Today's guest is Geraldine Ryan.
1. When did you start writing, Geraldine - and why did you choose womag stories?
Too many years ago to remember, Patsy! When I first started writing for publication the market was a lot bigger than it is now so it seemed the obvious market to aim for, particularly as I’ve never seen myself as a literary writer. In parallel to writing womag stories I was also completing a novel and trying to get an agent.
2. Is there a particular genre within the womag market which you particularly enjoy writing?
I think all my stories are about relationships really. Even the crime serials. I’m not that keen on romance unless I can find some humour in the situation and I prefer to write urban settings than stories set in the countryside.
3. Are you a disciplined writer producing a steady stream of stories, or do you wait until you're in the mood?
A bit of both really. I’m usually working on something. At the moment I’m working on a serial, I have the idea for a story in my head and I’m honing a TV script. A writer is a writer even when they’re not writing. This last week I’ve been kept awake by various ideas, as you can see by my photo. It’s not a job that keeps office hours.
4. You've written serials for Woman's Weekly, could you tell us how you go about that?
Oh, gosh! How long have you got? Writing serials is hard. The majority of my serials have the solving of a crime as the plot. But my characters and their relationships will still be my priority – see above. I have a tendency to start writing before I’m ready because I get impatient and I’m a pantser rather than a planner. It is not unusual for me to have to rewrite an episode up to three times before I get it right. Basically writing serials is just a question of putting your nose to the grindstone. It doesn’t get any easier – for me at least!
5. How much impact does the editor have on the direction the serials take?
Pace, I think, is the most difficult thing to get right when you’re writing a serial. If you’re right in the middle of the story sometimes you can’t see that the pace is wrong. It takes a good editor to have the overview and to be able to see that. Also, the editor knows what her readers like and what they don’t like too so you’d be minded to listen to her and not think you know best. You do need a fair amount of self-discipline when it comes to writing a serial because it’s easy to lose your way and go off at a tangent – allowing too much ‘air time’ for a minor character or a scene which might showcase your finest writing but ultimately does not further the plot. A good editor will bring you back to heel. I ought to be put in the dock for the number of darlings I’ve murdered over the years. It’s always my best prose that gets decimated.
6. How does writing serials differ from shorter stories?
Obviously you need more plot in a serial – often a sub-plot as well as the main plot. A serial needs more characters and those main characters in particular have to be fully rounded. You need to work more on your setting too. What they have in common is the need for pace, a satisfying shape and the right ending.
7. The right writing snacks are very important - what's your fuel of choice?
I’m not a snacker, actually. Three meals a day woman me.
8. I've heard that some writers use real people and situations in stories to work off frustrations or put something right. Do you ever do that?
Yes, all the time. I wrote a story about being bullied at school once, getting my own back on the two girls who did it. Plenty of my own personal dilemmas and problems appear in my stories but I couldn’t possibly say more than that publicly.
9. What has been your happiest or proudest writing moment so far?
It will always be getting that first story accepted. And only last week an editor told me that a story I’d written had made her cry and the editor of the magazine to jump for joy. Now I call that something to be proud of.
10. Can you pass on a tip for other womag writers?
You hear it said that there’s a formula for writing women’s magazine stories. Well, if there is one I wish someone would tell me!
I think you have to write the story you want to write.
Don’t shy away from challenging themes but bear in mind if your story is going to address a difficult subject there has to be something redemptive in it. If you want write misery lit then you’re aiming at the wrong market.
Stories sneak up and you when you least expect them. Keep your eyes and ears open at all times. That way you’ll never run out of stories.