Friday 22 January 2016

Interview with Womagwriter Glenda Young

Today's guest is Glenda Young (aka Flaming Nora).

1. When did you start writing, Glenda and how did you get into writing for womags?

I can’t remember a time when I haven’t written. Ever since I was a child I have been a voracious reader and have always strung words together to make up stories in my head. I’ve attended lots of different creative writing classes over the years and absolutely love writing. I recently attended a course called Wonderful Words which was run by Sunderland Women’s Centre and that really fired up my desire again to start writing fiction. The course was very nurturing and encouraging and the tutor was over the moon when I told her I’d had a short story accepted.

I started writing online back in 1995 with regular weekly updates of Coronation Street for fans all around the world. This has grown (more on that later in the interview!) and continues to provide a regular creative slot for my brain. I also blog regularly at Flaming Nora.

However, as much as I love watching Coronation Street and have been published because of it, my foray into writing for women’s magazines is very important to me. Having spent much of my writing life writing about a TV show – in effect, telling someone else’s story – it’s a huge, enjoyable challenge to now write my own stories. I wanted to see if I could tell my own story, make up something from scratch and succeed in getting it published.

The first thing I did was go to the library and I took out a book called How to Write and Sell Short Stories. The book was written by Della Galton, a name I would become familiar with when I ventured into the woman’s magazine short story world! I devoured every word of Della’s book and didn’t skip any of the exercises she recommended. When the book said “stop reading and do this exercise”, I did it. I researched the market, read lots of different woman’s magazines over a couple of months and only then did I even think about sitting down to write my story. In my market research I discovered this Womag Blog which has been enormously helpful. Without it, I would have been posting stories on spec in the wrong word length to the wrong people at the wrong magazines.

I’ve since bought Della Galton’s next book
Moving On: From Short Story to Novel. However, I haven’t allowed myself to open it and start reading it yet. I don’t want to run before I can walk. I’ve promised myself I’ll start reading it the minute I have my second short story accepted - fingers crossed!

2. You've just had your first acceptance - what's that for?

It’s for The People’s Friend and the story will be published in the spring of 2016. I won’t be using a pen name because I’m very proud of my work and I want the world to see it’s me being published in such a well-loved magazine.

3. How did you feel when you got the news?

I was alone in the house when the email came through to say it had been accepted. I shouted, I screamed and I did a little dance. It’s fair to say I was over the moon! I still am!

4. Are you going to concentrate on writing for People's Friend now, or will you try other markets?

I’ve also submitted stories to Woman’s Weekly and Take a Break magazine but I’m still waiting to hear back from those. Again, on the advice of the Womag Blog, I knew not to submit to My Weekly magazine as they’re not taking stories from any new writers. I’ll continue to submit to People’s Friend and I hope to go on one of their writer workshops this year to help understand their requirements even more closely.

What I have found – and I’d love to know if other writers experience this too – is that writing for woman’s magazines fires me up to take on other projects and write for other markets too. For instance, a story I might write for a woman’s magazine can set off a creative process and give me ideas for another, much darker, story along the same theme. This has happened a few times and I’ve entered some of those darker, more literary stories into competitions. It’s almost like a Jekyll and Hyde way of story writing – and I like the way my brain works doing this.

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

I have to wait until I’m in the mood but when I’m not writing I’m collecting – words, phrases, ideas, characters. They all sit in my head until there’s no more space and I have to put them down on paper. Sometimes when I’m in the mood for writing, but not for story telling, I make lists of the types of characters and stories I want to write when the mood strikes. This fires up creativity in itself, I find.

6. What are your biggest inspirations when it comes to writing?

I live in Sunderland, a city on the coast so the sea is important to me. I’m lucky enough to live just a short walk from a beautiful beach and I use the beach, the shore, the sea, flotsam and jetsam, all that kind of thing, a lot. I also use the beach for walking on, usually daily, and for beachcombing too. With the sea crashing and the sand underfoot, the beach is my favourite place to walk and think and create new ideas.

Also, I have to admit I’m terrible for eavesdropping on conversations. I love real-life dialogue and have used snippets that I overhear in my work. Whether it’s in a coffee shop or on public transport, if I hear people in conversation (and I find two old men talking to each other the most interesting!) I will automatically tune in, listen and sometimes even make notes.

7. You're a Coronation Street fan, I believe. Care to tell us about that?
Yes, I am a huge Coronation Street fan and have watched it since I was a child. I set up and edit the Coronation Street Blog which is a fan site that’s been online since 2007. There’s a team of 12 of us who contribute to it and we’re always open to others joining the team if they wish – so if you fancy writing a blog post about Coronation Street do please get in touch!

My love of Coronation Street has led to being published with the following books: Deirdre: A Life on Coronation Street; A Perfect Duet - the diary of Roy and Hayley Cropper;

Norman Bates with a Briefcase - the Richard Hillman Story. I was also commissioned to update the Coronation Street Saga in 2008 and the same book again under the changed title of the Coronation Street Novel in 2010.

As much as I love watching Coronation Street and writing about it, my foray into writing for women’s magazines is very important to me. Having spent much of my writing life writing about a TV show – in effect, telling someone else’s story – it is an enjoyable challenge to now write my own stories.

8. The right writing snacks are very important - what's your fuel of choice?I try not to snack when I’m writing, I just crack on with the task in hand. I do however, love my cups of hot tea and can’t imagine writing, or life, without a good brew.

9. Do you have any advice for other writers who're still waiting for their first womag success?

  • Research the market thoroughly – immerse yourself in the woman’s magazine world before you submit anything
  • Double check that you’re sending the right stories to the right magazines in the right word length
  • Join a creative writing group
  • Have someone you trust read your stories before you submit them and ask them for feedback
  • Write for the pleasure of it, every day. The more you write, the bigger your creative muscle will be.
  • Bookmark the Womag Blog and check it regularly for updates on changes in the woman’s magazine market.   

Wednesday 20 January 2016

The Weekly News latest guidelines.

Weekly News Short Story Guidelines
Thank you for your interest in The Weekly News fiction section. I hope you find these guidelines useful. 
The Weekly News has a largely older readership which is evenly split between the sexes, so we are looking for general interest tales — crime, humour (especially), spooky stories (although we’ve had plenty of these recently), or “coffee break” dramas which wouldn’t be out of place in any popular TV soap. 
At the moment, I’m also interested in stories with a bit more “edge” that are slightly darker.
Although an old-fashioned love story may occasionally be appropriate, I’m not looking for “slushy” romantic fiction, or anything “twee”. And although it’s a popular style, I don’t generally take “chick-lit”.
Similarly, I don’t want anything too racy or gory. As The Weekly News is a family paper, I wouldn’t use anything with any sexual content.
Many stories we publish have an interesting twist to surprise the reader, as these seem to be popular. But if your twist is “it was all a dream” or “he/she/it was a ghost”, or the main character is actually a pet, it won’t get through!
• Aim for something light-hearted, perhaps centred around family life or a recognisable situation.
• If your main character is strong enough, you can have them carry the whole story.
• A positive outcome is favoured, but this can be reached by a good bit of double-crossing, or the comeuppance of the “baddie”.
• Be playful – have some fun with your characters at their expense ie in embarrassing social situations.
• I also like sensitive stories which may involve a death, an illness a fear etc. If the situation doesn’t come across as too dark and depressing and has an uplifting end, then it may make it through.
Stories can vary in length from about 1,000 to 1,500 words at most, though we reserve the right to edit them as appropriate.
Also, I rarely accept stories written in the first person or present tense.
Please note that, at present, I use two fiction items at each week and, even if an item is accepted, it could be some time before it is published.
I always have plenty of stories to read through, so it could be a couple of months at least before I can respond to submissions.
Due to time constraints, as of April 2014, I’m now only able to able reply to stories which are accepted.
If you haven’t heard from me within three months of submission, it means you have been unsuccessful on this occasion and you’re free to submit the story elsewhere.
Here are some DOs:
• Use strong, identifiable characters – but remember they don’t always have to be likeable.
• Use natural-sounding speech. I tend to avoid dialect, as we like to be a bit “geographically vague” to add to the universality of the stories.
• Check your historical facts fit your time-frame and characters.
• Be thought-provoking if you want – be topical.
• Read and check your punctuation and paragraphing. The easier your work is on the eye, the easier it is to make an informed decision.
• Work within reality – this is fiction, but it does have to be believable.
• Do include your email address, postal address and phone number on your story.
• Full stories, please. I can’t get enough detail or “feel” for a piece from a pitch or synopsis.
And some specific DON’Ts:
• No murdered spouses, dreams or pet twists.
• No first person or present-tense stories.
• No hard copy.
E-mail is now our only method of delivery. Please send to:
Jill Finlay,
Fiction Editor.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Woman's Weekly Want Your Words!

The fiction editors at Woman's Weekly have sent out a letter to their 'regular contributers' and as last year I was given permission to reproduce these here I thought I'd pass on the following information about word lengths.

"One-pagers – 900 to 1,000 words
Two-pagers -  1,800 to 2,000 words

Please don't send us stories of 1,100, 1,200, 1,300, 1,400, 1,500, 1,600 or 1,700 words as our layout department don't know what to do with them!

However (just go with this!) we can accept stories of any length between 2,300 and 8,000 words. They are the 'longer' ones which go in Fiction Special."

Woman's Weekly will consider submissions from new writers. If you've not previously been published by them you should submit by post. The address is - Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Street, London, SE1 0S. Do include a stamped addressed envelope for the reply and expect this to take around 16 weeks although it can be quicker.

Thursday 7 January 2016


If you think about it, it's obvious that magazine editors will need stories in advance of the season in which they're set. Christmas stories are published before the big day, not in the new year and the February issue of the monthly specials are often out before twelth night.

It takes time for the editor to even get around to reading our submissions and making a decision, then she must decide in which issue it will appear. Illustrations have to be found and the magazine laid out, printed and distributed.

How early then should we send our stories? Sometimes editors will provide information regarding the time scale to which they're working, or you can make a guess based on the stories they're currently buying. In the absence of any clues, I suggest aiming for four to six months ahead of when you'd hope the story would be published.

How do you handle the issue of seasonality? Do you write Valentine's tales at Hallowe'en and work on summer ones in the depths of winter? Perhaps you write them at the time they're set and hold onto them until it's time to submit them? Maybe you avoid the issue altogether by producing stories which work year round?

My own method is to write whenever an idea occurs to me, regardless of whether it's the right time, and then ... forget all about it when it comes round to the correct time of year to submit it!