Sunday, 5 July 2015

Guest post by Womagwriter Carmen Walton

My guest today is Carmen Walton.

A question I ask at the beginning of my writing workshops is what is preventing your stories from selling to magazines? There are many answers to this but they all tend to lead to one main obstacle that prevents us from selling fiction to magazine editors. Focus.

Let me put it like this. If a passing stranger was asked out of the blue to suggest a gift idea they might suggest this.

Some thorough questioning, consideration, research and effort might reveal enough details about the recipient of this gift to reveal that what they really want is this.

Without focus being applied to the writing and sending of stories fiction editors are likely to be faced with drills when what they wanted was a decent bag.
So how do we focus?
Time is precious and often there doesn’t seem to be enough of it to go round. However, it’s important to invest the time to consider the needs of the magazines and their readers to make the most of your writing efforts.
Look inside the magazines.
Visual clues exist on every single page and in the tone and content of articles and features. It’s up to us to interpret those clues and give the editor the story they want and not the story we wanted to send. From reading a magazine you might
  • Determine the age group of the reader. Some topics are universal and others are more relevant to certain age groups than others. Have someone in mind when you write.
  • Consider the magazine’s content. Are there lots of diet and fashion articles or is emphasis on homemaking? What are readers interested in?
  • Read the stories in the magazine on a regular basis to determine what is chosen. Does the magazine use the first person point of view or the third? Are the endings twist in the tale or happy ever after?  Has a story similar to one of yours already been used?
  • Do the advertising pages promote expensive or inexpensive products? Does your reader enjoy a lavish lifestyle or are they budgeting? Write about a world that your reader is comfortable in.
Like the business of gift giving, sending stories should be personal and meaningful.
  • Don’t recycle old stories without thoroughly editing and shaping them to suit.
  • Don’t send stories that are thinly veiled vessels for your rants and gripes.
  • Do read the fiction guidelines that are readily available via this blog and all the magazine websites.
  • Do respect word counts and the advice given about what not to send.
The ideas you gather as writers can be used to create stories covering a wide range of topics and genres and can be placed in a variety of historical settings. Guidelines let you know what isn’t desirable but the people who manage the magazine spend time and money making sure they know who their customers are and what they want. It’s a business after all. With so many possibilities the main thing all the magazines ask you to do is entertain their readers. Have them cheered up, moved reassured or uplifted.
It’s a case of making sure you cheer the editor up when you give her the equivalent of this.

Instead of depressing her by giving her this.

Remember, it’s all about focus.

Carmen Walton is a freelance writer and creative writing tutor who, when she takes her own advice, sells short stories to women’s magazines. She will be running a day long workshop on writing fiction for women’s magazines on Saturday 26th September at Waterside Arts in Sale, near Manchester.

Waterside Arts Centre, Sale, Manchester. M33 7ZF


Rosemary Gemmell said...

All very valuable points, Carmen, thanks. I also find the readers' letters page a good indication of the readership.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for this. Lots of useful advice here. I really like the point comparing sending a story to choosing the right gift for someone. Spot on.
Lilian Butterwick (Rebecca Holmes)

Bubble said...

I went to one of Carmen's workshops last year and credit her with finally getting published. She doesn't make you write in front of strangers but does handle a class with mixed ability very well. Although I've been writing for years I came away with a few Eureka moments. A small amount of money very well spent.

suzy doodling said...

Great post, thanks.