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.)