Woman’s Weekly Fiction Workshops – Hot Tips

A couple of Fridays ago I was teaching again with Gaynor Davies at the Blue Fin Buildings, our subject, Writing Short Stories for Woman’s Weekly. I thought you might like an update. There are two more short story workshops planned at IPC, by the way, 15 August and 1st September 2014, click here for more details and as they are so popular I’m also in discussion with Gaynor about doing another one this year, probably in October. So don’t worry if you can’t get to one of these.

In the meantime for those who can’t make a workshop, here are a few tips from myself and Gaynor hot off the press. I must point out these are my tips, as I understand them, not direct quotes from Gaynor. (Just in case any of the Woman’s Weekly team are reading).

  • When Woman’s Weekly first came out their aim was ‘To be useful and not deal with the sordid side of life’.  An old adage which still holds true today.  But do be contemporary.
  • Today’s fiction should be escapist, but also believable.
  • Many stories are rejected because they are too old fashioned.
  • They need stories that have an individual voice so don’t copy the style of previously published stories.
  • They also want variety.
  • They are always looking for more humour.
  • Most popular lengths are one pagers (900-1000) and two pagers (1800-2000)
  • You can go up to 8000 words for the special and (top tip) they don’t get many of these.
  • On a technical level – keep the style simple. Cut adverbs and don’t get too wordy. The verb of speech ‘said’ is fine. Characters don’t need to exclaim, explain and expostulate.
  • Remember that imagery is good but too many images can cancel each other out.
  • Woman’s Weekly stories must have a proper ending – you don’t have to tie up the ends in a neat bow, but stories can’t be completely open ended either.

In the latest Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special (May – on sale 1st April to 6th May) I have a short story called By The Book (page 24 if you’re interested.) By The Book is a light romance about online dating. I don’t do many romance stories, mainly because it’s so hard not to get predictable. I was inspired however to write this story by Peter Jones’ latest book How to Start Dating and Stop Waiting which is very entertaining and also a brilliant guide to internet dating.

Woman’s Weekly are also very keen to get new serial writers. Serials go up to five parts, which is a lovely length if you want to write longer than a story but aren’t ready for a novel. The current one, called Amos Browne by Leonora Francis is excellent. If you would like to look at another example of a serial you could try my latest novella Shadowman, which was once a serial in Woman’s Weekly but is now having a second lease of life as a novella. If you buy it in the next day or two it’s only 99p too – as it’s on an Amazon Countdown promotion can’t say fairer than that!

And as I’m in ‘shameless promotion’ mode, if you’d like to read any more short stories by yours truly please do check out my collection of Daily Della titles, for example, Lessons in Love which is just £1.53. All of my Daily Della stories were previously published in magazines so they will give you a flavour of the type of story required.

There is a fabulous roof top terrace canteen at Woman’s Weekly, by the way, which does amazing shortbread – just in case you were still trying to make up your mind on whether to book up for a course.

If you’d like to know any more about the art of writing short stories, please also check out my Short Story Writer’s Toolshed which is £1.99 for kindle.

Thank you for reading. And here’s hoping none of our stories stay in the cupboard (see previous blog, journey of a woman’s weekly story) for long!

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19 Responses to Woman’s Weekly Fiction Workshops – Hot Tips

  1. Patsy says:

    I went to one of the first workshops and enjoyed it.

  2. Sue Blackburn says:

    Thank you SO much for sharing all this with us Della. Very generous and so helpful.
    I am trying to work out the logistics because I would just love to come to a WW Workshop. Fingers and everything crossed.
    Oh and if anyone hasn’t read Shadowman yet, or Ice and a Slice you’ve missed out. Great reads
    Just off to download Lessons in Love xx

    • Della Galton says:

      Thanks Sue for those kind words – would love to see you at a workshop. If you can’t make London don’t forget I do the short story workshop in Bournemouth too – but not with Gaynor. Maybe I could entice her to come down some time, now there’s a thought!

      • Sue Blackburn says:

        Bournemouth’s even further for me Della but thank you for the thought.

        I am working on it though. And, of course, if you and Gaynor ever fancied doing a workshop in Lovely Lincoln – now that would be supercalifragalisticexpialidotious!!! x

  3. Jan Baynham says:

    I was there ……and can highly recommend a WW Writing workshop with Gaynor and Della. Thank you, Della, for so many useful tips. This week, I shall be busy trying to put all your advice into practice! I have just downloaded ‘Shadowman’ after enjoying ‘Meltwater’ and ‘Ice and a Slice’. Looking forward to reading it. 🙂

    • Della Galton says:

      Thanks Jan, and thank s for downloading Shadowman. Meltwater was a Woman’s Weekly serial too by the way. Ice and a Slice and Meltwater – there must be some connection there, tee hee!

  4. Lilian Butterwick says:

    Thanks for this Della. I went to one of the workshops last July, when it was a gloriously hot day, and found it extremely useful and enjoyable – and normally I’m not a fan of venturing to the big city! It’s always useful to be reminded of the main tips. 🙂

    • Della Galton says:

      It wasn’t very hot when I was there last but I live in hope – tee hee – though Gaynor and I did sit outside for lunch so it can’t have been that cold come to think of it!

  5. Carol Warham says:

    Thanks for such a helpful post.

  6. Thanks Della, for a most interesting post. I’m off to run my current WIP through the Della checklist.

  7. Thank you for these wonderful Hot Tips! I really enjoyed the workshop on 11th April and am working on the story I started there…fingers crossed that it turns out OK. The thing I struggle most with is trying to follow the guidelines for a specific magazine, while still retaining an individual voice. I expect you will tell me I need to practise more!

  8. Della Galton says:

    Hi Jenny, I think individual voice should be your priority – tailoring to the guidelines shouldn’t affect voice too much. We all need to practise more 🙂

  9. susan jones says:

    Great advice, Della, thanks. Always trying to think up something different, and working on some humour now as well:) I have the tool shed, handy to pop into. Now off to try ice and a slice.

  10. Linda Sprott says:

    Hi thanks for useful tips. Have read several of your stories and loved them. How long should each episode be for serials?
    Thanks
    Linda

    • Della Galton says:

      Hi Linda
      I haven’t written a serial lately and Gaynor has the most up to date guidelines but I think they’re about 3k a part, poss a little longer for the first part. Worth checking their guidelines anyway for any other technical bits they need in terms of layout etc.
      And thank you re the stories 🙂

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