Monday, 25 February 2013

Weekly News - closed for submissions for 2 months

Jill Finlay, fiction editor at The Weekly News, has reluctantly had to close the doors to submissions for two months, to give herself time to catch up with the backlog. Please don't send any more stories to The Weekly News until after 22nd April 2013. Jill is the only person working on fiction for TWN, which usually carries 3 stories a week, so it's a hefty workload and I can understand her needing to slow things down until she's back on top of it all.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Guest Post by Wendy Clarke

I have another guest post for you today - Wendy Clarke has written an inspirational piece about how she began writing womag fiction, how she learned the practicalities and made her first sales. I especially love her description of being like a child in a sweet shop exploring this blog!  

Today is my anniversary. No not my wedding anniversary but the anniversary of writing my first story for a magazine.

I had just finished an online writing course and my tutor had suggested that this might be a good direction to take but I was na├»ve: I had no idea how to go about it or even what sort of stories the magazine’s wanted.

Those first stories were pretty bad and looking back at them I can see why so many of those first ones were rejected. In a word, I had no idea what I was doing but I was determined that I would not give up until I’d had a story published.

I took stock and realised that this was not something I could do without help. Where was this help to come from? In fact it came from many sources. Firstly there were many practical questions I needed answering: Was it permissible to send two in one envelope? How long should I expect to wait before hearing back?

Having read Linda Lewis’s excellent book, The Writer’s Treasury of Ideas, I decided that she might be the one to help me out with the practical side of writing and how right I was: she answered all my questions patiently and was very encouraging in those early days of insecurity. Her kind words: I have a feeling you're going to have success quite soon as you have all the qualities you need - imagination to come up with lots of stories, and perseverance… made me all the more determined to succeed and those words have stayed with me.

Practical issues sorted out, what of the emotional support that every writer needs? My husband has always been my greatest support but I also needed the company of other writers (even if only virtual) and so turned to the web and to other writers’ blogs. The first one I read was this one and I spent hours pouring over the old posts – I was like a child in a sweet shop!

I then did some reading of other blogs and what I found was a wonderful warm community of writers. Their informative posts or even just general writerly chat helped me to realise I was not alone out there. This was about the time (last August) that I made my first sale to Take a Break’s Fiction Feast (a huge thank you to Norah McGrath) and decided to start my own blog Wendy’s Writing Now to chart my writing progress from first sale and to help and encourage other new writers.

I am so glad I did: the encouragement and warmth of both new and established writers has been indescribable and a great boost on those gloomy ‘I can’t do this any more’ days. What I learnt in the blogging world is you get back what you put in – I try and be as involved as I can in other writer’s blogs and in turn receive lovely comments from my new writing ‘friends’ and have even managed to meet up with one of them.

‘But what of the writing?’ I hear you ask. Well, I know that I have been very lucky: Soon after my sale to Fiction Feast, the lovely People’s Friend bought one of my stories and I cannot thank them enough for their time and patience, since then, in helping me to make my stories better. Without their faith in my writing I may well have given up. A sale to Woman’s Weekly followed.

I have been privileged this last year to have sold fourteen stories to Fiction Feast, The People’s Friend and Woman’s Weekly and I can honestly say that the thrill of seeing the stories in print never abates BUT it hasn’t been easy. I have had many, many rejections but with each rejection I pick myself up and write another one. My biggest advice to new writers is write, write, write and send, send, send – it’s the only way if you are serious about magazine writing.

Good luck to all you new writers out there. I hope my story will encourage you. My latest short story, ‘Remember’, can be read in this month’s Fiction Feast and the inspiration behind this story can be read on my blog.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Forthcoming books and a competition

A quick news post for you.

Firstly, with Mother's Day coming up, here's the perfect present for your own mum, or for your kids to buy for you - Kate Long's latest, Bad Mothers United. Remember her first - The Bad Mothers' Handbook which came out in 2004 and was made into a TV programme starring Catherine Tate and Robert Pattinson? Well, by popular demand, Kate's written the sequel, so we can all find out what happened next to Karen, Charlotte and Nan. We left Charlotte becoming a teenage mum, Nan moving into an old folks' home, and Karen trying to cope with it all while struggling to come to terms with the truth about her past, as I recall. Visit Kate's website for more information. She's offering signed personalised bookplates to stick inside either gift books or your own copy.

Secondly, let me introduce another writer whom I very much admire. David Hough is incapable of writing a short story, because every time he tries, he ends up writing a novel. And his novels are excellent, real page-turners. His long-term small press publisher recently closed down, and almost immediately he found other publishers clamouring at his door wanting to republish some of his novels. (What a lovely feeling that must be!) As a result, five of his novels are soon to be republished - see his website for details. I've read 3 of the 5, and am currently reading another, which David kindly gave me in return for a plug on this blog. (Consider yourself plugged, David!) So if you like timeslip novels (The Gallows on Warlock Hill), adventure thrillers (Prestwick), historical novels set in Cornwall (The Vanson Curse) or indeed any good absorbing story, then do keep an eye out for these novels. David blogs at ACloudOfBooks.

And a competition - the Bath Short Story Award is a new international competition, with a top prize of £500. It's £5 to enter, deadline 30th March 2013, maximum length 2,200 words. The competition is to be judged by Helen Corner and Ayisha Malik of Cornerstones Literary Consultancy who are actively on the lookout for new talent, so this one looks like it'll definitely be worth entering.

Finally, thanks to all who have offered guest posts - I think there'll soon be quite a series running! Keep them coming. I'm hoping to feature guest posts from both Kate Long and David Hough to coincide with their publication dates as well.  (Soon maybe I won't have to write anything on this blog and it'll just run itself!)

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:

Friday, 8 February 2013

100 Ways to Fight the Flab

Author and womag writer Jane Wenham-Jones coined the term 'writer's bottom' to describe the inexorable spread of your bum which occurs when you spend hours at your computer, writing. Unfortunately it's a hazard of our trade, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Until now, that is! Jane has written an ebook, 100 Ways to Fight the Flab - The Wannabe Guide to a Better Bottom available for just 77p from Amazon. She was kind enough to send me a review copy, and I must say it's quite brilliant - full of tips which range from the madcap: Keep your crisps in the loft so every time you want a packet you get a workout for your thighs climbing the ladder, to the eminently sensible: Identify your food weakness then find a lower-calorie substitute.

Jane shows how you can improve your bum by dieting and exercise, or just make it look smaller by wearing flattering clothes. Her exercise tips include walking a dog (any dog, borrow one if you don't have your own canine companion); buy crap baking trays so you get a workout from scrubbing them; jump up and down on the kids' trampoline (obviously ensuring you've been for a wee first if you've had lots of children...)

Tip number 23, follow the C-plan diet, had me snorting Pinot all over my Kindle. You avoid all foods beginning with the letter C (cake, cream, chocolate, crisps, chips). Jane points out this one fails if you then pig out on gateau and french fries.

I loved tip number 27 - keep a magazine in the fridge so when you go there for something to nibble on to stave off boredom, you can peruse a mag instead.

And apparently, Rioja can help you lose weight. Happy Days! To find out more, buy the book, which I heartily recommend for all writers, both big and small.

Edited 9th Feb:  Helen pointed out I have forgotten to mention Jane's writing competition connected with this book. Write a 250-word flab-fighting tip, and you could win a week's writing course in France!
Details here on Jane's blog. That's got to be worth entering!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Guest post by Laura Marcus

I have a lovely guest post for you today, by Laura Marcus on how she made her first womag sale and how she's terrified it'll be her last (it won't, as long as she keeps writing and submitting!)

Laura's a journalist and has made her money from writing for years, but has only recently branched out into the world of fiction. It took her a while to get her first hit - just shows how difficult writing stories for the womags is, that even seasoned professional writers find it hard to get an acceptance! 

Many thanks to Laura for this article which I hope you will find inspirational. I love hearing about the stories behind the stories as it were, so if anyone else fancies writing a guest post about what inspired them to start writing or write a particular story, please get in touch via the Contact Me page above. (Sadly I can't pay for guest posts.)

OK, enough waffle from me. Over to Laura, and please do go out and buy Fiction Feast this month so you can read Laura's story. 

First sale - but one-hit wonder fears

This week the first short story I sold appears in the latest issue of Take a Break Fiction Feast. It’s a story about a woman who cures her panic attacks after watching a programme about the making of Apollo 13 - the film, not the actual space mission!

The idea came to me as I was watching this programme. Something Flight Commander Jim Lovell said struck a chord with me. I thought at the time, “I can use that! It’s a great piece of advice.” I even wrote it down. Then I thought, no, I can do more with this. There’s a story there.
So I wrote it, very quickly, and sent it to Woman’s Weekly as that was the magazine I was mostly targetting at the time. I’d decided at the beginning of last year, 2012, to start writing short stories in the hope that I’d be able to find a new income stream alongside my journalism and PR “comms” work. You can make a living as a writer even in this vicious economic climate. But you need to diversify. 

I wrote one story a week starting last January but only at weekends as I wasn’t sure I could make money from it so didn’t want to use weekdays. By the end of May, most of them had come back. I’d only sent out about 11 but was disappointed not to have sold any. I don’t have a lot of time to pursue new markets. It wasn’t working, I thought, so may as well give up. 

Writing short stories is great fun and hugely enjoyable. But I’m a lifelong hack. I write for money. I’m not interested in just writing for myself. Yet when my astronaut story came back, and with no feedback, I was a little crushed. I liked that story. A lot. I’ve always been a bit of a space nut, having grown up in the 60s and remembering the first Moon landing. So I contacted Sue Moorcroft who I knew did critiques for writers. I don’t belong to a writers’ group - don’t have time to critique other people’s stuff. I wanted to know if this story could be rescued.

Back it came from Sue with just a few suggested changes. Cut the length. Cut the number of characters, put the two lead people in the room together, not on the phone as I originally had, and make sure the heroine solves the problem. Don’t let someone else solve it.

I did all this and resubbed it, this time to Take a Break. 

Meanwhile the rest of my stories had all come back. So I decided to stop trying. The astronaut tale - which had originally been called Don’t Panic - was the last story I had out there. I’d forgotten about it in fact. So when I got an email from Norah McGrath, fiction editor on Take a Break, saying she wanted to buy it, I was stunned! But I also felt a little justified; kind of, I KNEW it was a good story.

You can see for yourselves as it goes on sale Thursday February 7th. Meanwhile I’ve returned to writing short stories, determined this won’t be a one-off; that I won’t be a one-hit wonder. I need to prove to myself that this wasn’t just a lucky fluke. And for that, I need more sales. And for that, I need to write more. Lots more! So I armed myself with Della Galton’s How to Write and Sell Short Storiesand went back to work on my fiction.

This work is like climbing a glass mountain. In the rain. You can’t ever stop for a rest. You have to keep on going. If you can write, believe in yourself and you get good advice - and you’re prepared to ask for, and take, direction - you too can make it as a published author. Tenacity in the face of zero encouragement from editors is what marks out those who get there from those who fall by the wayside. I nearly let myself fall. But Jim Lovell didn’t fall, nor does the heroine in my story and nor will I. Nor should you.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Support small-press mags

Jo Derrick, editor of The Yellow Room, an excellent small-press literary magazine, is struggling to sell sufficient numbers of her latest issue. She may have to convert the magazine to online-only. This will be a real shame, as it's a lovely little magazine and a great market for your more literary stories.

Why not go and take a look at the website, and if you like what you see, consider buying a copy of the latest issue. You don't need to take out a subscription - Jo allows you to buy the mag one issue at a time and you can pay online with a few clicks.

With thanks to Jenny for alerting me to this.