Sunday 31 December 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy 2018!

I'm wishing us all peace, happiness and correctly placed apostrophes in the year ahead.

What are your hopes for 2018?

Friday 29 December 2017

The bit in the middle

The few days between Christmas and New Year always have an odd feel to them, I think. I'd assumed magazine editors would all be at home, until I got an acceptance from Woman's Weekly. That made me feel guilty about not working, so I sent off a couple of submissions and got auto responses saying the people concerned would be away from their desks until well into the New Year.

What about you – are you still on holiday or back at work? (If you feel you should be working but can't get motivated, you might like to try this marvellous book .)

Coming soon ... Clare Cooper will be sharing her excellent tips for getting writing fit in 2018.

Thursday 21 December 2017

Season's Greetings

Wishing you all a wonderful Winter Solstice, fabulous Yultetide, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Cheerful Mōdraniht, Joyful Soyal, fun Pancha Ganapati and a good time at any other celebration, gathering, feast or festival you may wish to get involved in.

And if you decide to skip the whole lot and stay in with a mug of tea and a good book, I hope you enjoy doing that.

Here's a mince pie for everyone who has supported this blog through guests posts, comments and sharing links on social media. I really appreciate your support.

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Another change at Woman's Weekly

Those of you who're currently able to submit to Woman's Weekly should have heard that the new fiction editor, Danni Dawson is leaving on 12th January. From today onwards, submissions should be submitted to Emma Shacklock, who is the 'new full time fiction coordinator'. Any stories already accepted by Danni will still be used.

Emma is already hard at work buying stories and has just accepted one of mine!

Monday 11 December 2017

Your Go

Each month I'll be making a posting just like this one, so blog readers can ask any questions*, share any womag news, tips, advice they may have, or make womag related comments or observations.

*If you can answer these, please do.

Have you written anything lately? Had an acceptance or rejection? Got a story in one of the current magazines? Waiting for a reply to your submission?

Thursday 7 December 2017


I've said this before, but I think it's worth repeating - If you are asked to sign a contract, PLEASE be sure you understand it and agree to the terms BEFORE signing it.

No reputable publisher will mind you asking questions about points you're not sure of.

If you sign something you don't understand then there's a danger you'll accidentally break the contract terms.

If you don't agree, then say so and don't sign. In some cases it may be possible to negotiate (I've successfully done this in the past when a publisher requested full exclusive rights, which I wasn't prepared to give up.)

Once you have signed (if you do) be sure you keep a copy for future reference.

Friday 1 December 2017

Might I suggest...

It's the time of year when many of us are asking or being asked, 'What would you like for
Christmas?'. How about asking for, or giving, a subscription to one of the womags which publish fiction?

Just by making the suggestion you're reminding people these magazines exist and are of interest, and if you give one as a gift you may well turn the recipient into a loyal customer. If those of us with a vested interest in keeping them going aren't willing to support them, then who else will?

Another good gift idea (in my opinion) is this very nice writing book.

Are you giving, or hoping to receive, any writing related gifts this year?

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Back ... for now

The blog got a few unpleasant spam comments yesterday. I deleted them and then got a few more. It wasn't loads, but more than the number of genuine comments I'd got in the entire previous week, which was very disheartening.

Rather then spend what would otherwise have been writing time trying to keep the blog free of the spam, I took it down as a temporary measure. Hopefully that will be the end of it.

Thursday 23 November 2017

Joint ventures

My writing friend, the editing expert Anne Rainbow, and I are running a Writers’ Workshop Weekend at Hope Cove in Devon next March.

We hope (excuse the pun) some of you will be able to join us.

Another of my writer friends Rosemary J Kind and I have set up a Facebook group called From Story Idea to Reader as a companion to our book of the same name. We’ll be offering writing tips and support. 

Group members are invited to ask questions about any writing related subject (including womag fiction!). It will be nice to see some of you there.

And on Saturday 25th November I'll be at Elmore Angling Club's Christmas Fair (10-2 Lee-on-the-Solent seafront) with my husband Gary Davies, where we'll bot be selling our books (trying to at least.) It's free entry, so if you're in the area, do come in and say hi.

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Bit of a shocker

Last week the editor of Australian magazine Yours contacted me to say they were making changes at the magazine and would be including longer fiction. She was particularly looking for serials and asked if I thought my blog readers might be interested in submitting these. As I thought some of you might, I invited her to write a guest post.

Lisa sent me details of what she was looking for both in serials and short fiction and I scheduled the post. Before it could go live, she emailed to say they were closing the magazine. Not dropping fiction, or reorganising a department, but completely closing it.

This magazine is owned by Bauer media - as are several other titles, some of which currently publish fiction.

Monday 20 November 2017

Guest Post by womagwriter Julie Day

My guest today is Julie Day, who has recently sold her first ever womag story.

Congratulations on becoming a womagwriter, Julie! Who bought your story?

You (S. Africa)

Can you tell us a bit about it? 

It's a 1,500 word Xmas ghost story, with humour, set around a panto.

That sounds fun. How did you feel when you got the news? Did you celebrate?

Couldn't believe it. At last! To celebrate I bought a few children's books I wanted.

Some writers have rituals to get them in the mood to write, lucky pens, or even wear particular clothes when writing. Do you do anything like that?

I like to write in silence or with the TV on low.  I have to write with pen and paper.

How long have you been submitting stories to womags?

2-3 years.

How many stories do you think you've sent to get that first acceptance?

About 20, including the same stories to different magazines.

You sent out fillers too, I believe. Did that help keep you motivated?

Yes, knowing that magazines do like my writing helped.

Do you have any advice for writers who've yet to have their first success?

Read and study the magazine and their guidelines. Keep writing. Find your voice. Find the magazine that likes that voice, and stick with them for a while.

Writers need fuel - what's your favourite snack when you're writing?

Kallo dark choc rice cakes, Houmous chips with Violife soft cheese. Or Tesco Free From plain crackers with Violife soft cheese.

I know you have Asperger's; how does that impact on your writing?

I can only write for 30-45 mins before my head goes fuzzy. I have to have an afternoon nap to recharge.

That must make things difficult for you, yet I understand you write books too? 

Yes. Magical realism for adults and children. Such as Billy and The Sparkling Socks and One Cood Turn. You can find all my other books here.

You also produce a newsletter, what's that about and how can people sign up?

I send out tips about writing and marketing esp for indies. Writing exercises. News about my books, events and other stuff. People can sign up here.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

If you like writing one genre, eg for me it's magical realism, then concentrate on that and do it well.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Guest post by womagwriter Maggie Cobbett

When I saw that one of Maggie Cobbet's short stories had been published in Love Sunday magazine, I invited her onto the blog to tell us about it.

Although by no means making my whole living at it – and how I envy those who do – I generally only write for paying markets. However, an opportunity occasionally comes along for some free publicity. One such occurred after I failed to win the Love Sunday (colour supplement of the Sunday People) short story competition this year, for which there was a decent prize. I was contacted to see if I’d allow my entry to be used in a future issue. Having enquired about a fee and been told with regret that no budget was available for fiction, I agreed but made it clear that this was definitely a one off as far as I was concerned. A nicely illustrated double page spread of ‘Crocodile Tears’ appeared on 12th November and included my name, website address and, as promised, a plug for my novel. 

Submissions of 1500 word stories on any subject are welcomed, so it’s up to you if you’d like to contribute one of yours on the same basis. If so, the person to contact is Flavia Bertolini. You can email her at

The novel Maggie plugged is Shadows of the Past.

Monday 13 November 2017

Your Go

Each month I'll be making a posting just like this one, so blog readers can ask any questions*, share any womag news, tips, advice they may have, or make womag related comments or observations.

*If you can answer these, please do!

Of course your comments are welcome on all the other posts too. It's these responses which let me know which kind of posts are of interest and value and therefore worth continuing with.

Btw, the libraries poll is still open.

Sunday 12 November 2017

Yours Magazine non-fiction guidelines

The current non-fiction guidelines for Yours magazine.

Every article is read with interest but the Features department receives more than 100 manuscripts a month, and is able to publish only one a fortnight. Due to the number of articles submitted we aren’t able to reply to everyone. If we are able
to use your article we will of course let you know. 

  • Any article submitted must not have been published elsewhere and, if published by us become exclusive to Yours magazine on an all-rights basis.
  • Yours magazine reserves the right to edit, alter or shorten any article submitted and it may not appear in its entirety and it may appear in any of our publications.
  • Although all reasonable care is taken, Yours magazine can assume no responsibility for the safety of unsolicited articles or photographs, so it is a good idea to send copies. Please enclose a stamped addressed envelope if you would like your manuscript returned.
    Before submitting any articles, it is essential that you study at least six issues of Yours magazine. Most submissions are rejected because the subject matter and/or the style of writing is unsuitable for readers.

Submissions should be up to 300 words approx for a half-
page article. It is rare for Yours to read, or to publish any article of greater length than this.

Manuscripts must be typed on one side of the paper and the title page should include: an accurate word count and your full name, address and telephone number.
Please try to enclose relevant photographs to illustrate your article, marked with your name and address on the back
You should include a short CV of yourself, together with a clear, colour head and shoulder picture of yourself
All photographs should be marked with your name, address and telephone number
If you would like your manuscript return please state that and include an SAE.
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Reading back issues will give you a good idea of the sort of person who reads YOURS and the general tone we use - which is informal and chatty.
We are currently looking for inspirational stories and adventures to inspire our readers.
Your article should grab the reader from the first sentence. Our style is friendly and warm - after all, your contributions are what makes YOURS the magazine it is! And 400,000 readers a fortnight can't be wrong.
Send your manuscript marked ‘Follow Your Dream’ to:
Non Fiction Submission Yours Magazine
Bauer London Lifestyle Media House
Peterborough Business Park Peterborough, PE2 6EA

Or by email to: (Subject: Non Fiction Submission)
*PLEASE NOTE: If you would like us to return your submission, please include an SAE with the correct postage amount on it. We regret that any submissions without an SAE will not be returned.
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Saturday 11 November 2017

Change at YOU magazine

I've recieved a message from blog reader Chris - 

"... the new requirement at You magazine in S. Africa for a scan of overseas writers' passports before payment can be made on accepted stories. This is a new stipulation by the SA banks apparently and fiction editor Lynn Ely assures me that the information will only be shared with the bank in question. Still, I am very doubtful about the wisdom of sharing my passport details (showing photo, ID number, DOB, etc.) this way, given the growth in ID fraud. I've sold around twenty stories to You mag over the past few years and payment has always been promptly made by BACS transfer but this new requirement concerns me. Has anyone else had experience of this and what did you decide to do?"

I've not sold anything to YOU since this change came in, but have heard from others who've been asked to do this, and expressed concern. Have you been asked? What did you do? Can anyone reassure Chris?

Thursday 9 November 2017

Woman's Weekly update

Danni, the fiction editor at Woman’s Weekly has a request. She says 'it would be really handy if you don't mind - if you put the word count and also whether a story is seasonal - or even if it's cold weather/summer in the subject line.’

This would save her some precious time and therefore help her respond to our submissions slightly more quickly.

Note - WW are currently only taking submissions from those who've been published with them before. Hopefully that situation is temporary. See here for more details.

Tuesday 7 November 2017


Do you use your local library? If not, why not?

Some advantages are -

You can borrow books for free. OK, you probably knew that about books already on the shelves, but did you know you can 'suggest a purchase' of any book not in stock? There's no guarantee they'll buy it, but my local library has bought several of the books I suggested. You can also request any book that's in the library system (which includes most of mine). There's usually an admin fee of about 50p for this service.

You can read reference books. You might want to conduct story research or use to Writers' and Artists' Year book to find markets.

You can read or borrow magazines. The selection varies from branch to branch, but there will almost certainly be some which pay for fillers and the choice may include womags.

Authors earn money when their books are borrowed. It's not a huge amount and the books have to be in the right libraries to qualify and there's a cap on how much each can earn. (If you have a book available in libraries, make sure you're registered for ply.)

You can use computers for free. This includes internet access. Some libraries also allow you to print out your work for a small charge - very handy if you can't do that at home for any reason.

You can ask for help and advice. Library staff will, on request, help you find a book to suit you, help with research and assist you using their facilities and services.

There will often be talks and educational courses - including writing courses and meet the author events. Prices are usually very reasonable (I've been to a few free workshops which were excellent.)

You can borrow audiobooks, DVDs, large print, even ebooks in some cases.

The disadvantages are ...

The only one I can think of is that some of our taxes go to pay for libraries (about 6% of council tax goes on 'arts and leisure' library funding is in there somewhere). Personally I think it's great value and as we're paying anyway, we might as well use the service.

Have you voted in my poll? (up there on the right) Can you think of any other advantages of libraries, or any disadvantages?

Saturday 4 November 2017

Woman's Weekly workshops

In a comment following her recent post for this blog, on how it's possible to earn a living as a writer, Della Galton mentioned teaching at a Woman's Weekly writing workshop. Currently these are full, but they've proved so popular I think they're likely to run more in the future. (If you can't get on a course and would like some help with your writing, you might find this book useful.)

Of course they include inspiring teaching and the chance to meet other writers, but there's a benefit you may not be aware of. Della tells me that attending one of the workshops allows the writer to submit their fiction to Woman's Weekly. Currently, unless you're already on the list of approved contributors (you'll know if you are) this is the only way to have your fiction considered for Woman's Weekly.

See here for details of magazines which consider work by writers, whether or not they've had previous publishing success.

Thursday 2 November 2017

Guest post by womagwriter Della Galton

Today, my guest is Della Galton.

Is it possible to make a full time living writing for magazines? If so, how?
I started writing for womags after joining an Adult Education class called Writing for Profit and Pleasure. The teacher was Jean Dynes (she writes as Barbara Dynes – see her column in Writers’ Forum.) In that first class, back in September 1987, Jean asked if there was any news.
A girl in the row in front, put up her hand and said, ‘I’ve just sold my 27th story this year to Loving Magazine.’
Wow, I thought. I want to sell a story. Just one would do. (ho ho, little did I know how addictive it was). But how was it done?
By researching the markets, I learned, which meant reading the magazine. So off I went to buy a copy of Loving, which I read from cover to cover, several times. They bought the 3rd story I sent. Then the 4th, then the 5th. I was on the verge of giving up the day job when they rejected the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th.
We all know how it works. There are far more rejections in this business than successes
It’s always been like that for me. It still is. And blimey the market is much harder than it was. Back in 1987 there were 100 plus womags that carried fiction. In 2000, which was when I did finally give up the day job to write full time, there were 21 markets. Everyone said it was impossible to write short stories for a living.
It wasn’t! But back to my original question.
Is it impossible now? When there are a handful of magazines that still take stories from writers (who aren’t on their list). I think sadly that it may be. There are just too many of us out here. I know so many fabulous writers who get their stories rejected because there are only so many slots. So can we still follow the dream of being a full time writer?
I once heard a brilliant quote from Linda O Byrne, who at the time was fiction editor of Bella magazine. She said, ‘Don’t give up. There is always a market for excellence.’
The truth is, I came on to Womag today, thank you, Patsy, to talk about my novel, The Reading Group, which is out in paperback, audio and kindle on 2nd November. But I find myself being sidetracked because I feel so passionately about writing.
I’ve been a full time writer for 17 years. Here’s how I do it. I write short stories for the remaining markets. I am the agony aunt for Writers’ Forum. I have several self published books on Amazon which earn me £200 plus a month. I do some journalism. I do the odd spot of teaching. The Reading Group is coming out with a huge publisher (Quercus is part of the Hachette Group) but I wasn’t paid a living wage (advance) to write it. In short, I diversify. My income is made up of lots of bits of writing related work.
I live in hope of having a best selling novel that will mean I don’t have to worry about money so much.
The bottom line is that I love writing. I can’t stop. I won’t stop. I think Linda O Byrne’s advice still holds true. Don’t give up. There is always a market for excellence. I don’t think I’ve quite reached excellence yet – but I shall never, ever give up aiming for it.

The Reading Group is published by Quercus. Click here to buy/find out more.

£7.99 (paperback) £3.99 (kindle)

Tuesday 31 October 2017


I'm doing NaNo this year. For those who've yet to come across it, this is an annual challenge to complete a 50,000 word draft of a novel during November. I've taken part before - usually 'cheating' by writing short stories.

50, 000 words is the word count for My Weekly pocket novels and I fancy seeing if I can write one of those, so I'll be creating my cosy crime draft with their guidelines in mind.

Are you going to join NaNO? Attempt a pocket novel?  Do both at once?

Sunday 29 October 2017

Allas magazine fiction guidelines

Isn't this pretty? It's the illustration for my latest story in Allas magazine. I love the colours and it suits the story perfectly.

Allas is a weekly Swedish magazine which publishes two to four stories in each issue. These can be either one, or two pages (approx 1,000 or 1,500 words).

Although the magazine is published in Swedish, you may submit in English. Stories should however be suitable for a Swedish audience.

The postal address is -

Aller Media AB
Allas / Lotta Gustavsson
FE 5006
838 77 Frösön

Email -

Some time ago, Simon Whaley found and translated their full guidelines. I've searched the website myself today, but failed to find any guidelines. If you have better luck, please let me know, so I can be suitably impressed!

Saturday 28 October 2017


I'll be at The Watershed in Bristol today, taking part in a book busk. For that I'll be reading some of my short stories at approx 1pm. If you're in the area, do come and say hello. I'll be wearing purple, so should be easy to spot.

Do you like reading and writing ghost stories?

I do. I don't mind if the ghost is 'real' or there turns out to be an alternative rational ending for the apparent spooky goings on, but I don't like the stories to be too scary. (If you feel the same way, you might enjoy this collection of 25 short stories.)

Do you believe in ghosts? And do you think a belief, or lack of it, makes any difference to your enjoyment of this genre?

Thursday 26 October 2017

Magazines which accept unsolicited fiction submissions

I've seen a lot of comments, particularly on social media, suggesting the majority of magazines no longer accept submissions from writers who've not previously been published with them. It's true of only three publications - Woman's Weekly, My Weekly and Take A Break. The rest will, currently, still accept unsolicited submissions.

The ones I know of are -

The People's Friend
Allas (Sweden)
That's Life (Australia)
Spirit and Destiny
Prima (via a free to enter competition)
Your Cat
In the Moment
Ireland's Own
You (South Africa)
Woman's World (USA)
The Weekly News

All of these are experiencing high levels of submissions. If this continues, especially if they recieve large numbers of clearly unsuitable stories (either because the author hasn't checked what's required in terms of subject and word length, or has dashed off something without properly editing it) then it's likely some will have to bring in restrictions. Submitting something they can't use wastes everyone's time. Sorry if I'm sounding a bit grumpy about this issue - it'll be beacause I am.

For help finding the magazine guidelines, click here.

If you know of any other magazines which publish fiction, and will consider submissions, please let me know.

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Yours magazine fiction guidelines.

Below are the fiction guidelines for Yours magazine.

Please note - "All successful submissions are accepted on an All Rights basis that gives Bauer Media exclusive copyright." Be sure you understand what that means and are willing to agree to those terms if you decide to submit to them. Personally I'm not happy to give up my copyright, but of course with your own work that's entirely your own decision.

YOURS is always looking for good short stories. Every submission is read but we receive more than a hundred manuscripts a month and are able to publish only one short story per issue.
Please allow up to six months for reply and enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope if you would like your manuscript to be returned. Submissions should be 1000-1,200 words long and not have been published elsewhere before. Manuscripts must be TYPED on one side of the paper and the title page must include the following:
  • 100 - 150 word synopsis.
  • An accurate word count.
  • Your full name (and real name if you write under a pen name), address
    and telephone number
    If we can’t use your submission and you would like it returned to you please enclose a SAE with enough postage to cover the cost of the submission/s.
    It is essential that you study three or four published stories in YOURS before writing anything for us.
    Many manuscripts are rejected because, although they may be well written, the stories are aimed at a completely different market, such as younger women or a largely middle-class readership.
    Read several issues of YOURS. This will give you a good idea of the type of reader you should be writing for and the general tone we use.
    Our readers range in age from fifties upwards, with most in their mid-sixties and seventies. They are mostly women, although YOURS is read by some men, so don’t ignore their interests!
    Some of the most popular themes with YOURS readers are romance, families, grandchildren, nostalgia and wartime comradeship. A lot of our readers did war work and/or had husbands or boyfriends serving in the Forces. Don’t be limited to these subjects though; the style and tone of what you write about must appeal to our readers as much as the content.
The first line of your story should grab the attention; it is all too easy to start a story with a bang, which quickly turns into a damp squib by the end of the first page. Keep up the reader's interest until the end or they will not bother to get that far - and a brilliant surprise ending will not make them read it in the first place.
Avoid stereotypical images of older people as ill, frail and lonely. Make sure your story is plausible and realistic and do not rely on unlikely coincidences. Try and avoid the hero turning out to be a cat or dog.
Avoid downbeat subjects such as death, widowhood, illness and loneliness, or write about them in a positive way that does not dwell on negatives.
Try not to rely on obvious plot devices such as twists in the tale and memory flashbacks. These are very common and, unless cleverly written, can be predictable. A good story does not always need a surprise.
Always think of YOURS readers, not just as older people, but as ordinary human beings who have experienced everything in life - childhood, growing up, starting work, falling in love, friends and family, joy, sorrow, heartache, longing and laughter. YOURS readers have their own interests and needs which match their years of experiences but many of their hopes, fears and dreams are shared by all of us and they still enjoy a good story.
Send your manuscript to*: Short Stories
Yours Magazine
Bauer Media

Media House
Peterborough Business Park Peterborough, PE2 6EA

Or by email to: (Subject: Short Story Submission) – email submissions must include contact telephone number and address details.
All successful submissions are accepted on an All Rights basis that gives Bauer Media exclusive copyright
*PLEASE NOTE: If you would like us to return your submission, please include an SAE with the correct postage amount on it. We regret that any submissions without an SAE will not be returned.
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Thursday 19 October 2017

Interview with womag legend Clare Cooper

Clare Cooper's last guest post was so popular that I simply had to plead with her to come back. I'm delighted that she's not only agreed to an interview, but has offered to answer some of your questions too!

There's a new fiction editor at WW now and preferences and requirements vary from magazine to magazine, but I feel there are more similarities than differences between womag short stories. Do you agree?

Definitely. I think everyone wants to read stories that engage them and draw them in, stories with warmth and integrity, believable characters in believable situations that resonate with the reader. I know I do!

What do you think are the key ingredients to a good womag story?

Everything I have said in my comment above. Something to make you think, laugh and cry, to coin a cliché. The ones I remember most of the many thousands I read were those that made me cry and that struck a chord in some way.

How many stories did you receive at Woman's Weekly in an average week/month?

Impossible to say for sure. Several hundred maybe. It varied hugely; for instance, summer holidays and Christmas would see a slight dip in submissions.

And you were there for 29 years! I've done the maths and factoring in your holidays, that works out at... umm, LOTS. I'm guessing that, due to space constraints, you sometimes had to reject stories which didn't really have much wrong with them?

Holidays or not, the stories still had to be read! We would never return a story we liked enough to publish unless, for example, it was a Christmas or other seasonal story that had just missed the deadline, in which case we would ask them to resubmit it in good time the following year, if they still wanted to.

Another scenario would be if we had just bought/were about to publish a story on a similar theme. We would have to hang on to the new story for a very long time before we could use it, which would be unfair to the writer as they could try to sell it elsewhere first. Especially since, under the new Desknet payments system, stories can’t be paid for until they are assigned to a specific issue.

One of the reasons you gave for rejection was 'well-worn theme'. Which themes cropped up far too often?

Brace yourselves! Relationship break-ups, retirement, weddings, age-gap stories of both sexes, difficult stepchildren, school reunions where the narrator hopes/dreads bumping into someone they used to lust after, or the school bully (or both), or they turn out to have been the school bully themselves, lonely elderly people being befriended by their new neighbours’ cheeky young children, bringing them out of themselves and becoming their surrogate grandparent, blind date stories, or ones where the narrator’s partner was “stolen” by their best friend and they have a chance to make it up years later - or not! Evil mothers-in-law. Awkward daughters-in-law. “Surprise” anniversary parties. Affairs from both sides. Adopting rescue animals and ending up with the man/woman from the rescue centre, or the vet, or someone they meet while out dog-walking. Someone sorting through the contents of their loft, reflecting on the past, etc. People you thought were real but who turn out to be ghosts. Confirmed bachelors set in their ways being forced to look after someone’s pet or child and having a change of heart. Wives getting their own back on their miserable, mean husbands, to the point of murder sometimes (I would write in the margins: JUST LEAVE HIM)!!

These are the ones that spring immediately to mind but there are many more! Of course, there are no new themes under the sun, it’s how the writer tells the story that matters and we have used all of the above themes ourselves over the years.

What were the most common reasons for rejection?

The dreaded well-worn theme. In other words, no real surprises, which was another way of saying too predictable/guessable. Stories that seemed to be about more than one subject, disjointed and hard to follow. Stories that were, to put it bluntly, too soppy, twee or sentimental for our market or where the plot is too slight. Endings that tailed off in a limp, unsatisfactory manner. They are hard to do for a lot of people and we often tweaked them ourselves. Sometimes it was only a matter of adding a line or swapping the final two or three paras around to strengthen the whole thing. Ex WW Editor, Diane, hated endings which were, as she put it, “Wrapped up in a bow”. In other words, “And they all lived happily ever after.” Too neat, too cosy, too safe. So long as there was some hint of resolution, or hope on the horizon, that was usually enough. Never anything too hopeless, downbeat or miserable, though.

Another reason for rejection is “too far-fetched and unlikely”. Often, we would say this and then the writer would come back and say that it really did happen to them, or a friend of theirs.  My reply to that would be a true event doesn’t necessarily always make for a good, “proper” well-rounded story.  Sometimes we just have to accept that truth really is stranger than fiction and leave it at that!

Can you offer any tips to make sure a story grabs the editor's attention for the right reasons?

As with novels, you can usually tell from the opening sentence if a story is going to grab you or not. Certainly, by the end of the first para/page you will have some idea. We would always advise writers to study the magazine over several issues to get a feel for our tone and style. At the end of the day, though, you have to write in your own voice, as Fiction Editor Gaynor used to say. Read other people’s stories but use your own voice to tell yours.

Did you see any avoidable errors which resulted in stories not being accepted? 

Yes, a lot of people don’t realise that magazines have to work weeks and weeks ahead of the printed issue, so for Christmas stories it’s never too early, as I always used to say. By now, the Christmas and New Year stories will have been chosen and worked on for both Woman’s Weekly and the Fiction Special. Easter, Mothers Day, Valentines Day, etc - get them all in well before Christmas!!

No contact details and even, in some cases, no name or title on the story, let alone pages not numbered and words not counted used to drive us potty. Imagine the scenario: You have just printed out 30 or 40 stories which have been emailed to you and now you have to marry up story and writer, write their details on the copy, go back into the story to check the word count and write that and the page numbers down as well. A laborious and time-consuming job which happened far more often than it should have done!

However, for the unsoliciteds, our assistant Maureen kept a large file marked “No details” and it was sadly full of stories such as these. So those people who grumble that they have never heard back from a magazine should realise this could be the reason why!

Despite the frustrations involved, we would never outright reject a story just because it wasn’t presented correctly. That would be pointless. Or if the number of words wasn’t right for our needs. In that case, we would ask the writer to go back and either trim the story down to a one-page, or increase the wordage to a two-page, if the plot could take it. A comment I often heard was, “Do you read them all?” My response to that was always, “What on earth would be the point if we didn’t?” We needed the stories, simple as that. The only stories we rejected outright were the hand-written ones, as they were almost always impossible to read and, in any case, if accepted would have had to be either scanned and corrected or typed up by us.

Was there any 'magic' ingredient which would improve a story's chance of success?

There’s no magic ingredient, sadly. Just a well-written story that grabs the reader from the start. Presentation is important, of course, but the best presented story in the world won’t make it if it’s not well written or doesn’t hit the mark.

Sometimes contributor letters asked for particular styles or lengths of story. Was there anything which was generally in short supply?

While it could fluctuate at times, we always found the one-page stories to be the hardest to get right. To fit everything into just under a thousand words yet still have a fully-rounded story in there, with not-too-obvious a twist (or slight bend) is incredibly difficult to do.

Writing is hard. We know that. And on that cheerful note, I wish you all the very best of luck!

If you have writing related questions for Clare, please put them in the comments and she'll select some to answer. (Please use a name or nickname to help her with replies.)

Wednesday 18 October 2017

In the Moment magazine

In The Moment magazine is a monthly publication which will consider unsolicited fiction submissions.

"Short story submission guidelines

We don’t accept idea pitches but we are happy to receive ready written stories for consideration. The word length we require is 2,000-2,400 words. We are looking for fiction whereby the main protagonist is a woman (not a child), where the story is thought-provoking and moving and where there is a positive resolution (a ‘moving on’, a hope for better things to come) at the end of the story. As the story is featured in our ‘Take A Moment’ section we are looking for a poignant, calming read. We don’t mind if the story has been previously published or not.


We do accept pitches for features (not full articles) from freelance writers."

The email address is -

I'd like to add a few words of caution ... 

Firstly, this is a monthly magazine and won't be buying many stories. If they're flooded with submissions they won't be able to cope, so it's in not in anyone's interests for writers to send in a whole batch of submissions.

Secondly, although they'll consider previously published fiction, you must ensure you still hold the copyright. If you've sold the story anywhere which takes full rights, or are still within any exclusivity period (as required by almost all womags) then you can't submit that story.

Tuesday 17 October 2017

The People's Friend Pocket Novels

I'm just having a tidy up of the blog to, hopefully, make it much easier to find what you want. The PF pocket novels didn't have their own category, so I'm adding that into the link list now.

(If you're not sure how to find particular guidelines, this page explains it.)

Coincidentally, since I created this post PF have been tweeting requests for submissions of 37.000 word pocket novels - not 42,000 as stated in the guidelines. I've contacted Tracey Steel and can confirm 37,000 words is now correct and that the guidelines will be updated soon.

Sunday 15 October 2017

Your go

Does anyone have any womag news, questions, tips, advice or general comments they'd like to share?

Thursday 12 October 2017

Beyond womags

I love writing short stories for women's magazines and can't imagine giving them up, but they're not my only reason for bashing the keyboard. I'm a romance novelist too (and I write articles on writing and have co-authored a writing book.)

My latest novel, a romance, is out now. 

Leave Nothing But Footprints

Jessica Borlase always gets what she wants. From cocktails in the exact shade of her manicure, holiday on Capri with friends, to a spacious apartment, her father's money makes it possible. She enjoys the luxurious lifestyle and is grateful for his support, but frustrated to always be treated as Daddy's pampered little girl. She tries to break free, by leaving Borlase Enterprises and studying photography.

Now what Jess wants is the utterly gorgeous Eliot Beatty; a world famous photographer who often uses his talents to benefit conservation projects. Her father attempts to bribe Eliot into taking Jess on an assignment in order to teach her the skills she'll need to develop a career. Although annoyed at the interference, she's delighted to discover this means two weeks with Eliot in the beautiful countryside of South Wales and close confines of a campervan. Trouble is, the man can't be bought.

Jess eventually manages to persuade Eliot to take her. She believes she can earn his respect and that she's ready for the hard work, long hours and living conditions far short of those she's used to. She's wrong on all counts. Can Jess learn to cope with the realities of the trip, and is Eliot really worth the effort?

Do you write anything other than womag stories? If so, what? 

Wednesday 11 October 2017

Stay calm!

I have news of another new (at least to me and this blog) short story market. 'In The Moment Magazine' publishes short stories and will consider those submitted by writers not yet known to them.

The guidelines are on the way – and I'm still hoping to get some for the new market I mentioned last week.