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How to find magazine submission guidelines, or anything else on this blog.

I sometimes get emails and messages asking for information that's already available on this blog. I'm hoping this post will save p...

Monday, 30 March 2020

Happy birthday to me!

It's my birthday today and as we can't go out to celebrate or to be with friends and family, I'll be spending it at home reading and in the garden.

So that you can join me, I'm offering my garden themed short story collection Through The Garden Gate for free for the next few days. I really hope you like it – if you do a short review on Amazon would be very much appreciated.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Uplifting stories for crazy times

Fran Tracey and Julia Underwood have set up a new Facebook group offering free cheery reads to help distract ourselves from virus related worries. They say 'we are always looking for new published authors. Pm the admins for details.' 

If you do decide to offer a story, keep in mind that according to Facebook's terms you're technically giving them non-exclusive copyright and won't be able to sell the story or offer it into a competition as unpublished.

I've contributed a daft little piece, and Ginny Swart has a fun story there  to help get things going. New stories will be added periodically.

You can join the group here.

Monday, 16 March 2020

Over To You

What's happening in Womag land?

Are you researching, writing, subbing? Had any acceptances or rejections? Any other news?

Do you have tips to share, questions to ask, or suggestions for this blog?

Feel free to use the photo (taken on Vatersay) as a picture prompt. If you'd like other writing prompts, short exercises and story/scene suggestions then you might find this book useful.

If you find this blog useful or interesting, please do leave a comment – without those I'll assume nobody is reading and wonder if there's any point in me continuing to post.

If you're not sure how to comment, see this post.

Monday, 9 March 2020

What can you do with your Pocket Novel?

Today's guest is Jenny Worstall.

In the comments to this post last week some people discussed doing more with pocket novels and Jenny has kindly agreed to share her experiences.

What can you do with your Pocket Novel?

Once you’ve had a pocket novel published, there are two further things you can do with it (well, three if you count visiting as many branches of W H Smith/Tesco/Sainsbury etc as I did to worship my book...). First, you can send it to Ulverscroft to see if they would like to publish it, and second you can self-publish your own original version.

My People’s Friend pocket novel, Love And Lies, was published on 21st March 2019, and I sent an enquiry email to Alex Hamblin at Ulverscroft on the same day, not knowing quite what to expect but having been advised by RNA friends to contact her. Alex replied on 25th March, asking me to send in a copy of the PN (actual physical copy). She said I could send in the MS from my computer, but they would pay more for being able to use the PN (it’s already edited and they have some sort of arrangement with PF). I should mention here that while I was worshipping my PNs in Smiths etc earlier, I also bought quite a few of them, thinking they would be useful at some point, so luckily I had a spare one ready to send off. You can of course buy them from D C Thomson over the phone, but you will pay postage.

At the risk of burbling on, I’m going to add a quick story here. Later, I wanted to buy some more copies of Love And Lies. I had run out of the ones I’d  bought before, so I rang D C Thomson (number on the website). A delightful lady answered (yes, with a ‘Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ accent) and I asked if she had any copies of my novel as they were no longer available in the shops. She said she’d have to go down to the basement to check, because sometimes the more popular books sold out. I heard her shoes clicking away into the distance and held my breath. On her return, she told me there were LOTS of copies left and, as you can imagine, I didn’t quite know whether to be pleased or not!

Back to business – by 8th May I’d not heard back from Alex at Ulverscroft, so after further advice from RNA friends, I sent an ultra-polite enquiry. Alex answered on 22nd May with a YES and the offer of £300, saying she’d like to buy Love And Lies for the Linford Romance Imprint. So the time from my first tentative enquiry to acceptance was 8 weeks. The contract was for a large print edition of the book only, and lasts for five years. It also states two author copies will be provided. As soon as I sent the contract back, I was paid. Like D C Thomson, Ulverscroft pay on acceptance, not on publication.

I didn’t know when my book would be published, but I found out from Alan Williams in the Susan Jones Pocket Novel Group on Facebook that you need to check the Ulverscroft site as they gradually put the details up. After compulsively checking every five minutes, I calmed down and then in around November 2019, I was thrilled to see this(You have to put my name in the search bar after clicking on the Union Jack).

I had a publication date – 1st May 2020 – and a great new blurb for my book. Apparently a few weeks before publication, the book cover (new) will appear too. Can’t wait!

I have recently found out on the grapevine that Alex was standing in for Sarah Quirke, who is now back in charge of PN submission at Ulverscroft. There’s an interesting article here, from the RNA, about Sarah and PNs. It gives her email near the end, in case this is useful for submissions. Although the article is a few year old now, it’s still relevant, EXCEPT the bit about them not setting titles directly from the PN ‘booklets’.

For self-publication, you don’t have to wait until you’ve been published by Ulverscroft, because remember you’ve only sold them the large print rights. Although D C Thomson has published your novel, you still own the copyright and can self-publish, as long as you remember one important thing: you can self-publish your own original version, with your own original title. The edited version is theirs. So, next I decided to self-publish and I’ve already blogged about that here.

Don’t forget to claim ALCS for your Ulverscroft edition (and for your PN too, but that’s as a magazine, not a book). (For more info on ALCS see here.) You can also register for plr (public lending rights) on the large print books.

Thanks Patsy for having me as a guest on your blog. It’s been great fun! If anyone feels remotely interested in my books, please look at my Amazon Author PageFacebook Author PageFacebookInstagram , Blog or twitter.

If anyone is interested in the process of writing the pocket novel itself, see this post by Susan Jones.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Prima short story competition

Prima are still running their short story competition. This is from the current issue (with details of the winner hidden, in case she'd rather not be mentioned).

If you're (understandably) struggling to read the small print underneath it says that by entering you give up your copyright.

If you found this (or any other) post interesting/useful please leave a comment. Without those I'll assume nobody is interested in the subject(s) and there's no point in me posting about it!

If you're not sure how to comment, see this post.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

UK postage costs to rise – Guest post by Bea Charles

Guest post by Bea Charles

I see Royal Mail prices are increasing on 23rd March. Time to stock up on stamps for all those The People's Friend submissions I keep promising myself I’m going to make this year. (Good time to buy stamps for Christmas too!)

1st class - currently 70p, increasing to 76p
2nd class - 61p, up to 65p
Large 1st - £1.06 up to £1.15
Large 2nd - 83p up to 88p

The People’s Friend insist on postal submissions from all writers, both new and those regularly published. They prefer a separate envelope for each story submitted. They will reply by email if you ask them to do so. (They will apparently make an exception for non UK writers but you should probably contact them first by email to explain and ask for permission and the appropriate email address.)

Woman’s Weekly still require all new writers to submit by post. Only previously published writers can submit by email.

Yours accept submissions by both post and email.

The Weekly News only accepts email submissions.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Chatting, age and friends

I took part in The People's Friend writing hour today (it's on twitter every Tuesday morning 11-12). This is a good way to 'meet' fellow writers, and ask questions of the fiction team. In response to a question, about characters aged 70, they said that if characters had a story to tell, age wasn't relevant. 

I asked about stories from a child's POV, as I've not seen many in the magazine and was told 'We really like junior viewpoint stories, but we don't seem to get a lot of them sent in!'

Talking of twitter writing events, you may like to join #WritingChat on Wednesday evenings. It's open to all writers and covers all genres. There's a different theme each week, plus you can ask questions and suggest future topics. To take part, just tweet 8-9 using the hashtag.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Good news from down under!

I've had two emails from Jude, the fiction editor at that's life! in Australia. One a personal reply to my query and another more general one to her writers.

Both say, "there is no need for new contracts and that it was a misunderstanding with Pacific Magazines accounts department."
Anyone who signed the contract issued in 2015, or has signed one since, will be covered by that.


In the personal message she added, "Thanks for bringing this up and glad we got it sorted." And in the other email she thanked those who'd been in contact.

It is worth querying things we're not happy with, sometimes (As happened with YOURS) we do get listened to.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Over To You

What's happening in Womag land?

Are you researching, writing, subbing? Had any acceptances, publications or rejections? Any other news?

Do you have tips to share, questions to ask, or suggestions for this blog?

If you're wondering about the photo, it's a lock on the Caledonian canal. Its (admittedly slight) link to womagwriting, is that just as I was about to take it, I got a call from Liz Smith, the My Weekly fiction editor at the time. Feel free to use it as a picture prompt. If you'd like other writing prompts, short exercises and story/scene suggestions then you might find this book useful.

Talking of sharing news, do you like this illustration in The People's Friend Special which is out this week?

I didn't mention the character being a redhead or wearing glasses in the story, but I had both when I visited The Friend offices last year – and I don't think my fondness for purple is much of a secret.

Monday, 10 February 2020

The End

On last month's 'Over to you' post I asked if there was anything you'd like me to make a post about.

New girl on the block said, I'd love to see a post about writing the ending of stories. It's something I struggle with, as I never feel comfortable just tying up all the loose ends. I want to leave room for possibility and ambiguity... as would happen in reality.
However, this can result in a weak ending to a story. I'd like some tips on how to combat this problem and also to hear how other writers feel about this. I hope this seems like a good idea.

She was offered the following advice –

Sharon Boothroyd Endings can be tricky. 
I'd say, for the womag market, it has to be satisfactory. Tying up the loose plot threads is a good way to start. 
Twist endings are the most difficult. I like to surprise myself! If I can surprise myself, I can (hopefully) surprise the reader.
There's a fine line between misleading the reader and cheating them.
I'd read lots of womag stories to get a feel of what a mag wants.

Penny A I would say that however much planning and revision I seem to do, I always end up re-writing the final paragraphs of every story several times. Eventually, (it's a just a gut feeling, I think) you know when it comes right.

I totally agree with both replies.

As Sharon says, they need to be satisfactory. That's probably the most important thing (in all genres and forms). To achieve that, the ending must come naturally from the plot, not be a cheat such as 'she woke up and found it was all just a dream' or it was the previously unmentioned identical twin brother who dunnit.

The ending also needs to answer the question, problem or issue raised in the story. (If there isn't some form of one of those, it's probably not a story!)

If it's a romance, then the reader will want to know if the couple will live happilly ever after, or at least happilly for now. You don't need their entire life story, but do end with a kiss, understandnding, proposal etc, so readers can imagine their future happy lives. 

In a crime story the criminal should be caught. A ghost story might end with the ghost revealing why they're haunting a particular spot, or with them 'moving on'. Actually a character being seen to move on is a good ending for many genres.

Real life does indeed include ambiguity, loose ends and all kinds of possibilities, as New girl says. In a novel it's possible to leave a few threads unresolved as long as the main issue has a satisfactory ending. Short stories generally only have one main plot line, so there's nothing which can be left dangling.

I read somewhere that the reader should know when they've reached the end of the story, even if it's the last word on the page and doesn't state 'The End'. That seems like good advice. Don't leave your reader thinking 'is that it' or 'where's the rest?'

On the other hand, don't carry on and write three more paragraphs once the twist is revealed, the bad guy caught or problem solved.

Endings, as well as being tricky, are important. If the reader reaches the end and loves it then your story is a good one. It's worth taking Penny's advice to rewrite until it's right, and Sharon's to read the magazines and get a feel for what's wanted, in order to achieve that.

Do you agree with all these points?

Do you have any tips or advice to add?

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

The Weekly News are getting ahead!

I've just sold a story which will be in the May 23rd issue of The Weekly News. Shirley Blair has been buying and scheduling stories much further in advance than usual, to 'cushion the transition of my retirement next Friday – next Friday!'

I suggested that I mention on here that, because stories are scheduled up until the end of May, it might be best to hold off on subbing for a while. Shirley thought that was a good idea – see, I do have them sometimes!

Can you believe Shirley will be gone in just over a week?

Monday, 3 February 2020

Australian Magazine That's Life! taking all rights?

I've been told that Australian publication That's Life! are filtering in a new 'all rights' contract (I've seen a copy), which must be signed before any further payments are made. Apparently this applies even if you submitted your work and had it accepted before notification of any change.

If you write for this publication, and wish to know what rights are required before you decide whether or not to submit more work, then I suggest contacting the fiction editor to clarify the situation. I've done that and am awaiting a response.

Doing this isn't 'rocking the boat' or causing a fuss. It's perfectly reasonable to want to know the terms under which your work will be published. 

I'd like to think that if enough writers demonstrate they care about this issue then the publisher might reconsider, or at least make their new policy known to all their writers, so they can make an informed decision about whether or not to submit. It's worth a try. 

Updated 10/2/20 The query I sent, over a week ago, about the new contracts has not yet been answered. I've also heard from a writing friend who was issued the contract and hasn't had all her queries answered. Quite rightly she's not signing without knowing exactly what she would be committing herself to.

Updated 11/2/20 The editor can't help me as she's not seen the new contract. She offered to pass my query to the editor, so I'm noe awaiting their response.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Serial writing by Penny Alexander part 2

Today's guest is Penny Alexander, who is back with part 2 of her very useful advice on writing serials for The People's Friend – although actually a lot of it applies to all types of womag writing. (Comments in purple are me interrupting.)

You can read part 1 here. 

 by Penny Alexander
part 2

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS...  cutting and shaping

So.  You've done the brainstorming, and the research (especially for anything historical),  created a list of fascinating and fully-described characters and perhaps kept going even after several rejections. Your waste-paper basket is overflowing, but your outline has been accepted. (See here for exactly how to submit your outline, and all the other technical details you'll need.) Now comes the hard bit!

In contrast to working with spidergrams and sticky notes everywhere, now I aim for a little coherence.  I divide each episode into scenes, and decide which character will take the point of view in each. Then I outline each scene in four or five complete (this is important) sentences. Since actions speak louder than words, I want these sentences to show the character doing something. Or perhaps more than one 'something.' For example, the heroine may be combing her hair, but she's also waiting for a knock at the door -
why? (Exciting delivery?) Or the hero may be discussing a project at a meeting, but with his mind still on that row he had with his wife earlier - how is he feeling? It depends on what best moves your narrative forward.

I also spend time choosing my characters' names carefully, and I like to feel I've given them the only name they could have.  But be aware that if names or titles are changed on publication, there's always a reason.  Perhaps there's a clash that week with two characters called by the same name, or there are two titles that sound too similar.  You just have learn to love your character's new name!

KEEP COUNTING...  size matters.

On the website, the length given for a first serial episode is 6000 words. This allows space for the introduction of the main characters, with 5000 words specified for subsequent episodes.  But my latest serial was a sequel, re-introducing existing characters, and I was asked to keep to 5000 words for each episode.  

It's your editor's job  to make final cuts or additions, of course, but it's far better if you can submit a story that is as close to the agreed count as possible. Most writers would prefer to decide for themselves which words to add in or leave out before submitting their work, I think. (I certainly do!)

NOT EXACTLY ALIKE...  a serial is not a short story.

A serial has to tell a story at a different pace, with different ups and downs within it. Each episode will carry narrative threads over to the next, and some of these may not be resolved until the final curtain. Added to this, each episode must somehow entice the reader onwards – the so-called 'cliffhanger' in the final paragraph.  Exciting endings are a good thing, but make sure they grow naturally from within the story. I feel it's best not to overdo the dramatics every time you come to the end of an episode. Keep it real. 

SLOWMAIL NOT EMAIL... don't worry, it'll get there!

These days, serial episodes printed by you are posted to Dundee. It's important, as with all submissions, to pay attention to layout (plain fonts and double spacing) grammar and spelling.  A computer spellcheck can prove a false friend. If in doubt about anything at all, look it up. (Old school grammar books have their uses!) Check you have the correct postage for its weight and size, and wish it good luck as you send it away.

WHY WRITE A SERIAL?... there must be easier ways to see your name in print!

It takes anything from eighteen months to two years (sometimes more) to complete a serial.  There will be email discussions and rewrites along the way.  You have the great advantage of professional help, but you need to accept that help willingly and be prepared to work with it.  

Incidentally, writing my current serial saw me through one house-move, one hospital stay, one family wedding and one horribly leaking roof. Thankfully, nothing worse!  But my impression has always been that once an outline is approved, your editor's commitment to your story will be solidly in place for as long as you wish. 

So, eat up those cornflakes to give you energy, and put the empty cardboard packet to good use!

Why write a serial?    Because human beings – readers and writers - need stories. Because you will learn a great deal. Because you will have time to develop your characters. But most of all, because writing a serial is fun!

Penny's serial, 'The Quest for The Dove Tree' is published by The People's Friend in seven parts from January 25th, and is the sequel to The Flower of Hope. Follow the adventures of Luke Hathern, a Victorian plant-hunter, and Caroline, his very practical and artistic wife, as they travel to the Far East in search of the Davidia Involucrata.

 Pictured is a real Dove Tree, which helped inspire Penny's writing.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Serial writing by Penny Alexander part 1

Today's guest is Penny Alexander, who has kindly offered to give some very useful advice on writing serials for The People's Friend – although actually a lot of it applies to all types of womag writing. 

I simply couldn't resist talking Penny into splitting this up into a mini serial. Here's part 1, the rest will follow in a few days. (Comments in purple are me interrupting.)

 by Penny Alexander
part 1

Thank you, Patsy, for inviting me onto your blog!

Hello, I'm Penny Alexander and I write for The People's Friend.

The magazine already offers clear and helpful guidelines on their website (you can find them here). I've been writing fiction for them for only 20 years, while the magazine celebrated its 150th birthday last year. Still, I hope my thoughts will be useful.

Before anything, read the magazine! The Friend has a distinctive, traditional style. I'd suggest also taking note not only of the short stories but also of the non-fiction articles and advertisements. Do they indicate what kind of readers you may have? Keep them in mind, because without readers there would be no magazine. Hint: your readers are not all Ladies of a Certain Age... (This applies to all types of womag writing. Do make sure you're reading current issues, not some you found in the loft. Things change.)

MAKING A START... or, writing it all down isn't scary, really!

Now, with possibly more than one suitable storyline whirling in your head, I'd suggest pinning down a few ideas. Don't worry about the order. I invariably grab a pencil (a lovely, soft 2B for me, please) and start scribbling. At this stage, I also like to have a decent-sized box handy in which to keep notes, drawings, photos, maps, or to corral conkers and pebbles as, believe me, round things will roll and erasers will bounce away across the floor whenever you're not looking.

I also like to grab the largest empty cornflake packet I can lay my hands on. Cut along one edge, squash it flat and use for spidergrams, useful words, sticky notes, plots and plans. In between scribblings, it can be kept in view while propped sturdily on your desk. (Well, every writer has their eccentricity, and empty cardboard (serial?) packets are mine!) (That's terrible – I love it!)

The point is, at first I do not aim to write in sentences. I like to make my own notes, drawings (luckily no-one else sees them) and maps, and to collect relevant photos or objects. For me, a picture or a diagram is worth a thousand words as well as an inspiration if the narrative gets stuck later on. We all know that can happen!

Every writer has their own methods, of course. Some prefer not to invite chaos by spooling out lots of ideas at once, but instead will expand their story from one specific point. But however you write, I strongly suggest that if tackling a serial you make A Plan. This is because at The People's Friend your editor will want to see, and approve, a detailed outline before going ahead with the first episode. Each episode is accepted and paid for separately, so it's difficult to change afterwards. A clear idea of where your story will end and how your characters reach that destination is essential.

IF YOU'RE NOT SURE... you can take the shorts route.

Uncertain what kind of theme will suit? Then you couldn't do better than first submitting a short story. It's true, a serial will have more characters and more narrative threads, as well as a rather different pace or rhythm. (More on that later.) But there's no better way to find out if your ideas work for this market. Another bonus: even if at first unsuccessful, you might gain valuable feedback from a Friendly editor. Inwardly digest all advice, and remember your editor is wiser than you are about the magazine they work for. To coin a well-worn phrase (naturally, you'd never use such hackneyed words in your own highly polished submissions!) you have to be in it to win it.

If there's one thing writers have, it's persistence. So I'm sure you won't think of giving up!

Penny's serial, 'The Quest for The Dove Tree' is published by The People's Friend in seven parts from January 25th, and is the sequel to The Flower of Hope. Follow the adventures of Luke Hathern, a Victorian plant-hunter, and Caroline, his very practical and artistic wife, as they travel to the Far East in search of the Davidia Involucrata.

The photos are of a real Dove Tree, which helped inspire Penny's writing.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

The Weekly News Fiction Submission Guidelines

The Weekly News is a weekly publication which is technically a newspaper (the clues are there in the name!). That means you'll need to look in a different section, from where the magazines are displayed in the newsagents, to find it. Often it's amongst Auto Trader and fishing publications. This classification also means you can't claim ALCS for work published in The Weekly News.

Other than that technicality, it's quite like a womag in style, with a range of articles on health, real people, gardening, entertainment and royalty. There are recipes, readers letter and of course fiction. It labels itself, 'the paper with the feel good factotr'.

You can find the full, official fiction guidelines here. I'm not being lazy in not reproducing them here. At least that's not my only reason for not doing so! Whenever possible it's best to refer to a publication's own guidelines as these are the most likely to be current.

Anyone may submit to The Weekly News. If you've not previously had work published by DC Thomson, you'll be asked to sign their contract on first acceptance. The same one applies to My Weekly and The People's Friend (but the guidelines and submission requirements are very different!). They do ask for quite a lot of rights, but NOT all rights. (Always read any contract thoroughly and be sure you understand and agree before signing.)

I'll have a story in the 22nd February issue of The Weekly News.

If you'd like to read more about me and my writing, have a look at this interview on Pen to Print.

Friday, 24 January 2020

How to find magazine submission guidelines, or anything else on this blog.

I sometimes get emails and messages asking for information that's already available on this blog. I'm hoping this post will save people the trouble of asking, and my time in replying!

In order to view the guidelines for any magazine featured on Womagwriter, scroll down the page until you see 'magazine guidelines - quick links' in the right hand column, and click on the title you're interested in. 

You can opt to see relevent posts in date order, which should help ensure you're looking at the latest information. Don't forget to read the comments too, if there are any, as these my provide further information and updates.

You can also use the 'search this blog' facility and look for 'guidelines' or anything else you're interested in.

Alternatively, find any post mentioning the magazine (or subject) you're interested in and click on the link below the post. That will bring up all posts with the same tag.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

My news

Few bits of news from me –

1) My story The Perfect Bakewell is in the current issue of The People's Friend. Isn't the illustration lovely?

2) My latest short story collection A Way With Words is on sale at the introductory price of 99p (99c).

3) This week I've had an acceptance from Allas (for a story subbed this week!) and one from Take A Break for a 2,000 worder subbed 10 days ago.

Do share any success or news of your own – and if there's anything you'd like posts on, other than my bragging, please let me know here.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Over to you

Please share success (or otherwise!) report any womag news, tips, advice you may have, make womag related comments or observations and ask questions – and answer them too if you can help.

If there's anything you'd like me to make a post about, or you have other ideas for this blog, I'm open to suggestions – although I can't promise I'll be able to implement them all. I'm also happy to hear from people who'd like to write relevant guest posts.

 (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.)

Thursday, 16 January 2020

The new People's Friend fiction editor has been announced.

Lucy Crichton has been appointed as the new fiction editor at The People's Friend. (More details here.) 

I know we're all going to miss Shirley, but I've no doubt Lucy will do a great job. I met her briefly last year and just like the rest of the team, she's very nice.

Congratulations, Lucy. 

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Glenda Young's back – with answers!

Thank you all very much indeed for the lovely response to my Womag blog post earlier this month. As Patsy mentioned at the end of that blog post I’ve returned to answer questions raised, It’s a daunting task, especially when I recognise many of the names of those asking questions and they’re writers I admire, Gulp. Here we go!

Elaine Everest asks: I've really enjoyed reading your books, Glenda. Can you tell us if you envisaged a time when you move your stories to another town?
Hi Elaine and thank you very much for your kind words. I’ve been given two three-book deals with Headline to write novels set in the village of Ryhope where I was born and bred. It’s a dream come true to set the novels in Ryhope and I have no wish to leave that setting just yet. It’s rich in characters, in history and gives my saga novels a very strong sense of place. It’s a village of two haves with the gritty coalmine and the pastoral farming community plus there’s the beach, a railway and lots of opportunity for drama. So for now, I’m more than happy to keep on writing about Ryhope. One review said that Ryhope came through as one of the characters in the book, which was a huge compliment.

Patsy asks: How far ahead do you plan the soap, Glenda – and do you stick rigidly to that plan, or can you be flexible if an interesting idea presents itself?
Hi Patsy! For my weekly soap opera Riverside that I write for The People’s Friend magazine, I keep a list of important events I’ve introduced that will need repeating, e.g. birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Added to that list are national days such as Mother’s day, Valentine’s, bank holidays etc. These provide a good framework to help planning but apart from that I … dare I admit it?.... don’t plan at all. I sit down each week, eager to write Riverside, it’s my writing highlight of the week. But as for what is going to happen, I have no idea until I sit down and start typing! I’ve just written an episode which will be published in May this year and at the end of it, one of the main characters says something like “Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan!” and I have no idea what that plan will be to solve the problem I’ve created until I start typing on Wednesday this week. Sometimes if I have a brainwave about a storyline for a particular character I’ll add it to my ideas list for the soap, where it might stay for a few weeks or even months before I use it.

Kate Blackadder asks: Where your Ryhope novels are concerned, Glenda, are you a plotter or a pantser?
Hi Kate! As mentioned above, when I write Riverside I’m definitely a pantser but when I write my novels I’m firmly a plotter. I plot the overall arch of the story and then break it down into 16 chapters. I give each chapter at least one (and usually two or even three) dramatic, emotional events, whether good or bad, and a couple of gentle laughs too. I plot each chapter with a few paragraphs, so I know where I’m going when I sit down to write. But the plot isn’t written in stone, it’s more like a framework on which I weave my story. It needs to be flexible because I’ve learned that once I start writing, characters appear I haven’t planned, stories will go off on tangents I never saw coming and I embrace these changes as I go. As the story moves and finds its own way, subsequent chapter plans need to be changed, it’s always evolving. But I find a do need a plan of some kind so that when I sit down to write, I’m not faced with a blank page. I know what I’m doing and that fuels me on.

Eirin Thompson asks: What an interesting and inspiring post. It sounds like your writing output is immense! This must require quite a bit of juggling. How do you manage to get so much done? And, working from home, how do you protect your writing time from domestic demands?
It's not easy, that’s for sure. But writing is my full-time job now and I treat my days as if I was in any other job. Fortunately, it’s not a dull 9-5. My day can start as early as 7am and finish at 1pm, for instance. I break my day down into writing chunks. A couple of hours of solid writing is enough for me each day, otherwise it feels like I’m just filling space for the sake of it. I’m fortunate to live right by the sea and can take a walk on the beach to clear my mind after writing. I allow myself Mondays off to go shopping and visit my mum who is in a care home with dementia. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings are for novel writing. Wednesday afternoons are for writing my weekly soap opera Riverside. Fridays are also a break too, when my husband and I go off walking or sightseeing or go out for lunch - our Friday adventure we call it! Saturdays and Sunday will see me tinkering away at short stories for women’s magazines or competitions if the mood takes me, and if it doesn’t, I’ll use it as thinking time for my novels. And as for domestic demands, I’m very lucky indeed that my husband does a lot of the housework while I’m writing my novels. I lose myself to the page and he’ll knock on the door of the study (aka our spare room) where I’m locked away, typing and shout: “Want a cuppa?!?” I’m very lucky indeed.

Carrie asks: A very interesting post to read, Glenda, and congratulations on all your wonderful success. Do you find writing novels very different to writing short stories? And how do you start...an idea in mind that takes a journey of its own?
Thank you, Carrie! I find that writing novels aren’t so different to writing short stories – and here’s why. When you think of writing a novel, you think of writing say, 100,000 words (which is what the publishers ask for). That’s a terrifying number. What I do to make it manageable is break it down into 2,000 word chunks. Each 2,000 words is the length of a short story I’d write for a woman’s magazine and psychologically, for me, that makes it much more manageable. Once I’ve got my 2,000 words to write I treat it exactly the same as a short story. It needs a strong intro, good characters, dialogue, and a satisfying conclusion… of sorts… before it goes into the next 2,000 word chunk and the next. Saying all of that however, there is a different kind of joy to writing a short story that’s say 700 words and it just flies off your keyboard after an idea just won’t leave you alone. As for ideas and inspiration, they can come from everywhere and anything. When I have an idea for a short story I write it down on a list. Some ideas work out as stories but some don’t. And if I get very stuck and want an idea for a story, this is a very useful website I sometimes use. (Note from Patsy – you may also like this book which is full of story ideas and writing prompts.)

Sharon Boothroyd asks: Great post. How do you find the stream of plot lines and ideas for Riverside on the TPF? I'd be totally stuck, I wouldn't like the pressure of committing to producing an ongoing weekly serial! I admire your output, Glenda.
Thank you Sharon and hello! For my weekly soap opera Riverside in The People’s Friend, it’s all about knowing who the magazine readers are, what kind of things they’re interested in. I’ve been writing for the magazine since 2015 and attended one of their fiction writing workshops (highly recommended, by the way) so I think I’ve got a good feel for what the magazine are after in terms of fiction. However, although Riverside is a soap opera, it’s not Coronation Street or EastEnders or any of the TV soaps we know. It is unique, written solely for the readers of The People’s Friend. At its heart are Mary and Ruby, two women who’ve been friends since they were girls. I love writing Riverside. It makes me chuckle when I write it and feedback from readers is always warming to hear. When you love writing something so much, whether it’s short stories or a novel, when your heart is in it and your head is engaged, there’s no pressure at all. Writing really is the perfect job for me and I couldn’t be happier.

You can buy Glenda's books here, or you make like to follow her Twitter account or visite her website.