Friday 26 October 2018

Studying the market

Us writers are often told we need to study (or research our markets). Not everyone does this. A lucky few of those who don't will naturally write in a style suited to wherever it is they're submitting to. Many more will keep getting rejections, unaware that they'd have more success either submitting elsewhere, or giving their work a few tweaks so it's just what the editor wants.

My tips for studying the womag fiction market ...

1. Start by looking at as many different magazines as possible and deciding which publishes fiction closes to the way you naturally write.

2. Check it's somewhere you can submit to and one which doesn't insist on terms you'd be unwilling to accept. (My magazine quick links on the right will help with that.)

3. Buy several issues over a continuos period, and read each just as though you were any regular reader. DO NOT rely on old copies. It was never a good idea to do that, but it's even more unwise now that so many publications have made big changes in their editorial teams.

4. Read the stories again, making a note of anything they seem to have in common. This might include age rage of main characters, whether they have happy endings, locations, if they're mainly seasonal stories, the gender of main characters...

 5. Now do the same with the way they're written. POV(s) used, tense used, presented chronologically or with flashbacks, told traditionally, or in a less usual style (via letters or emails, diary entries etc.)

6. Take all these into account when plotting your next story for this magazine. I don't mean you must use them all, or that you can't add other elements, just that there should be enough similarities for the editor to recognise it as suitable for the magazine.

7. Before editing, look at the magazines again. Do the stories contain many long words, are there lots of 'colourful' speech tags or is 'she said' preferred? Single or double quotes for dialogue? Tweak yours so it really looks the part.

Are these kind of tips useful to you? If they are, you might like this book.

Do you have any more suggestions for either studying the market, or using the information gathered to help your chances of success?

Monday 22 October 2018

Seasonal stories

Womag editors are very keen on seasonal stories. I'm using the term 'seasonal' in a very broad sense here – it covers spring, summer, autumn and winter of course, but also Valentine's and Christmas, the holiday season, anniversaries of historic events ...

At the moment there are more ghost stories than usual (I have one in Take A Break's Fiction Feast). Soon there will be bonfires and as we're coming up to the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1 I'm sure that will feature in some magazines.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when writing a seasonal story –

1. Get it in early. In many cases six months in advance could be too late.

2. You don't need to be too obvious. For example a story about fresh starts or self improvement might be suitable for an issue with a New Year theme, even if you don't mention January 1st.

3. Don't write too many stories with a non annual seasonal theme. An Easter story which doesn't sell one year can be subbed elsewhere the next. A leap year story will have a longer wait and any spare Royal wedding ones you have left over might be gathering dust for a long time to come.

4. You can add seasonal details to almost any story with careful choice of the clothes people wear and food or drink they consume – wellies and roast chestnuts, ice cream and flip flops.

These can be switched if required. I've just had what was written as a summer story accepted for a People's Friend special which will go out in January. The original ice cream will be swapped for hot chocolate so it's a better fit.

5. If subbing abroad, remember their seasons, and even special days, may be different. You'll have a tough job selling a story about a Christmas snowball fight, or March Mother's Day to That's Life in Australia.

Do you prefer reading and writing seasonal or non seasonal stories? (If you like reading the kind of spooky stories which appear in womags at this time of year, you'll enjoy my latest short story collection, Slightly Spooky Stories II ).

Do you have any tips to share, questions to ask, or words of warning about writing seasonal stories?

Can you think of any 'seasons' I've not mentioned, but which could be used in a womag story?

Monday 15 October 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.

What made you want to write fiction?

Thursday 11 October 2018

Mulling things over

Sorry the blog has been rather quiet lately – I've spent two months travelling around Scotland and had very limited internet, so haven't kept up very well with what's going on.

I haven't done a great deal of writing either, but I'm thinking of setting a story on the Island of Mull (where these pictures were taken) so I can pretend the whole thing was research.

I've had emails, including some acceptances from Allas, My weekly, Fiction Feast and The Weekly News.

There was also news of a competition win and the request that editors keep hold of stories for possible inclusion in You (South Africa), The People's Friend and the My Weekly annual ... for 2021!

The trip has given me time to think about what I want from my writing. The rights issue with Woman's Weekly really dampened my enthusiasm for womag stories for a while.

Then one rainy day during the trip I was idly flicking through magazines in a shop and found one of my stories.

I realised I can't give up the way it feels to see my name in print and to know people are reading and enjoying stories I've written.

What's been happening with you whilst I've been away? Have you been writing? Do you have any sales or other news to report?