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?