Saturday 4 March 2023

Fiction guidelines for Woman's Weekly, free entry writing competitions and more

Free to enter writing competitions

The BBC short story award offers a top prize of £15,000. You must be either a UK national or UK resident and have 'a prior record of publication'. Thanks to Sharon Boothroyd for the link.

Thanks to Linda Casper for telling me about this competition with a $500 prize for a factual piece about love on the road. As Linda says, that's a theme I can relate to – just not sure the judges will want ALL the details!

This competition is for poets and spoken word artists who are disabled or have 'long term impairment.' The prize is the chance of £300 in fees - but you need to do quite a lot to earn it.

Here's a chance for female or non binary playrights to win £12,000. The website was making me feel a bit dizzy, so I hope I've got that right.

In this competition someone will win $200 for the best piece of writing advice. My advice to you is - have a go!

Womag news

I've contacted Sharon Reid at Yours Fiction to ask whether the next issue of the magazine really will be August. Unfortunately her reply was - "I’m afraid it’s not a typo – the next issue of Fiction will be August. There are various other specials on different subjects in the pipeline between now and then, although I realise that’s not really helpful for fiction fans."

Not what we wanted to hear, but it's better to know than to keep submitting stories which can't be used, and to wonder if it's ever going to come back. (nb This only applies to Yours Fiction - not the regular Yours magazine.)

I contacted Andrew Shaw, who is the fiction editor for Woman, Woman's Own and Woman's Weekly to ask for the current guidelines. He said, "We are currently only accepting new fiction submissions for Woman's Weekly," and supplied the latest guidelines, which I've copied below. (Stories are sold on an all rights basis

Fiction Guidelines for Woman's Weekly

Firstly, we recommend that you read issues of Woman’s Weekly to get a feel for our audience and the type of stories we do publish. 

Fiction is a vital ingredient of Future's Women's Lifestyle magazines, the place where readers can escape and switch off. This doesn't mean predictable plots or old-fashioned romances. Escapism means getting involved in an engaging 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 and hope being vital factors.

A common misconception is that short stories should end on a big 'reveal'. This is just one kind of ending. Your story may simply make the reader go 'awh'. However, all stories should end on a positive note. ‘Uplifting’ is the word to keep in mind. 

We are not looking for stories set in care homes/hospitals/prisons, or stories that mention Covid/lockdown, or have plots that dwell on death, illness, or physical/mental abuse... 

Consider every type of person who might be reading your story. Think how certain plotlines or descriptions might be upsetting to the elderly, bereaved or ill. Sensitivity in your writing is vital. 

Remember the maxim ‘Show, don't tell.’ For example… 'Emily's cheeks flushed pink' instead of 'Emily was embarrassed'.  

Plus, a purely descriptive story can be heavy going. So keep things interesting with lively dialogue between the characters. And always ask yourself… 'Would someone actually say this in this situation? Is it natural?'

Attractive locations and stories about animals are often an opportunity for us to include appealing photo illustrations. And think how your story might 'stand out' from other submissions. Maybe the lead character has an unusual job and your story gives us an insight into a different world. 

WORD COUNTS (can be under but not over)

Single page in magazine: Approx 800 words 

Double-page spread: Approx 1700-1800 words


  • Submissions should be my email on a Word (or equivalent) document, not in the body of the email.  
  • Single quotation marks throughout. Single space between sentences. 
  • Your name, address and contact details should be included on the first page. 
  • The title of the story and the word count should be in the document name.

Please note that it can take up to 16 weeks for manuscripts to be considered.

If your story is right for us, we will contact you. If you do not hear from us within 16 weeks, please assume that your story isn't right for us. 

Please be advised that stories may be edited as part of the publishing process. 

We are unable to give feedback on rejected stories, or enter into any correspondence by email. 

Please send submissions to:

(nb This applies to the regular Woman's Weekly, not to Best Of Woman's Weekly. For the guidelines to that magazine, see last week's post.)

Thanks to everyone for your comments. As well as allowing us all to share information, help and encourage each other, comments also show editors, competition organisers and others that the blog is read and will therefore be more likely to provide information for me to share with you.

The next scheduled post is 18th March, and will be 'Over To You' as well as any interesting news or free entry competitions I come across.


Ruth/Becca said...

Sorry I have been so remiss about posting comments of late but have had so much going on and am just catching up with the blog. Thank you Patsy, very useful information as ever and I enjoy reading other writers' comments. I had an acceptance from PF yesterday - woo hoo! x

Fiona said...

Thanks for all the info Patsy and especially to you and Sharon for the reminder about the BBC Short Story Award. Just checked the rules on their website and you can submit previously published stories as long as they appeared after 1st January 2022. Off to sort out my entry!

niddy said...

Very helpful, thanks Patsy. Shame that Yours Fiction is waiting such a long time for the next edition but at least it will be published.

ados123 said...

Thanks, Patsy. Especially for checking Yours and WW. Shame that Yours won't be published for a while...

Elizabeth McGinty said...

Thanks Patsy, lots of great information, also thanks to all those who generously share competition info.

It was very good of Andrew Shaw to give such detailed information on what they are looking for in WW too, thanks for posting Patsy.

With regards to Yours Fiction, I wonder if they are dedicating their time/budget to special edition issues featuring the King's Coronation and maybe that's why they are cutting back elsewhere.

Sheelagh said...

Thanks for all the updates Patsy, useful to know the current situation at WW and others & I love your photos, really uplifting.
I couldn't find any link for the following one though 'In this competition someone will win $200 for the best piece of writing advice. My advice to you is - have a go!' did I miss something there?

Babs said...

Thanks for this, Patsy. So important to have the up to date guidelines.
Like Sheelagh, I am interested in the writing advice $200 comp but I don’t think the link is working.
And once again, thanks for keeping us all up to date. B

Patsy said...

@ Sheelagh and Babs – I've tried putting the link in again. Does it work now?

Linda Lewis said...

Always good to read your blog. I just don't seem to have the energy to bother writing much at the moment but one day, a comp you mention might give me the motivation. I hope so anyway. Thanks for your hard work. You're an inspiration.

Sheelagh said...

It does, thanks a mil Patsy. I wouldn't mind having a go at that one!

Susan Wright said...

Thanks for this latest information, Patsy.
It's such a shame that there won't be another Yours Fiction for a while, but at least there will be another one to look forward to.

Anon 1 said...

Patsy, as you're doing so well getting information from editors, could you try asking The People's Friend why it's taking so long for our stories to be read? I put the word count and time it's for in the e-mail header, as asked, but then don't hear anything for two years – even when I try to politely ask if they'ye got it I'm just ignored or get fobbed of with 'I'll read it as soon as I can'.

Sharon boothroyd said...

Many thanks for all this Patsy, it's very much appreciated.
Just a quick reminder about the submissions process for Woman's weekly.
Andrew 'reserves' stories first.
It's only when it appears in your email, on the Future net system, you know that it's gone ahead as a sale.
He can hang on to stories for up to 2 years.
He'll get in touch beforehand to ask if the story's still available before placing it on the system.
Some writers have withdrawn them, subbed them elsewhere and they've sold pretty much straight away.
It's an unusual submissions system. I feel 2 years is way too long to wait for a firm acceptance, publication and payment but that's the way it is.
At least they're not dropping writers for chatbots!

Marguerite said...

Thank you, Patsy, and the editors for all that useful information.Thank you also, Sharon, for that business re the 'reserve' - I had heard of people on here having a story held but not yet... and now I know what that means.

Marian said...

Thank you, Patsy, for all this really useful information. And thank you to Sharon, as well, for the update about the Woman's Weekly submission process.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the WW updates, Patsy. Nice to get the latest information. Interesting to read that Andrew Shaw can hang on to a story for 2 years. (Thanks for this info, Sharon.) It gives me a bit of hope as, even though I’ve just had one published in WW, another one of mine has been ‘on file’ since September 2021.

Michael Donoghue

Anonymous said...

Great blog, Patsy. Thank you. (And last week — just caught up!)

Thanks to everyone for sharing all the information and competitions — some interesting ones to have a go at.


Patsy said...

@ Ruth/Becca - Well done on the acceptance!

@ Fiona – And thanks for reminding me that we can sub published stories. Previously I've never had anything I thought suitable which was published at the right time, but I might have this year.

@ Niddy – I'm glad I got that confirmed. If we didn't know and realised new issues weren't being published we might have thought it was stopping completely.

@ Alyson – Yes it's a shame. Just the fiction special though. There will still be some stories in the regular mag.

@ Elizabeth – That's a possibility. I'm sure the event will get more than a passing mention in several mags!

@ Sheelagh – I'm glad you like the photos. The selections are likely to get ever more random from now on!

@ Babs – Yes, having current guidelines is really important.

@ Linda - An inspiration? *blushes*

@ Sheelagh – Don't know why, but links sometimes just drop out of posts. I don't think I'm accidentally deleting them...

@ Susan – Not the best news, but better than no knowing.

Patsy said...

@ Anonn 1 - The long waits are very frustrating. TPF do have a system which involves more than one person reading and approving every accepted story which is obviously more time consuming than one person making decisions, but I think the main reason for the delays is the sheer volume of submissions being sent in.

@ Sharon – Thank you for explaining that. I had heard about this, but as I don't sub there don't have first hand experience and didn't think to mention it. You're right to do so, to reassure anyone this happens to that it's normal and doesn't mean their story isn't good enough for a more definite acceptance.

I hadn't realised stories could be on hold for so long! I'm feeling really nostalgic for the days when if we hadn't heard within a few months we were wondering what had gone wrong.

Even with such long waits, it's definitely a good thing that magazines want original stories from imaginative writers, not something a computer has cobbled together from bits of other people's work.

@ Marguerite – I'm pleased those editors I've contacted feel it's worth their time replying with information to go on the blog.

@ Marion – It's really helpful when people such as Sharon are able to supply more information in this way.

@ Michael – The positive of a story being held on file is that you know it's good enough for publication, and you're on the right track with that magazine. That's a lot more useful than the same length wait without any reply.

@ HB – Yes, it's a god mix. I must make time to try at least one myself.

ados123 said...

For information - had a story put 'reserve' list by Andrew Shaw in Jan 2023 and accepted in Feb 2023. It will be in a May issue, so they don't always take so long...

Maisie Bishop said...

Thank you again. It's always really helpful to hear direct from editors. For example, I didn't know that WW want no mention of Covid or lockdown in stories submitted to them. Some of my stories inevitably do cover this period - how can we ignore it? I now know to send them elsewhere. Andrew at WW has 'reserved' two of my stories - one since July 2022 and one since September 2022, so I'm hoping.....

Sharon boothroyd said...

I don't think fiction eds want writers to ignore covid, lockdown etc but their fiction is classed as a relaxing way to chill out for readers.
I read womag stories, and it is for me.
I made a decision early on not to mention the global pandemic in my work. It was grim enough on the media news every day.
My writing was my escape and I didn't want to drag myself down by focusing on it.
Saying that, some covid 'community spirit and helping neighbours out' stories have been published.
Would anyone here write a womag story about how a family were struggling with the cost of living crisis? Would it sell?
I'd mention it briefly, but only if it was relevant to the plot.
I know the struggle is the reality for a lot of us, but the story wouldn't be an uplifting read, would it?

Sharon boothroyd said...

Is anyone having problems accessing the Lipstick and lies website?

Marian said...

Hi Sharon. I'm not sure if I'm much help, because I've been on it as part of the new website, but I haven't tried submitting anything yet!

Sheelagh said...

I'm afraid I have never submitted anything to Lipstick & Lies Sharon, so I can't help either.

Sharon boothroyd said...

Many thanks Marian for passing that on.
I'll be sending some stories there as well.
I can see the comp entries for L&L on that website but I'm not sure if I'll be able to see the
comp results.

Marguerite said...

Don't know if you'll see this, Sharon, but I saw a blog post on L&L - if not up to 10 entries, it'll have to be cancelled. The website has been - er - in a state of flux - but has settled now. I think you have it because I see an entry from you?