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.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

A visit from womagwriter Della Galton

Today's guest is Della Galton and she's talking about a very important subject -Keeping track of your short stories

It is vital to keep track of where your stories are. You might think you’ll remember, but you won’t – trust me.

I keep paper records – although you might prefer to have electronic ones. It’s a quirk of mine – I spend so much time sitting in front of a screen that I like to have a break between stories and fill in a paper record – I find it more satisfying. I keep three lots of records.

1) A card index box. Each story has its own card and they’re filed in alphabetical order. The story title and number of words is at the top of the card. Beneath that, I write a list of markets to where I’m intending to send the story, plus the date of submission and return and any comments the editor might make. If more than one editor makes the same comment, for example, this is contrived, or predictable, then I’ll rewrite the story. I might do it on one such comment unless I feel strongly otherwise.

2) I keep an A4 sheet, headed up with my markets, see example. (This shows at a glance, how many stories out where and how long they’ve been there). When a story is sold or rejected I cross it out. When the sheet is full I use a new one.

Woman’s weekly
My weekly
Take a Break
People’s friend
Fast Fiction
The weekly news
title and date
title and date
title and date
title and date
title and date
title and date
title and date
Title, date and market

3) I also keep a monthly sheet with my work completed on it, see example. I find that seeing exactly what work I’ve done motivates me. It’s all too easy to let weeks slip by with nothing actually having been sent out.

Market aimed
Market achieved
5 Oct



12 Oct



19 Oct



26 Oct




4) I’ve just realised there’s actually a fourth set of records. I list all the stories I write on a separate sheet with dates, just so I can keep an annual tally. It’s quite good fun filling in the market achieved section and means I can keep an accurate record of percentage sold. It also means I can analyse which markets I sell the most to in any given month or year.

Date paid
Total earned












As you can see I’m obsessed with records!

It’s only strictly necessary to keep one set of records and that’s where your work is, when it was sent and when it was returned or bought. I’d be interested to hear what everyone else does. It might save me some time. 

If you’d like to know more about writing and selling short stories please check out my writing book, The Short Story Writer’s Toolshed. It’s only 99p for kindle till Friday. A bargain if I do say so myself! Here’s the link.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Interview with womagwriter Alan Williams

My guest today is Womagwriter, Alan Williams.

When did you start writing, Alan and how did you get into writing for womags?

You have probably not heard of me. I’m not one of those names you see in magazines all the time. I’ve been fortunate, however, to carve out a niche market in Australia.
I began writing whilst in a U3A group in Tasmania in, Cygnet, the town in which I taught. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until I was here, in France, that I decided to tackle it seriously and send my stories off to magazines. It was 2012.
I’d discovered Kath’s guidelines on Womagwriter’s blog and sent off two stories I’d written years earlier, to That’s Life in Australia as well as other stories to many of the British magazines. Six weeks after, I sold one of those initial stories to That’s Life so that encouraged me to persist in my writing. Without that initial success I would probably have given up trying by now.

You're a man (you probably already knew that) Do you think that's an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to writing for magazines which cater mainly for women?

To be honest, Patsy, I don’t know. When I’ve been the only guy amongst twenty females at the Woman’s Weekly Events I’ve attended, I’m very conscious of my status. It’s a little intimidating as, despite having been a Science teacher for years, I don’t have a great deal of self-confidence.
Also it’s not the sort of pastime I would boast about to a group of Rugby players down at the pub at lunchtime when they’re sinking a tinny or two … not unless I had a death wish.
I’m proud that I’m a Womag writer and that I’ve had had success in this genre as I respect the readers, the stories and all of the fellow writers that I’ve met. I enjoy what I do.
Not many men read what I’ve written however one did read a Take A Break story from earlier this year. His comment that I must be in touch with my feminine side was a compliment (I hope) and I took it as such. It’s difficult for me to convey the strong positive emotions that I find in Womag stories however, when I can achieve that, I’m very proud.
It’s been suggested that I use a female pseudonym but that’s not me and I think it would still be obvious that I’m a man as I cannot write like a woman. Realistically, I don’t feel it matters to the editor. In fact, that difference in approach may set me apart from the similar style of many other writers. Unfortunately for me, I’m often too different.
Most of my stories are in the first person allowing me to have fun with the characters, toying with idiosyncrasies or personalities. Also the main character is usually a woman, sometimes strong, sometimes a heroine, sometimes apprehensive or scared but generally an average person dealing with the trials of relationships or dramas that happen to us all.

Are you a disciplined writer producing a steady stream of stories, or do you wait until you're in the mood?

I write every day, even if it’s only composing the entire story in my head then typing it up over the next few days. My present problem is the inspiration for stories. I often fall back on song titles to act as prompts, e.g. The Pied Piper by Crispian St Peters or Substitute by Clout, both of which have become fine, strong, but as yet, unpublished short stories.
Most on my tales begin as a title – something quirky that grabs my imagination. For example The Pastel Blue Kangaroo, The Neverwhen or When Gravity Went Wild. I did a guest blog on this site some years ago about this topic. It isn’t a great problem if the editor then alters that title as the story is still there.
If I wake up and feel in a daft mood, then I write amusing pieces (often poking fun at male attitudes). If my wife gives me a kiss, I’ll write a romance. I’m actually a romantic at heart and always have a positive, uplifting ending, whatever I do.

I think I'm right in saying you've had most success with Australian magazines - do you have a connection to that country?

I am an Australian by birth although I lived, with my British wife, in England for 19 years and am now exiled to France since 2007. It would seem that Australian editors see something in my work that doesn’t fit too well with British Womags. I can understand that. My stories, even the romance and heart-warmers are probably too plot heavy for them. It’s a good thing that rejections don’t upset me greatly. And I do know that I’m not in the same class as others like yourself or Della (whom I’ve met a number of times). Christine Sutton has also helped me to adjust my style for Britain although, judging by my meagre success there, I’m a slow learner.
I sent off my invoice for stories 14 and 15 to TL last week so I my writing style seems to suit them as there have been three editors since I started.
Dare I say it, I do believe Aussies have different brains, due to the greater exposure to UV, fresh air, vegemite sandwiches and fairy bread whilst growing up. Not necessarily better, just different. I write a lot of Sixth Sense stories for That’s Life but I do sell them Romance, Heart-warmers, Revenge and Light Bites as well.

You don't live in Australia now though - does living where you do pose any difficulties when it comes to submitting to UK and Australian markets?

T’internet is a wonderful thing and so the Aussie markets are usually okay for me.
Unfortunately the local French Post Office tends to close on a whim, displaying a sign with ‘Exceptional Closing’ proudly taped to the door. Even when it’s meant to be open, it is closed one day in three and was, in fact closed all of August. The reasons, I’m sure, are varied, ranging from the Postmistress breaking a nail to the Postmaster needing to take his pet cow, Alphonse, for walkies.
Consequently posting submissions to the U.K. can be … challenging. More often than not I return home, letter still in hand, saying words that won’t be found in any English-French dictionary.

I've heard that some writers use real people and situations in stories, especially if something has annoyed them. Do you ever do that?

Don’t tend to become annoyed (French Postal Service excepted), so no, I don’t use real people. Occasionally I use myself and my own experiences but what writer doesn’t? Sorry, just remembered my first wife. She often finds herself appearing, usually when something disgusting or horrible is about to happen. Does that count?

Can we read any of your stories other than in magazines?

I do have stories in Anthologies in Australia, Ireland and Canada but they would be hard to track down, I think. I have one story in an anthology, By My Side, with Alfie Dog (along with you, Patsy). The story is Star Bright – a whimsical romance with a touch of magic thrown it. My other taleson Alfie Dog are stories that are otherwise unpublished, written some years ago. However they do include one from my other writing genre – Children’s fiction where I’ve had some publishing success also.

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

As is often the case, it would have to be my first acceptance. I’d written a fantasy story about a jilted girl and her grandmother called The Cool, Dark Place. The grandmother surprises the girl by demonstrating a gift – the ability to remove negative emotions and replace them with memories of the girl’s 5th birthday that she had kept in jam jars within a cupboard; the cool, dark place.
That story has been reprinted in Scotland and Canada as well.
To see my ideas and words in print with beautiful accompanying photos was, in itself, magical.

Can you pass on a tip for other womag writers?

I was once told by a fellow writer that I was very brave to have the courage to submit my stories to ‘proper magazines’. It took me some time and discussions back and forth, to understand her own fears. I send off over 100 submissions per year to all sorts of magazines or occasionally competitions. Not just Womags even though most of my stories are written for that genre. Maybe I have a thick skin to deal with the numerous rejections or, more often, hearing nothing but I keep submitting, even to those magazines that have never accepted one yet.
My advice? Don’t be disheartened. Believe in yourself. I know I have a lot to still learn but I’ll continue to try showing editors those ideas and skills that I already have. Maybe one day even Woman’s Weekly will show some interest. You never know unless you try.

Thanks Patsy for asking me to do this. It’s great to be a part of this web community.

Thursday, 15 October 2015


Over the last few weeks I've been getting a lot of spam on the blog - dozens of posts per day. I tried moderating comments and although that stopped the comments appearing on the blog, it cluttered up my email system to such an extent I was worried I'd miss important messages.

Because of this, I've disabled anonymous comments at least temporarily. Sorry about that. If there's anyone who would like to comment or ask a question and isn't able to set up an account to allow them to do so, they're welcome to email me (address on 'contact me' page) and I'll post it for them.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Prima magazine

Prima magazine have a regular fiction slot. It's in the form of a monthly competition with a £100 prize, plus publication. Entries of not more than 800 words should be emailed to

There are terms and conditions, including the possibility of losing your copyright, so I strongly suggest getting hold of a copy of the magazine and checking you're happy with them before submitting. (I haven't been able to find these details online - if anyone does, please let me kow and I'll add in a link)

The picture isn't relevant; I just thought the post looked naked without one.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Interview with womagwriter Patsy Collins cont.

My guest today is once again Patsy Collins! I'm continuing to answer the questions you asked. First half of the interview is here.

Ados wanted to know, "Which women's magazines have you written for? Is there one you find 'easier' or one that you have more success with on a regular basis?"

I submit to all of those which accept submissions, except Yours as they take all rights and I'm not willing to give up copyright. Overall I've had most success with Woman's weekly, closely followed by Take a Break's Fiction Feast. Both still send me plenty of rejections though.

Loopers asked, What is your most favourite thing you have won with your writing, and which story/ book makes you the proudest up to now?

My first ever success was to a 40 word story competition, Loopers. I won book tokens and tea with the mayor, which involved cake. Possibly even more importantly it gave me the confidence to move on from the rejections I'd collected and continue to send work out. That's my favourite prize.

It's very hard to say which story makes me proudest, but this one is definitely a contender.

Up the Garden Path
Over the Garden Fence
Nicola asked, "I get most of my ideas for stories, short and longer, when I'm weeding the garden - and the weeds keep on sprouting! What inspires your ideas?" 

Gardening does it for me too, Nicola. Lots of my stories involve plants in some way (so much so that I have two collections of garden related stories and a third due out next spring). 

Often I don't know exactly what prompted a story idea, but they often come when I'm doing something else and it's difficult to write them down.

Glynnis Scrivens asked, "How many stories do you submit to each editor each month? How many magazines do you write for?"

I submit to all the magazines I know of which will accept submissions and don't take all rights, Glynnis. The number I send to each varies on the number of suitable stories I have available as well as how many the magazine publishes. 

I generally send several to Woman's Weekly as they use a lot in both the Fiction Special and the weekly magazine. I believe The People's Friend take the most, but it's very rare for me to write anything I think they'll like, so it's very rare for me to send them anything.

There seems little point sending more than they can use, as I'd be competing against myself. For that reason those magazines which publish fewer stories each month will recieve fewer submissions from me.

Glynis also asked, "Do you find some months are generally better than others in terms of sales?"

Yes, it's very variable! December, June and July are generally quietest (I don't know if that's the same for everybody?) Other than that I've not noticed any pattern. I'm not aware of it making any difference when I submit the stories.

Keith Havers asked "Do you start with a plot or with the characters?"

They grow together, Keith. The plot reveals things about the characters and they in turn influence the plot. Quite often a story doesn't come out quite as I planned as characters don't do exactly what I thought they would.

Keith added, "Do you have a lovely new book featuring a naked Carol Vorderman coming out soon?"

*shakes head and gives Keith 'the look'*

Sue Blackburn said, "Oooh if you have a lovely new book featuring a hunky fireman coming out anytime soon that would be just great. Heard rumours - is it true? "

Where did you hear a rumour like that, Sue? Actually it is true. Who'd of thought, eh?

Firestarter is a romantic comedy involving not only hunky firemen,  but a jealous ex, unhappy rivals, creepy boss, danger, weird clothing choices and a few red-footed crows. There's masses of wonderful food, disgusting wine, and smelly mud, plus mind boggling sisterly advice and steamy Welsh passion.

You can order it here.

Carol asked If it came to a choice between heroes, hunky fireman or hunky farmer or gardener?

A hunky photographer, Carol! You weren't trying to get me in trouble there, were you?

Emma asked, New book sounds fab, and I'd like to know... of all the short stories you've written, do you have a favourite? If so, why?

Thanks, Emma. I'm usually quite fond of whichever one has sold most recently! No, I don't have a favourite. Some stay in my memory more than others though. 

Thank you so much everyone for the great questions!