I'm delighted to welcome Sarah England to my blog today. She's a women's magazine writer who has also recently published a novel - Expected - available as an ebook on Amazon . (I've read this and can confirm it's funny and witty and definitely worth a read!)
I asked Sarah to write a post on any topic of interest to women's magazine writers, and was very pleased when she sent me this, as it's not something I've ever covered on this blog as far as I can remember.
When I first started writing short stories for magazines about 5-6 years ago now,I simply wrote whatever came into my head. Rejection after rejection followed.Eventually - you know the thing: ‘if you don’t succeed then read the instructions’ - so I did a brief correspondence course and reluctantly started reading what the magazines were actually printing. Shortly afterwards I had my first success with My Weekly, and have since had over 100 short stories published in magazines, newspapers and anthologies. So what cracked it?
Well each magazine has a definite house style. Some magazines I know I will never be published in because I simply cannot get into their mindset. But others I can. I like writing comedy and The Weekly News publishes short stories with lots of humour and a sharp twist, so I often write for them. But I also like having a long rein with character i.e. they don’t have to be nice all the time - and that’s where Woman’s Weekly comes in. With Woman’s Weekly I feel that my characters can explore the wicked side of life. They can find themselves in tricky situations and not always handle them well. In short - the stories can push boundaries. And so can I.
It hasn’t been long since I had my first story taken by Woman’s Weekly, and then they took one after the other - everything I wrote hot off the press as it were. What happened was this - I started to read the Woman’s Weekly Fiction Specials in detail - every story, every style, every author. I got into the mindset of the reader, and most importantly the writers. Real life was screaming from the pages, so was humour, and nostalgia, and complex family scenarios. There were no twists at the end - ‘the ha! ha! Fooled you’ - type. And no spine chillers as such. Instead I found subtlety and a gradual increase in pace; atmosphere and character leading the reader down a long and winding path to a natural conclusion. Suddenly - it all fell into place!
Of course there is still the tricky aspect of finding more and more characters and plots - which is never easy - but what helps is to draw on your self, your background and your experiences, because your reader will be able to relate to that. And then add in character quirks and challenges for them to tackle. Keeping your reader entertained - that’s the key! If your story isn’t credible and your characters act in unrealistic ways then the reader will not be happy. And nor will the editor.
So to come full circle - I’d advise finding a house style you are happy with. If you like old-style romance then I’d recommend People’s Friend as a good place to start. If you have a knack for short tales with a twist I’d concentrate on Take a Break. But take a lot of time to get into the zone. These magazines sell thousands and they know what works for them.
Finally - once you know you want to tell people stories then try everything until you find what you are good at. I just love making people laugh. Which is why I wrote ’Expected’ now on Amazon kindle ebooks. Here’s the link if you’d like to take a look.
So there you are - match your style with a magazine and hopefully your hits will soon mount up! Thanks Sarah for this post, and good luck with promoting your novel!
(Post updated 1/7/13 to include new cover art and new Amazon links for Expected. Now also available in paperback.)