Friday, 15 February 2013

Guest post by Helen Yendall

Well, my plea for more guest posts and 'the stories behind the story' on the Laura Marcus post worked - Helen Yendall has sent me this post about the double inspiration for her story in the current Woman's Weekly Fiction Special. Thanks Helen! I agree - stories which come from two different sources of inspiration tend to be the most successful.

I'd love to run more posts like this one, so if you'd like the world of womag to know the story behind your story, please contact me using the link above. I'll always include links back to your blog, website or other relevant page. 

Over to Helen: 

Saying I Will
I have a one-page story in the current (February 2013) Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special (page 71) called ‘Saying I Will’.

I’m well into double figures with sales to Woman’s Weekly now BUT if that sounds smug, it isn’t meant to be! They still reject more of my stories than they take and I even though I’m able to email them my stories (once you’ve had one accepted, you’re allowed to do that), they can still take 3 or 4 months to come back to me on a story. So I still have to work just as hard – and suffer the same frustrations – as everyone else, published or not! (*bangs head against wall*!)

Anyway, I thought you might be interested in the ‘story behind the story’ and for those who don’t have a copy of the current issue, in a nutshell, ‘Saying I Will’ is about a woman, Trisha, whose ex-husband is remarrying and how it’s made her feel.

WW actually spoiled the ‘twist’ a little, as at the beginning, I wanted the reader to think that it’s Trisha who’s getting married (the first line is, “On the day of the wedding, I wake to bright sunshine...” ) but in the ‘blurb’ WW have printed a line from the story which clearly tells the reader that it’s her ex-husband who’s getting married - but never mind. Once they’ve bought the story, they can do what they like!

I actually got the idea for the story from 2 different sources and I love it when I’m able to bring two ideas together like that because that usually means the story has a bit of ‘depth’ and layering to it.

Source 1: The Charity Shop

I took a bag of stuff into our local charity shop last summer and commented to the man behind the counter on what another miserable day it was (it was raining). He shrugged rather sadly and said, “It can rain every day this month as far as I’m concerned. Especially on the 28 th.” So, naturally, I asked him the significance of 28th (of July, as it happened) and he explained that his ex-wife was getting remarried on that day and they were having a marquee in the garden. (Sad really, wasn’t it?). I probably didn’t help matters by telling him (truthfully) that my brother’s birthday is 28 th July and he always has a barbecue and, as my brother is Mr Jammy, the sun ALWAYS shines (and actually, it did again last year – and I thought about the charity shop man on that day).

But my little conversation made me think, ‘There’s a story in that’. But I didn’t quite have enough material to turn it into something.... until ...

Source 2: The Daily Mail

The Mail, and other tabloids, whatever you may think of them as ‘newspapers’, are a great source of ideas and inspiration for women’s magazine stories as they have lots of women-focussed lifestyle articles and human interest stories.

And not long after the incident in the charity shop, I read an article in the Mail about what to do if your ‘ex’ is getting remarried. One suggestion was to go on holiday – to a different time zone – and concentrate on your future, instead of mourning the past.

Ta dah! That was it. That gave me the rest of the story. Trisha and her old college friend Sarah head for California and drink champagne on the day of her ex’s wedding. And when Sarah asks her if she’ll drink a toast to the rest of her life, Trisha says, “I Will!”

Helen blogs at:


Jo said...

What an excellent guest blog post! I truly admire writers who are regularly published in Woman's Weekly Fiction Special. It's always great to hear how a story came about and what inspired the writer. This has made me think that I really should get out more and talk to people, as well as read articles in The Daily Mail!

Laura Marcus said...

This really speaks to me Helen. When my ex got married (we'd only lived together) I was in bits. It was a very long time ago but the memory of the pain has never entirely gone.

Wish I'd thought of celebrating my new life as your heroine does. I think WW bought it because it will speak to a lot of their readers.

Well done. And thanks for sharing. Like Kath, I love the story behind the story.

Karen said...

Really interesting - it's fascinating how stories are inspired :o)

The Weekly News once gave away the twist of one of my stories in their blurb by revealing the main character was a man when the reader was supposed to think he was female until the very last line!

Claire Baxter said...

What an interesting post, Helen. I love it when two sources of inspiration converge into one story.

Laura Marcus said...

This two sources thing has never happened for me. I'm going to look out for it from now on!

Wendy's Writing said...

Hi Helen. I shall have to get a copy and have a read - your story sounds really interesting. I agree that (especially in the early days) the rejections come more frequently that the acceptances but each acceptance makes it all worth while as I'm sure you'll agree!

Simon Whaley said...

Great post. Yes, sometimes it's that second 'idea' that provides the satisfying conclusion. I'd better start haunting charity shops and reading the Daily Mail then!

Geraldine Ryan said...

Lovely post, Helen and a lovely story. Doesn't it go to show that the writing day is not limited to office hours? Last week I was filling in a questionnaire for a health researcher and she asked me how many hours a week I spent writing, as I'd told her it was my occupation. How to explain that just because you're not putting words on a screen doesn't mean you're not writing!

Anonymous said...

Oh, my last comment seems to have got lost, so I'll say it again. I don't know where my ideas for WW come from. At the moment they seem to fall from the sky! I know it won't last, so I think I'll start reading the 'newspapers' and take more notice of things happening around me. Thanks for the tip!
Leonora Francis

Cathos said...

Really interesting guest blog post and it would be great to see more. It's made me think that even if an initial idea seems to not have enough to make it into a story that perhaps by actively looking for something else to go with it ... it could work. Sounds a great story too - will buy the magazine this month.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Love this idea for posts. Great story, Helen, and very helpful to see how it came together.

Laura Marcus said...

As Nora Ephron once said, everything is copy!

Sue Blackburn said...

Another inspirational post. Thank you Helen. So interesting to hear about the 'two layers' sandwiching together to a very satisfying whole!
I shall haunt the charity shops even more and read the paper much more avidly in future! x

blogaboutwriting said...

Thanks for all your kind comments. I think of getting a short story idea like a game of 'pairs'. If I have a germ of an idea for a story, I usually have to put it to one side until it's 'partner' idea turns up to complete it. Often without the additional idea, it doesn't have enough meat.
Since I wrote this post, by the way I've had FOUR rejections from Woman's Weekly.
Which just goes to show, you can never get too complacent!

blogaboutwriting said...

Whoops, sorry of course I meant to write 'its partner idea' (without the apostrophe). Aah, my pet grammatical hate too!

Laura Marcus said...

I've never waited for the second half of an idea to turn up! I'm just delighted to get one!

Bought WW to read your story Helen. Really liked it. Hope WW appreciate you helping their sales in this way!

Mandy said...

I really enjoyed that story in WW's Fiction Special Helen and it's very interesting to learn how it came together, so thanks for a cool post. I recently sent 2 stories to Sue Moorcroft to critique with a view to sending them to WW. She did a great analysis on them, so fingers crossed.