Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Guest post by womagwriter Sue Johnson

Today Sue Johnson offers advice on finding story inspiration.

Supermarkets and shopping malls are great places for finding characters. Choose one that has a café so that you can have some writing time when your ideas start flowing. Take a notebook with you. Put your phone away and just observe for a while. (Try to do this without staring at people too hard).

Look for three characters. Note what makes each one special. For example one might look as if something had just upset them. What was it? One might be wearing odd shoes. What happened to distract them before they left the house? The third person might look suave and sophisticated as if they hadn’t a care in the world. What is their story? Is this just an act?

Take note of anything else that interests you – advertising slogans, items in shop windows, colours, sounds, smells and textures.

Find a comfortable corner in the café. Order coffee and cake and get writing. Imagine your characters meeting here. What are their names? What do they notice about the café? What has brought them together? Write brief character descriptions. Play the ‘what if’ game. What do they most want? What is stopping them from getting it? What guilty secret do they each have that they wouldn’t want people to know about?

This exercise could be used to spark ideas for a novel linking the three characters together in some way – or you may feel you have created main characters for three short stories. Think about the time of year and the weather. When you get home, look for magazine pictures that give you further ideas about the characters.

Experiment with different types of story – e.g. romance, fantasy, ghost or crime. Turn your suave, sophisticated character into someone scary – give them matted hair, broken nails and wild-looking eyes. Have fun!

Sue can be found at www.writers-toolkit.co.uk

If you'd like even more story inspiration, try this book. There are 24 pages on finding ideas, mind mapping and expanding on what you already know. There are also separate sections on research, creating characters, selecting titles and a whole chapter on writing for the womag market.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Seasonal greetings

Wishing you a wonderfully splendid Winter Solstice, cheerful Christmas, happy Hogmany, nice New Year and a jolly good anything else you'll be celebrating over the next few days.

What are your plans? Will you be writing, taking a break, reviewing the past year, setting goals for 2017?

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Big changes at TAB

I had an email this morning telling me about some big changes at TAB. For the present, no more stories are to be sent, whilst the backlog of submissions is cleared.

When submissions reopen, sometime in the new year, they are to be made by email, but only those on a preferred list will be invited to send work.

I've asked some questions of the sender of the email and invited him to answer them for this blog.

I've also received lots of questions and comments via email and private messages - if you add them here I will try to get them answered (I can't guarantee I'll get a response, but I will try!).

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Guest post by womagwriter Fran Tracey

Today's guest is Fran Tracey.

Naughty, saucy or cheeky?

Writing for the women’s magazines is, for me, about writing about and reflecting life, and a big part of life is, of course, sex. There’s no getting away from it. So, in the interests of ‘keeping it real’ a few of my recent sales to Woman’s Weekly have been on the ‘naughty’ side. Not full-blown erotica or erotic romance – I write those under a pseudonym – but certainly on the saucier side of romantic, often with a hint of comedy. Because, let’s face it, sex in all it’s glory, can, at times, be funny. In film terms my stories don’t feature actors who have to keep their feet on the floor when the bedroom door closes, they can tumble about together in a much more realistic manner. And not always in bed. An upcoming story of mine recounts a bit of cheekiness on a forest floor, also featuring a lab coat.

With my naughtier stories I aim for a bit of escapism that, hopefully, readers can relate to, following the usual womag tropes – a strong main character (usually female with the saucy ones) who’s faced with a ‘problem’ that she resolves herself, with a sexy adventure – or two – on the way, maybe making use of unusual settings (see above – forest floor). My character may be young, may be in the prime of her life, she’s definitely never perfect, and, by the end of the story, at least, is willing to embrace her man and her wobbly bits. Nothing like a bit of living vicariously, is there?

Personally I find achieving naughty but still nice for the womags is trickier to perfect than ‘straightforward’ erotica. It feels like a much finer line, requiring subtlety and a delicate touch, and, from my experience, much editing and re-writing to get just right. That’s not to say, of course that erotica lacks subtlety. My womag stories are never explicit, leaving much to the reader’s imagination, but not shying away from the fact that modern women engage in rumpy pumpy, and often initiate it too, hopefully making for grown up, fast moving stories that engage the reader, and maybe make them smile, reminisce or plan...

Where do the ideas come from? Now that would be telling.

If you would like to read something longer and saucier written by Fran as Izzy French here’s an erotic romance published by Tirgearr Publishing set in one of her favourite places.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Guest post by womagwriter Deirdre Palmer

Today's guest is Deirdre Palmer.

It was a landmark for me when The People’s Friend accepted two of my stories. Having a story published in a magazine has always been one of my writing ambitions and I’d sent a few off in the past with no success. But I was busy writing the novels so I didn’t try any more until earlier this year, when, inspired by friends who were having stories published, I decided to make a concerted effort. This time I did my research, bought copies of The People’s Friend and Woman’s Weekly, looked at their target audience and thought, OK, I can do this.

As it turned out, I couldn’t. Well, not straight off, anyway. A story I’d sent to ‘The Friend’ came winging its way back, but was accompanied by an email from an editor in which she explained why my story wasn’t suitable and advised me to try again. Of course I was disappointed – you can’t help it, can you? – but my writing had caught the attention of an editor sufficiently for her to give me valuable feedback, and now I had a named person to send my stories to, rather than posting them off to join the huge mountain of the submissions pile.

Reading the feedback on the rejected story, I could see why my previous stories hadn’t been accepted either. Well, sort of. It’s a subjective business, writing, isn’t it? Spurred on by the editor’s encouragement, I sent her another story, having convinced myself that this one would hit the mark. It didn’t. But again the feedback was useful, and I wasn’t disheartened. I know all too well from my novel-writing that rejections are the norm so you may as well get used to them!

Then, finally, came success when two stories I’d sent together to PF were both accepted. Seeing the first one in print with its lovely art-work was a thrill. It was a simple tale called ‘Comfort Food’, inspired by my mother-in-law’s passion for cooking, puddings in particular.

Novel writing is my first love – for the time being, anyway – but writing a short story feels like a breath of fresh air. One of the best things about it, I find, is that you can set your story anywhere, at any time, and that’s very freeing.

Deirdre’s latest novel, Never Coming Back, was published by Crooked Cat Publishing on 8th December 2016.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

I've been interviewed!

I've been interviewed for the Joined Up Writing podcast! This is a weekly show which covers all aspects of writing. As you might imagine, I'm talking about womag fiction and From Story Idea to Reader - plus pitching articles, planning novels, #writingchat... 

For anyone who's come to the blog via the podcast, and other new readers, I'd like to offer a guided tour.

Submission guidelines can be found by clicking this link, or by scrolling down the righthand sidebar to "Magazine guidelines - quick links" where you can select the title you're interested in.

If you have a question, feel free to ask it either as a comment to the latest post, or here. And if you know the answer to any questions which have been asked, please share the information.

Anyone who'd like to be featured on the blog, or has information or good news to share can contact me here.

For everything else, you'll find a selection of pages at the top of the screen, there's a seach facility and a clickable list of labels (both in the righthand sidebar). If you're looking for links to free to enter writing competitions, you want my other blog.

New or not, I hope you find the womagwriter blog useful. 

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Guest post by womagwriter Julie Phillips

Today's guest is Julie Phillips.

No one was more surprised than me when I tentatively opened an email from Norah McGrath, fiction editor at Take A Break Fiction Feast, a week ago. I say tentatively because I wasn’t sure whether it would be an acceptance or an email to tell me to stop subbing rubbish stories to them. I almost didn’t dare hope. I’m pleased to say it was an acceptance.

I’d had a break from subbing short stories, only subbing a few every now and then, for a couple of years while I was distracted by writing three non-fiction books for Pen and Sword books about WW1. Then I decided to try writing more short stories again. I’ve been subbing to Take a Break, on and off, for eight years and had never hit the mark before so when the email came I can’t really describe the emotions I felt – I was relieved but I don’t think it had sunk in. I was convinced they’d make a mistake and I’d get another email later with an apology – they weren’t going to use my story after all! Thankfully, it wasn’t a mistake, although I don’t know what I would have done if it was! The story they bought was actually one that had been rejected by Woman’s Weekly.

I’d had some success with That’s Life (Australia) and the Weekly News but it was one of my 2016 goals to get at least one story in Take a Break magazine and also in Woman’s Weekly. I made the Take a Break goal just by the skin of 2016’s teeth, but, as yet, Woman’s Weekly has evaded me! It’s been rejection, after rejection, after rejection with them. I will get there, of that I am determined and it has become my main writing goal for 2017, that and trying to get another story in Take a Break!

The advice I’d give to people still trying to get published with them, or any of the other womags is the same advice as I had been given by other writers over the years, to keep trying. I could have quite easily have given up after the umpteenth rejection but, and I don’t know why, I didn’t. I am so glad I persevered. I kept reading the magazine – I have it on subscription - and I kept writing and subbing to them. It’s the only way I know that works.

Hard word and determination is everything. There are no guarantees that you’ll get a story published. It’s a very competitive area, but keeping on keeping on worked for me! It was an amazing feeling, after it had sunk in, and has given me the confidence to keep writing short stories and subbing them. Keep listening to the excellent advice of other generous writers and good luck!

Julie also writes non-fiction, including books about the Great War set in Kidderminster Newport and Ludlow.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Guest post by womagwriter Linda Lewis

My guest today is womagwriter Linda Lewis.

Bah, humbug! 

I love so many things about this time of year – the decorations, the cards, the food, the whole idea of forgiveness and spending time with those you love. I have sold at least one festive story every year since I went full time in 2003. You might assume that I look forward to December 25th but I don’t. I am on my own. I have nobody to buy presents for, and nobody buys them for me. So many things close at Christmas, and I don’t just mean the shops. Thanks to my seriously bad childhood, I didn’t learn how to make, and hold on, to ‘good’ friends. With no family and no partner, it’s the time of year when I feel most alone.

I’ve never had a happy family Christmas, so how do I write seasonal stories that people will want to read?  

I make it all up.

When I was a child, I survived by living inside my head, by imagining something better. Using my imagination from such an early age means that I find ideas ridiculously easy to find. When I feel down, which is often (I have suffered with depression for decades), I can escape into somebody else’s life. I can love and be loved. I can have a family who care about me. I can be a mother or a sister or a best friend.

I write a lot of stories from the male point of view. They sell well which is good but the main reason I write them is that I am definitely not a man. Let me explain. When a character is female, unless I am very careful, bits of myself could creep into the story line. By choosing a male as the main character, I have to make everything up which means that I can totally escape into ‘his’ world and let the story develop in any way it wants to.

This year I have sold four seasonal stories. One to Fiction Feast, two to The People’s Friend and one to Yours. So how do I keep finding good ideas? It’s simple. I start now.

I immerse myself in Christmas TV and festive films. I read dozens of seasonal articles in newspapers and all kinds of magazines. I do all of this with a trusty notepad to hand. Anything that might lead to a story is noted down.

A day or so later, I go through my notes and see if any of the ideas gets me thinking. If that happens, I write a few lines about how the story might develop. When Christmas is over, I file the pad away in a drawer, together with any cards, calendar pictures, cracker jokes or other bits and pieces that might come in handy. I then forget about Christmas until July when it’s time to start developing the ideas into stories.

These are some of the other ways you might want to use. You could start with a carol or a Christmassy title, for example, the Twelve Trees/Toys/Turkeys of Christmas and see where that takes you. You might write a new version of an old favourite (my ‘Bah Humbug’ story in the Christmas Fiction Feast is based on A CHRISTMAS CAROL) or you could update a panto, or a classic film such as The Wizard of Oz. There’s no copyright on titles, so you will have an immediate resonance with the reader.

If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact me via twitter, or by email – lindatorbay (at)yahoo.co.uk. I’d love to hear from anyone based in the South West too. I am hoping to move back to Exeter in the New Year and would love to make some new friends. Meanwhile, I wish you a very happy Christmas and a successful New Year.

Linda has written a number of books aimed at writerss, so if you would like more of tips and advice, visit her Amazon page for details.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Christmas is coming!

I keep a list of every story I write each year*. It doesn't show the date, but the list is in order. The last one which appears in the current Take a Break Fiction Feast as Merry Christmas Ho Ho Ho was the last one I wrote in 2015, which means I started it between Christmas and the new year – and then had a long wait until I could submit it. If it had been rejected I'd have had an even longer wait before I could try again.

*I also have a spreadsheet for submissions, but this is a separate handwritten list in an old notebook.

Do you write Christmas stories, or does the limited opportunities to sell them put you off?

If you do write them, do you do it to the sound of carols and scent of mince pies, or in the summer when you can submit it as soon as it's finished?

Btw, if you, or anyone buying for you, haven't finished Christmas shopping, then here's something which can be delivered to your door and is easy to wrap.

Monday, 5 December 2016

A little chat

The delightful womagwriter Wendy Clarke has interviewed me about my latest writing project.

Don't forget that I sometimes host guest blogs or conduct interviews here. If you have womag related information, advice or good news you'd like to share or wish to start a relevant discussion, then please contact me.

I'd also  like to hear from people interested in providing a prompt or story inspiration idea.

Maybe you have a question about something to do with the womag market. If so you can ask it here. (You can also find the answer to a lot of writing questions here).

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Latest TABFF and WWFS

Both of the current issues of Woman's Weekly Fiction Special and Take A Break's Fiction Feast refer to Christmas on the cover, have excellent Christmas stories and cheery Christmas messages from the editors.

TABFF is quite sensibly called the 'Christmas 2016' issue. WWFS is rather oddly called 'January 2017'. Am I the only person who thinks that doesn't make a great deal of sense?

Personally I find it confusing enough to submit stories months ahead of when they're set without publishers moving Christmas into January.

Talking of Christmas, if you're one of those people who're often stumped when asked what you'd like, can I suggest this rather excellent writing guide?

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

From Story Idea to Reader

My new book is out at last! Well, it's half mine ;-)

It's been quite a long time coming, but then there's a lot in it. To give you an idea how much, the contents are listed below. 

I've included the page numbers of the paperback version to make it more confusing give a guide as to how much space is devoted to particular topics. Eg the womag section starts on page 172 and the next one (on competitions) on 194, so there are 22 pages about writing fiction specifically for womags. Elsewhere 17 pages are devoted to finding ideas, 3 on speech tags, 5 on editing a story to the required length. You get the idea,

Section 1 Introductions Quiz 2. Anyone can become a better writer 4. Introductions 6. Getting started – what you need 9.

Section 2 What to write Writing more than you already know 14. 101 sources of writing ideas 21. Generating ideas – mind mapping 30. Which person to write in? 38 Mastering point of view 43. Plotting 53. Research 57. Naming characters 60. Titles 62. Beginnings 65. Different genres 69.

Section 3 How to write What you’ll need, once you’ve got going 74. The middle 81. Conflict 83. Editing for story length 85. Spoken word v Written word 90. The psychology of word choice 93. Stereotypes 96. Show v Tell 98. Tenses 103. Grammar – What’s the point? 107. Characters 117. Character questionnaire 121. Speech tags 126. Clichés 129. Keeping going 132. Endings 138. Story arc 140. Editing and proofreading 142. Presenting your work 145. Feedback 150. Different versions of English 159. More words per week 161.

Section 4 What to do with your work Womag fiction 172. 101 competition pointers 194. Other markets 204. Social media and the internet 209. NaNoWriMo 217. Blurb or synopsis? 220. Keeping track of submissions 224. Reasons for rejection 231.

Section 5 A writer’s life A proper writing routine 234. Accounts and taxation 236. Legal questions 241. Workshops and conferences 246. Self-publishing 248. Public speaking 261. Our typical writing days 266. FAQs 270. Glossary 27.3 Useful resources 279.

From Story Idea to Reader is available from Amazon as a paperback (£9.99) or ebook (£3.99). If you'd like it in a different format, such as pdf, you can obtain them direct from the publisher.

It's a little early for wine, so I'm off to celebrate with a cup of tea and a book biscuit.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Survey results

The results of the survey are –

I write womag fiction and have had some published.
  130 (62%)
I write and submit womag fiction, but haven't had anything published - yet.
  36 (17%)
I'd like to write and submit womag fiction
  28 (13%)

  13 (6%)
Total who voted – 207

Not everyone with an interest in womag fiction will have taken part in the survey, so I think it's fair to assume there are quite a few more of us.

Do the results surprise you?

Monday, 28 November 2016

Last day

Today is your last chance to vote in my survey which is over there --->

The choices are:

I write womag fiction and have had some published.
I write and submit womag fiction, but haven't had anything published - yet.
I'd like to write and submit womag fiction.

Please click on the answer which is most appropriate, and then on the 'vote' button. The survey is anonymous and you don't need to be a blog follower to take part.

I'm hoping the results will be hair raising! (Or maybe mildly interesting.) They'll be posted tomorrow.

Please feel free to add more info in the comments.

(Thanks to Justin Merrigan (our best man) for the photo, which was taken onboard a ferry coming back from our trip to Ireland last Christmas.)

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Take A Break Fiction Feast update

If you're still waiting for replies from TAB for work sent in July, be patient for just a little bit longer. Replies are being sent out. You can even be optimistic – I got a yes to one of mine yesterday! I believe the longer than usual response time is due to iffice renovations.

As previously mentioned, a short synopsis is now required (put this under the title on submissions). One reason for this is to help those who produce story illustrations. Because of that, you might like to give an indication of character's ages, the story location, and any important visual details. E.g. if the bride's dress is purple...

p.s. Less than a week left to take part in the survey. Please do 'vote' if you haven't already.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Guest post by womagwriter Penny Alexander

Today's guest is Penny Alexander.

I've been recalling a definition this week, the one that goes: “retirement is when you get up in the morning with nothing to do, and go to bed each evening having done none of it.” Anyhow, with time to ponder at last, here are a few of my thoughts about inspiration, writing and poetry.
The poems from my (now distant)  schooldays – with lines that still come easily to mind - were mostly from times even earlier than that.  Nineteenth century poets such as Keats and Browning ('My Last Duchess' – I loved the drama!);  twentieth century poets such as Drinkwater and Ted Hughes.  Away from school, Edward Lear was a favourite, and I still find any nonsense rhymes wonderful joggers of the imagination.

It wasn't until much later,  when I began writing, that I read more modern stuff and found out that a) poems didn't have to rhyme and b) any poet worth reading can squeeze two words together and magic up a whole world.  (A very useful skill in short-story writing, too, of course.) 

I especially love Causley, the Cornish poet, for the taste of salt and danger  in his poems for adults and children. Oh, and Sheenagh Pugh...  so keeping a favourite poetry book handy on my desk (along with a Dictionary and a Grammar) goes without saying.

And what about recalling and updating nursery rhymes? 'Bo-Peep' for example. (Daffy shepherdess (or similarly forgetful more modern protagonist) is unexpectedly saved from her own foolishness by actions of her hitherto unregarded woolly-minded work colleagues.)) Or 'Tom, Tom the Piper's Son': (Out of control teenaged son of local musician gets unexpected come-uppance while attempting to steal squealing squeeze-box-accordion from the band).

There are many, many more possibilities, I'm sure.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

I've said this before...

... and I'll probably say it again.

Please don't sign a contract until you've read it carefully and are sure you fully understand and agree with the terms.

Asking for clarification of anything which isn't clear is not being difficult, it's just being sensible.

If you don't understand you can't agree, so you shouldn't sign to say you do. If you don't understand there's a big risk you'll accidentally break the contract terms.

Another thing I've mentioned before is the survey on the top right of the page. Please do 'vote' for one of the options if you haven't already taken part. It's anonymous and there's no need to sign in anywhere.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016


From Story Idea to Reader will be out on 30th November! There's a whole chapter about womags (I'll give you three guesses as to who wrote that!) but there's a lot more to the book than that.

From Story Idea to Reader is an easily accessible guide to writing fiction. Whether you are brushing up on your writing skills or starting out, this book will take you through the whole process from inspiration to conclusion. No matter if you are looking to submit your work for publication, enter a competition, or want to self-publish, this practical guide will help you every step of the way.

Between them, Patsy Collins and Rosemary Kind have sold hundreds of short stories, written sixteen published books and produced numerous articles for Writing Magazine and similar publications. They've both judged writing competitions and run workshops, and Rosemary has read and edited thousands of short stories and published dozens of books for other writers.

With the information, help and encouragement in this book, you too could see your work in print.

The paperback will be £9.99 and electronic formats £3.99. The kindle version can be pre ordered now.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Guest post by womagwriter Sue Johnson

My guest today is Sue Johnson.

I have always been the sort of writer who has several projects on the go. I usually have about fifty pieces of work in circulation at any one time because it stops me worrying about rejection.

I am published as a poet, short story writer and novelist and also create books and articles aimed at helping other writers. My involvement in women’s magazines began in 1999 when a college lecturer told me to rip up a story I’d written for an assessment. I sent it to a competition organised by agency Midland Exposure and ended up being taken on as one of their writers. The story was published in ‘Woman.’

Since 1st January 2013 I have written a poem a day every day. (It’s amazing what happens when you start making New Year’s Resolutions after a packet of wine gums!) Some of these have been published as single poems in small press magazines, or have gone on to form part of a poetry sequence or collection. Many of them end up as the nucleus of a short story or scene from a novel.

I have a vision in my mind’s eye of the words and ideas growing like pieces of knitting. The words can be unpicked and re-worked. It is great fun to take a poem that isn’t working, cut it up and reposition it on the page, adding new words if necessary.

The best advice I was ever given was to carry a notebook. Ideas spring from the most unexpected people and places. Many of my ideas are inspired by country walks and I also love writing in cafés. I’m very fortunate to have lexical-gustatory synaesthesia – many words and names have a specific taste. For instance ‘Robert’ tastes of strawberry jam, ‘punishment’ tastes of liquorice and the word ‘life’ floods my mouth with the taste of Marmite.

Many ideas for poems are inspired by childhood memories and these in turn spark ideas for characters and settings. The following poem, inspired by a teenage memory of going to the fairground became a short story entitled ‘When Fortunes Collide’ – published in My Weekly on 3rd September 2016.


Music vibrates through the soles of our feet.
The smell of onions mingles with candyfloss
flash of lights mesmerises
colours collide like dodgems
and the Ferris wheel keeps a constant rhythm.

The fortune teller’s dark eyes glitter
when we cross her palm with silver.
Her words taste of new pathways
as she studies tea leaves on white china.
Outside her caravan a full moon rises.

Further information about my work can be found at www.writers-toolkit.co.uk or follow me on Twitter - @SueJohnson9

Saturday, 12 November 2016

No Family Secrets

I've released another collection of my short stories. The theme of this one is 'family'. It contains 25 stories, some of which have been previously published in womags and a few new ones.

It's available to buy from Amazon as a paperback or ebook, or can be read for free with kindle unlimited. I'm hoping it will also be available soon in some libraries (my other books are, so I have good reason to be hopeful).

As always, any tweets, Facebook shares or mentions anywhere will be much appreciated.

Perhaps Aunty Louise hadn't wanted to be told the truth about why her bum looked big in that dress. If so, she asked the wrong person; Tracie's mum never lied. Louise did ask though, that's why she was told. That's why there are questions Tracie keeps to herself.

Sue's mother always tells the truth, but people don't always listen. Jemima tells lies. Well, it's either that or get a job and pay her way and she's not really suited to that sort of thing. She's much better at manipulation, although perhaps not good enough.

Angela hasn't been strictly honest about the painting and Mary's mother-in-law has withheld important information. That causes upset in both their families, until the loving, honest support of their daughters-in-law put everything right.

Can lies ever be a good thing? Perhaps if they're told to preserve family traditions, or to allow a sick child to benefit from the help of a superhero, they're forgivable. The made up stories Jane tells little Charlie certainly have a positive affect and not only on her son.

Families, whether we're born or married into them, or choose them for ourselves all have stories to tell. This collection contains 25 of them.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Change at YOU magazine

There's been a slight change in the the way the YOU magazine editor responds to story submissions. She may send an acceptance or rejection as before, or she may ask to "hang onto it for possible use in future".

I had one of those requests a few weeks ago and wondered if it was a one off, so didn't mention it then. I've since had another, have heard of it happening to other people, and one of mine she was hanging on to has now been accepted. 

This seems a good system to me. A straightforward rejection is clearly not suitable at all, whereas one which is retained must be pretty much along the right lines. That information might well help us submit stories which are more suitable for this market.

What do you think? Is this an improvement on just yes or no?

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Guest post by womagwriter Lynne Pardoe

Today's guest is Lynne Pardoe. Although Lynne also writes lovely womag stories, I've invited her to talk about how she started writing non-fiction for this market.
It was 17 years ago I went part-time in my job a social worker because of ill health. I had the good luck to be invited to a party at Deb Dooley’s house in the next village along, Sheepwash. I hadn’t met Deb before but she was really nice, a journalist for the women’s magazines. "That's just what I want to do," I told her. 
"Why don’t you come on over and I’ll show you how I do it?" she said.
I didn’t need asking twice, I was there at the first opportunity. And what an opportunity! Not only did she turn out to be a fab friend, but she walked me through the process in those early days. When she showed me the collection of magazine articles she’d written, I thought she’d be showing me a folder, but it was a filing cabinet brimming full!
Basically the process is similar to that for a book, but shorter. You write the first few lines and then give a synopsis of the rest. Your aim is to imitate the style of the magazine you’re aiming at but with a totally new and different idea. So 'Take a Break' is totally different to 'The Lady'.
A good way to start is with a case study, and these need to be matched with the magazines target audience. Magazines for younger women will want case studies in a similar age group and likewise older women’s magazines. All will want people’s age, marital status and photos. Some magazines send a professional photographer. If your case study isn’t happy with this, it might be a problem. Most of the big charities and organisations have lists of case studies and can put you in contact; ring and ask for the press office. 
If there are any restrictions about what your interviewee will agree to, mention this when you pitch you idea, rather than let the editor find out later date and be really fed up because they've done a lot of work on it.
You also need to make clear you’re going to write the piece and aren't just passing on a lead. It’ll be cheaper for them to get one of their staff writers to do it, so make sure that doesn't happen due to a misunderstanding.  Don’t write the whole thing in advance, as the editor might want it done in a particular way, or involving a particular expert. They’ll also tell you how many words they require.

It often helps to find an angle, maybe the most bizarre aspect of your story. I have a rare condition which affects my arms and legs which started at my feet, hence the title about running in this article for Take a Break.
Some magazines have information in boxes or fact boxes at the side. Put these 'pull-outs' in your proposal too. You will get ignored a lot. Few editors write to say no, so move on if you hear nothing after a few days. Don’t send an idea out to several places at once because if several accept, the editors you turn down might not show interest in your future ideas.
Proposals are best sent to the relevant editor, i.e. health, features, sport et cetera. Ring the magazine to get the right email address. All the main magazines employ sub-editors whose job is to take your copy and make it exactly fit the magazine style. Your writing needs to be clear and concise. Once your idea has been accepted and you've delivered the work at the agreed point it’s not uncommon for one of the subs to ring you when the getting the magazine ready to print for clarification on a few points.
I have 'Country Living' in front of me. They have a case study for their regular rural business feature.
This is how I would have proposed this feature:
Case study idea Rural Businesses.
The Proof of the Pudding.
Susan Green has a confession about her observance of stir-up Sunday. "I’m too busy to worry about which direction the mixture is stirred in."
Continues: Susan’s age, career history, what spurred her into her rural career, how her business began, problems they overcame, photos.
It might include sidebars or boxes of extra information, interviews with established similar businesses, law on selling cooked produce etc. Look at a few magazines and see how you'd propose articles that are in there to get you into the feel of it. 
For further info see:https://www.journalism.co.uk/
The London School of Journalism runs some excellent courses, including some by distance learning. lsj.org/web/freelance.php
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is also an excellent organisation to join and can get you a press card which will help you get into events. https://www.nuj.org.uk/home/
The London branch has a page on typical figures for each magazine. Circulation figures can indicate pay. http://www.londonfreelance.org/rates/w1000mag.html
You can also stay at the wonderful place that started me off, Deb doesn’t run it anymore but it’s still a specialist writer’s retreat and I’m sure just as inspiring. http://www.retreatsforyou.co.uk/

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Kay Seeley's poetic prompt

I'm sure this fun poem by Kay Seeley will raise a smile from anyone who's ever attended a writing group. There are some great characters who could well be used in womag stories.

Kay tells me this group has now disbanded – there's probably a story or two in that!

A Tale for our Time

Writers come in all shapes and sizes,
Race and Religions and different disguises,
The quiet as a mouse, the blatantly loud,
The cautious, the reckless, the shy and the proud.
The weary, the dreary, the lustful and leery,
The hopeful, the doubtful, the dour and the cheery,
Into the library each Wednesday we troop,
The disparate members of our Writing Group.

Slowly but surely the writers drift in,
Here comes old Molly, still smelling of gin.
Next comes the man who’s convinced he knows best,
Sitting next to the girl with the ginormous chest.
Mad Mick the bouncer, who’s brilliant at verse,
Sits down next to Sarah, the Community Nurse,

We’ve got novelists, poets and screenwriters too,
From writing for children to something quite blue,
You’ll never get published, they mutter and moan,
Tales of rejection make everyone groan.
‘I hear that Romance is doing quite well,’
‘Oh no it isn’t, it just doesn’t sell.’
‘How about Sci-Fi, I’d give it a shot,’
‘Oh no,’ says another, ‘most certainly not.’

‘How about crime or historical thrillers,
A bloodthirsty saga of latter-day killers?’
‘You’d have to add zombies, vampires or ghosts,
But Celebrity stories are what they love most.’
‘Write what you know,’ they cry with one voice,
I know very little, so that limits my choice.

They grumble and mumble and twitter away,
Deploring the state of the book-world today.
If they can’t get published, then what chance have I?
I sit and I ponder as the minutes tick by.
‘What’s that I hear, no it cannot be real,
Old Jeremy’s landed a seven-book deal!
It’s out with the Champers, the biscuits and cheese,
Then back to the laptop and pounding the keys.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Woman's Weekly update

I recieved the following this morning and have copied it with permission ...

Dear Regular Contributor, 

We are writing to let you know that we are currently in need of the one- and two-page stories, ie: stories of 800-1,000 words and 1,800-2,000 words respectively, and would ask if you could consider these lengths when you are next thinking of submitting to us.  Of course, we also still need the much longer-length stories of anything up to 8,000 words for the Fiction Special, so if you are happier writing to that length, then please continue to do so!

Many thanks and we look forward to hearing from you.  All short stories to Clare as usual, please.

With best wishes.

Gaynor and Clare.