Saturday 29 August 2015

Rumour has it...

Actually it's more than a rumour. I have it on good authority that Take a Break's Fiction Feast want more one and two page stories. If you have anything suitable that's either 700 or 1,200 words, now might be a good time to send it in.

Here's my idea of a feast.

Thursday 27 August 2015

An ad break

I'm going to be sending out occasional newsletters about my writing. If you'd like to sign up for them you can do so here.

Ok, that's done.

Here's a cute picture to keep you going until the next womag related post.

Friday 21 August 2015

Interview with womagwriter Teresa Ashby

My guess today is Teresa Ashby.

1. When I first started writing short stories, two names appeared in every magazine I looked at - yours and Della Galton's. How long have you been writing womag stories and how did you get started?

I sold my first fiction story in 1984 to Secrets which was published by D C Thomson, but I started writing short stories a year or so before that. I had written a few (awful) novels by then. I used to invest in as many magazines as I could and after reading them, I’d count the words in each story. There weren’t a lot of guidelines back then, so you had to create your own. There were dozens of magazines which was good in a way as you had to learn to write in many different styles to suit each market.

2. Do you remember your first acceptance?

Yes, I do. It was called Happy to Oblige and the story was written about my two year old son trying to put my cat in the tumble dryer – he’d just come in out of the pouring rain. Thankfully I caught him. He was acting with the best of intentions and Leo came to no harm, but it sold my first story. The first thing I did when I got the letter was to phone my mum. Honestly, she was that chuffed, I still smile when I remember that phone call.

3. You've had soooo many since - do you still celebrate after a 'yes' and if so how?

I am always ecstatic when I have an acceptance. Mainly it’s a smile on my face and the push I need to get on and write more.

4. I know your family are important to you - do they still make it into your stories?

They sneak in sometimes without me even realising it. Same with the pets. Mainly I see my characters as people I’ve just met, but they often share some character traits with those I love – and a few people that I don’t (you’ll always need villains).

5. Do you have a strict writing routine, or is it impossible to fit one around the grandchildren and animals?

No I don’t have a routine at all. I write when and where I can.

6. The right writing snacks are very important - what's your fuel of choice?

At the moment it’s peanut butter on toast, but if anyone passing cares to throw me a tasty snack, I won’t say no.

7. You've published several collections of your short stories, could you tell us about the latest one?

Margaret’s Mouse &Other Stories is the latest. (US link) The stories were all published in The People’s Friend and there are twenty in all. It’s a mix of all sorts – but mainly about families with a bit of romance thrown in. (The collection is available at the special price of 99p/99c from today until Tuesday)

8. What has been your happiest or proudest writing moment so far?

I think it must be when I sold my first serial in 1988 to My Weekly, “For The Children’sSake”. I bought my first computer, an Amstrad with what I earned from that. Then I was contacted by publishers in Norway and Italy who wanted to publish it too. It was also published as a pocket novel. Many years later I found out that I could also sell large print rights. That serial opened up a whole new world for me and I should say here that I am forever grateful to D C Thomson for the encouragement they gave me when I started out.

9. Can you pass on a tip for other womag writers?

Read the magazines – the whole magazine that is, even the adverts. Know who you’re writing for and respect them. I think respect for the reader is vital. During a stay in hospital in 1985, the nurses
were only allowed to spend a maximum of two minutes in the room with me and one lovely nurse in particular used to have to keep looking at her watch because we’d end up talking about magazines. She said she loved reading the confession ones during her break. From that moment on, I thought of her when I wrote confession stories and imagined her reading them. I hadn’t thought about it this deeply before, but I definitely have someone in mind as my reader when I write –almost as if I’m chatting to them and telling the story.

Thursday 20 August 2015

Update from Jill Finlay

Jill has posted an update to her last post in the comments. I'm copying it here too, so no one misses it.

Hello again!  A few of you have mentioned the word count and the fact I'd said 1200-1500 instead of the flat 1200.
Yes, it was the case for a long time that the uppermost word limit would be 1200, but I realised that stories closer to 1500 were perfectly all right for the space, too, so I didn't want to restrict it to a rigid 1200 anymore.
For the supplement - and there will be another one! - we have space for a story of 2000 words, which gives a lot more scope. When I know the date of the next supplement, I'll let everyone know and anyone wishing to submit a longer story for consideration can do it then.
Thanks again for all your feedback and questions - it's been great to hear from you all. If you have any other queries, please get in touch and I'll do my best to answer them.
The guidelines will be posted on the Facebook page in the near future - huge thanks for all our new likes.

Friday 14 August 2015

Guest post by womag editor Jill Finlay

Here are Jill's answers to questions left on my last post. She'll be looking at the blog over the weekend and if there are more questions, she'll try to answer those too.

Hi Patsy - thanks so much for the opportunity to have a chat with writers about fiction in The Weekly News.
You've asked how many submissions I receive roughly each month. It does vary, but it's usually somewhere between 40-60. June, for instance, was 52. (I had a count!)
Some writers will send more than one at a time - I even had a query last week from someone who was offering me 20!
However, a word of warning comes with that. What I often find with fiction submissions is that it's quality not quantity. Whilst you undoubtedly have more scope for success the more you submit, mailing over a huge batch at once sets alarm bells in my head.
That's an awful lot of writing from the same source. How similar will they be? And is it possible for one writer to have written 20 separate stories with TWN in mind? I have some writers who'll submit once every few months, and often, they're accepted, because they only send me what they know will hit the mark.
I've been following the recent debate on the forums about whether writers should read the publications they're targeting. To throw in my tuppence-worth - absolutely! Yes. Please, please do.
And don't stop at just the fiction section. If you read the entire paper, you'll have a far better understanding of the tone, the content, the target market.
You also mentioned the fiction supplement.
I was really pleased to get the chance to showcase fiction in that way, and we definitely have plans to do it again. What it does mean is that there will be a space for a longer story - around the 2000-word mark - for each supplement. Normally, we aim for 1200-1500, so it will give us a bit more variety.
At the moment, I don't have a specific date for the next supplement, so don't all rush at once sending in 2000-word stories! I'll spread the word once the plans are firmed up.
The supplement itself was well received by readers, and fiction always comes out well in any surveys we've conducted in the past. So doing another one can only be a positive for everyone.

Following on from the comments about reading the publication, and streamlining submissions rather than going for the shotgun approach, Helen Yendall has asked how to make the life of a fiction editor any easier. Ha ha - well, besides, the yacht, some sunshine, a trip to NYC and what I mentioned above, making sure your work has been proofread thoroughly is an absolute must.
Check your spelling (beyond spellchecker!), check the paragraphs, make sure the names of characters are consistent throughout (bizarrely, a common error - a character will have name change midway) and, in general, make sure it's easy to read.
I find myself reading stories at strange times of the day and often later at night, and if work is poorly formatted, regardless of how brilliant the ideas are, it can make things a little laborious.
I know that sounds a bit whingy, but it makes such a difference.
Occasionally, I'll get some stories in files that I can't open, so generally, either a Word attachment or pasting the story into the body of the email is the best way.
Please don't send hard copy anymore. Those days are gone, I'm afraid!
We still don't use stories written in the first person. It's simply a style preference. Sometimes, I have changed it to the third person myself, but ideally, if they could arrive that way, there would be more chance of acceptance.
Acceptance can only come about now if you've signed the DCT contracts. These were rolled out company-wide and were introduced to clear the grey areas of copyright and republishing. If anyone would like to read the contract with a view to signing, please contact me directly and I can send all the relevant information.
Email me at and I'll pick up all my emails there. There is an auto-forward set up when I'm not in the office going to but I'm reliably informed that the out-of-office reply is choosy about when it decides to work!
If I'm in the office when your email arrives, I'll try to respond immediately.
I've spread the word about the new 12-week rule, which seems to working . . . If you haven't heard from me within 12 weeks of submission, that means it's a non-acceptance and you're free to submit elsewhere. If you've been successful, I'll contact you with all the relevant info.
It was a time issue. It's a far cry from the responses when I first started doing this, but I couldn't keep people hanging on for months.

Sharon Boothroyd - thanks for your question about content. Yes, very much so light-hearted themes, although we do break out occasionally to have some darker topics. I did call a halt to ghost stories for a bit, as I had so many (Kitty asked about this, too) but I'm happy to read more of them now. If the twist is likely to be "someone was a ghost but we only find out at the end" I'm not so inclined to go for that, but stories with a more chilling edge or a spooky theme throughout are welcome.
There's nothing that I'd absolutely rule out, although we try to keep away from romance or "chick-lit", as other publications have the monopoly there and we do try to appeal to both sexes rather than just the ladies.
Sue Blackburn - yes, please email any submission to the above email address. The word count is 1200-1500.
Beatrice Charles - I'm currently revising the guidelines and I'm planning to post them on The Weekly News Facebook page. You'll find us there and if you "like" us, you'll be able to find links there once I get them posted. We should be at
I hope to utilise the Facebook page much more for fiction over the next few months, as it's one of the best ways to get information out there quickly.

For Fay Knowles and Sheila who live abroad, I'm afraid there isn't a digital copy of The Weekly News, but you can subscribe for overseas delivery. If you call +44 1382 575580, you'll get through the right people who can organise that. If you quote WNEWS, I believe there's a discount to be had!

"aw" has mentioned dialogue. That's a good question, because some editors have mixed feelings about too much or too little. Have too much, and it's a bit like a transcript with less scope for colour. Too little, and readers can become a little detached from the characters themselves.
So I suppose it's all about hitting the balance. Sometimes, a well-written piece of dialogue can save you a few hundred words of description, simply because nobody tells their story better than the character themselves.
We do have a style we use for dialogue, though, which means that each time a new person speaks - even if we know it's a conversation batting back between people - we denote who said what.
I did actually run into a bit of trouble once with that, because a writer felt I'd spoiled the essence of the snappy exchange they'd written. It was a fair point, and I understood what they meant, but our style is that we do mark who's speaking. So it's something to bear in mind when submitting to us.
Generally, I think readers feel closer to characters when dialogue is used, so I'd give it a go!

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Coming soon - womag editor Jill Finlay

Jill Finlay, fiction editor at The Weekly News, is lovely - and I'm not saying that just because she was the first editor to send me an acceptance. Clearly she's also very brave as she's agreed to come onto this blog to answer some of our questions!

She says, "There have been so many changes recently what with the contracts and the way I’ve set things up, so it’ll be a good opportunity to clarify any fuzzy areas." 

If you have any questions for Jill, please leave them in the comments and she'll answer as many as she can in a later post.

Other feedback, comments and suggestions will be welcome too. "It’d be good to hear from writers/readers to get a feel for what everyone thinks and how I can improve things!" 

Friday 7 August 2015

People's Friend Serial Writing Competition.

The People's Friend are running a serial writing competition. As well as the usual fee for publication, the winner will get £400 (plus loads of kudos from me! I've yet to crack either serial writing or The Friend) More details will be on their website and in the magazine on 12,22 and 29th of this month.

Thanks to Kathy Schilbach for passing on the details.

I don't have any pictures of The People's Friend, but a nice tranquil view of Scotlad seemed appropriate.

Sunday 2 August 2015

Got a question

People sometimes ask questions on old posts relating to their query. That's not a problem for me and I'll help if I can - but there might well be other readers of this blog in a much better position to answer and such questions aren't likely to be seen by them.

Therefore I've set up a new page "Any Questions?". If you have a question (preferably womag related !) or a comment or suggestion about the blog then that'd be a good place to stick it. Please also have a look there now and again in case someone has asked something you might be interested in, or to which you might know the answer.

Here's me hard at work in the office, just waiting to hear from you!