Now that I'm back writing short stories for a while, I realised I needed to get myself up to speed with the kind of story the magazines are currently publishing. You can't rely on your memory of what they were buying a couple of years ago - magazines change all the time. Subtly, perhaps, but even so, the more you are acquainted with the type of story an editor likes, the more likely you'll sell to them.
So I bought a copy of the current My Weekly, dated Jan 10-16, and have just finished reading it, cover to cover. It was always one of my favourite mags, and still is.
There are five short stories in this issue, and a few thoughts struck me as I read them.
It's My Choice by Trixie Nisbet. Louise has moved in with new boyfriend Ben, who seems like a much better choice than her last boyfriend, though her mum doesn't think he's good enough for her. But things aren't going too well - Ben was a bachelor for too long and is set in his ways.
What surprised me here was the ending. It's not quite the traditional upbeat ending you expect to find in women's magazines. It's a realistic ending though, and refreshing, as it was unexpected.
Special Night Out by Helen Hunt. A 'moment in time' one-page story, following a woman making herself look as good as possible for a night out. Beautifully descriptive (Helen is so good at this kind of story!) and leaves you with a smile on your face, wholly approving of the main character's actions. I wanted to high-five her at the end!
There's Something About The Willows by Stella Whitelaw. A young couple buy a neglected old house after its previous elderly occupants died. They often find books left open, as though someone had been reading and has just left the room. This is a beautiful gentle ghost story, though we never 'see' the ghosts. What struck me here is that in the past, My Weekly would only take ghost stories if there was an alternative, rational explanation. There's none such in this story, and if there was, it would only spoil it.
You'll Never Guess by Hayley Johnson-Mack. Unusual and satisfying twist in the tail story. If this had been mine, I'd probably have tried it at Take A Break first, as it felt more like their territory than MW.
Off To See The World by Elizabeth McKay. Written in the second person, this reads like an open letter from a mother to her daughter who's just about to set off on her gap year travels. Second person?! I think this may be the first time I've seen this in a women's mag, but it's perfect for this story.
All great stories. Well done to the authors! And so good to see My Weekly branching out and taking a wider variety of stories than before.
I received My Weekly's latest writers' guidelines the other day. They're still not able to accept fiction submissions from writers they've not published before, sadly (though this doesn't apply to features or pocket novel submissions). And only one submission per author per month.
They're currently looking for Jubilee, Olympic and Wimbledon themes.
- 700 word coffee break stories (no twists please in this category)
- 1400 word light-hearted twist in the tail
- 2500 emotionally engaging stories
- Light-hearted romances in all the lengths
Fiction editor Liz Smith is aiming to give writers constructive criticism, coupled with a faster turnaround, this year (as reported in February's Writers' Forum). Which is all good news. I do wish she'd open up submissions to new writers again, however. Thankfully, other fiction editors such as Jill Finlay of The Weekly News, are actively looking to publish as many new writers as possible this year.
Right, well, I must get my January submission to My Weekly sent! I've a 1400-word light-hearted romance which might just hit the spot...