Friday, 30 October 2015

Guest post by womagwriter Margaret Skipworth.

My guest today is Margaret Skipworth. She's come to tell us when to just give up...

When you’re a novice writer it’s easy to convince yourself that if just one editor rejects a story then that particular story isn’t good enough to be published.

My early rejections, going back to 1998, were always ‘spiked’ or filed away on a floppy disc – never to be looked at again.

Thankfully, as my number of acceptances grew, so did my confidence and these days I never give up on a story.

I have sold a few rejected stories without altering a single word. But most stories do need some work on them before they’re suitable for another magazine. This can mean anything from simply changing double to single quotes, tweaking a few words, changing characters’ names to doing a complete re-write – changing from first to third person viewpoint or adding more dialogue, for example.

One of my favourite stories, about a female window cleaner, holds the record for being submitted the most times. It took 11 years and rejections from 9 magazines before it was published. It travelled the world as a twist in the tale, a love story, then a crime story…

Finally, in 2010, I wrote in a new character (the window cleaner’s mother) and it was accepted by Woman’s Weekly.

The Swedish magazine, Allas, was unknown to me until Patsy highlighted it on this blog in March. Since then, Allas has bought three of my stories and these were all stories that I’d re-written after they’d been rejected by other magazines.

When I worked as a writing tutor for a Home Study School I used to tell my students, ‘never give up.’

Now I would add another piece of advice – ‘Never give up on any of your stories.’

You can find out more about Margaret here.


  1. What an encouraging post, Margaret. I have several stories I have put to one side and thought they should probably stay hidden. I shall revisit them in the light of your encouraging words.

  2. A very encouraging post, Margaret and Patsy. Thank you. I've yet to have a story accepted by a woman's magazine but I shall hang on to your message now. After looking at some of them again, perhaps I should start re-submitting stories.

  3. Very inspiring, Margaret. I've also had several previously rejected stories accepted, usually after shortening or lengthening them to fit in with the different magazine's requirements. Sometimes you just don't want to give up on a story - though sadly some of my favourites have yet to make it. Do you ever try the same mag twice, perhaps after a longish gap and some extensive tweaking?

  4. Thank you Beatrice, Jan and Kitty for your kind words - and thank you, Patsy, for asking me to share my thoughts. I think it's useful to remember that not all stories that are rejected are 'bad stories.' I've learnt that you have to have confidence in your stories but also be prepared to re-write them and make changes, again and again, if necessary.
    Good luck with getting your stories published, Jan.
    Yes, Kitty, I have tried the same mags more than once with stories after a few years and a lot of re-writing. I'd like to say those stories were accepted second time around but they were still rejected.

  5. A lovely inspiring post, thank you Margaret and Patsy. Such good advice! I used to tear up my rejected stories (while my husband stood by saying, "No no don't do it!") I wish I'd listened to him! xx

  6. Thank you Teresa - yes, I have ripped up a few stories over the years, as well as ranting at my poor husband and the budgie and anyone else who happened to be around when a story was rejected!

  7. Wise words. I've only ever ripped a few stories up, but the thing that made me stop and think was when I told a couple of friends (pre-internet days) that I was thinking of giving up writing and destroying all my m/s, even the published ones. The horror that statement was met with made me realise that people did want to read what I wrote and that it was all of some worth, even if a tweak or two might be needed to please a fiction editor or two.

  8. Great guest post! Very encouraging, especially about the window washer story. I love reading and finding out about other writers from all over the world. Especially Europe. One day I hope to visit again.

  9. A really interesting post, Margaret. It's really important not to scrap those earlier efforts as, like you, I have gone on to sell preciously rejected stories after a few tweaks. Changing from third to first is my favourite.

  10. Great post (I told you it would be, Margaret and Patsy.
    Love how the window cleaner finally got her day! xx

  11. Thanks for a really inspiring post. At least today, most people keep their stories on the computer so easier to go back and re-hash them. I'm going to do the same with some old poems which I know aren't good enough, but maybe they could be.

  12. Oh Jacula!I'm bet you're pleased now that you didn't destroy all your manuscripts!
    I have to admit, Wendy, that changing from first to third person and vice versa is usually a last resort with me. But on the few occasions I've done this it has improved a story considerably. Unfortunately, it doesn't always guarantee an acceptance!
    Thank you, Robin and Pat. I actually told our lady window cleaner that I'd written a story about her. Unfortunately, by the time it was accepted we'd moved house so I couldn't give her a copy of the mag.
    Thanks Maggie - yes, a computer certainly makes life easier for making changes. Good luck with the poems.

  13. That's great to know, Margaret and Patsy. Now, off to my folder of rejects. Thing is, if it's a story I like, and it means something to me. I tend to keep them, and hope they'll be accepted somewhere one day. It's daunting to get a rejection though.

  14. Great, inspiring interview Margaret and Patsy. I've a file of rejects and even stories I've done nothing with but when I broke my arm recently and could only 'sort of' type I was so grateful cos I could rejig and edit them and keep the supply going 'out there.'
    And sometimes if ideas are short (please tell me sometimes other writers are short of ideas!!) it's good to root out an old story and give it a makeover.
    Someone told me to call rejections Remops (remarketing opportunties) Susan - sounds so much more positive than the nasty R doesn't it!

  15. Thanks for this post, Margaret and Patsy. I so agree about not giving up on a story. Just read Margaret's Fit For A Prince in PF Special 113. It's the sort of story I like to write. Loved it.

  16. I like your 'Remop' idea, Sue. I will have to remember that for future rejections.
    Thank you for your comments on my story, Keith. I'm delighted that you enjoyed it.


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