Jill Finlay, the fiction editor of The Weekly News, left the following comments and new guidelines below one of the old TWN posts, so I've copied them here to be sure you all see them. Many thanks, Jill!
Please find below a copy of the latest guidelines for TWN.
They're a bit more detailed than before so, hopefully, a bit more helpful!
Many thanks for the continued interest in the paper, and the supply of quality fiction for me to read.
Things stalled a little over November/December thanks to Christmas and a technical hitch, but I'm just about back on top of thing now.
Please do nudge if you're bored waiting - nudging is good!
Here come the guidelines . . .
Weekly News Short Story Guidelines
Thank you for your interest in The Weekly News fiction section. I hope you find these guidelines useful.
The Weekly News has a largely older readership which is evenly split between the sexes, so we are looking for general interest tales — crime, humour (especially), ghost stories (although we’ve had plenty of these recently), or “coffee break” dramas which wouldn’t be out of place in any popular TV soap.
At the moment, I’m also interested in stories with a bit more “edge” that are slightly darker.
Although an old-fashioned love story may occasionally be appropriate, I’m not looking for “slushy” romantic fiction, or anything “twee”. And although it’s a popular style, I don’t generally take “chick-lit”.
Similarly, I don’t want anything too racy or gory. As The Weekly News is a family paper, I wouldn’t use anything with any sexual content.
Many stories we publish have an interesting twist to surprise the reader, as these seem to be popular. But if your twist is “it was all a dream” or “he/she/it was a ghost”, or the main character is actually a pet, it won’t get through!
• Aim for something light-hearted, perhaps centred around family life or a recognisable situation.
• If your main character is strong enough, you can have them carry the whole story.
• A positive outcome is favoured, but this can be reached by a good bit of double-crossing, or the comeuppance of the “baddie”.
• Be playful – have some fun with your characters at their expense ie in embarrassing social situations.
• I also like sensitive stories which may involve a death, an illness a fear etc. If the situation doesn’t come across as too dark and depressing and has an uplifting end, then it may make it through.
Stories can vary in length from about 750 to 2000 words at most, though we reserve the right to edit them as appropriate.
Also, I rarely accept stories written in the first person or present tense.
Please note that, at present, I use three fiction items at each week and, even if an item is accepted, it could be some time before it is published.
I always have plenty of stories to read through, so it could be six to eight weeks before I can respond to submissions.
I’m acutely aware there is always someone waiting to hear from me, so thank you for your continued patience – I will always get back to you!
Here are some DOs:
• Use strong, identifiable characters – but remember they don’t always have to be likeable.
• Use natural-sounding speech. I tend to avoid dialect, as we like to be a bit “geographically vague” to add to the universality of the stories.
• Check your historical facts fit your time-frame and characters.
• Be thought-provoking if you want – be topical.
• Read and check your punctuation and paragraphing. The easier your work is on the eye, the easier it is to make an informed decision.
• Work within reality – this is fiction, but it does have to be believable.
• Do include your email address, postal address and phone number on your story.
• Full stories, please. I can’t get enough detail or “feel” for a piece from a pitch or synopsis.
And some specific DON’Ts:
• No murdered spouses, dreams, ghosts or pet twists.
• No first person or present-tense stories.
• No relationship-centred stories.
• No hard copy.
E-mail is now our only method of delivery. Please send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
You’ll receive an auto-reply from this address, so you know I’ve definitely received your email.