Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Weekly News – another update!

I've just had an email from Shirley Blair (head of fiction at the People's Friend and therefore also responsible for fiction at The Weekly News). She's given permission for me to reproduce it here ...

"Hi, Patsy. As you know I pop into the Womagwriter’s blog fairly regularly, and I picked up on the concerns about there being no auto-acknowledgement from the Weekly News email address when there had been in the past. It’s fixed now.  Just to prove we do listen and act where possible. J

I think that's great news – both that writers concerns are taken note of, and that we'll get the acknowledgements from TWN. I'm guessing I'm not the only person who feels frustrated about waiting for replies when I'm not even sure my submission was received.

Now, how do we convince Take A Break and Ireland's Own to reinstate the auto-reponses they once had and persuade the other magazines which accept emailed submissions, and don't yet auto-acknowledge, to introduce this system? 

Friday, 13 April 2018

Re-using previously published stories

Several people have asked me what, if anything, they can do with stories after they've been published.  The answer is – it depends!

You'll need to check which rights you've sold. This information will be in your contract if you have one, or will have been included in the guidelines (or competition rules) or on the letter or email of acceptance. If, as is the case with Yours magazine, you've sold all rights then you can't do anything at all as it's no longer your story. You can't sell it, put it on your blog, enter it in a competition. Nothing.

If, as is far more usual, you've sold first rights, or first rights with extensions, then you can offer the story elsewhere after it has been used by the first publication. There may be a time period before you are permitted to do that. Again, this information will be in your contract. (This is one reason it's so important to read and understand contracts before signing them.)

When submitting a previously published piece of work, you must also take into account the requirements of the publication you hope will accept it. Some will consider reprints without restrictions, but more usually they won't want work which has already been published wherever their publication is on sale. You may think that because you've only sold to a UK publication that the story will only have been published in the UK. That may not be the case. Depending on the terms of your contract, the buyer may have the rights to print it in other magazines within their group (at no extra cost to them) – and if they do, it's unlikely you'll be informed.

If the publication you hope to sell to only publishes work on a first use, first rights, or all rights basis, then you'll have to write something new. That doesn't just mean changing the title and character names!

Depending on the terms of the contracts, it may be possible to sell the same story multiple times. I do that whenever I can.

Assuming you haven't sold all rights, the buying publication have used the story and any exclusivity period has passed, then you may also publish the stories yourself.

I've just put together another collection of my short stories. The stories in With Love And Kisses originally appeared in My Weekly, YOU (South Africa), Allas (Sweden), Woman's Weekly,  Woman's Weekly Fiction Special, That's Life (Australia), The Lady, Pages of Stories (Canada), Stories That Lift (U.S.) Cafelit, Ireland's Own, Take A Break's Fiction Feast, The Weekly News, or were placed in competitions.

Buy it (or read free with kindle unlimited) here.

See my other blog to discover how one of these stories was written at the instruction of Norah McGrath (former fiction editor for Take a Break's Fiction Feast), and to see my wearing a peculiar hat.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

The Weekly News – update

I have a story in the current (7th April) issue of The weekly News (TWN). Of course I'm always pleased to have a story accepted, but a TWN acceptance brought me the greatest joy as it was my first ever. That was back in 2005. (And today sees my very first publication in The People's Friend!)

TWN is open to submissions of 1,200 to 1,500 word stories, from all writers, whether or not they've sold stories previously. They usually publish two each week, but ocassionally use a few more. The publication is actually a newspaper, not a womag, which is important in several ways – the stories aren't always aimed at women and don't always feel typically womaggy, no ALCS is paid on published stories, and you'll need to look for it amongst the papers in most newsagents.

If you click on 'The Weekly News' immediately below this post, you'll find lots more information on TWN and the type of stories they're looking for, but I also strongly suggest reading a few current issues. You may need to ask your newsagent to reserve copies for you (a good thing to do as anything which prompts more sales is in the best interests of all womag writers).

Submissions are not acknowledged (a shame as at one time an automated response was sent after each submission – I do wish that would be reinstated). There isn't a dedicated fiction editor for TWN; submissions read by the fiction team for The People's Friend (PF).  For more detail on this, see the response by Shirley Blair (head of PF fiction team) to this post.

If no response is recieved within three months, the story has not been accepted and you're free to submit it elsewhere.

Occasionally a rewrite will be requested. In this case, you'll be told which changes are wanted and it's your choice whether you make them or withdraw the story. There's no guarantee the rewrite will be accepted, but there's a good chance of that happening.

If/when the story is accepted, you'll be emailed with that information, plus the intended publication date. If you've not previously signed a contract with DC Thomson then you'll be requested to do so. (As with every contract, please do read it and be sure you understand and agree before signing!). You'll also need to provide your bank details (nothing confidential – just what they need to make payment).

No complimentary copies are sent (very few publishers now have the resources to do this).

Payment is made soon after publication. You'll be emailed a 'self billed PO' and a 'remittance advice' with the details shortly before the money arives in your bank account. (I don't post payment rates for any markets on this blog unless the publishers make them public knowledge as in some cases rates vary and/or our contracts prohibit this.)

Whilst searching for information online, I came across this history of The weekly News, which you might find interesting.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Updates – TAB, TABFF, TWN and Clare Cooper

Ex-Woman’s Weekly legend Clare Cooper is joining a panel discussing how to write short stories, and will also be critiquing stories, at the Sidmouth Literary Festival this year. This event runs from 15th–17th June. Details of guest speakers and other events are still being finalised. Updates will be posted on

Clare has written some fascinating/funny/useful (or all three!) posts for this blog. To read them, click on her name under this posts. Clare now writes her own blog, which is currently listing a humorous A-Z of magazine life (as she remembers it!) and can be found on  

TAB and TAB FF (Take a Break and Take a Break's Fiction Feast) – Following yet more staff changes, there was a period where replies to submissions and queries seemed to have stopped, which was creating some concern. Although I've heard nothing myself recently, over the last couple of days I have heard about people who've received replies. That includes at least one acceptance. I'm hoping this means the problem is now resolved and things will soon be back to normal.

Please do mention it in the comments if you've heard anything from TAB over the last few days.

I've requested that the automatic acknowledgement of submissions be resumed, as I'm sure I wasn't alone in finding those reassuring. Update – Someone has reported recieving one of these from TAB on Friday 23rd March, but others including myself have made submissions and not had one.

This market is still currently closed to unsolicited submissions (meaning you need to be 'on the list' to have your work considered.)

If any of the above changes, I'll update the update!

TWN The Weekly News – As reported on this blog (click the magazine title below this post to see all the posts about it) Jill Finlay left TWN and her role was taken or by the PF (People's Friend) fiction team. 

Shirley Blair (fiction editor at PF) reported on her blog that some stories submitted to PF might be used in TWN. That happened (and may continue). This and a few teething issues regarding communication again caused concern. (I'm not surprised writers are feeling unsettled – there have been a huge number of changes amongst the womags recently.)

I can report that the PF team are accepting stories submitted to TWN directly, as I've sold some myself. The acceptances included a publication date, something I feel is very useful and hope will continue. 

Payment will be made on publication, as has always been the case for TWN. Also continuing is the 'if you've not heard in three months then it's a no and you may submit elsewhere' system. This market is open to anyone. You're strongly advised not to send multiple stories at once. The guidelines remain unchanged.

I've had some queries about re-using previously published stories and will write a post about that soon.

As always, your questions and comments are welcome either as a reply to the monthly 'Your Go' posts, or to a recent post about the magazine or topic in question.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

At the risk ...

... of sounding grumpy ... 

From now on, I'm only going to answer womag qustions which are raised via this blog, and the replies will only be posted here. I get asked quite a lot of questions each week, via email, twitter and Facebook, often asking the same thing, or concerning something I've already posted about. I want to help, but answering takes up time and is only seen by the individual. Any questions posted here will be seen by others, who may be able to contribute useful information and/or may benefit from the replies.

You can ask questions, anonymously if you wish, either as a comment on any posting about the magazine in question, or on the monthly 'Your Go' post. Although I can't guarantee I'll be able to answer every questions, I'll always try to help.

Yesterday morning, I put up just such a post, inviting questions and comments. Following that I had five questions/suggestions – none of which were posted on the blog. I've had two more today. I'm finding this situation frustrating ... and yes, it is making me slightly grumpy.

If you're unsure how to post a comment to this blog, please see these instructions. 

Monday, 19 March 2018

Over to you

Here's another monthly random photo for use as a story prompt. 

It's also your chance to share success (or otherwise) ask questions*, report any womag news, tips, advice you may have, or make womag related comments or observations. (If you have news or a question relating to a particular magazine, it's also fine to add it as a comment to the latest post for that magazine.)

*If you can answer these, please do.

How have you been getting on? Sent any stories in? Had any replies?

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Look, cute dog!

I'm hoping that as I'm posting a really cute illustration, you're going to let me get away with a bit of bragging ...

Currently I gave a story in Woman's Weekly, The Weekly News and Take A Break's Fiction Feast, plus two in both Woman's Weekly Fiction Special and Allas.

I promise not to irritate the heck out of you by mentioning every story I get published, but this week has been exceptional and I just couldn't resist.

The illustration is from Allas. I almost always like the illustrations and photos selected to go with my stories in the various magazines, but there's something about the Allas ones which particularly appeals to me.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Update on YOU magazine

I've had two short stories accepted by South African magazine YOU. Two at once is something that's never happened to me before, so I was extra pleased to get that bit of good news.

Response times and procedures vary greatly from magazine to magazine. Personally I find it helpful to know what's usual for each – there's no point getting anxious after three days if the editor usually takes a couple of months to reply!

The process with YOU magazine is generally that there will be some kind of response very quickly. If the editor, Lynn Ely, is away from her office there will be an automatic response saying so, otherwise she acknowledges receipt personally and quickly – often by the next day.

Once the story has been read, there are three possible outcomes. This might be an acceptance or rejection. Lynn may also ask if she can 'hang onto' the story. Again this notification will come through fairly quickly; two to three weeks is common.

If she hangs onto a story, the wait for further news could be much longer. There is hope though – both of my recent acceptances were stories she'd held onto. Think of it as being shortlisted.

If a story is rejected, this is usually done without any reasons or feedback.

If a story is accepted, you will be asked to send in an invoice (don't get too excited by the huge sum mentioned as there are a lot of rand to the pound). You'll also need to send a scan of the photo page of your passport, due to their bank rules about overseas payments. The money will be paid directly into your bank, generally after one to two months.

Some people are understandably cautious about giving out bank and passport details. The choice is entirely yours, but if you're not happy to do that, then you'll have to forego this market.

Is this kind of information of interest/use to you? If I get lots of comments saying it is, then I'll continue to provide it for other magazines as I get responses. Otherwise I'll assume you'd rather not know and will stay tactfully quiet!

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Short story lengths

Shirley Blair has written a useful and interesting post on story lengths. Naturally it deals with the
requirements for The People's Friend as that's where she works, but I feel the advice applies to all womags.

To paraphrase and add my tupenny worth ...

1. Find out the word length requirements of the magazines you wish to submit to, and stick as closely to them as possible. (The magazine guideline quick links on this blog may help.) You won't be rejected because you've sent 2,003 words when they asked for 2,000, but if you send 500 or 4,000 then the magazine editor is very unlikely to be able to use your story, even if she loves it.

2. If you do send the 'wrong' length, accept that it will be edited to fit the space. This could involve cutting something you felt was important, or adding something you'd rather wasn't included. Such changes can happen anyway, but if your story doesn't fit as it is, the editor has no option but to either alter or reject it.

Remember editors are busy people. They may prefer to accept a story they can use as it is, over one which requires a considerable amount of extra work.

3. If you write stories in the lengths which are used most frequently, you increase your chances both of it being accepted at the first try and of being able to submit it elsewhere, should that prove unsuccessful.

4. If you need to add words then don't just pad it out with long winded phrases which will weaken the story. Instead add something of value and interest – an extra twist or touch of humour are often welcomed by editors.

5. When cutting words, double check you haven't removed something the reader needs to know in order to understand the story.  (This book contains useful information, including advice on writing to a word count.)

Do you find it easy to stick to word counts? If you ever struggle, do you tend to go over or under the requested figure?

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Dash it

On the last your go post, Patricia G replied...

"I'd be interested to find out what other Womag writers feel about the use of the m-dash used as a punctuation mark.
I often use it for dramatic effect but most writers published in PF and WW seem to avoid it. Is its use seen as 'sloppy' writing?"

One thing to keep in mind is the house style of the magazine. It could be that authors use them and editors take them out (or vice versa). I doubt any story would be rejected for use or lack of dashes, but if you've notced an editor has a strong preference it's something to consider during your final edit.

For those not quite sure of the difference between the dashes and how to use them...

An em dash (sometimes called m dash) is like this — . It takes up the same space as a letter m, hence the name. It can be used in place of commas, parenthesis (brackets) or colons. In this case it will have a space either side of it. Em dashes are generally considered more emphatic and less formal than the punctuation they replace.

Another use for an em dash is to show that letters or words have been deliberately left out, for example to avoid naming individuals or quoting swear words.

The en dash (or n dash) is smaller. The same space as a letter n. It looks like this – . An en dash is used to seperate a range of numbers. Eg The required word count is 800–1,000 words. It can also be use to form some compound adjectives.

Although they're different, it's becoming more common to use the same size dash for both situations. That's probably because, with most keyboards, one is much easier to use than the other. Remembering which one we should be using, and which key combination produces it can seem like an awful lot of effort for something most people won't notice anyway.

The hyphen is the smallest and looks like this -. Unsurprisingly, they're used in hyphenated words and names. Eg This post on dashes and hyphens was an eye-opener for twenty-six-year-old Lucy Barrington-Smythe.

What do you think about the use of dashes? Do you use them yourself? If you do, is it always the right one?

(If you're in the mood to read more of my writing tips and advice, take a look here.)

Friday, 23 February 2018

Woman's Weekly payments.

I've been asked about payments from Woman's Weekly as for some people these haven't arrived when expected. Don't panic! It's simply that these are now being made on publication, not acceptance as used to be the case.

Once your story has been scheduled (which might be quite a while after acceptance) you should get something through from Desknet and this will give the publication date. Payment will be made in the usual way shortly afterwards.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Want to talk about writing?

On #writingchat tonight we're discussing what stops us writing and how to get over it.

#writingchat is a weekly twitter event, with a different topic each time.  It's on Wednesdays, 8-9pm UK time. Everyone with an interest in writing is welcome to join in.

Please remember to use the #writingchat hashtag, so we can find your tweets and respond.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

There's just time ...

Today is the last chance to get All That Love Stuff, my collection of romantic short stories, for 99p (99c) as it goes back up to £1.99 ($2.99) tomorrow. Still, in my biased opinion either price is a bargain for 24 lovely stories.

There's also still time to book a place on the Writers' Weekend Workshop, run by myself and Anne Rainbow in Devon, 9th to 11th of March.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Over to you

Each month I'll be making a posting just like this one, so blog readers can share their success (or otherwise) ask  questions*, report any womag news, tips, advice they may have, or make womag related comments or observations. (If you have news or a question relating to a particular magazine, it's also fine to add it as a comment to the latest post for that magazine.)

*If you can answer these, please do.

I've decided to include a picture each month which you may, if you like, use as a story prompt. Do you like that idea? Have you ever written a story using a picture prompt?

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Valentine Gimmick

I have a story called Valentine Gimmick in the Valentine's Special issue of Ireland's Own. It's on their website too.

If you enjoyed that story, you might like All That Love Stuff – a collection of 24 short stories which is currently on offer for 99p/99c.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

5 Reasons Why You Want to Use Trello to Keep Track of Your Projects

Today I have writer and freelance editor Misha Gericke as my guest.

Thanks for having me over, Patsy!

A few weeks ago, Patsy got in touch with me and asked me to write a post about using Excel to keep track of writing and submitting projects. She did so for a good reason. For one thing, I adore Excel. For another, I have been using Excel to keep track of my goals and projects basically for as long as I’ve been writing. (Almost seventeen years. Shhh!)

Here’s the thing, though. Last year, I found something that works miles better than Excel for tracking projects. It’s called Trello, and I think if you’re anything like me, working on multiple story ideas in a year, you’re going to want to make the switch too.

These are my Top 5 reasons why:

1) Excel is actually designed to be a big, automated calculator.

It’s true. While the cells in Excel are good for making color-coded blocks, to fill in the things you need to fill in, and to see things quickly, those cells are actually there to take formulae, automate mathematical calculations, and to make sense of large amounts of numerical data.

Would you want to keep track of your deadlines on what amounts to a glorified calculator? Yeah…me neither.

2) Trello is designed as an app/website aimed at project management.

In other words, it’s literally made for you to know at a glance what’s going on, not only on one project, but all of them, simply, easily, intuitively.

3) Trello is easy and flexible to use.

When you sign up, you get a quick tutorial outlining how everything works. I suggest you play around for the tutorial for a few minutes, but I think you’d be able to do your thing immediately if you’re so inclined.

Basically, though, Trello is like a virtual pin-board with virtual post-it notes. You can make your tracking board as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.

More than that, Trello is available as a smart-phone app, so you have exactly no issues with updating your tracking board if you get news while you’re out and about. This right here is probably my number one favorite thing about it.

4) Trello at its most basic has everything you’ll ever need to keep track of your project status.

Easy duplication of tasks between boards? Check.

Color-coded labeling: Check. (Oooh, I do like a bit of colour coding!)

Space for comments, descriptions, updates? Check.

Easy-to-create check-lists: Check.

Easy-to-see due-dates? Check. (Those due dates also automatically change color the closer you get to them.)

It’s almost ridiculous how much information the cards can hold on Trello, and how Trello has managed to pull all that information together to both have everything at your fingertips and not overwhelm you with all that information.

This picture is of my general to-do list, because that’s where I make use of most of the functionality, to give you an idea of the information I can see at a glance:

And then, let me click into one of these cards so you can see what that looks like:

Another cool thing: Trello is awesome if you need to work with someone on something, because you can invite people to a board to coordinate.

But that’s not even the best thing. That would be:

5) Trello is free.

You read that right. While Trello limits the functionality for free users, the free version is so comprehensive and just plain useful that you don’t need anything more. And if you do want some of the extra services they offer, they’re not that expensive to get. In fact, you can get some perks just by inviting people over to coordinate with you.

So why not give Trello a try? You literally have nothing to lose.


Misha Gerrick is a fiction writer and freelancer who lives near Cape Town, South Africa. When she’s not working on either her own stories or someone else’s, you can find her reading, watching movies and series, needlepointing, or hanging out with her horse (which is the cutest thing you’ll ever find).

You can find her at these social networking links:

And at these freelancing platforms:

I'll confess that I do use Excel to track my submissions – yes, it's a big calculator, but it's a glorified one! ;-) How about you, do you have a system in place which works? Has Misha convinced you to give Trello a try?

Monday, 22 January 2018

A first for me!

After years of trying, I've finally had a story accepted for The People's Friend!

I first sent them something in 2004. Since then I've been accepted by 11 other UK magazines (some of which sadly no longer publish fiction) and temporarily given up with TPF on several occasions. Persistence pays though and I knew I could write, so I took another look at what they wanted and tried again.

Eventually I was contacted by one of the editors. He said he liked my story, but it wasn't quite right for TPF and suggested a few changes. Of course I agreed to try (I'm stubborn, not daft). The amended story was forwarded up the editorial chain – The People's Friend have a rigorous selection process to ensure the published stories are right for their readership.

Rewriting that story, and feedback my helpful and supportive editor has given me since, have helped me gain a better understanding of what makes a TPF story, so I'm hopeful of more acceptances in the future.

Now I'm an expert on the subject ;-) here are my tips for getting a story accepted for The People's Friend...

1) Read the magazine to get a feel for what they want (current issues, not ones you found in Granny's attic.)

2) Read the guidelines. (They're on this blog - see the 'magazine guidelines' tab above if unsure how to search for them. )

3) Follow the guidelines!

4) Check fiction editor Shirley's blog, for the latest requirements. Sometimes they'll want stories of a particular type, or be over stocked with those of a certain word length.

5) Write, or at least edit, something just for this market.

6) Act on any feedback or suggestions you may receive from one of the editors.

6) Don't give up.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Change at Spirit and Destiny

Katy Moon is no longer dealing with fiction at Spirit and Destiny. Any future submissions should be sent to tracie.couper (at)

Friday, 19 January 2018

Change at The Weekly News

I heard that Jill Finlay was leaving The Weekly News and emailed to check it was true and if she minded me posting the news here. Her reply is -

Yes - it's true! Next week will be my last with TWN, as I've got a new job as Production Editor for Girls' Magazines.

It's been 17 years since I started here - and 15 of that has involved fiction - so it's a bittersweet moment.

I'll miss the fiction and all the writers so much, but hopefully, the new system will keep it pretty much as it has been.
The team from The People's Friend have agreed to supply our stories from now on, so all submissions you would have sent to me need to go to

It's keeping it in-house and means our fiction slot will continue as it always has.

I have loved my time being Fiction Ed on TWN, but it really is such a good opportunity at the magazines that it's time to move on and take on some fresh challenges.

Next Fri will be my last day, so the countdown is on! 

You're very welcome to post on the womagwriter blog - the blogs are the best way to let everybody know about the changes, so thank you.

Goodbye, Jill and best wishes for the future.

UPDATE - The People's Friend editor, Shirley Blair, has blogged about this here. I'm pleased she says that they intend to keep the differences in fiction style between the two publications ad will be continuing to use Jill's guidelines and system of emailed submissions.

Monday, 15 January 2018

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.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Monday, 8 January 2018

What's your routine?

Today's post is from womagwriter Lisa Macgregor.

As I sit at the kitchen table with my laptop in front of me (plus tea and biscuits of course) about to start a day of writing, I suddenly find myself wondering about the routines of my fellow womag writers and how you all like to plan your day.

Like many people I enjoy the discipline that having a routine can bring. But when you are a writer at home by yourself, with no company timetable to adhere to or a boss keeping a beady eye on you and threatening to stop your wages, it's hard to remain focussed and know how best to juggle what needs to be done.

For example, I normally spend my days writing short stories for magazines. However this year I have decided I would like to tackle a novel, which feels like a mammoth task, especially as I want to continue with the short stories as well. So I'm wondering how best to divide my time so that I don't get distracted and start jumping between the two tasks and not accomplishing anything.

Are you juggling writing short stories with writing a novel? Or are you juggling a full time / part time job with catching a few hours writing late at night or early morning?

I'd love to hear about your writing routines. Maybe you have some good tips to share? And if anyone knows how best to avoid the biscuit tin and slip some much needed exercise into the day please let me know as I'm developing a bad case of writers bottom!

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Good news from Woman's Weekly.

I have a story in the current issue of Woman's Weekly, which is great news for me, but not so interesting to everyone else. Fortunately I have what I think is good news for us all - the new fiction editor has confirmed she is now able to accept stories from all writers, whether or not they've had stories published in the magazine before.

If you've not had success with Woman's Weekly, I reccomend reading the three posts from Clare Cooper, particularly the second one.

New Woman's Weekly Fiction Guidelines (reproduced with the permission of the fiction editor)

We regret we can't accept stories by e-mail. Please include a SAE in case we have to return your manuscript.

Fiction is a vital ingredient of Woman's Weekly, the place where readers can escape and switch off. This doesn't mean predictable plots or old-fashioned romances. Escapism means getting involved in a really gripping tale with believable characters. Above all, we are looking for originality and a wide variety of themes and moods, such as mystery, humour, relationships and family issues, with warmth still an important factor. Try to be subtle in your writing and remember the maxim: "Show don't tell". We recommend you read several issues of Woman's Weekly and Woman's Weekly Fiction Special to get a feel for our audience.

Unfortunately, we can't offer criticism, but if your writing shows promise, we will contact you.


For the weekly magazine:
Short stories of 1,000 and 2,000 words
Serials in 3 or 4 parts of 3,800 words each

For Fiction Special (At least 20 stories 10 times a year):
Stories of 1,000 to 8,000 words

  • We read only typescripts. Handwritten work or disks can't be considered.
  • Double line spacing on one side of the paper only and wide margins.
  • Number each page and make sure your name is at the top of each page.
  • If sending stories from abroad, please enclose an international reply coupon.
  • If you would like us to acknowledge receipt of your manuscript, enclose a stamped, addressed postcard.
 Please note that it can take up to sixteen weeks for manuscripts to be considered, and that we are unable to enter into any correspondence by email.

Please send stories/serials to:
Fiction Department, Woman's Weekly, 161 Marsh Wall, London E14 9AP

Those who currently submit by email, may continue to do so.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018


The Christmas break is over. The shops are already stocking Valentine cards and crème eggs and it’s back to business for many. If you’ve been over-indulging, eating and drinking too much, lounging about indoors and writing nothing more taxing than endless shopping lists, it’s time to follow Clare Cooper’s light-hearted resolutions guide and get yourself back on track with your story-writing fitness regime.

Power-walk your way to your nearest bookshop. Now, buy as many books as you can afford. Don’t forget to use those book tokens you were so loudly dropping hints about in the run-up to Christmas. Balance it out by buying an even number and size of books, so that the weight is evenly distributed.

As you make your way home, you can congratulate yourself on two things. One: The weight of the books is giving your upper arms a much-needed workout. No, lifting the TV remote control every day and night for the last two weeks doesn’t count; sorry. Two: You can treat it as research but, more importantly, you are supporting your fellow writers and keeping everyone in jobs, from the bookseller to the delivery van driver to the publisher to the editor to their assistant to the cover jacket designer to the printer to the coffee machine vending company to the office cat to… you get the picture.

When you do finally sit down at your desk, remember to take regular breaks every hour. Walk around your desk, walk around the room, walk up and down the hallway, walk up and down the stairs but try to resist walking to the fridge or food cupboard more than once every hour. OK, twice.

Your arms and legs are toning up nicely, but there’s another type of tone: your writing voice. Make this the year you develop your own unique tone and style. Remember what Oscar Wilde once said: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Target your chosen market and do your research on them. Buy a few issues of that publication, go online, look at their website, get hold of their guidelines, study their readership (their Facebook page will be great for this) and don’t give up too easily if you receive a few rejections before you hit the mark.

You have been sending in your stories to various publications for months, if not years and you’re still not hitting the mark with them – see above. Resist the urge to take it all too personally. Step off the treadmill of negativity. It’s not the fault of the editors. They know their publications inside out and they know what their readers want. They also know about stories that have well-worn themes and are therefore predictable and guessable, with no real surprises. Plots that are not strong enough. Disjointed stories that appear to be about more than one thing and stories that are too far-fetched. Keep learning, keep trying and remember to be patient! Editors have to read hundreds of stories, not just yours (though, of course, yours is undoubtedly the best and most important one in the heap), as well as getting on with the many other sides to their job – and all to deadlines!

Don’t sweat the small stuff. House styles vary between publications and no two are the same. Your job is to provide the words, in a clear and readable manner, preferably double-spaced, with a word count. Put your contact details on there somewhere and let them take care of the rest.

It takes time to build the perfect body and it takes time to build a good relationship with your editors. Keep it polite and pleasant; don’t be stroppy or difficult. You won’t necessarily get any more acceptances if you are the former, or fewer acceptances if you are the latter, but who wants a reputation for being awkward to deal with? (Bribes won’t work, either, but they will make editors very happy. I like chocolate, btw.)

Don’t get yourself in a spin with words. There is such a thing as overwriting; a common fault seen everywhere. You may think, why use two words when you can use ten? But editors won’t be impressed with your exhaustive knowledge of the dictionary. It won’t help your story along. It will, instead, halt the flow and befuddle the reader. Less is often more. Many consider Raymond Chandler novels to be among the best. Read them to find out why.

If you have been sitting at your desk, beavering away for some hours (you have, haven’t you? I don’t mean catching up with everyone on social media, either), you will find that you will need to flex your fingers and stretch your neck and limbs. My top tip: never put food within stretching distance. Always have it where you have to leave the room to go and find it, thus building in a little more exercise along the way.

Back at your desk, stretch yourself a little with your writing: don’t just stick to the tried and trusted same-old, same-old themes because you’ve had some success with them in the past. Don’t be afraid to test the water with your editors – speak to them and run your ideas past them first (without giving too much away), so that you’re not wasting your time and theirs. If they’re not suitable for them, try elsewhere. Expand your markets. Flexibility can also mean taking constructive criticism on board and working with your editors to make the necessary changes to improve your story’s chances.

Sometimes, the cut and thrust of the writing business will get you down. Everyone has their off days. Take any criticism on the chin - see above. We’re all here to learn. Switch off that critical, nagging inner voice, cut yourself some slack, go into the garden and take it out on the weeds, maybe clear out a few kitchen cupboards as well, then get back in the ring. Raise those gloves. Slug it out. You can do it; you know you can!

Don’t worry too much about how you are going to get there. Some have it all planned out and will only ever steer in a straight line, with no distractions; others won’t have a clue and are quite happy to meander endlessly around the byways and tributaries until they can see where they are going. Everyone has their own preferred method. It’s not a race. Just follow your own course.

When you feel the pull of the computer, don’t fight it. Push yourself to write something every day. Get into the habit of a daily workout. Press yourself to do a little more each time. Enter competitions, review books online, send something to magazine letters pages. Build up your writing muscle.

Oscar Wilde (him again; he was a busy boy) wrote that we should always travel with a diary so we would have something sensational to read on the train and Mae West, who also led a somewhat colourful life, is quoted as saying: “Always keep a diary. One day it will keep you.” Maybe your entry will read more along the lines of: “Went to Sainsbury’s, waited ages for the bus, forgot cat food, forced to share my tea with Tiddles, had a bath, went to bed” but my point is that it’s all good practice and life, even at its most mundane and routine, will be fodder to an active imagination. Don’t forget that notebook and pen!

Sometimes we reach a plateau, stalemate, and need a fresh approach to reach our goals. It can seem we’re never going to get there. At the gym, we would be assessed regularly and our training program adjusted accordingly. Our trainer would hopefully be supportive and encouraging, too. Try joining a writing group or going on a course. There are many excellent ones out there. You will get valuable feedback and possibly some new ideas. If nothing else, it’s a break from your normal daily routine and you will likely end up with a few more friends on Facebook.

Because, when you have finished your piece and, even better, had it accepted, you will feel like jumping for joy. Probably best to do it outdoors, though. Never mind what the neighbours may think. They’re well used to you and your funny little ways by now.

Happy new writing year, everyone!