Archive for category Short Story
Much is written about crafting the novel synopsis and agent pitch but there’s far less on how to sell a short story to the women’s magazine market via a synopsis.
Writer, S. Bee has put together some good tips for those of us trying to make sales in this ever decreasing market. Here is her advice:
Six UK women’s magazines require a short synopsis – either with the story itself, or before the story is submitted.
- The regular, fortnightly Yours
- The Yours Fiction Special
- Take a Break’s Fiction Feast. (N.B. This has a closed writer’s list and takes all rights.)
- Spirit & Destiny. This magazine requires a story pitch upfront. If they like the sound of the story, they ask for it to be emailed for consideration. They also take all rights to accepted stories.
- My Weekly require a brief synopsis to head up the story. This magazine has a closed writer’s list.
- During the current lockdown, The People’s Friend is asking for writers who have previously been published by the magazine to email a synopsis. Writers new to the magazine should continue to submit by post.
Possible reasons editors ask for a short story synopsis:
- It allows the editor to quickly see what kind of story it is – sweet romance/comedy/crime/revenge, etc.
- It explains the plot, so the editor can decide whether or not the story will work for that magazine.
- It’s useful for the illustrator/picture editor – so consider including significant details about the age and appearance of characters or the location.
Below are six steps to getting the synopsis right:
- Keep to the word count. If the guidelines ask for 200 words, don’t ramble on. Don’t start with: ‘This is a story about…’ Provide a clear outline of the story from start, middle and end.
- Do I reveal the ending? There is some debate around this. Some writers do (I’m one of them) but some choose not to. It’s entirely up to you.
- Run it past a womag writer/ reader friend before submitting. Asking other womag writers to read your work before submitting is useful. I run a womag writers’ email critique group; we read each other’s work and give constructive feedback. Not only can others point out the flaws in the story, they might be able to spot the flaws in your synopsis too.
- Themes/ Genres There’s no need to include the theme or a genre in your synopsis. The word count matters, so don’t fill your lines with: ‘This is an empty nest/ moving on/ dealing with bereavement story.’
- Get to the point Imagine you are an aspiring scriptwriter who steps into a lift with a movie producer. You have an amazing opportunity to pitch your story – but only 30 seconds to do it. Cut the waffle and focus on the chain of events in your story: The main character has a problem/conflict. How do they overcome this problem? What complicates it? How is it solved?
- Get over the dread writing of them. It can seem like a synopsis cruelly chops our work down and removes the heart of the story. But without it, there’s no chance of a sale to the above magazines. The more synopses you write, the more confident you’ll become.
Women’s magazine writer, TW, has kindly provided me with an example synopsis:
Music manager Ross King is visited in his office by Beth and Sam, who are members of one of his most successful pop acts.
Beth and Sam are in their early twenties, slim, blonde and beautiful. They are very excited, as they have met a potential new member of the group, Penny. Ross has a shock when Penny enters the office, as although she is also slim, blonde and beautiful, she is over forty. Ross thinks the group’s young fans won’t accept an older woman as part of the group. He’s forced by politeness to watch Penny audition (sing and dance) and recognises that she is very talented. After some tough argument, Ross agrees that Penny can join the group.
The girls are so keen on her joining them that Ross suspects – rightly – that there is something they are not telling him about Penny, and at the end of the story the girls reveal what this is.
The above story was published in Take a Break’s Fiction Feast. Note that the twist ending wasn’t revealed in the synopsis.
Practice makes perfect. Writing a synopsis – whether it’s for a short story, a novel, article or a play – is a specific, highly valued skill. Give it a go and increase your chances of a story sale!
S. Bee is the brains behind the lively short story anthology Paws for Thought. It is available on Kindle and raises money for the RSPCA.
To find out more about S. Bee and her critique group, Fiction Addition, please visit her website.
Don’t forget there’s lots more information about writing fiction for women’s magazines at https://womagwriter.blogspot.com/
Freelance writers must study their target publication before starting work on a short story or article.
It’s essential to find out the following as an absolute minimum:
- Are freelance contributions accepted? Look at the bylines, list of contributors etc.
- What’s the word count for the slot in the magazine you are aiming at?
- What’s the tone/style/age range of the publication?
- What topics have been covered recently? Potential writers will have to come up with something different.
- What’s the name and email address of the feature editor? This will allow an idea to be pitched in advance before writing up the whole article.
It’s difficult to discover the above without reading several copies of a magazine. If you’re aiming to write for several different publications, buying all the magazines can become very expensive.
I’ve just discovered the joy of Readly. For a monthly subscription of £7.99 Readly gives access to a wide range of magazines plus a couple of newspapers as well. You can read as many publications as you want across up to 5 devices including laptop, tablet and phone. Perfect for a writer to study the wide magazine market.
The Readly website currently offers a one month free trial but it’s sometimes possible to get a longer trial elsewhere. I found a two month trial via Money Saving Expert but unfortunately that’s finished.
However, electronic reading doesn’t beat curling up with a proper, paper copy of your favourite magazine. Use Readly for market research but please continue to buy your favourite magazines on the high street – otherwise there’ll be no markets left for us to write for!
Back in 2011 I wrote a post about Women Only Writing Competitions. At the time they seemed to be a ‘thing’.
Recently two men have independently stumbled across that old post whilst searching for ‘men only’ writing competitions and each left a comment indicating that they don’t think it necessary to have such discriminatory entry requirements. And I agree with them – surely it’s the standard of writing that’s important and not the sex of the writer. Women have come a long way since the days of writers such as the Bronte sisters, who had to hide behind male pseudonyms. I feel we can now compete on equal terms.
Since 2011 other forms of restricted entry have emerged, for example asking for entries only from the LGBT community or from minority ethnic groups or from writers of limited financial means or from particular age groups. I assume that these entry restrictions are imposed because the competition organisers are either looking for stories from these particular viewpoints or the prize is a bursary aimed at those in need or it’s been found that writers from these groups are reluctant to enter open writing competitions. These are all valid reasons for using specific competitions to encourage writing in particular groups.
However, I hope that in the future all writers will feel comfortable entering all competitions, confident that their stories will be judged without prejudice. Meaning that in the future competition organisers (or publishers) might specify if a particular character/story type is required rather than the type of author required. Of course bursaries for those on a limited income should continue to be awarded to those talented writers in the most financial need.
In the meantime here are a few ‘restricted’ competitions, lifted from the pages of this month’s Writing Magazine:
The Nan Shepherd Prize for Nature Writing – for unpublished writers who consider themselves under-represented in nature writing, through gender, class, sexuality, ethnicity, disability or any other circumstance. Closes 10th September 2019.
The Mo Siewcharran Prize – for unpublished UK novelists from a BAME background. Be quick! Closes 29th July 2019 (but will run annually).
Mslexia Fiction and Poetry Competitions – open to women only. Close various dates in September 2019.
Passager Books are seeking submissions of poetry, memoir and short fiction from writers over 50. Closes 15th September 2019.
Entry is by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can tweet your entry using the hashtag #shortshort.
Closing date is Sunday July 7th 2019.
The winner will be published on Sunday July 21st and awarded twelve free audiobooks from Audible UK.
As always, remember to read the full terms and conditions.
I’ve got three competitions for you today. Two are short fiction and one is a giveaway on Twitter.
First up is the Writers’ HQ Flash Quarterly Competition. It’s an open theme, 500 words limit and, as the name suggests, it runs every quarter. The next closing date is 30th June. First prize is
12 months Writers’ HQ membership plus 3 free writers’ retreats (cash value £450). Second prize is 6 months Writers’ HQ membership and 3 free retreats (cash value £270). Third prize is
3 months Writers’ HQ membership and 3 free retreats (cash value £180). The writing retreats are 10 am to 4 pm in various UK cities. Writers’ HQ membership gives several benefits.
Make sure you read the full rules before entering.
The second competition is the Reedsy Short Story Contest which runs every week and has a $50 prize. The story must be written to fit one of a selection of weekly prompts and should be between 1,000 and 3,000 words long. In order to get the prompts each week (which can be used as general inspiration and ideas – you don’t have to enter the competition) you need to sign up for the contest email (sign up form should be on the right of the screen).
Finally, if you have a Twitter account, you can enter a giveaway for a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners. Simply, go to my Twitter Account, read the pinned Tweet (i.e. the first one visible), follow me (if you don’t already) and retweet that pinned tweet. You can also find me by searching for @sallyjenkinsuk. But be quick; the competition ends at midnight tomorrow (4th May 2019).
Are you looking for something to kick-start your writing in 2019? Are you resolving to enter more competitions and get feedback? Do you like the excitement of a tight deadline?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, the New York City Midnight Short Story Challenge might be just the thing to get you energised for 2019.
There are three rounds to the competition. In the first round you have eight days to write a 2,500 word story, to a given genre and prompt (time to get out of your comfort zone!).
If you make it to round two, there are three days to write 2,000 words using different prompts.
In the final round there are twenty-four hours to write 1,500 words.
Every story submission receives feedback from the judges, plus you can choose to post it on a special review forum to get feedback from other competitors.
There are cash prizes for the top ten winners, ranging from $5,000 to $125.
As you might expect, given the size of the prizes, this is not a cheap competition. If you register before 13th December (be quick!) it’s $45 and after that it’s $55 but there is a $5 discount if you post on Facebook or Twitter to help advertise the competition.
This is a competition with no time for procrastination. Why not ask Santa for the entry fee?
With thanks to Alison Jean Lester for recommending this competition during her Improv for Writers course . She took part in the competition last year with some success at progressing through the rounds.
The mags4Dorset 10th annual creative writing competition wants short stories up to 1,000 words on the theme: A Plastic Nightmare.
First prize is £300 and second prize is £100. Entry is £5 and the closing date is 30th October 2018.
If over 100 short stories are received, mags4dorset will donate £100 to the registered charity, Surfers Against Sewage.
Don’t forget to read all the rules before you start writing. One rule which I’ve never seen in a competition before is ‘Do not use famous people’s names or brands’.
Do you remember being sixteen or seventeen years old? How did you find it? The best of us find the transition from child to adult difficult, there’s the pressure to conform with our peers, the pressure of exams and the pressure to decide on the next step in our lives. Imagine how much harder this time of life must be for those more vulnerable than ourselves, those suffering mental health problems, domestic abuse and worse.
The Children’s Society is running the Seriously Awkward Campaign to urge the Government to do more to help vulnerable teenagers through this transition time. Part of this campaign is a short story competition. Entry is free and is in two age groups: 16 to 25 year and 26 years plus.
First prize in each age group is “expert advice and feedback from a top literary agent and writing gifts. Young winners will receive exclusive advice and feedback with literary agency Darley Anderson and adult winners with David Higham Associates. The runners-up will receive a selection of writing gifts.”
Stories must be on the theme of 16 and 17 year olds. This brings to mind Young Adult fiction but the competition doesn’t appear to be restricted to that, the website suggests you can write from an adult point of view too such as parent, teacher or social worker.
The word limit is 2,000 and the closing date is 31 August 2018. Don’t forget to read all the terms and conditions!
Motor Neurone disease is a terrible thing. It kills a third of sufferers within a year and more than half within two years of diagnosis. It can leave people locked in a failing body unable to move, talk, swallow and eventually breathe.
The competition is inspired by the work of Claret Press author Sarah Gray, who has Motor Neurone disease. Her short story collection Half Life deals with aspects of physical and mental illness in innovative and original ways. The judges will be looking for similarly engaging stories inspired by these issues in a maximum of 5,000 words. Stories can be written from any point of view and can be in any genre, for example thriller, romance, post-modern, horror, etc.
The entry fee is £6 (net proceeds to MNDA!) and there are prizes of £250, £150 and £50. Claret Press will publish all short-listed entries in a new collection.
Closing date is June 15th 2018. Don’t forget to read the full terms and conditions.
The results of the Words Magazine 2017 ‘Murder’ short story competition were published a few days ago. There were 139 entries and I was delighted to make the shortlist. Other writers I recognised on the list were Patsy Collins and Julia Thorley. Many congratulations to John Silver and Sharon Boothroyd for rising above us and taking first and second place respectively.
Words Magazine runs two competitions a year and the next one is now open for (free!) entry. The theme is ‘Christmas’ and the closing date is 30th June 2018. The winter weather is still fresh in our memories – so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get in a Christmas frame of mind! There is a limit of 2,000 words. First prize is £50 and second prize is £25.