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)

Updated 21/11/18 The word count is 1,400 words.

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!