A Day with Woman’s Weekly

Woman's Weekly

The Womag World has been buzzing with the news that Woman’s Weekly are opening their doors (in the manner of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) for some fiction workshops, where they’ll be sharing their words of wisdom and explaining exactly what they’re looking for…

The first workshop took place on 7th June and some other womagers – Patsy Collins, Tracy Fells and Wendy Clarke have all written excellent accounts of the day on their blogs  – well worth a look and I’m sure there’s many more writers in blogosphere who have done the same.

I understand that the workshop sold out in only a few days so another one was scheduled for 14th June and yet another in July. They both sold out pretty quickly too. Look out for others as I’m sure they’ll run more. The tickets aren’t cheap, but it’s well worth the price. I was lucky enough to go yesterday and thought I’d share my experience here, in Writing Land. 🙂

The Blue Fin Building, home of IPC Media, is just stunning. It looks like a tower of icy glass. I’m in the charity sector and this was well and truly ‘how the other half work’. On arrival, I couldn’t stop looking about me. An open atrium shows layer upon layer of glamorous offices with beautiful, serious-looking people gliding around. I felt quite intimidated as we were led in small groups to the 10th Floor, but once in the room, I instantly relaxed.

I was greeted with a warm welcome from Gaynor Daves, the Fiction Editor. She was just so approachable and made the day so much fun. I knew she was speaking, but not only that, she stayed with us throughout the day and remained patient and encouraging as she generously shared tips and knowledge about how to crack the tough WW market.

I won’t go through each talk and task as I WILL end up writing a book. Instead I’ll write up the main points I took away from the day. Hope they are as helpful for you, as I think they’re going to be for me:

Writing Short Stories for Woman’s Weekly, with expert advice from Gaynor Davies

– Be a friend to your readers; imagine that they need an escape or a break, perhaps from something difficult that’s going on in their lives.

– Reflect real life as far as possible.

– Be varied. Avoid boy meets girl.

– Find your own unique voice.

– Have warmth at the centre of your story.

– Let the characters drive the story, rather than the plot.

– Make the most of symbols, images and emotions.

– Be nosy – real life makes the most interesting stories!

Writing Serials for Woman’s Weekly, with expert advice from Suzanne Ahern

– Don’t necessarily think that you need to ‘graduate’  to serials from writing a collection of successful short stories for Woman’s Weekly. They are a totally different craft and require a different set of skills.

– Know your characters and connect with them. Think about what they like, dislike and believe. You don’t need to share these details with your readers but it will give your serial a lot more authenticity if you know these things.

– Don’t be afraid to abandon ideas if they’re not working. You can always come back to them later.

– Be personal – write about something YOU are passionate about. It will come through in your writing.

– Best way to start with serials is to write them in three parts, with 3,300 words to a part. Think of each part as the ‘beginning, middle and end.’

– Make sure all your conflict comes to a head by the middle part and *always* end each part with a cliffhanger.

– Having two protagonists often works well.

Finding an Agent, with expert advice from Laura Longrigg

– Have a go at the Harry Bowling Prize competiton (there’s a category for flash fiction too!).

– Before you think about pitching your book, think about why it’s unique. What is it about your story which stands out from the crowd? Make sure you include this in your synopsis.

– Popular genres currently include: historical novels (particularly those with a World War One slant), Fantasy, Sagas (they’re on their way back!) and a new ‘young adult’ genre is emerging which stretches from late teens to early twenties. Psycological thrillers remain popular too.

There’s so much more to say but I’ll stop now- it’s a packed and exciting day.

I’ll finish with one last thought. Gaynor mentioned that in her time, she’s turned down some ‘big names’, which just proves that writing short stories for this market is blooming hard work… I wonder who they were??
(How nosy, well I am a writer!)


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