Wednesday, 15 September 2010

ET go home!

My posts are a little scattered at the moment - apologies for that. I’m working a lot, which is great, but it leaves me little free time, and what free time I do have is being taken up with rehearsals and line-learning. One of my fellow actors and I recorded our lines last week, so now even my car journeys are all about the play – when I wake up in the morning, it is with the fuzzy residue of odd sections of monologue in my head – I feel like I’ve been taken over by an unwelcome alien. Sod off and let me sleep in peace ET!

Our new actor started with us on Monday, after our previous ‘Edward’ decided, quite fairly, that Skylight was one play too many for his busy teenage life. It’s a relief to have the new guy on board, but something of a drag to have to go over the six weeks of wasted rehearsals again – not his fault, of course, and he seems to pick things up quickly, so I have moderately waist-high hopes that rehearsals for the two scenes I share with him will be less like pulling teeth than last time.

On Saturday I had the most amazing day in London. My lovely friend Alexis took me for lunch at Tate Britain, which was delicious, highly recommend it, and then – the highlight of the day for me – we went to The Globe to see The Merry Wives of Windsor. It was my first time at the theatre and it is safe to say that I was blown away.

The structure itself is impressive and really does make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, and the acting, as you would expect, knocked my socks off. The director created a colourful and fabulously fun production with some lovely touches and details that were hilarious. And seeing as how they are so limited with what they can do set-wise, they made very clever use of the space with some nifty little twists. Alexis and I are planning to book up to see everything they do next year – I am newly excited about Shakespeare and want more!

After the theatre we went to Tate Modern – again, another first for me. I have a friend who is doing an MA at Goldsmiths and spends much time at the Modern – I fear I will have to sit down with her and ask searching questions, as I found that much of the work, particularly the installations, left me confused, bemused and unmoved – particularly the heap of old clothes pinned to a wall by a garden statue. It was all a bit far-fetched for me – I had never thought of myself as someone who only liked ‘pretty’, recognisable pictures, but perhaps I am. Mind you, splotchy bowls of fruit and brown-gravy depictions of historical scenes also leave me cold – so maybe I’m just a fussy so-and-so!

And finally… I had my first rejection letter yesterday. I feel surprisingly unfazed by it – possibly because I had just assumed that is what I would get. I feel that I have been initiated into the world of the professional fiction writer. However, the editor who wrote to me did say that although the story I had sent wasn’t right for them, she enjoyed reading it and thought it was well written, and has asked me to send some more of my work. I have no doubt that everyone receives such platitudes, but regardless, it did go some way to softening the blow. So now I just have to find the time to write something else to send… hmm.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

My Weekly submission guidelines August 2010

Basically, they wouldn't send me any!

I will try again at some point and will publish them on here if I get them, but as it stands at the moment, they are inudated with stories and aren't accepting from new writers.

For the foreseeable future they are unable to read and therefore accept unsolicited stories from authors who have not already had an acceptance from My Weekly.

If you have contributed to My Weekly in the past then you can submit, if not, then there are no opportunities at this time.

Woman's Weekly guidelines August 2010


We regret we can’t accept stories by email. Please include an sae in case we have to return your manuscript.

Fiction is a vital ingredient of Woman’s Weekly, the place where readers can escape and switch off. This doesn’t mean predictable plots or old-fashioned romances. Escapism means getting involved in a really gripping 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 still an important factor. Try to be subtle in your writing and remember the maxim: “Show don’t tell”. We recommend you read several issues of Woman’s Weekly and Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special to get a feel for our audience.

Unfortunately, we can’t offer criticism, but if your writing shows promise, we will contact you.


For the weekly magazine:
  • Short stories of 1,000 and 2,000 words
  • Serials in 3 parts of 3,800 words each

For Fiction Special (25 stories 10 times a year):
  • Stories of 1,000 to 8,000 words


  • We read only typescripts. Handwritten work or disks can’t be considered.
  • Double line spacing on one side of the paper only and wide margins.
  • Number each page and make sure your name is at the top of each page.
  • If sending stories from abroad, please enclose an international reply coupon.
  • If you would like us to acknowledge receipt of your manuscript, enclose a stamped, addressed postcard.
  • Please note that it can take up to sixteen weeks for manuscripts to be considered, and that we are unable to enter into any correspondence by email.

Please send stories/serials to:

Fiction Department
Woman’s Weekly
IPC Media
Blue Fin Building
110 Southwark Street
London SE1 0SU

People's Friend submission guidelines August 2010

Short stories

These vary in length – between 1,000 and 3,000 words usually. Deeper, more emotional, stories tend to need more space than lighter ones. We also accept short, short stories, from 500 to 1,000 words, for our complete on-a-page fiction.

Our readers like reading about people of any age. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking we only use stories about grans and granddads, widows and widowers. Stories with older characters are, obviously, important, but our readers also enjoy those with up-to-date, young, romantic themes. There’s always a place for the light-hearted and humorous, too. This isn’t to say we avoid “modern” themes like divorce or single parent families, but these must be treated sympathetically and tactfully. We’d rarely show divorce happening “on stage” in a short story – or a serial. Separation which ends in reunion would be something our readers would approve wholeheartedly!

We’re always looking for good Christmas stories (as well as other seasonal material) but beware the well-worn themes! Again the message is – be original and try to reflect the real spirit of Christmas.

So what don’t the readers enjoy? Well, they’ve made it clear they don’t want to read depressing, or bitter, stories. Or stories that shock or disgust or upset because of their graphic content – be it sex, violence, murder or substance abuse. And avoid the story with a twist in the tale that misleads or cheats. Any twist has to be credible – and emotional. Readers like to have a chuckle, or a lump in the throat, at the end of a story ... or even both! But remember, they prefer to laugh with people rather than at them. And they like to know how a character feels, as well as what he, or she, is doing.

Write from the heart as well as the head – so that the emotion of the situation comes across strongly. And the ending has to be satisfying. We rarely use stories from the viewpoint of animals or inanimate objects. Historical short stories are difficult – it’s not easy to be convincing in under 3,000 words. And anything with a supernatural theme always gets the thumbs down from our very responsive readers. In the author’s byline we frequently describe our stories as tender... touching... moving... amusing... charming... All words with positive feelings behind them.

Your raw material is people. Our readers want to identify with your characters, believe in them, their problems and the situations. If they can’t get close to a character, or that character does or says something unconvincing, they’ll lose interest. Your job is to keep the reader reading. WE STRONGLY SUGGEST YOU TRY WRITING SHORT STORIES BEFORE YOU ATTEMPT OUR OTHER FORMATS.

Fiction series

These might be considered a sort of hybrid, a cross between a short story and a serial. They are usually based on a strong, central character in an interesting situation. Each week’s story is complete in itself and, in subsequent weeks, new characters and their problems are introduced. But each story has a common setting, or theme, or central character playing a pivotal role.


These are normally worked on from the early stages by the author and at least one member of staff. The storyline is carefully worked out by phone, letter, or by a face-to-face conference. Only when agreement is reached does the story proceed. All our serials have a strong emotional situation as their central theme, usually family based. There can be other loosely-connected storylines involving family members, relatives, friends... so it’s quite in order to change viewpoints. It’s even possible to do this in a first-person story – with a bit of ingenuity!

We avoid subjects that are controversial, or which would be beyond the average reader’s comprehension. We don’t want to teach, or preach, or clamber on bandwagons. We don’t want unusual, outrageous or offensive characters. This doesn’t mean that characters have to be bland. Far from it. They must appeal to the reader’s imagination and stir their emotions. Your story can be set in the present day or it can be historical – without going too far back into the dim and distant past!

Writing a serial isn’t like writing a novel. You have to enthral the reader in such a way that she – or he – is looking forward eagerly to next week’s instalment. You don’t have the luxury of writing long, beautifully crafted narrative or descriptive passages. Serials run from eight to twelve instalments on average, though we will use shorter, or longer, stories from time to time.

The opening instalment is usually quite long — around six thousand words. You should aim to set the scene, introduce your characters and explain their problems. Your opening page must catch and hold the reader’s interest right away. Some problem, some crisis, should be coming to a head, some endeavour, some venture about to be undertaken. Succeeding instalments are normally shorter, round five thousand words.

Each instalment is made up of three or four chapters. (Get the idea of differentiating between a chapter and an instalment.) Each chapter should deal with a particular aspect, or incident, or scene in the story, moving it forward at a good pace. Although there will naturally be some overlap, each chapter should be more or less complete, ending on a high point to encourage the reader to go on. Don’t jump around in short, quick, disjointed scenes. Give yourself a chance to develop your characters and their relationships. The readers enjoy a good, sustained read. Your final chapter to the instalment should have a more powerful curtain, so the reader is impatient to know what will happen in the following week’s magazine.

How your characters react – in their different ways – to the problems and situations you put them in, is what makes your “Friend” story. Your storyline – plot, if you like – is important, of course, but the reader will remember a good character long after she’s forgotten other details. Effective use of dialogue will not only build up your characters in the reader’s mind, it can also provide background information and keep the story moving along briskly. Don’t write long passages explaining what makes your character tick, or what’s gone before. The reader should “sense” their personality through what they say and how they react to challenging situations. Let the characters speak for themselves, so the reader can get involved and identify with them. Study the popular soaps on TV. See how effectively their writers use dialogue!

We very rarely buy a complete serial in manuscript form. Don’t even try a first instalment on your own! Send us your idea, with perhaps just a few pages of the story, and give us a detailed synopsis of how the story develops... and we’ll get back to you.

Submission guidelines golden rules

  • We’re always happy to consider unsolicited manuscripts, but once you’ve completed your story, try to read it objectively – we know it won’t be easy, because you’re so close to it and you’ve obviously put a lot of effort into it. But do try to ask yourself – “Is this really a ‘Friend’ story?” And answer honestly, now! If the answer is a definite No, please don’t send it in. But if you feel it’s along the right lines, by all means let us see it. We’re here to help and advise you.
  • Your manuscripts should be typed – on one side of the paper only. Use double line spacing and leave a generous left-hand margin. ALWAYS KEEP A COPY.
  • You should also have a flysheet, showing the title and author’s name (or pen-name if you prefer). Please make sure your own name and address also appear on the page.
  • Number the pages of your story – or serial instalment.
  • Paperclip your manuscript together. And preferably use an A4 size envelope so that you don’t have to fold the typescript over. Anything you can do to make your work easy to read will be much appreciated by our hard-working staff. Please ensure postage is correct.
  • Address your short stories to the Fiction Editor at the address below. Children’s stories should be sent to the Children’s Page Editor and poetry to the Poetry Editor and so on.
  • Seasonal stories or articles should be submitted fully three months in advance.
  • Remember to enclose a suitable self-addressed envelope with the correct postage. Or if you live abroad, send an International Reply Coupon. PLEASE NOTE, WE WILL NOT RESPOND TO SUBMISSIONS UNLESS AN SAE/IRC IS ENCLOSED.
  • Please don’t swamp us with manuscripts! We very often find that a collection of stories all have the same basic flaw. So, if you’ve been enthusiastically writing, pick the best one, or two, to send in to test the water. It’ll save your postage and we’ll let you know if we want to see more of your work.
  • Be prepared to wait a few weeks for a reply. Our selection process can take some time.
  • Payment is on acceptance. You won’t have to wait for publication.
The People's Friend
Phone Dundee (01382) 462276 or 223131 Fax: 01382 452491

Take A Break submission guidelines June 2010


Basic requirements: We are looking for contemporary stories aimed at women from their mid-twenties upwards. We require about 1000 words (N.B. Please note reduction from max of 1100 words) with a strong plot and a good twist in the tail. We do not have a weekly serial, so stories must be complete in themselves. It is highly unusual for us to buy stories written in the first person (I), we prefer third person narratives, (He/she).

N.B N.B. N.B !!!!!!

The twist MUST arise out of the plot, rather than simply turn on a detail, which the characters know but is deliberately kept hidden from the reader in order to mislead:

To check your twist is a genuine twist - not simply a deception - imagine your story were being made into a film and ask yourself - would the surprise still work? If it wouldn't, I'm afraid it's not for us.

Subject matter: We particularly like settings and situations which readers can recognise and relate to, rather than say, country house murders or stories about drugs’ rings or jewel thieves. It's essential to read several issues of the magazine to get the flavour of the type of fiction we publish before writing a story aimed at Take a Break. Many writers waste a lot of time and effort because they haven't done this. Please avoid straightforward romance i.e. boy meets girl and they live happily ever after. Also avoid historical backgrounds, science fiction and stories narrated by animals or small children. Take a Break is a family magazine so graphic murders etc. are not acceptable.

Common plots to avoid: UPDATED

* The heroine/narrator is revealed to be a cat, dog, fox, or whatever! This is a complete no-no.

* The victim of a rip-off tradesman or horrible motorist etc. turns out to be his or her new

boss/emergency dentist/VAT inspector.

* The policeman/woman is really a strippagram/singing telegram.

* The woman discovers her husband's secret lover is a man (or man discovers wife's lover is a woman).

* A husband/wife's mysterious arrangements turn out to be for a surprise gift/party - not an affair.

* The character who sees 'ghosts' is actually one him/herself.

* A shifty antiques dealer or similar dupes an old lady out of what he thinks is a priceless antique and it

turns out she is making them by the dozen.

* Anything to do with twins.

* Someone nervous about a first day at school turns out to be the teacher; or about a wedding, turns

out to be the vicar; or an interview, the interviewer and so on.

* Anything to do with bumping off elderly relatives for the inheritance; in fact 'Wills' in general are best

avoided. stereotypes please! It's all too easy to fall into the trap of having lazy husbands and put upon wives, battle-axe wives and put upon husbands, grumpy old people and their longsuffering relatives, lonely single mums and their matchmaking children… Stories about super-husbands and overly-cheery grannies can be equally dull.

Because many writers write to this type of brief, their stories become boring and perhaps a good

twist is wasted. Be open-minded about your characters but keep them real!!!!!!

Because our stories are so short, it can be confusing if you have too many characters. A maximum of four is usually best. The main character should always be a woman.

Stories must be your own idea and original work, previously unpublished, and not on offer to any other magazine or publisher at the time sent to us. Should your story be accepted we would probably have to edit it to conform to page length and style.

Presentation: No e-mail submissions or floppy disks please!

Typed manuscripts are quicker and easier to read, but if you can't get your story typed, write clearly in double line spacing.

Please ensure your name, address; e-mail address (if you have one), and telephone number are on each page of the manuscript as well as on any accompanying letter. An accompanying letter is not necessary. Please include a stamped address envelope large enough to hold your story. Self-seal envelopes are especially appreciated. It's advisable to keep a copy of your story to guard against the remote chance of loss.

Features and articles should be sent directly to the Features Department with a covering letter.

It can take 10-12 weeks before a decision is made concerning your manuscript, so please be patient. If your story has not been returned after 12 weeks, please drop me a line giving me the story title, a 2-line synopsis of the plot and the date sent. Include your phone number (and e-mail address if poss.) and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Should your story be rejected it can be for any number of reasons. Sometimes we have already published or have in stock a similar story. More likely though, I feel it will not appeal to our readers. This does not necessarily mean I will not like another of your stories, so please don't lose heart.

Payment: £400

Usage Terms: First British Serial Rights with extended usage only across all media platforms

Stories sent for specific issues, such as Christmas, Easter, Halloween etc, must be sent at least three –four months in advance of issue date.


As Fiction Feast is a short story publication we can be very flexible about the length and type of fiction required. However, do read Fiction Feast every month to get the flavour of the magazine. Please note we rarely, if ever, publish stories written in the present tense. If writing with us in mind, please think carefully whether your story wouldn't work just as well in the past tense!

Please check the 'common plots to avoid' list (updated) above. Remember, too, that stories must be original, previously unpublished and complete in themselves. (Sorry, no serials) If you have good, strong 750 - 3,000 words, suitable for a family publication, I'd be delighted to consider it.

Presentation: as for Take a Break (see above)

Reading time: It can take 12 weeks for a decision to be made regarding your story. If you haven't had a verdict after 12 weeks, please drop me a line, giving me a brief synopsis of the plot, and date submitted. Include your telephone number (and e-mail address if poss.) and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Payment: which is generally on publication, depends on published length, starting at £200 for a single page.

Usage Terms: First British Serial Rights with extended usage only across all media platforms

If you have any specific queries about submitting stories to Take a Break or Fiction Feast, I will be happy to answer them. Please write to me, Norah McGrath, Fiction Editor, Take a Break 24-28 Oval Road, NW1 7DT.