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 - lotta.gustavsson@allas.aller.se

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: yours@bauermedia.co.uk (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 - calmmoment@immediate.co.uk

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.

Monday 9 October 2017

Magazine Fillers

Carol Bevitt has some useful advice for anyone interested in writing 'fillers' for magazines.

Amongst other things, she mentions replying to Facebook questions from magazines. I did that once and got paid after my answer (on whether people meant and kept their wedding vows) was published.

Friday 6 October 2017

A change at The Weekly News

There's a new address for submitting stories to The Weekly News – jfinlay@dctmedia.co.uk If you've recently used the old address don't worry as that still works at the moment, but Jill would prefer you to use the new one from now on.

For details on the type of stories Jill is looking for, see here and here.

Thursday 5 October 2017

Story lengths – and a new market

Shirley Blair (fiction editor at The People's Friend) has explained the situation with 1,200 word stories. To sum up, to increase your chances and reduce the waiting time, submit longer stories.

My Weekly are asking (on their facebook page) if readers prefer serials or shorter stories.

Spirit and Destiny magazine want both ficton and non fiction stories.

Non fiction – "I would love to hear from anyone who has a tale to tell about something spooky, or an angelic encounter, or an experience which has led you to have a strong belief in the afterlife.
Contact Features Editor Tracie Couper at tracie.couper@bauer.co.uk"
Fiction – Starting from next January, stories of around 650 words will be wanted, on themes suitable for this publication. Contact Katy Moon for more information. katy.moon@bauermedia.co.uk
I've requested full guidelines and will post these as soon as I get them (if I do).

Monday 2 October 2017

Guest post from womagwriter Cara Cooper

Following shortly after the one from Clare, I have another guest post by a C Cooper. This is total coincidence - I'll be very happy to receive posts from writers with different names!

Cara Cooper is a lovely lady who writes lovely stories - and was very kind to a certain seaside writer when she worried she'd get lost in London on her way to a workshop. (OK, I'll admit it was me and I have no sense of direction.) Anyway, over to Cara ...

As a writer I feel we are often like old fashioned mangles! There’s a lot of squeezing involved. First there’s the effort of squeezing a story out of your poor old brain when all it wants to do is laze in front of the Bakeoff. The next lot of squeezing comes in trying to get as much as possible out of the precious words you’ve crafted. That in itself is an art and there are various ways to do this.
When you first get into the writing game, acronyms like PLR and ALCS and can be a mystery as they were for me. Linking into writing groups on social media can be invaluable for learning what’s what. So can organisations such as the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) or the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) both of which I have found really helpful. 

Meeting people both in person, and online in this way was how I discovered I could sell the large print rights of my pocket novels and the magazine serials I had written to Ulverscroft  http://www.ulverscroft.com/home.php
They are a great company, not least because of the very nice people they have there. Also, their ethos is to bring large print books to libraries the world over. It’s excellent news for us writers. This is because a pocket novel only spends a couple of weeks on the shelves and an episode of a magazine serial is out there for even less time at only one week. However, an Ulverscroft book can be available for years. When you’ve toiled hard over your pocket novel or serial, it’s nice to know that you can increase its life by submitting to Ulverscroft. As you’ll see from an earlier post on this blog, (just put Ulverscroft in
the search box) they are only interested in previously published works of around 25,000 to 70,000 words. Do however check with the original publisher first to check what rights you have sold them and what are available to you to sell on. Also some magazines may ask that you send your original manuscript to Ulverscroft, not the version into which they themselves have had editorial input.
As well as seeing your book on library shelves with covers that have excellent artwork, you will earn PLR (Public Lending Right) on loans of your book which is a nice bonus. Another bonus can be applying for ALCS (Authors Licensing and Copying Society) payments which you can do by logging on to their helpful website https://www.alcs.co.uk/

I didn’t realise that I could apply for ALCS payments for longer titles and missed out. But at least I have learnt for future publications. Good luck in applying to Ulverscroft, just contact them with a brief blurb and see what they think.

You can find more of Cara's books here.