Woman’s Weekly Fiction Department regret that, because of recent restructuring, we are having to suspend the acceptance of unsolicited short stories and serials for the time being.
But here are the requirements you’ll need in future.
Serials run from 3 to 5 parts in instalments of approximately 3,300 words so pace yourself to produce from 10,000 to 16,500 words in total.
You’ll be following a great tradition. Charles Dickens’ novels were serialised in magazines.
Admittedly, they were a lot longer than the ones we run in Woman’s Weekly, but the principle was the same – keep your readers on the edges of their seats waiting impatiently for next week’s instalment!
Here are my 5 top tips for success…
1. Keep it simple
One of the biggest problems I find when someone embarks on writing a long story with cliffhangers (a serial, in other words) is that they throw too much into the plot.
There’s a murder, a drugs ring, a beauty contest, a freak snowstorm in summer and a cat show – all told from the point of view of a mature woman trying to recover her youth by learning to bungee jump. Stop!
Your idea doesn’t need to be over-complicated. Your story will be about someone who has a problem of some kind that isn’t resolved until the end. Include as many additional characters and twists of plot as you need, but no more.
2. Don’t write like someone else
Don’t copy someone else’s style, however much you admire it, and don’t try to sound like a ‘Woman’s Weekly Serial’. We’re looking for your voice. Always write what you know about.
Inspiration is all around you, so keep a note book handy because you’ll never remember that intriguing overheard conversation when you get home. And if you have to do background research, make sure you weave it into your story in a fresh, natural way. It shouldn’t sound as if it’s come straight from Wikipedia or an encylopedia (trust me, I’ve seen it happen!).
3. Create tensions not tantrums
‘The essence of drama is conflict.’ Don’t ask me which scholar said that, but whoever it was, they were talking about the fact that when things are going wrong, it makes a good story.
Think soaps. If every problem was instantly resolved, there’d be no doo, doo, doo moments. BUT (and it’s a big BUT) a lot of people think dramatic conflict is about couples arguing for years on end, or handsome men belittling mousey young women.
Even seasoned short story writers have a tendency to go all ‘1960s romance’ when I ask them to write a serial. We are not looking for ‘Me Tarzan, You Jane’ style love stories. Nor are we looking for Fifty Shades Of Grey, though tasteful passion is always welcome.
4. Show don’t tell
There’s nothing more guaranteed to turn off fiction readers than explaining everything as though you were writing a text book. Be subtle and allow the reader to interact by working out what’s going on rather than having everything spelled out.
Examples: Rather than saying, ‘Mark felt thoroughly disappointed and wondered what he’d do next,’ you could say something like, ‘Mark slumped heavily into the chair.’ Or, instead of, ‘Sarah felt anxious after reading the letter containing the shocking news’, you could say something like: ‘Sarah’s face turned chalk white and the letter fell from her fingers.’
This is quite a big – and fascinating – subject. Look out for it when you’re reading fiction and you’ll see more and more examples. It’s what gives you the scope to be poetic with your prose.
5. Know your characters
You don’t have to love all your characters – if you’re writing a crime thriller, for instance, some of your characters will be baddies. But you do have to write about people who are believable.
Again, you don’t have to tell the reader everything about them (see above). The characters will reveal themselves by their actions and dialogue. But you will need to put in a brief description of their appearance at some point so that the reader can picture them.
If you happen to be into astrology, you could pick a star sign for your main character but that method isn’t to everyone’s taste. The important thing is to write a list of characteristics that you can refer to. However, expect your characters to have minds of their own! I’ve heard many writers say, ‘And then, to my surprise, my main character did something quite different to what I’d planned for them.’
I recently read some good advice in a writing book (yes, I read them, too) which was to ask your character questions about themselves and listen to their answers.
Still want to know more? Watch my video!
So there you have it – how to write for us
Simple, isn’t it? Well, maybe not that simple, but the important thing is to enjoy the process. Once you start, you’ll be hooked on creating your own worlds. Here are some general tips to consider when submitting writing:
- We read only typescripts. Handwritten work 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 e-mail.
If you have an idea, please drop me a line with the outline in a letter.
The address will be:
Fiction Department Woman’s Weekly
Time Inc (UK)
161 Marsh Wall
To meet the experts and improve your writing, join one of our fiction workshops.