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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 www.facebook.com/weeklynewsuk
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!