Bring Back Fiction

Campaigns to get fiction reinstated in as many magazines as possible are popping up all over the place. I've heard of another one tonight - recommending as many people as possible email Take A Break asking why there's been no coffee-break fiction in the weekly magazine recently. The email address to use is Readers, writers, writers' mums - we should all send a message. Fight for your markets!

My understanding is that Take A Break has a new editor who is wanting to make her mark by changing the magazine.

Not so many years ago, Woman's Weekly got a new editor, and she also reduced the amount of fiction in the weekly magazine. There was an outcry, and the fiction was reinstated and then increased. I'm all for change, but it needs to be the right change, not change for change's sake.

So spread the word, email the mags, put messages on facebook, and ask everyone you know to do the same.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Magazine facebook pages

Delighted to see so many people requesting fiction on the various facebook pages for magazines. The desire to see the return of the short story seems to be alive and well. I don't recognise all the names so assume many of them are readers...

Diane reports that Australian Women's Weekly have taken note of the facebook comments asking for more fiction. So this campaign might just work!

These pages do look like a good way of keeping up with what's going on in the magazines. For instance on the Woman fb page there's a mention of their Summer Special which comes out on 1st July and which contains some short stories. I suspect they are commissioned from well known novelists but we'll see when it comes out. Maybe if people buy this and enjoy the stories they could consider writing to the magazine or commenting on facebook about how good the stories are?

Also noticed an opportunity for book reviewers on the Woman page - email them on to ask for a chance to review their weekly Hot Read.

UK magazines which have dropped fiction in the last 7 years (since I've been writing) are: Chat, That's Life, Best, Bella, Woman, Woman's Own, The Lady, Take A Break (weekly), Candis. That's just off the top of my head so may not be complete. Fiction lovers are forced to buy Woman's Weekly, My Weekly, People's Friend or the fiction specials from these magazines or Fiction Feast. I do think there is room on newsagents' shelves for a bit more weekly fiction!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Woman magazine relaunch

No fiction in the Woman magazine relaunch. But they are on Facebook - if you go there and 'like' them you can post on their wall about what you'd like to read in the magazine... if enough people called for fiction I wonder if they'd consider it?

With thanks to Pat P for passing me this link.

Edited 12th June to add: Julie P is starting a crusade to bring back fiction in weekly magazines. Check out her facebook page and blog for details.

Also take a look at Diane's blog, which lists more magazine facebook pages where you can leave feedback about the magazine content.

Womag writers of the world unite!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Take A Break revamp

Julie P noticed there's been a distinct lack of fiction in the weekly Take A Break since its recent revamp. More true-life and celeb gossip.

Does anyone know for certain if they are dropping the fiction slot? I know occasionally in the past they've missed a week or two but then it's come back, so maybe this is just a blip. Let's hope so.

To clarify - we're talking about the weekly TAB magazine here, which traditionally has taken one one-page story each week. The monthly Fiction Feast is unchanged.

Edited 11th June to add - some writers have had confirmation from Norah that the weekly TAB is definitely dropping its fiction slot for now.

Another market gone.

Edited 13th June to add - here's TAB's Facebook page if you'd like to leave comments about the new format.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Selling Overseas

I've finally had a few minutes to sit down and catch up with the latest (July) issue of Writers' Forum, which contains an excellent article by Australian women's mag writer, Glynis Scrivens. She explains how, starting with a decent story and with the help of this blog and a bit of hard work, you might manage to sell the same basic story several times in different countries.

So how does this work?

When you sell a story in the UK, you are (usually) selling First British Serial Rights. That means you are guaranteeing that this is the first time the story has been published in Britain. If you sell to an Australian magazine, you're selling First Australian rights. If you sell to a US magazine, it's First North American rights, etc. So the same story can be sold many times, without any clash of rights. Having said that, always specify in your covering letter if your story has already been published anywhere in the world, and take care with Woman's Weekly which is on sale in Australia as well as in the UK.

Glynis makes the very good point that you must tailor your story depending on the market you're submitting to. (Of course, you always do that anyway, don't you? You wouldn't dream of submitting the same story to People's Friend and Take A Break without changing it, would you?) Things to bear in mind when sending a story overseas is to ensure it's not too English. Don't go referring to British soap operas and the UK Prime Minister. A quick Google search will find you suitable alternatives depending on the chosen market. And use tourist websites to find a good setting for your story. Don't forget, stories set in exotic holiday destinations eg Egypt or the Caribbean could sell to any country.

This blog (which Glynis mentions in her article several times - cheers!) has details of a few overseas markets which take stories from UK writers. But you may know of more, or you may be able to find more using a bit of detective work. Some Scandinavian magazines take stories written in English and will translate them.

I've sold to Australian That's Life but not to any other overseas markets, though I must admit there are some I've never submitted to. But if you've written a good story, make it work for you by selling and reselling. Glynis knows a writer who sold the same story 8 times (including anthologies). Now there's a target to aim for!

What are your experiences of selling abroad? Does anyone know of more markets they are willing to share? Any more tips for reselling stories? And if anyone wants to swap magazines for market research purposes, feel free to get in contact via this post.