Thursday 24 April 2014

Woman's Weekly Writing Workshop
On Friday 11th April, I left Cardiff on the 6.55 am train from Central Station to arrive at Paddington just before nine o'clock. This would allow me plenty of time to get to the workshop by coffee time...or so I thought! Now, I'd always prided myself on my map reading skills, having navigated all over France on annual family holidays in the days before SAT navs. No, what I hadn't mastered was the map app on my brand new iPhone! 'What!' I can hear my Geography lecturer daughter screaming in disbelief. Yes, Jo, I took the wrong turning out of the tube station, got totally confused by the little blue man 'walking' and got myself completely lost! To cut a very long story short, I eventually got to the Blue Fin Building in Southwark by flagging down a taxi driver who got me there just as Gaynor Davies, the Editor, was starting her welcome - apologies, embarrassment, flustered, hot and bothered! :-( 

The room was full of people like me hoping to find out what it takes to be a Woman's Weekly writer. We were all seated around a very long table that seemed to fill the room. I soon spotted my friend Helen at the other end and Glyn, another writing buddy who was attending, was seated a few seats away from me. Gaynor opened the proceedings with a warm welcome and introduced our tutor for the day, Della Galton. 

Gaynor began by talking about a typical Woman's Weekly reader and recommended that we try to see the reader not the age, a reader who may be interested in travel, an optimist, involved with family and homes and community minded. When reading the stories in Woman's Weekly you will find characters like this with whom the readers can relate and feel empathy. She then listed the sort of stories that would interest the editors:

  • there should be warmth, especially in the way the characters behave
  • stories that are character not plot driven where there is conflict or crisis, for the character to have a problem and the character has to change 
  • more humorous stories
  • stories that end on a note of optimism but the ending should not be 'tied up in a bow'.
On style, the editors do not want too many adjectives, adverbs or images. Keep to 'said' for dialogue. They do not want you to tell your readers everything. Respect them and let them work things out for themselves.

On the length of stories, she mentioned one pagers (900 - 1000 words) and two pagers (1800-2000). Apparently the awkward lengths are the 1200-1800 word stories as they can't do much with these from a lay-out point of view. At this point, I was trying to think how long was the last story I submitted to WW!

Della then led us on a timed writing exercise. We suggested characters, problems and settings for her 'random idea generator' and she then asked us to write an attention grabbing paragraph about a mother who was having marital problems and the setting was a station. It was good to see everyone busy writing away in complete silence but it soon became apparent that we had to read our efforts out. This didn't turn out to be as unnerving as I thought it would be because it was great to see how everyone had interpreted the scenario so differently. 

Before lunch, Della talked to us about ideas, plot and developing short story characters which was preparation for another writing exercise in the afternoon. 

Lunch time was a great opportunity to catch up with the other writers and admire the impressive Blue Fin Building. (It was a bit of a blur when I arrived!) The views from the roof top terrace canteen are amazing and the food is pretty good too!

The afternoon began with an exercise where we completed a chart for the main character of a story. Knowing everything about our characters will make them credible and explain why they behave in the way they do. Time was spent reading these out and explaining how the stories would develop and Della and Gaynor interjected with useful comments and advice.

The day ended with a session from Della about why stories are rejected. Here are some of the reasons she covered:
  • predictable endings
  • overused theme
  • underdeveloped characters
  • insufficient plot
  • too much plot
  • wrong market 
  • bad luck!
All we have to do now is finish the stories we started in the workshop and put into practice what we've learned. I wish! Seriously though, I highly recommend attending one of the workshops. The next ones are listed on the Woman's Weekly website as taking place on  August 15th and September 1st but I'd check to see if places are still available. For two excellent posts  about writing for Woman's Weekly, you may like to visit Della Galton's Blog, one posted on April 21st and a previous one on February 25th.

PS. The walk back to Southwark tube station on our way home took a matter of minutes so I asked Helen how she'd found her way to the workshop that morning. "Oh, I did it the old-fashioned way," she said. "I asked directions and the man said 'Just follow the orange lamp posts!'" Now, why didn't I think of that? Hee-hee!

Thanks for reading. Have you been given one of the reasons listed if you've had feed back about a rejected story? Please leave a comment.

PPS. If you'd like a light-hearted read, my short story Harriet's Easter Surprise has just been published by  Cafe Lit . Or, for something totally different, why not read Freed To Be Myself on Creative Frontiers ?

You may follow me on @JanBayLit

Thursday 17 April 2014

Short and Sweet
Just a short blog post this week to wish you all a very Happy Easter. 

I ended last week's blog by telling you that I was going to a Woman's Weekly Writing Workshop on Friday. It was excellent and as I expected, it was good to meet Gaynor, the editor, and Della. There were so many people there all like me, I expect, hoping to get a story published with the magazine in the future. I think it needs a longer post to do justice to the day so watch this space! 

I'm fortunate to be a member of an on-line group of writers who critique each others' stories, giving suggestions for improvements or changes. This week has seen the launch of our new website Write- Critical. Huge thanks must go to Susan Jones for her hard work in setting this up. You will find a link to her blog on the right hand side of this page. 
On Easter Sunday, another of my stories, The Journey Home, will go live on the Alfie Dog Fiction download site. 

No writing or blogging for me for the next few days. I have the family arriving late tonight and the house will be full! Will you be having a break from writing this Easter? 

Thank you for reading. You may follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit.

Thursday 10 April 2014

A Short Story Week For Me
This week has been all about short stories. I decided that I wouldn't take any more of my novel along to my writers' group. I just need to get on and write it without showing anyone my first draft. I've been going back into individual chapters and re-writing them after the meetings and it's not getting the tale told! So......I put my short story hat back on and got down to finishing one I had started a few weeks ago. It still needs work on it but at least I'm back! I submitted some writing to Creative Frontiers and had another story accepted on Alfie Dog Fiction . It's a ghost story and will go live on Easter Sunday, April 20th.

The highlight of my week was being the featured author on the Alfie Dog Fiction site and I'm very grateful to Rosemary, the editor, for this. It was quite a funny feeling to click on the site and see myself staring back. The site has now moved on to another featured author (I'm writing this update on 16-4-14) and so if you would like to read more and maybe download a story, please click on the Alfie Dog Fiction link above and find my name under authors. For those of you who don't know the site, there are over a thousand short stories to download as well as e-books and paperbacks. The stories come from writers all over the world and cover a wide range of genres. When I first had a story published, I looked down the names of authors and recognised many of the writers whose blogs I follow or whose names appear regularly in magazines. Rosemary has done so much to promote the short story genre and gives prompt feedback and helpful advice  to any story you submit.

**Did you know that the 2013 Nobel prize winner for Literature was 82 year old Canadian, Alice Munro, who only writes short stories and not novels?** 

My short story week ends tomorrow with a trip to London to attend a Woman's Weekly Writing Workshop. I'm leaving Cardiff Central at 6.55 am - aaaahhhh, I don't do mornings now I am retired!! - and I'll meet two writing buddies Helen and Glyn at the Blue Fin Building in Southwark who are attending too. 

I'm looking forward to meeting Gaynor Davies and her team, especially Della Galton who is leading the workshop. Have any of you attended one of the WW workshops in the past?

Thank you for reading my blog and please share your thoughts about the short story format. Do you like reading 'shorts'? If yes, what is it that you like most about them?

You may follow me on Twitter on @JanBayLit.

Friday 4 April 2014

Playing the Waiting Game
You've written your story, you've checked it and double checked it and sent it off! You sit back and wait....and wait....and wait. Am I the only one who finds this last stage of submitting my writing to a magazine or a competition hard? What is the longest you've had to wait?

Yesterday, I received a story back from a magazine that I'd sent on February 21st and another one which was submitted on March 18th arrived today so that wasn't too long to wait, I suppose. Another two rejections! :-( Sometimes, the wait has been much longer. Once two or three months have passed, I start looking for the large brown envelope to land on my doormat. 

As for competitions, once the date when the winners are to be announced approaches, I check into the website a couple of times a day........ knowing my name will not be there but secretly hoping! Does anyone else do this?

How should I deal with the waiting? I think I've answered it in a way in the second sentence - I shouldn't 'sit back and wait', should I? I should get writing, writing more and more stories. The more stories I have out there, the easier it will be to deal with the rejections. I hope! What do you think? 

Thanks for reading my blog. I'd love it if you would make a comment. Thank you.
You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit