Sunday, 16 December 2012

On writing serials

Excellent post here from Della Galton on writing serials for the women's magazines.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Character timeline

Here's a fantastically useful resource for writers - a character or story timeline calculator! If you've ever got your head in a spin trying to work out how old your MC Flossie would have been when she attended her auntie's wedding which was held five years before Flossie's cousin Alfie was born, and Alfie is now 23, only this is a timeslip story so you're writing as though it's 1973 except for the bits which are set in 2012 with flashbacks to Flossie's wartime childhood ...

You get the picture. Help is at hand - plug the relevant dates and events into Wendy's StoryTimeline spreadsheet which can be downloaded from this link, and all the hard work will be done for you. Wendy's husband developed this, so many thanks to him, and to Wendy Clarke for sharing it. (She's happy for you to share it further on your blogs or Twitter/Facebook, as long as you credit her and add a link back to her blog.)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Book shelf

I've just updated my Bookshop page - click on link at top of page - to add Della Galton's The Short Story Writer's Toolshed. 

If people have started asking you what you want for Christmas, why not ask for some how-to write books? Mind you, Della's latest is only £1.88 as an ebook so you could probably just treat yourself to that one!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Comings and Goings

If you want an 'advent calendar' with a difference - check in to the Pocketeers' blog daily - for their advent calendar of heroines. 

Sadly, no sooner did we get all excited about the Easy Reads, which replaced My Weekly's Pocket Novels and then ran alongside them, than we hear they're to be axed. Sally Q confirmed this today with Maggie Seed. However, still send in your short novels and they'll be considered for the My Weekly imprint. There will be two published a month, and traditional romances are required. Personally I don't think they've given Easy Reads long enough to get established. I loved them. But I guess the sales figures aren't high enough. So we're back where we were. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Free book and a womag-writer on TV

Patsy Collins's novel, Escape to the Country, is free to download today and tomorrow. It's great isn't it - all these free books to fill up your Kindle for nothing!

And unfortunately I was out on Monday and unable to blog this then, but womag-writer Douglas McPherson (aka Julia Douglas) who many will also know from his articles in Writers' Forum, was on TV talking about circus animals, something he researched in detail for his latest book. The programme is still available on iPlayer here.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Submissions quick reference

Here's a list, just for Kathryn but I'll allow my other blog readers to use it too ;-) of the magazine addresses/email addresses for submissions. There are quite a few posts for some of the magazines on this blog now, and the submission addresses are becoming buried. If you're new to womag writing, please also refer to the main magazine guidelines for lengths and current requirements under the relevant link on this blog, but for a speedy look-up, refer to this post.

My Weekly: 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. NB Only submit to My Weekly if you've already been published by them.

Take A Break & Fiction Feast: Submit by post only to Norah McGrath, Fiction Editor, Fiction Feast, 24-28 Oval Road, London NW1 7DT.

People's Friend: Submit by post to The People’s Friend, D.C.Thomson & Co., Ltd., 80 Kingsway East, Dundee, DD4 8SL. Phone: 01382 462276. 
Email (for queries only, not submissions) 

The Weekly News: E-mail only, to

Woman's Weekly: By post to Fiction Department, Woman’s Weekly, IPC Media, Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Street, London, SE1 0SU. NB If they've bought something from you, you're allowed to submit by email. You'll have the relevant email so I won't put it here!  

Yours: By post to Short Stories, Yours Magazine, Bauer Media, Media House, Peterborough Business Park, Peterborough, PE2 6EA  Or by email to: (Subject: Short Story Submission)

Ireland's Own: Email:
Or by post to:  Ireland’s Own, Channing House, Rowe Street, Wexford, Ireland.

That's Life (Australia): Email submissions to

You (South Africa): Email:
Or by post to YOU, PO Box 7167, Roggebaai 8012 marked for the attention of C van Zyl.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

And ANOTHER market for shorter novels!

My Weekly Pocket Novels are returning, to sit on the shelves alongside (not instead of) the new Easy Reads we were all talking about a month or two ago. This is by popular demand, it seems, so there certainly seems to be an appetite for these little books.

Sally Q's blog has all the details and the guidelines - here. It's the same email address and editor for both MW Pocket novels and Easy Reads, so if you're not sure which imprint your book suits, don't fret, send it off and let Maggie decide.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

A new competition for Armistice Day

The following information was sent to me by a blog reader. Sounds like a great way to pay a little back, to all those men and women who've suffered in conflicts around the world.

Writing Prize Information

Words for the Wounded (W4W) is a new charity that raises money via writing prizes and donations for the rehabilitation of wounded servicemen and women. All proceeds will be passed to projects such as Battle Back, funded by Help for Heroes, which uses sports rehabilitation to help wounded service personnel gain independence and confidence.
W4W is launching its first writing prize on Armistice Day, November 11, and is calling for all non-writers, aspiring, and experienced writers to enter. Entries can be up to 400 words, written in poetry or prose, fiction or life story tale. Winners will receive a small cash prize and their entries will be published in the monthly writers’ magazine Writers’ Forum.
Entry costs just £3.50 and the deadline is March 11 2013, winners will be announced on 6 June (D Day).
Oscar-winning screen writer and author Julian Fellowes and his wife Emma are among W4W’s patrons. Julian says: “Emma and I feel strongly that we must never forget the debt we all owe to these brave men and women. We are honoured to be involved in this wonderful charity.”
Other patrons include Rt Hon Lord Ashdown, Lt. Col J. Dryburgh, authors Katie Fforde, Katherine McMahon, Louis de Bernieres , Sarah Challis and Mark Hodgson, Daisy Goodwin, paralympian Ann Wild OBE, Taryn Lee QC, artist Rowena Hampton, extreme sportsman Hugh Williams Preece, Lt Ian Thornson and Founder/Director of the Winchester Writers’ Conference Barbara Large .

For more information, see or follow us on Twitter @Words_4_Wounded

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Bits and pieces

1.  If you're into  writing children's stories, check out the latest Walker Books/Mumsnet competition which closes on 30th November. Details here.

2.  I posted calls for submission some time back from Writers Abroad, who were putting together a charity anthology of work by ex-pat writers. Foreign Encounters has now been published, and is available to buy here. Proceeds go to Books Abroad, a charity dedicated to getting free books into schools around the world.

3.  A new short story competition launches on Monday - the Sophie King prize. This one is specifically looking for writers of romantic short stories, it's free to enter and you have until January 10th.

4.  Finally, a little plug for a book by a fellow womag writer - this should appeal to anyone who likes country music. Douglas McPherson has published his novel Nashville Cinderella which is available for Kindle here and itunes here.

5.  And finally finally, if I'm plugging Douglas's book I really ought to plug Della Galton's books too - she has been publishing her short stories in collections of five for Kindle, under the series title Daily Della. Here's a link to Love on the Rocks. They're perfect to download to your Kindle for reading in any spare minute. (The latest publication is A Perfect Murder - a collection of twist-ending stories and is currently FREE to download!)

The Yellow Room

Take a look at the updated website for The Yellow Room magazine. Its editor and publisher, Jo Derrick, has updated the submission guidelines, added details of the latest competition (closing date 31st March 2013, top prize £100), and you can now order and pay for the latest issue online.

This is a great little independent literary magazine, run on a shoestring budget by someone who is passionate about good writing. Send them your more literary or quirky stories, which maybe aren't suitable for the womags. There are sample stories on the website so you can see what sort of thing wins Yellow Room competitions.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Easy Reads now in the shops

On Saturday I went to my local WHSmith to buy a couple of the new Easy Reads, published by DC Thomson. You'll probably find them near the women's magazines section The first 4 are now out, and are definitely worth a look, whether you want to write them or not. They're beautifully produced, lovely clear font, fab covers, only £1.99 and they really do fit in your pocket even though they're no longer called Pocket Novels!

I have read Sally Quilford's Bonfire Memories, which is classified Crime - Intrigue. She really does keep you guessing who dunnit, and leads the reader skilfully up a whole host of blind alleys. Definitely recommended, and I have the other Crime one, Julie Coffin's Web of Fear, to read next.

They're lovely little books and I really hope they do well.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Got something to say about a writing competition?

Sally Quilford's competitions column in Writers' Forum will soon be taking on a new format, and she's looking for input from anyone who's had anything to do with writing competitions. Whether you organise them, judge them, win them or just enter them - let her know your tips and experiences.

Go here to see what's happening to the column, and to contact her with your snippets.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Meet the Friends!

Quick post as I'm dashing out to Zumba in a moment but I've just spotted a note on the People's Friend facebook page to say the team will be at the 50+ Show in Glasgow on 9th and 10th November. So if you're in the area, check it out and go meet Shirley Blair in person!

PF Facebook page is here.
PF website and blog is here.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Writers - what to buy each other for Christmas

I know it's a bit early yet but anyway - take a look at these story cubes. Nine cubes, with a different little picture on each face. Pick any three or more dice, roll them, see what you get and write a story inspired by the three top-side images. Endless fun and endless ideas!

I definitely want a set. They come in a dinky little box, too.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Wot, no payment?

I wrote a short story way back in 2004 when I was at an early stage in my writing career. I was quite pleased with it, and sent it off to a couple of womags, but it was rejected. Then I sent it to a non-paying online magazine, the Rose and Thorn. They accepted it and duly published it.

Fast forward to January this year. I received an email via the contact page on this blog, asking for permission to republish that same story. It was from a fellow called Robin, not Rose & Thorn. I was naturally a bit suspicious, and emailed back, asking where they wanted to publish it, and would there be any payment? He must have googled my name (I have a fairly unusual surname) and followed links to find this blog and email address.

Robin replied, explaining that he worked for a company who were helping the Texas Education Authority put together exam papers. They wanted my story as part of an English course assessment paper. They offered me US$500, and asked for 10 years exclusive rights over it, after which time all rights revert to me. (For which reason I can't post a link to the story on this blog until mid 2022!)

I googled the company to check them out, and discovered they were huge and definitely legitimate. I agreed to the publication, and was duly paid by bank transfer.

Why am I telling you this? Just to make a point that sometimes, having work published for no payment, can work in your favour. Who knows who might be reading it? That little story of mine earned nearly $1 a word, and is studied by Texan college students, which I find oddly amusing.

I do think that if an organisation can afford to pay writers then they certainly should. I was as incensed as everyone else when a magazine with a good budget and high readership tried to fill its pages last summer by holding a fiction competition with the only prize being publication (thankfully they backtracked and quite rightly ended up paying for all stories they published).

But I also firmly believe there's a place for small, non-paying markets, run by people with enthusiasm, passion but no budget. Professional writers need not use time and effort submitting to these places, but for others - beginner writers, hobbyist writers, or maybe writers with years of experience under their belts and a stack of unpublished stories gathering dust - such outlets are in my opinion, certainly worth investigating.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

PF on FB

Really quick post to urge all those on Facebook to check out the newly launched People's Friend facebook page - here .

The first of the new look issues is out now - I haven't yet seen it though there's a picture of its cover on facebook. It looks great - really fresh.

Short stories wanted for Android phone app

Sharon, who runs the Fiction Addiction writing group, sent me an email asking if I'd put the following on this blog:

Would you like to see your stories published on an Android phone app?
My husband and I are launching a new project soon – a FREE short story app called A Quick Read.
The good news is, we're not charging any writer to upload the stories on the app.
The bad news is, we cannot pay writers a fee, as we're starting the project as a hobby. However, if we mange to secure funding, we will be able to pay you.
I’ll be sending out lots of press releases to raise publicity.
The categories for fiction are: 
Twist in tale  
The word count we require is 500 -1,000 words.
No swearing, no excessive violence, and no erotica, please.
Also, we require a brief outline (one or two lines) about your story.
Go to to view our website. 
Terms and conditions for writers’ can be found under ‘Information’ on the drop down menu. 
It would be best if you sent us unpublished work. All writers retain copyright.  
You can also see how the app works on the website.
Please e-mail your stories to me, Sharon at:
Many thanks.
PS If you have a website or blog address, we can place this at the bottom of your story on the app. 

This sounds like an exciting project! Even though there's no pay at present, including your website or blog address might bring in more readers, so if you've got some spare stories of the right length it'll be worth sending them to Sharon and Keith.

Hmm, I have an Android phone. This app looks like a great thing to have if you find yourself stuck somewhere without a book or Kindle to read... I'm looking forward to its launch! 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

People's Friend website and link to submission guidelines

Following on from yesterday's post, the new look People's Friend website is already available - here.

And it includes downloads of the submission guidelines for short stories, serials, poems and features - here.

It's a great looking website, and lovely to have the guidelines so easily available. Go check it out, everyone!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

People's Friend news

I had an email from Shirley Blair, the fiction editor of People's Friend, and she asked me to post the following on this blog. It's great news that PF will be buying even more stories, and I can't wait to see what the magazine's new look is like! And please note, soon there'll be revamped guidelines available on PF's own website. As soon as I know its address I'll post a link on here.

Over to Shirley;

Hi, Womagwriters.
I’ve been too busy to visit your blog lately, but I did catch up with it last week and saw a couple of threads that caught my interest, threads that I think I can help with. So if you don’t mind…
One is the subject of story lengths. And I’ll do this one first because it’s the area of the People’s Friend that’s undergone the greatest change...
That’s news, isn’t it?
In fact The People’s Friend’s just experienced a bit of a facelift! Our design team have been working really hard to refresh our look, and with extra pages and extra features we think we look fabulous. The results are revealed in our October 6 issue. We’re still us, though, with our familiar character and values. The best news for all you Womagwriters, though, is that the extra pages mean we can include more stories; we’ll have seven, a short story for every day of the week. Plus our usual two serials, of course.
Now, this change has seen us move to templates for our story pages, and that means we have pretty specific story length requirements (some of you have already heard this from me and have started passing on the news, thank you). They are now 1200 words, then anything in the range 2000 to 3000 (though 10% extra’s OK because we can cut to fit). That’s why some of you have been getting slightly odd requests from us to lengthen stories! All now becomes clear…!
Now, this is all purely about the weekly; for our specials our story lengths will continue to vary vastly in length from 1500 up to 4000 words, which I know is music to the ears of those of you who just love the chance to tell a longer story.  Again, 10% over’s OK and allows our lovely subs room for manoeuvre.
We’ve redesigned our writers’ guidelines, too, and they’ll go live on our new website this week, but I have to keep that address to myself just for the moment.
All these changes — it’s so exciting!
Next time I drop in, it’ll be to explain about response times.
(I really must get my own blog… Thanks for letting me visit!)
The People’s Friend

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Easy Reads

In the latest Writers' Forum which dropped through my letter box earlier today, there's an interview by Douglas McPherson with DC Thomson's Easy Reads commissioning editor, Maggie Seed. You'll remember I posted earlier about how these books are to replace My Weekly's pocket novels, starting October.

(I'm delighted to say, one of the very first Easy Reads will be by my great friend, Sally Quilford!)

The WF interview is a must-read for anyone aiming to write for this market. There's some new information on pay - likely to be £300 for your first Easy Read sale, then going up by £20 for each sale. Sadly previous pocket novel sales won't be taken into account. They will still buy only First Cheap Paperback Rights which leaves you free to resell the novel, perhaps to Ulverscroft as a large print novel, and to publish it as an ebook.

Maggie wants books that challenge her, and make her go 'Oh my goodness!' She wants writers to feel free of the constraints the old pocket novel format imposed. Don't be inhibited, tell the story you want to tell. Make it a page-turner. If you've gone too far, it can always be altered at the editing stage. Maggie would prefer this than for writers to hold back.

She needs to buy 50 novels a year, so this is a huge market. There are 4 categories - Caress, Liaison, Intrigue and Suspense. And so far, Douglas tells me it's been the Liaison category (the steamier romances) that she's been having trouble finding books for. So unleash your inner 50-shades and have a go!

People's Friend - new guidelines on length

With thanks to Sam: People's Friend are changing their required lengths, to make stories fit better on the page. They now want stories of 1200 words, or 2000-3000. For the longer stories, try to hit lengths of 2000, 2500, 2700, 3000 to give yourself the best chance. Stories of 3500 or 4000 will still be published in the seasonal specials.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Woman's Day - no longer taking fiction

Thanks to all those who commented on the last post to confirm that Australian magazine, Woman's Day, no longer publishes fiction apart from a long-running serial.

I've removed their guidelines from the links on the left.

Friday, 14 September 2012

How long are people waiting for responses to submissions?

I'm pretty out of touch with the women's magazine market at the moment, because I'm working on a novel and not writing or submitting anything. But I've heard that some magazines are taking a very long time to respond to submissions - 9 months or more!

What are your experiences - how long is each magazine currently taking to respond? Add comments here to share knowledge, so that others know what to expect.

Usually, if you haven't heard for 6 months you can assume it's a rejection. But if a magazine takes 9 months to respond they could be in trouble - many writers will resubmit a story elsewhere after 6 months.

Dear editors, if you're reading this, we know you're overworked and often overwhelmed with submissions, but if it is possible to let us know realistically how long to wait for a response we'd be most grateful.

By the way, my holiday was amazing, fabulous, incredible - probably the best ever. We had a couple of days in the Amazon jungle, then went to Cusco, walked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, then went overland to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca, visited various islands, then went to La Paz, did some more hiking, then  went to Lima for the last few days. Just 1800 photos to sort through...

I thoroughly recommend Peru and Bolivia as holiday destinations, and can't speak highly enough of G Adventures. For most of the trip we were on a G Adventures tour. They're brilliant.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Off on holiday

Just a quick post to say I'm off on a long holiday, and won't be back until September. Here's a little clue as to where we are going, and yes I am VERY excited!

See you all when I get back. In the meantime, enjoy the summer, write lots, submit lots and have fun.

PS, hasn't the Olympics been fabulous!

Monday, 6 August 2012

How much can you earn from a pocket novel?

The prolific Sally Quilford, who has sold half a dozen pocket novels over the last couple of years, has added up what you can earn from them, after reselling them to a large print publication, and earning PLR and ALCS payments.

Take a look at her post, here. And if you were reluctant to try writing them because of the low initial payment from My Weekly or People's Friend, think again, as the total earnings can make it much more worth while.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Do you like horses?

Monthly competition here for equine lovers - August competition theme is The Show.

1000 words, £3 entry fee, top prize £30. Deadline for current competition is 31st August.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

My Weekly's Easy Reads

I announced in a previous post that My Weekly were calling out for more pocket novelists. Well, I've just had an email from Maggie Seed, the pocket novels editor at My Weekly, explaining why. They are relaunching pocket novels as Easy Reads, publishing four a month, with a cover price of £1.99. There are four categories: Caress, Liaison, Intrigue and Suspense - details below. The flyer shows the books will have lovely modern covers which I suspect are designed to appeal to a younger readership. I think they look great! (Sadly I don't seem to be able to copy the flyer here or attach it. It's a PDF. If anyone knows how to attach PDFs to a blog let me know! Alternatively email me via the link above and I'll send it to you. Edited - Sally Q has attached the flyer on her blog which uses a different platform than this one, clearly better!)

Maggie says in her email: We are going to remove the branding and re-launch the novels in a special display unit on magazine shelves in October. We are planning to publish four a month, so I am going to need lots of new novels – many of them from the followers of Womagwriter, I hope!  (I hope so, too! Do let me know of your successes.)

Email entire manuscript (50,000 words) or synopsis and first 3 chapters to

I have emailed Maggie to ask if there'll be any change in the pay rate, and will let you know. Edited - I've heard back from Maggie. They are going to introduce a progressive pay rate where the pay goes up with each novel bought from a writer. I'm assuming (she didn't say) that the starting point will still be £300. This is very encouraging! 


Moving and enchanting reads that sweep the reader away to share in the developing romantic  relationship between a man and a woman.
What: Sweet romance, thrilling emotional drama
Who: Active, attractive, gorgeous heroes; attractive, feisty, unique heroines
When: Modern settings and dilemmas; also historical romance
How: Get our couple together dealing with an issue they hold dear, and see the sparks fly
Remember: Passion not pornography!


Intense romantic drama, adult themes and relationships, “open door” compelling, modern reads for women
What: Thrilling, contemporary reads, for switched-on savvy women 
Who: Dangerously attractive, alpha men; passionate, real, modern women of any age
How: Storylines of temptation, desire, and modern dilemmas
When: Modern settings, today’s world
Please: Open door, and open-minded!


Detective, murder mysteries; clues and red herrings abound to puzzle and absorb the reader!
What: There’s been a murder – now gather the clues to solve the crime
Who: Detectives, amateur sleuths, police officers


Thrilling, chilling psychological reads – the ones where the reader gasps – and then has to sleep with the light on! A real writing challenge.
What: Enthralling, absorbing, spine-chilling reads, that explore the dark corridors of the human mind in gripping drama

Edited: More details on exactly what Maggie wants in each category over on Sally's blog - here.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Amazing Wiggins

Just a tiny post to say well done to Team Sky for their amazing performance in the Tour de France this year! I've loved every minute of it. Wiggins, Froome, Cavendish and the rest - congratulations on your achievements but don't rest too much, now you've got to win us some gold medals as part of Team GB!

Last year I managed to link the TDF with writing, with some rather tortured analogies - here.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Take A Break latest guidelines

In the September edition of Writers' Forum there is a page giving the latest fiction guidelines for Fiction Feast. In general the guidelines haven't changed much from the old ones on this blog, but do note:
  • there is no longer a fiction slot in the weekly magazine
  • 750-3000 words, though once you've sold them a few they'll consider longer stories as well
  • postal submissions only
  • response should be in 12 weeks, but if you haven't heard, email Norah McGrath (the fiction editor) stating the name of the story, date submitted and a 2-line plot outline and she'll get back to you
  • all stories are read by Norah McGrath. Promising stories are then read by other members of the department including the editor of FF, whose word is final. If you get a rejection and 'SR' is pencilled in the corner, you know it got to the second read stage.
  • but a rejection is a rejection, not an invitation to tweak and re-sub it.
  • No feedback is given.
  • Pay remains at £200 for 1 page rising to £400 for 3000 worders
  • Send seasonal stories six months in advance
Submission address: Norah McGrath, Fiction Editor, Fiction Feast, 24-28 Oval Road, London NW1 7DT.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Wanted - Pocket Novels!

My Weekly are actively seeking manuscripts for pocket novels. You don't have to have sold anything to them before. They've recently changed their guidelines and added categories Murder and Thriller. Perhaps you've got an unpublished MS around 50,000 words you could edit and send in? 

Here are their latest guidelines. Apologies for formatting - this is cut'n'paste from a PDF document. To see the guidelines in their full technicolour glory, email  and ask for them. Or go to Sally Q's blog where she has a link to them. 

Pocket novels are exciting, thrilling reads that sweep the reader away for adventures and intrigue, drama and romance! The focus is on the developing relationship between our two main characters, which of course will end in love, but how will they get there? That’s where the adventures and intrigue come in – we want you to excite and thrill, charm and alarm the reader, and have her (or him) gripped, unable to stop reading until the very last page.
DO: Create real characters the reader can believe in – they can have flaws.
DO: Have a plot – it can be thrilling or chilling, puzzling or alarming – that brings our heroine and hero together. They must have a murder or a mystery to solve, or something precious to save (a child, an inheritance – even their pride and independence) that keeps them communicating, and builds a relationship.
DO: Keep the tension building, paying particular attention to drama in every chapter ending. Let’s make the story a real page-turner for the reader. 
DO: Set our pulses racing, BUT remember we want passion not pornography, (so no explicit descriptions of either physical details or intimate action).

PLOTTING: Keep the pace building and compel the reader to turn the page with cliff-hanging chapter endings.
PEOPLE: Characters are real people with real characteristics, dreams and hopes, virtues and failings. Make sure the villains get their come-uppance!
HOW: Get over the action and explain the plot through your characters talking and doing, rather than telling the reader (ratio: 60/40 talking/telling). Don’t tell the readers what to think!
WHO: Our heroines vary in age from their late teens to middle-age, and are compassionate and morally sound. They are modern in their relationships, thoughts, feelings and experiences. The story is usually told from the woman’s point of view, although occasionally it is from the man’s.
WHERE AND WHEN: Modern or historical, set in the UK and interesting, exotic or dangerous locations around the world.
ROMANCE  Traditional Modern Historical Medical
CRIME  Murder Thriller

SYNOPSIS: Please send a synopsis and the first three chapters via email. We will ask to see the rest of the
novel if we are interested.
WORDCOUNT: 50,000 words
PAY: £300
Please note: Double quotes, single space only between full stop and next sentence.
Please email to

Sally Q tells me a friend of hers, who has only recently started writing, sent in a synopsis and 3 chapters as her first ever submission. And the editor, Maggie Seed, wants to see more! Well done that writer!
Remember, although £300 isn't much for 50,000 words, you can usually resell your novel to Ulverscroft as a large print novel, and earn Public Lending Rights payments for ever afterwards. 

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Two events for womag writers up north

We in the south of England are feeling very left out. And I apologise in advance to blog readers from other parts of the world. It seems that the place to be during August and September if you write fiction for women's magazines is northern England. Or possibly southern Scotland. Move to Newcastle or Carlisle perhaps and you'll be well placed to attend both these events. Meanwhile down here in Dorset I'll just spit with jealousy.

Firstly - on 26-27 August Edinburgh plays host to MAGFEST - the International Magazine Festival. As part of this festival there is a workshop on How To Get Published. One of the editors taking part is People's Friend fiction editor, Shirley Blair. If you're able to get to Edinburgh that weekend this will definitely be worth attending!

And secondly - on 13-15 September Manchester hosts the Woman's Weekly Live show. This is billed as Creative Stitches and Hobbycrafts show, and most of the exhibitors are crafts companies, but there will also be workshops, including one with the fiction editor Gaynor Davies on how to write a successful short story for WW. For more details about the workshops, I'd recommend buying the latest WW Fiction Special (#7).

So, it's all happening up north.

Beer's cheaper there, too.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Use your common sense(s)

See it, hear it, touch it, taste it, smell it. We all know what the five senses are. But do we always include them all in our writing? 

I don’t – at least not in the first draft. I’m so focussed on getting the story written, bringing out character and unfolding the plot, that I tend to forget about everything other than what the characters see and what they are saying. I don’t even mention other things they can hear except the speech. 

But when editing, I make a point of trying to use all the senses. In each short story, I think all the senses should be used. In a novel, I’ll try to get most of them into every scene. It’s not always possible and not worth forcing it – in a scene where a teacher is dealing with unruly pupils it’s tough to get ‘taste’ into the scene, for example,  but think for a moment and you’ll certainly find a way to get ‘smell’ in there.  

Take another scene – a heart-to-heart chat between a couple walking along a cliff top path in early summer – my first draft would be all about their conversation. But in the edit, I’d have them notice the vanilla scent of the gorse, taste the salt in the air, feel the breeze on their cheeks, hear the rhythmic crash and suck of the surf on the shingle on the beach below. I’d add some colour – startling blue sky, vibrant yellow gorse; and maybe, if I was feeling vicious or wanted some contrast, I’d give one of them a sharp little stone in their shoe.  

If you want your reader to really BE there, in your scene, when they’re reading it, you need to employ all their senses when describing the scene. But as I said in an earlier post, try make those descriptive details work in more than one way, and add more to the story than just colour. In the scene above, if the heart-to-heart is a break-up discussion, the beauty of the scene could be set in contrast with the ache in your character’s heart. How can something so terrible happen on such a gorgeous day? Or the scene can compliment their emotions. This is the calm before the storm, the last lovely, carefree day, and the contrast comes later. Or, something about the scene can remind your character of something from their past – they say that the sense of smell is most closely linked to memory, so use that to cue a flashback… 

I remember one short story by Della Galton in which a beautiful garden was described in all its detail. The twist was that the main character was an elderly blind woman living in a nursing home, and the non-existent view from her window was being described to her by her well-meaning daughter. The old woman knew (from her other senses) there was no garden, only a concrete yard, but didn’t let on to her daughter that she knew. So senses can provide you with a twist. Another friend used the condition of anosmia (lack of sense of smell) to provide the twist to a prize-winning story.  

So, use the senses to add colour, cue flashbacks, provide a twist. Make your reader experience your scene, not just read it. Involve all the senses. This is where the written word has an advantage over TV and film – until they invent scratch’n’sniff TV, at least!

Monday, 2 July 2012

2 comps, both free to enter

Two new competitions from Circalit, both free to enter. No prize beyond publication, but could be good exposure for you and a decent home for your sci fi or literary stories.

Cosmos, founded in 2004, is a literary science magazine that reaches 40,000 readers every month around the globe, and covers everything from science fact to science fiction. Cosmos are now on the lookout for innovative science fiction short stories that that make you think about the future in a different way. The winning short story will be printed in the next issue of Cosmos Magazine, and the two runners-up will see their work published on Cosmos Online. For more information and to submit your work, please visit

Eclectica, founded in 1996, is one of the longest running online literary publications, publishing a wide range of fiction from all different genres. Now Eclectica have teamed up with Circalit to host a flash fiction competition. Simply write a story on any theme in under 800 words and get your flash fiction published in the October/November issue of this notable ezine. For more information and to submit your work, please visit

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Making use of detail

Years ago while driving along a country lane I spotted a white plastic bag being blown in the wind over the hedgerows. It inspired the start of a story, in which an impressionable young woman driving at night saw a similar sight, and believed she’d seen a tiny angel. The angel (or was it just a carrier bag?) hit her windscreen. My character, Nina, went home and told her husband what she’d seen. She was worried she’d injured the angel. He, of course, told her not to be so silly, and they had a bit of a row about it. Nina went off to bed, still worried.
Then I got all lyrical and, keeping with the angel theme, had Nina put on a long white satin nightie. She was upset, mopped her tears with a tissue which she then shredded, into feather-like pieces.
And then I was stuck. Had no idea where to go next with the story. I took it to my writing class and read it out, as far as I’d got. Those people were amazing and came up with lots of inspirational comments which gave me an idea for how to finish the story. The class tutor, Della Galton, said something I’ve never forgotten and which is the whole point of this post – she picked up on my bits about the white nightie and shredded tissue and said although these were lovely details I should only keep them in the story if they were important – they couldn’t stay there just for the sake of it. It’s the old adage – kill your darlings. If a bit of writing has no purpose in the story, ie doesn’t move the story on in any way, then however beautiful it is it should be cut because it isn’t earning its keep. This is especially important in a short story where there’s no room for superfluous words.
I ended the story by having Nina so worried about the angel that she went back out again in her car, dressed in her nightie, to the spot where she’d seen it. And there, in the ditch beside the road, was a cyclist who’d hit a pothole, broken his leg and was in a bad way. He mumbled something about ‘his angel’. Nina’s husband turned up – he’d discovered her missing, and got worried. He’d seen the shredded tissue and remembered her story about having seen an angel, so he had followed her to the spot she’d described. He had a phone so was able to call an ambulance for the cyclist. When Nina told him what the cyclist had muttered about also seeing an angel, Nina’s husband laughed. The poor cyclist was delirious with pain, and seeing Nina standing there in her long white nightie he must have imagined she was his guardian angel. Which actually, she was, in her way, as she was the one who found him.
I sold this story twice – to My Weekly and to Australian That’s Life. The story worked – you could side with Nina and believe in angels or side with her husband and accept the rational explanation. The details I’d put in were all used again later in the story. The story ends in a satisfying way – Nina and her husband make up, as he realises that her instincts helped save the cyclist, and she accepts that her vision of a tiny angel might have been a touch fanciful after all.
Since writing that story, I’ve often thought about what I learned from it, particularly regarding making good use of detail. Those little details like my white satin nightie and the shredded tissue can bring a story to life, but they’ve got to be there for a purpose, not just as pretty prose. By all means write them in on the first draft, but if they don’t end up adding anything to the story, chop them out later on (or, change your story so they do become essential). I try to keep this in mind always, even when writing my novel. Obviously in a novel there’s more space for description and you can include some which is just there for scene-setting, but it all works so much better if every single piece of description also helps add to the story in some way.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Alfie Dog - online market

Alfie Dog is an online market for short stories, which plenty of my womag-writing friends have been submitting their stories to, judging by the number of names I recognise in the list of authors!

The site allows single stories to be downloaded for a small fee to the reader. The author gets royalties of 50% of the download fees after banking costs are deducted. Not much but better than nothing. They'll accept previously published stories, as long as you own the copyright.

They'll take stories of any genre except porn, erotica or excessively violent. 500-15,000 words.

Free ebook and upcoming events

Writer Linda Gruchy's anthology, Wargeld and Other Stories, is available for free for Kindle until 26th June. She describes them as 'a little too risque for womag' - sounds intriguing! They're not erotica though - but do cover subjects some womags steer clear of.

With all the hype surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey erotica seems to be the way to go at the moment. If you can write it without giggling, that is.

Sally Quilford has so many workshops and events coming up that she's added an Events page to her blog. Worth checking frequently for her workshops on writing for the womags and writing pocket novels. Some of her course are run online, so are open to anyone whereever you live.

Della Galton also has several workshops planned, including one on writing erotica if you want to jump on that bandwaggon! See here for details.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Bits and pieces

It's been a while since I did one of these posts, and I am aware that lately I have become a Very Bad Blogger. Blame my new novel which is taking all my spare time. I'm about half way through the first draft, so I will continue to be a VBB for some time to come. Sorry about that.

Anyway, here are some interesting snippets for you to follow up.

1.  If you're considering submitting stories to the US magazine, Woman's World (guidelines on this blog are still correct), then do go and take a look at Kate Willoughby's blog. She reads the magazine every week and analyses the stories in them. She's sold quite a few to them herself, so has a very good idea of what they take and what they don't. With thanks to Rena George for reminding me of this link.

2.  If you write children's stories, here's a possible market for you. The Knowonder website aims to help literacy in children by providing great stories they can read every day. There's a small payment for stories published, too.

3.  For all you pocket novelists out there, go and take a look at Sally's blog where she has posted the latest guidelines for My Weekly pocket novels. There's a lovely colourful flyer - it won't copy too well to Blogger so please go to Sally's blog and download it from there. My Weekly want novels in the Murder, Modern and Medical categories. I guess you could have a contemporary story in which a doctor murders his patients then falls in love with a nurse to cover all the bases... Looks to me like they're trying to muscle in on the Mills & Boon market a little. Well why not? And don't forget if you sell them a pocket novel, you can usually sell the same novel again to the large print publisher, Ulverscroft, then happily receive PLR payments for many years to come. As long as PLR is not scrapped, of course - talking of which, have you signed the petition yet?

4. Do you ever feel as though there's too much to do and not enough time? Well, I have the answer. Buy a copy of Peter Jones's book, How To Do Everything And Be Happy. It's just been re-released as a second edition, after selling 10,000 copies of the first edition. Not bad for a self-published book! I have a copy, personally signed by the author no less. He's a lovely chap, and the book is full of great advice on how to enjoy life to the full. There's a short interview with him on Della's blog. For today (and I don't know how much longer), the book is free to download to Kindle, or buy an audio version (read by Peter) or a paper version.

(The book I really need to read, is Peter's second, coming soon, entitled How To Eat Loads And Stay Slim. It is co-authored by Della Galton. You can read the opening chapter here.)

Right, that's me done. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Public Lending Right petition

Please take a look at this petition to protect the organisation which handles Public Lending Right in the UK, and sign it if you agree with it.

Public Lending Right is money collected from libraries for each loan of a book. An author whose books are in libraries registers with PLR, and will then get a once a year payout, the amount depending on how often their books are borrowed. It's an important source of income for many writers, but now it seems the government want to scrap it.

Please share this with your writerly and other contacts, thank you!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

More short stories on Kindle

Short story anthologies are perfect for the Kindle. You can download them for very little, pop your Kindle into your handbag and then you're never without something good to read while on the bus, waiting at the dentist's, or any other spare moment. (And one of the best things about the Kindle is that it is brilliant in bright sunshine - so perfect for reading in the garden in this glorious weather we've been having in the UK!)

Mills and Boon and womag writer Kate Hewitt (aka Katharine Swartz) has also published a short story anthologys for Kindle - Love, Laughter and Lucky Marbles is all about the funny side of falling in love and costs all of 77p so is an absolute bargain!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Free anthology!

The supremely talented Della Galton, who turns 21 today and is very good at telling stories, is celebrating her birthday by making her first e-anthology of short stories completely free today!

Go here to download the first Daily Della anthology, Lessons in Love, for free. (If you don't have a Kindle, go here to download free Kindle software for your PC, Mac, tablet or Smartphone.) Hurry, it's free today but back to usual price tomorrow, I think.

I'd already bought this, and the second Daily Della, Waiting. I love Della's stories (apart from the one about her age!) and am hugely looking forward to reading them.

Oh, and she shares a birthday (give or take a day) with this blog, which is now 5 years old! Happy Birthday Della, and Happy Birthday my blog!

Monday, 14 May 2012

My Weekly Collectors' edition

There's a My Weekly Special out at the moment, dated May 8th-June7th, and is a commemorative issue for the Golden Jubilee. Inside is a facsimile of the Coronation edition from 1953.

As with the Woman's Weekly centenary edition a few months back, it's great to see how women's magazines have changed over the years. Well worth buying this magazine as one to keep!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Writers' Abroad Anthology and two competitions

If you're British but live or have lived abroad, this could be one for you.
Writers' Abroad have put out a call for submissions for their next anthology.

Closing date: 31 July 2012.
Entrants: Only for expat and former expat writers.
Fiction: 1700 words max (flash fiction welcome).
Non-fiction: 1000 words max.
Poems: 30 lines max. Theme: ‘Relationships around the world’.
Free to enter, all profits from the anthology will be donated to the Book Bus charity, and a foreword will be written by the prize-winning novelist, Julia Gregson.
Full guidelines available at

If you're not an ex-pat, here's a couple of competitions for you instead.
First one is in aid of British Thyroid Foundation, the prize kindly supplied by Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate.
Closing date 30 June, short stories 2000 words max, theme "Go for the throat!" and the winner will receive two tickets to the VIP Festival Launch Party Crime Novel of the Year and accommodation at the sumptuous Cairn Hotel.
More details and full T and Cs here.

And the other one is run by
Short story 1,500-3,000 words, theme, as you can probably guess, is "Bingo".
First prize £300, second prize £100, and two runners up prizes of £50.
Closing date 28th Feb 2013. No entry fee.
More information here.

Hope one of these appeals to you. I've been head down writing my novel, hence the lack of recent posts. Sorry about that!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Stuck for story ideas?

Try buying a copy of The Writer's Treasury of Ideas, by Linda Lewis. My copy arrived the other day and it looks to be packed with great ideas to kick start a few stories. And I absolutely LOVE the cover. (Bit blurry here because I've had to blow up a tiny image. Looks much better on the actual book!) Link above is to Amazon. If you buy direct from Linda she'll throw in a mini-guide for free. Tell her I sent you.

Linda, aka Catherine Howard, is a regular contributor to the womags. Her stories are always vibrant and fun, and she's sold hundreds. This will be an excellent addition to your writer's bookshelf.

If you've got a Kindle, it's available as an ebook too (and cheaper that way). Also check out Linda's How to books for Kindle:
How to Make £10 in 10 Minutes
Why Short Stories Get Rejected
which cost next to nothing and are brilliant.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Drawing your characters

One piece of advice I've heard several times is that to help visualise your characters it is a good idea to find a picture, either online or in a magazine, of someone who looks roughly as you imagine your character to be. I know Sally Q's male heros all tend to look like Sean Bean...

Womag writer and Pocket Novels author Douglas McPherson goes a step further. He's a talented artist, and likes to sketch his characters to help bring them to life when he's writing.  Here's his sketch of the main character of one of his recent pocket novels - this is Natty Smalls, who's obsessed with vintage 50s clothing:

Wish I could draw like that! And here's how My Weekly pictured Natty, on the final published pocket novel:

Does anyone else do this? Or have other tips for how to visualise your characters?

Incidently, Douglas has a book entitled Closer! just out with Linford Romance Library - under the name Julia Douglas. He says: "There's a belief in the publishing world that women prefer to by books by women and men prefer books by men. It's why JK Rowling used her initials, so boys wouldn't be put off buying books by a woman. Closer! is a romance, so I thought, if it's good enough JK, it's good enough for me!"

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Womag-writing article series

I've just come across this useful series of articles by womag writer, Lydia Jones.

Well worth a read for anyone wanting to break into the women's magazine fiction market. She says it all much better than I could!

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

World Book Night and Complementary World Book Night

World Book Night is on 23rd April. It's a lovely idea, but as Nicola Morgan points out here there is a better, simpler way of promoting books and readership, benefitting authors, publishers and bookshops alike.

She suggests that those who love reading (obviously, that's all of you lot) buy a book to give away to a friend, family member or acquaintance, in the spirit of WBN. Buy a book you've loved yourself, and pass it on to someone you think might love it too. Ideally, buy the book from an independent bookshop, then everyone's a winner.

I'm going to buy my lovely neighbour a copy of Before She Was Mine by Kate Long. Because I think she'd like it. Hope you'll all join in, too!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Some womaggy news and a charity competition

1. Over at Take A Break Towers, they have a new lady Claudia Woodward in charge of sending out payments for stories, and she appears to be super-efficient. Sarah England and I have both received payment for stories, which then sent us scurrying off to the newsagents to see if we were in the current Fiction Feast. But we're not -we're due to be in the next issue (out later this month).

This is great news - there is nothing worse than having to wait ages for payment. Now you know that when you receive notification of payment, your story will be in the next issue, and you haven't missed its publication. Well done TAB!

2. Woman's Weekly HQ have sent a letter out to their regular contributors, pleading for more 1 and 2-page stories. 1-page stories should be 900-1000 words, and 2-pagers should be 1800-2000 words. Don't send odd length stories as they are harder to fit into the magazine. Longer stories are ok for the fiction specials.

They're also asking for more unusual stories, and especially humour. Avoid relationship break-up stories and present tense as they've had a glut of those recently. Read the latest issues (and remember the Fiction Special is available on Kindle these days) to keep up to date.

3. And a charity competition - take a look at this great competition which aims to raise money for a cancer charity. It's being run by writer Kath Kilburn who is a regular name in both the womags and writing mags. Entry fee £2.50, stories may range from 50 to 1000 words, and must include the phrase 'knock on effect'. Deadline 14th May, top prize is £100 or half the entry fees. The rest of the entry fees goes to the charity, The Knock On Effect which aims to break the taboo of cancer, and get people talking about it. It's about survival not suffering.

I bet we've all been touched by cancer in one way or another. What a brilliant charity, and a really great competition supporting it. Hope you all enter it. I'm going to.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Apologies for lack of posts

I was away last week in the Lake District, experiencing all four seasons in four days and very nearly spending the night stuck in a blizzard on the Kirkstone Pass.
I'm deeply immersed in writing my new novel at the moment, so blog posts may be few and far between, for which I apologise. Do keep sending me news snippets relating to the world of womag writing though, and I'll post them up as and when.
Meanwhile, pop over to Karen's blog, where Helen Hunt is talking about how to turn your marvellous short story beginnings into complete stories, ready to submit. Check out Helen's forthcoming day retreat for writers, too.
And Della Galton is talking about flash fiction. She's running a day course on it later this month which will be well worth attending if you enjoy writing the shorter pieces.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Children's story competition

If you've ever fancied yourself as a children's story writer then here's an excellent competition for you. Free to enter, top prize £1000! Closing date is 4th June.

Write a 600-800 word story, which starts with the line: "Once upon a Munch time, there was a cow called Munch..." You also need to provide a drawing or picture to illustrate your story.

Full details on the Munch time website.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Inspiration for the weekend

Looking for short story ideas? Try browsing this site, courtesy of my friend Joyce. Someone with too much time on their hands (clearly!) has gone through Google street view, and captured the most interesting stills. The result is a remarkable collection of images, every one of which could inspire a story. (Beware - the images take a while to load up, at least they do on my aging laptop, so be patient.)

I think my favourite is the fox squeezing through a wrought-iron gate. You'll need to scroll down some way to find it. The guy trying to calm his horse in the middle of the road - that has to be somewhere in the west of Ireland. Talking of which - Happy St Patrick's Day to all the Irish out there!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Novels vs short stories

I've started writing another novel. I'm still in the early stages - about 6,000 words in, but so far it's going well. I've done quite a bit of planning so I know more or less what will happen in each chapter, and can get on and write them relatively quickly.

This means short stories are on the back burner again, after a few months of writing and submitting them again (and a few welcome hits!)

I'm enjoying writing this novel. As with the last one, I find if I only have a few minutes, I can still add a bit to it. I leave my laptop switched on, and the document open (but saved) so it takes no time to get going again. With short stories, I need to have the whole story worked out in my head before I start to write, and I need a good couple of hours to get a complete first draft written. So unless I have a completely free evening, or half-day at the weekend, I won't start a short story. When writing a novel, however, as I can pick it up more quickly, I'm happy to add just a couple of hundred words while the dinner's cooking, or before heading off to Zumba class.

I know other writers who are the opposite - they can start a short story if they've only got ten minutes to spare, but need a couple of hours at a time on a novel, to re-read and edit the last section written, get back into the heads of the characters, and only then add more words.

What about you? Do you need a long stretch of time for a writing session, or can you make do with snatched minutes here and there?

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Two opportunities from Circalit

Here's something for crime writers and short story writers:

Get represented by one of the UK's top literary agencies.
Circalit, the crowd-sourcing platform for writers, has teamed up with literary agency, Luigi Bonomi Associates, to find talented new crime fiction writers. LBA is one of the UK’s top literary agencies and well known for representing authors such as David Gibbins, Alan Titchmarsh, James May, Richard Hammond and many others. Now Thomas Stofer, an agent at LBA, is on the lookout for crime fiction novels to turn into international best sellers. All you need is the first three chapters of your crime fiction work plus a detailed synopsis. So if you want to be a crime fiction writer then enter for free at
The deadline for entries is 30th April, 2012.

Circalit has announced the publication of a short story anthology for Autumn 2012. The Circalit Anthology will be read by over 10,000 subscribers and will be available in paperback and as an eBook. Any short story uploaded onto Circalit will automatically be considered for the anthology. Simply create an account at and upload your short stories to be eligible. The deadline for entries is 31st March, 2012.

For further information please contact:
Robert Tucker

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Before She Was Mine

It's two weeks until Mother's Day. Here's a great suggestion for a present for your mum (or for yourself, why not!)
Kate Long's latest book, Before She Was Mine, is now out in paperback. It tells the story of Freya, who has two mothers - her adoptive mother Liv, who's an environmentalist earth-mother type; and her birth mother Melody who is vibrant and bohemian, still acting like a teenager herself. When Liv gets cancer and Melody gets pregnant, Freya is pulled in many directions and has a lot to deal with.

It's a brilliant book - full of quirky detail and characters who leap off the page. Thoroughly recommended.

The publisher are also running a competition connected with the launch of this book - win a luxury spa day for two at Champneys. Actually I wasn't going to mention this, as I want to win it myself, but this blog's about sharing info so I suppose, reluctantly, I should give you the link.
Edited to add - Kate has kindly offered to send personalised book-plates if you contact her via her website (linked above). That'll make it a really special present!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Stolen stories

Romance writer Liz Fielding has had a story stolen - see her blogpost here. Someone else has taken her work, changed a few details and is passing the result off as her own. That's despicable. The thief, as defence, said she'd downloaded the original story and put it in a folder, then thought it was her own work. Yeah, right. And just happened to change characters' names as well. The lamest excuse I've ever heard.

Unfortunately now that works can be downloaded to PCs, and uploaded and self-published as ebooks so easily, I predict we are going to see more and more of this kind of thing.

Some useful links to sites discussing copyright issues here.

Updated 26/2/12 - more on the story here. This was not an isolated incident. The thief has stolen several other works as well. She has now admitted plagiarism and apologised. I'm not sure that's enough, though.

Updated 27/2/12 - the story was picked up by the Guardian Books Blog.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Competition results!

I'm pleased to announce that Geraldine Ryan has now judged the serial-writing competition from a couple of weeks back, and has sent me her judge's report. Many thanks to all who entered - we were both thrilled with the number and quality of the entries. All of you should carry on and see if you can complete a serial or at least a crime story, from your 200-word beginnings!

So, here's what Geri had to say:

I really enjoyed reading everyone’s competition entries. The standard was very high and it hasn’t been easy to judge. Before the winner is revealed I’d like to make a few observations about the writing.

The most convincing characters are always those captured in action. Obviously characters grow in the telling of the story but I particularly loved Loveday Ross’s energy, Julie Smith’s mysterious 1920’s female sleuth and Sally Jenkins’ Tower Captain. All strong, independent women perfectly capable of solving a crime single-handedly against the odds.

Everyone who submitted their 200 words understood that setting is just as important as character in a successful crime mystery. Village settings are familiar but no less intriguing for that – in fact give readers a village setting and immediately they know they’re in for a good old cosy crime, full of twists and turns in which evil will be destroyed and good triumph. Other settings were 1920’s London complete with fog, a bookshop, a newspaper office, a TV studio and a seaside guest house – all self-contained places with lots of opportunity for conflict and red-herrings by the bucket.

There was an excellent use of humour and dialogue to further the plot as well as paint character in many of the stories. I particularly loved the use of humour from Otternator, Stevie Carroll and Pat Posner.

In the end it all comes down to personal choice. I’d like to single out Rena and Julie in particular who came pretty close but there can only be one winner. The winner is Sally Jenkins and her bell ringing mystery.

This is a world I know nothing of and I expect that goes for most of us. Sally’s knowledge of her subject feels genuine and is impressive without sounding overly researched. After the immediate sense of unease that comes with that opening sentence she drops in detail after detail, building up the mood and the setting. I feel I am in safe hands with her intelligent heroine. I am aware that she has her enemies too – the old guard who think she’s both too young and too female to hold the position of Tower Captain and look forward to discovering how that conflict is resolved. I really have no idea where this story is going but I’m intrigued to find out.

Thank you to everyone for joining in and I hope you all feel you’d like to take your serial idea further even if you haven’t won this time.

Congratulations to Sally on a marvellous win! Please email me via the Contact Me link on this blog and I'll put you in touch with Geri who'll send your prize.

Also, remember the guest post from Nicola Morgan a month back? Nicola was offering prizes of synopsis critiques to all commenters on posts during her blog tour. I'm delighted to say that one of this blog's readers, Suzanne Jones, was picked as a winner. Well done Suzanne!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Magazine sales figures

Here's a recent set of magazine circulation figures, for the top selling women's mags. Bit depressing to see that the year on year change is downwards for all titles listed here. I think people are reading more online and buying fewer magazines in general. Good to see that of all of them, Woman's Weekly did the best job of holding onto its sales figures.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

This and that

Now the dust has settled over that Woman's Own competition furore, time to update you on a few pieces of news.

A while back I advertised a free-to-enter competition with a theme of Moving Home, run by estate agent Peter Barry. The results have now been announced, and I'm delighted to see that one of this blog's readers, Tess Kimber, came second. Well done Tess! All 12 of the shortlisted entries have been posted on the Peter Barry blog so you can take a look and see if you agree with the judge's decisions.

The organiser, Justin Burns, also did some wonderful analysis of the competition entries, which he posted here. These make fascinating reading - they had submissions from 29 different countries, and some were written by pets and ghosts!

For those of you interested in non-fiction writing, take a look at Laura Marcus's website, here. She lists some great links related to journalism, and has a useful FAQs page for anyone considering branching out into journalism.

Ages ago I heard of an interesting online weekly writing competition - Write Invite. I blogged about at the time, and it's still going strong. I know several people who swear by the inspiration they get from taking part in this (including Tess Kimber!) The competition runs at 5.30pm sharp every Saturday evening. You pay your entrance fee ahead of time, then at 5.30pm some prompts appear and you write for half an hour, allowing time to upload your story before the time is up. The best stories are published on the site and voted on by members, and the winner gets a decent prize.

You won't write a whole womag story in half an hour, but you should end up with something which can be worked on. Those of you who've read Della Galton's book, Moving On, might remember her giraffe-poacher short story which she used as an example of a story which could be expanded into a novel. Well, that one started life as a 400-word Write-Invite competition entry, before being worked up to a womag story. And I wonder if she will write the novel as well...? So if you're free on a Saturday early evening, why not give it a go?

Right, well I've got the next two days off work, for no better reason than it's half term and I had a couple of days holiday from last year to use up. So I'll be getting on with some serious writing, as well as going out to enjoy the winter sunshine. A four-day weekend - I could get used to that!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Woman's Own have listened to us

I'm delighted to say that Woman's Own have taken on board the huge number of comments they had about their competition, and have decided to offer £200 to the winner. It's not a huge prize but it is far better than expecting any writer to be happy with just publication. I'm glad that they listened to us and that they were big enough to rethink the terms of the comp.

Go to the WO facebook page and scroll down to find the post beginning 'Calling all budding authors' for the full story.

We can remove Woman's Own from the blacklist now. Well done all for exerting enough pressure to get this changed.

Edited 20:17 to add - on another facebook page Simon Whaley mentioned he had emailed WO to ask about rights for this competition, and received the reply that they will only take First British Serial Rights for any story they publish. So rest assured, the comp is not a rights-hogger.