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.
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!