Wednesday 28 July 2021

Where to send your short stories – and why you write them

I know some people write entirely for their own pleasure. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that! For most though, the real satisfaction comes when it's selected for publication, chosen as a winning entry, read and enjoyed by others and/or when they get paid for it. 

Here are some places you can send your short stories in the hope of achieving one of those outcomes –

Free entry writing competitions

Thanks to my writing buddy Sheila Crosby for passing on the details of this short story competition. Entrants must be resident in the UK or Ireland. Stories can be up to 4,000 words and the prize is £3,500. I'm definitely having a go!

And thanks (yet again!) to Alyson Hilbourne for telling me about a competition.
Future Folklore is a 'speculative fiction contest that imagines a world where equitable climate change initiatives have been set in motion'. The prize is $400 for a story between 1,400 and 2,000 words.

A reminder that Secret Attic run regular competitions and challenges. There's a £20 for the best story in each of the monthly competitions. Other selected pieces are also published.

Submission opportunities

There's no payment for either of these, but money isn't everything.

Paragraph Planet are still accepting 75 word pieces to publish on the site. These can be complete mini stories, scenes or extracts from longer pieces. Published pieces are promoted on Twitter.

Cafelit want 'thought-provoking and entertaining stories, though ones which might be a tad different from what you normally read in a woman’s magazine'. These can be tiny, 3,000 words or anything in between. Successful pieces will be published on the site and may go into the 'Best of' anthology. You may submit a mini biography to be published alongside your work.

Women's magazines

My submissions database is a guide to which magazines will consider unsolicited submissions, what they want and how to submit them.

Do you write for fun, in the hope of publication, prizes or payment, or for another reason? 

For me there are lots of reasons, including it being something to keep me occupied on rainy days during our campervan trips.

Wednesday 21 July 2021

Over to you! (and free entry writing competitions)

The winner of the copy of Violet's War as offered in my last post is Lindsay Bamfield. Congratulations! I'll be in touch soon to arrange delivery of the ebook.

I'd love to hear your competition news.

My apologies for accidentally publishing the half finished version of this post last week and having to quickly take it down as it conflicted with something else! And thanks to Liz who spotted what I'd done before I did and commented with a link to this free to enter novel writing competition.

Thanks to Alan Barker for sending me a link to this competition, which he spotted while on holiday.  They're looking for poetry and short (500) word stories with the theme of 'touching the wild'. Work cannot have been previously published – you may submit up to three pieces.

Have you entered any writing comps? Had any luck? Heard about interesting contests? Got any tips to pass on? (Although I only feature free to enter competitions in my posts it's fine to share news about other competitions too.)

Do you have any
 womag news?

Sorry, I don't yet have an update on the ALCS issue with DCT publications (which I posted about here). Do you know anything more?

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

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

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

Wednesday 14 July 2021

Guest post on writing historical fiction, by Rosemary J. Kind

Today's guest is my friend Rosemary J. Kind. She's the author of several novels including the excellent Flynn and Reilly series, and co-author of From Story Idea to Reader. I've asked her to visit the blog to share some insights into writing her latest historical novel, Violet's War.

You've written several historical novels, Ros. Which comes first, the story idea or the research?

Definitely the story idea. Once I’ve got a story then I know when and what I need to research. Usually, I’ll come across something and just feel compelled to tell the tale that’s behind it, in a way that can bring history to life.

Violet's War is set at the time of the first World War. What made you chose that period?

The period was chosen by the story idea. In 1921 the English Football Association banned women’s football from their members’ grounds. Women’s football had become very popular as a result of factory teams raising money for charity during WW1. I wanted to bring that story to a much wider audience.

Which publications / resources have been most useful for your research?

There was a Preston based team called Dick, Kerr Ladies Football Team. They were one of the teams that made women’s football famous in their day and thankfully there are books dedicated to what they did. I read books specifically about the team and generally about women’s football. As the subject grew I also had to do a lot of research into WW1 and conditions and life in the trenches. I watched many YouTube videos of original footage and documentaries from the period. I’m also very fortunate to have a good friend who is an expert in the field and how was happy to answer my many questions.

Your characters' names seem just right for the period. How did you chose those? 

That was really fun. For one thing, I asked my readers for the names of their ancestors from that time. I had so many wonderful responses that it gave me good variety to choose from. I also use census records where I need to, in order to make sure I do get names which are typical for both the period and the location.

Violet Dobson is a football player. Were you already interested in the history of women's football, or did you have to learn it all for the novel?

When I was young I wanted to play football. I spent all my childhood out on a football pitch up until I was about ten. Then I went to our teachers, on behalf of myself and some of the other girls and asked if we could have a girls’ football team, instead of playing netball. This was in 1975 and I was very firmly told ‘no’ we could only play netball. It was an unforgivable response, but typical of the time. Sadly I left football behind because I was so cross about the response. I wish I’d known about the history of the women’s game then and had fought for our right to play. I’m just glad I know now.

Attitudes to women playing have changed quite a lot. Is there an extract you can share, without giving away too much plot, which shows some of the off pitch issues the teams faced?

‘Violet was just wondering whether to carry on when an older man walking a dog paused alongside the pitch. “You girls should be ashamed of yourselves, parading around like that. You,” he pointed his stick at Florrie, “the one in the shorts. Put some clothes on, young lady, before I have you arrested.”

Violet gasped, but Florrie was unfazed.

“Do you want to join in?” Florrie called to the man, who was smartly dressed and standing very upright for a man of advanced years.

He waved his stick at her and marched away from the ground.

Violet shook her head sadly; that was exactly the sort of thing she was afraid of.’

Did you learn any facts which caused you to change parts of your story?

That happens all the time. The biggest change was realising I needed to include chapters from Billy’s point of view and tell the story of him going off to war, in parallel to Vi working in munitions back home.

Can you share an example of historical detail and how you used it in the novel?

I had to understand what the girls would wear both working in a munitions factory and playing football. I deliberately don’t give the reader reams of descriptive passages, that’s not my style. However, it is vital that the tiny details that are fed in throughout the story are accurate. It took me quite a time to find the details for Billy, where he would have trained, how many slept in a room even how much their kit weighed. It’s all vital to making the story feel authentic.

I know from my own writing that your research will have provided more information than

you could use in one book. How do you decide what to leave out?

I only include what is necessary to give the reader a picture. That can be tiny details such as telling you that Vi traced the rose pattern on the wallpaper with her eyes while she was thinking. There is a lot of fascinating information, but I’d rather give you a list of my sources in case you want to read more than overdo the description so that the story gets lost. For me, it’s all about the story feeling authentic. If my readers want non-fiction description they would look elsewhere.

Violet's War really is a good story. You can get it here. You might also like to read The Blight and the Blarney, which is the first in Ros's Flynn and Reilly series and currently free, and Are We Nearly Famous? which is another freebie by Ros, myself and two of our friends.

Ros is giving away an ebook copy of Violet's War, which can be sent anywhere. To be in with a chance of winning, leave a comment saying you'd like a copy by midnight UK time 19th July. I'll announce the winner a few days later.

Tuesday 13 July 2021


 It's currently not possible to make ALCS claims for The People's Friend and My Weekly. This is because 'DC Thomson have moved their mandate from the Publishers Licensing Society to the Newspaper Licensing Agency.' This applies not just to new stories, but also those which were published several months ago. I don't know if the situation can be reversed/resolved, but it is being investigated.

The Friend fiction team have promised to keep writers updated, which I'm sure they will do. 

Monday 12 July 2021

Table for two and doubling up.

Free to enter writing competitions

For this competition from Briefly Write, you're asked for short poems. There's a £50 prize.

The Val Wood prize offers £100 and publication for the best feel good short story of up to 2,000 words on the theme of Now and Then. 

Sticking to the sequence, the prize for the Beechmore Books writing competition is £200. You can enter fiction, non-fiction or poetry. The theme is Perspective.

My news

My 30th book, a lovely new romantic short story collection, Love Is The Answer is out today! It's also our wedding anniversary. That is not a coincidence.

Here's the blurb – Love is something that many people go to great lengths to find, and to keep hold of. Willow helps others find theirs through a combination of meticulous programming and random chance, Sal stumbles into romance through a series of embarrassing accidents and Gran discovers love on a protest march.

Margaret makes a very practical arrangement to secure her share of love and happiness, Doreen has to call on a friend to help discover it and Nadine uses a dog to track it down. Lorna wins her happy ever after through a dangerous aim at a coconut shy.

Lynn and Andrew's marriage has gone aground like a stricken ship, but it and the vessel eventually refloat. Weirdly it is Thomas Telford who helps Nikki relocate it. For Patrick and Angie it's a kite which does the trick, and Rachel has to break her arm to heal her relationship.

Whether they're together forever, broken-hearted, or still trying to make it work, anyone who has loved has a story to tell. This collection contains 24 of them.

With a bit of luck, Gary and I will be enjoying a romantic meal tonight – from the comfort of our campervan.

Friday 9 July 2021

Book promotion ideas

If you've got a book published, whether with a big name publishing house, you've done it yourself on a shoestring, or anything in between you're going to need to promote it. Writers are often told we need to 'build a platform' on social media, so tweeting and making Facebook posts is an obvious thing to do.

Personally I do think it's sensible to mention our books that way – but only now and then. I've seen writers send out multiple tweets per day, sometimes even per hour, all just asking people to buy their book. I can't tell you if they're still doing it, as I've unfollowed or muted them all. It's better, I think, to tweet about the book and your writing life, and include some non promotional stuff too, than do nothing but masses of straightforward promotion on social media. After all, if you want to buy books is that where you look? And when you use social media is it a stream of adverts you're hoping to see? (By the way, here's the twitter profile for this blog and here's my personal one.)

It's possible to pay for social media advertising. I don't do that myself, for the reasons above, plus it's expensive and sounds complicated, but I know they can work well for people who are prepared to put in the time and risk some money. Paid advertising on Amazon is something I've dabbled in. To me that makes more sense as we're targeting people who want to buy books like ours, but might not otherwise find them amongst the millions of others on offer. Again it takes a little time to learn how to use them, and there's a risk of spending money for no result, but you can set daily limits and it's easy to make changes.

Winning a writing competition would be good publicity. My first novel publication came about after I won a novel writing competition. Although that wasn't a massive success and I've since got the rights back to Escape To The Country, it was a big boost to my confidence at the time and in the long run helped me become in Indie author. (I'll be back with more free to enter writing competition links soon.)

Newsletters are an excellent idea, as people will only sign up if they actually want to hear from us and learn about our latest releases, promotions and other news. It's a requirement that people can easily unsubscribe which is good because we know those who remain on the list really want to be. It's common to offer a 'reader magnet' which is usually a freebie, often something exclusive to newsletter subscribers. For my newsletter, I offer a free short story. As a lot of my books are collections of short stories, that seems sensible.

Another thing you can do is have a blog and pepper it with mentions of your own books, along with everything else you post about. You might have noticed I do that! If you don't have your own blog then I don't blame you – they are time consuming. In that case you might like to write guest posts for someone else's blog. You'll need to do a little more than send out blanket emails to every blogger you know asking them to promote you though. Read the blog, and leave comments so you're not approaching as a stranger. Think about the type of post which might interest readers of that blog and offer something appropriate. If you do more than one guest post to different blogs, don't send exactly the same text with exactly the same photos. That's not fair.

A website is another possibility.
Here's mine. They do take time to maintain, but are a good way of making it easy for interested readers to find out more about you and your books.

Perhaps you could get interviewed, or otherwise included, on a podcast. I've done a few of those.

Local newspapers are a good place to try. That could be paid for ones, the free ones and online newspapers. The latter are likely to be easiest to get into as they're not restricted for space the way 'real' papers are. Whichever you try, don't just send them a 'buy my book' promotion, but try to make it personal – local papers like pieces about local people. To further increase your chances of it being accepted, make the article as locally relevant as possible. Even if it wasn't set in your home town, maybe you wrote some of it in a local coffee shop, or used the local library for research.

Here's an example of something I recently sent to my local online paper.

You could try national publications, but unless you're well known and/or pay well you're unlikely to be successful. However if you are one of their writers you might be lucky – it's definitely worth at least mentioning your book to your usual contact. This is what happened when I told 'my' People's Friend editor about my first audiobook.

If you've got an interesting angle (as opposed to 'author writes book') it might be worth contacting your local radio, or even TV station.

If you're going to try to persuade bookshops and libraries to stock your book, you may like to create an advance information sheet to send them, or deliver in person. Perhaps you could also leave some of the sheets for readers to pick up, or offer bookmarks or business cards with the book details on. (It might be possible to leave some of these in other venues such as cafes or your dentist's waiting room.) If you're feeling really brave you could ask about giving talks or holding a book signing in the library or bookshop – or contact local groups and clubs to see if they'd like you to visit. Oh, and anywhere you can get away with it, drop in links like this, which show all your available books. Have you tried any of these marketing methods, or attempted something different? Which interesting promotional attempts have persuaded you to buy books? Have I tempted you to take a look at any of mine?

Tuesday 6 July 2021

Winner announcement and womag updates

The winner Eirin picked to recieve a copy of I Know I Saw Her by E D Thompson, as offered in this post is – CHARLIE. Congratulations! Please email me (address on the questions and contact page) and I'll put you in touch with Eirin to arrange delivery.

Womag news

I've recently updated my guidelines database. I hope you find this useful. As ever, if you learn of any changes, or hear of other potential markets please let me know. For those either leave a comment to any post, or email me using the address on the questions and contact page.

Yours and Yours Fiction have new guidelines, which you can find here. These guidelines explain their rejections policy. Thanks to Pamela Gough for bringing them to my attention.

For Yours the guidelines state – "We also publish longer stories that are serialised over three issues. These should be approximately 3,000 words long and the first two parts must end on a cliff-hanger so that readers will be eager to find out what happens in the next issue."

It's not clear to me if they mean 3 x 1000 words or 3 x 3000 words. Anyone know?

Susan Watson will be returning as My Weekly's fiction editor in September. Claire Gill, who covered her maternity leave, will be remaining with the magazine working on virtual events and digital content. The magazine is currently (still!) closed to unsolicited submissions.

My News

My short story collection Coffee & Cake is now available as an audiobook, as well as in paperback and ebook formats. The paperback can be ordered through your local bookshop, or library, if you prefer not to use Amazon.

Thursday 1 July 2021

Guest post by novelist Eirin Thompson

Eirin Thompson regularly comments on this blog, so when I heard about her good news I thought others of you would like to share in it and learn how it came about.

I am surprised and delighted to share with you the news that I’m having a book published on 1st July. It’s called ‘I Know I Saw Her’, with the author name E.D. Thompson, published by Hachette. It’s a mystery/suspense novel, and the main action takes place in a quiet suburban street over one sultry summer. Big among my influences were the Hitchcock film ‘Rear Window’ and Paula Hawkins’ novel ‘The Girl on the Train’.

I am surprised because, some time ago, I thought I’d had my moment as a writer and it was over; I gave up, retrained in something else and set writing dreams aside. But then I discovered the possibility of writing short stories for women’s magazines. After a stuttering start, I began to get acceptances and some very buoying feedback, and to grow in confidence. I also learned, with practice, how to write fictional dialogue properly for the first time!

On the face of it, I’ve accumulated a few bits and bobs over the years that might equip me as a writer. I trained as a newspaper reporter with the National Council for the Training of Journalists and worked for some years in that capacity. I have an English Literature degree with First Class Honours and a Masters in Creative Writing. I got a two-book deal in my thirties for a darkish comedy drama about family life and a sequel set in the workplace.

But when my two-book deal ended, not having set the world on fire with sales, the third novel, on which I had worked so hard, languished in a folder on my shelf.

My writing ‘career’ was caput and, my three children all now at ‘big’ school, I looked elsewhere for a living.

Where were my writing qualifications now? All muddled up with the many other roles I’d played during a messy life that, far from being strategically-aimed at the literary, also included stints as a waitress, a civil servant, a chambermaid, a cleaner, an usherette and even a fairground attendant.

I retrained in Children’s Care, Education and Development and then in Playwork and spent several fulfilling years working with children and young people.

Forced to take some weeks off from my new employment to recover from surgery, I was brought a few women’s magazines and became intrigued by the fiction sections – were these filled by in-house writers, or did they consider submitted work?

I can’t recall exactly what homework I did – it might have been then that I invested in The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook – but of a bunch of three tales that I sent off, one was accepted. I was extremely lucky, because that was all it took for me to believe that there was at least the possibility of building something and I tentatively began to submit more.

I discovered helpful and interesting blogs like this one, and Helen Yendall’s blog-about-writing, and I found that I absolutely loved writing for what are fondly known as the ‘womags’. One of the wonderful things about conjuring up such a variety of stories is that it makes excellent use of a life lived messily – no experience is wasted; it can all be used to inform and fuel the fiction. Nobody at the magazines asks what your qualifications to write are, either, or whether you’ve failed in the past – the editors are interested in what’s on the page you submit. The nice ones – and I’ve only encountered nice ones – are interested in you, too.

With some success achieved, I eventually started to consider the notion of trying my hand at a novel again – daunting, when you’ve had to write off one before. I studied Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’, had a gnawing idea for a mystery/suspense story, and finally decided to go for it.

The result is ‘I Know I Saw Her’, which I sent to my former agent, who passed it on to my former

editor at Hachette, who said yes!

The fifty-one-year-old main character, Alice, is a supply teacher who is struggling with work and with other things. She often feels fragile, but she’s stronger than she thinks she is, which is just as well, given what she’s about to stumble into – dark dealings in suburbia, a neighbour’s life in danger, and local police who dismiss her as a crank.

I’ve worked hard in an effort to make the book a page-turner and a thumping good summer read – because I really want readers to enjoy it. When you get right down to it, that’s pretty much the reason we write anything, isn’t it?

But I really don’t think I’d be in this position if I hadn’t started writing for women’s magazines. The boost it gave me to be accepted for publication, and the lessons it taught me about writing for a discerning readership were invaluable. You can buy ‘I Know I Saw Her’ by E.D. Thompson here.

Surprised, delighted and wishing much writing success to all the womagwriters and competition-enterers who follow Patsy’s blog.


P.S. I have a copy of the book to give away (UK or RoI only, I’m afraid). If anyone would like to be considered, please pop your name in the comments section below and I’ll pull one from a hat, if there’s more than one of you. Thanks!

If you'd like a copy of Eirin's book, please say so in the comments. Entries close midnight 5th July (UK time) and I'll announce the winner soon after. They'll be asked to email Eirin with the UK or ROI address they'd like the book sent to.