Writing for The Weekly News

On Saturday The Birmingham Chapter of the RNA held a Writers’ Day and I was asked to do a session on short stories. I chose to talk about writing tales with a twist for The Weekly NewsThe Weekly News

The official guidelines for The Weekly News are on that treasure trove of information, Womagwriter’s Blog, but here are some of the other points that I made in my presentation:

Research the market. The Weekly News can be hard to get hold of but I find it more readily available in smaller newsagents and convenience stores rather than WH Smith or large supermarkets. Ask your newsagent to reserve a copy for you. Alternatively, stories that have been previously published in The Weekly News can be found in these two e-collections: House Guests and Other Stories and Old Friends.

The twist should come as late as possible in the story and will often turn the tale completely on its head BUT the reader should not be lied to. The story should make complete sense whether read with the twisted ending in mind or the ending that you hope the reader will assume is coming.

Types of Twist

  • Character Identity – the small boy nervous about going to school turns out to be the headmaster
  • Character Motive – the head juror is pushing for a quick verdict not because he’s in a hurry to get home but because he’s actually committed the crime and therefore wants the defendant sent down ASAP
  • Location – the stranded climber is not on a mountain top but is on a climbing frame in the park

Things that (seem to) work for me:

  • Having a male main character (both sexes read The Weekly News)
  • Aiming at the lower end of the 1200- 1500 required words. These stories pull the wool over the reader’s eyes and the fewer words, the easier that is.
  • Keep the time period for the story as short as possible (I’m talking seconds/minutes rather than days) to keep it snappy

I know that a lot of you are successful Weekly News writers and probably have your own personal set of ‘rules’. You might prefer to keep them secret from the competition(!) but if not, do they differ greatly from mine?

Finally a shout-out to some of the people who helped Saturday go with a swing:

Marilyn Rodwell who ably orgainsed the whole day
Bella Osborne who taught us how to plan our novel (and gave us post-its to play with)
Lizzie Lamb who talked about her self-publishing and marketing experiences
Alison May who educated us about editing and said it’s OK to hate your first draft
Helen Barrell who talked about all things social media
and fellow blogger Maria Smith who came and introduced herself to me – lovely to put a face to a name.

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  1. #1 by susanjanejones on March 6, 2016 - 8:35 pm

    Thanks for the tips, Sally. Haven’t had an acceptance from Jill Finlay yet, but I’ll keep on trying.

  2. #3 by Janice Preston on March 7, 2016 - 7:37 am

    Great blog, Sally, and I’ve no doubt it was a brilliant session too. I was very sorry to have missed it, but it’s not every day your dad turns 90!

    • #4 by Sally Jenkins on March 7, 2016 - 7:28 pm

      I think your place was with your dad, Jan! Hope it was a good day.

  3. #5 by mick arnold on March 11, 2016 - 1:44 am

    Hi Sally, thank you for this. It may interest you to know that I picked up the 5th March issue in Morrisons! Take care, Mick

    • #6 by Sally Jenkins on March 15, 2016 - 6:03 pm

      That’s useful to know, Mick. We don’t have a Morrisons nearby so didn’t know they stocked it. I hope to hear you’ve had a successful submission!
      (Apologies for the late reply to your comment but it somehow ended up in spam).

  4. #7 by Maria Smith (@mariaAsmith) on March 14, 2016 - 7:00 pm

    Hi Sally, it was lovely to meet you in person, and to take part in your hour of the workshop too. Very informative.
    I’ve yet to find a copy of The Weekly News, it seems to be quite elusive around these parts. I definitely want to tell my writers group all about it, and challenge them to writing something suitable to send in.

    Have a good week.

    • #8 by Sally Jenkins on March 14, 2016 - 7:32 pm

      Hope you get hold of one, Maria – and I hope the group rise to the challenge! Best wishes to you too.

  5. #9 by mick arnold on March 21, 2016 - 4:09 pm

    Hi Sally, I’ve gone through the guidelines but, unless I’ve missed them, I can’t see anything about what to put in the covering letter/email? Can I pick your brains on what you’d advise please? As I’m about to do my first submission, I don’t want to alienate her. Much thanks, Mick

    • #10 by Sally Jenkins on March 21, 2016 - 4:36 pm

      No need to agonise over putting anything long-winded or clever, Mick. I usually put something like:
      Hi Jill,
      Please find attached a 1200 word short story, story title, which I hope will be suitable for The Weekly News.
      Best wishes,
      Sally Jenkins

      And I usually put the subject as ‘Short Story Submission – story title

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