Posts Tagged The Weekly News

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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Win a critique (from me)!

A pair of fresh eyes looking at your work is a wonderful thing and can be especially beneficial when those eyes don’t belong to your other half, best friend or anyone else who is very close to you.

My husband never reads anything I write and it’s probably just as well. If he told me it was excellent, I’d accuse of him of just saying that to keep me in a good mood. If he told me it was rubbish, I’d accuse him of not knowing a thing about writing short stories and then I’d probably storm off.

It’s much better to ask someone who’s ‘at a distance’. That’s why I value my fortnightly ‘swaps’ with Helen. We both know that we can trust what the other says and we don’t take any criticism personally. After all it’s just this one story that is being pulled apart not our total writing ability. Other people often comment to me that they could do with a ‘Helen’ of their own.

So, I’ve decided to put my experience, gained over the last few years, to good use and offer a critiquing service. It’s still in the planning stages at the moment. Sharon from A Quick Read bravely put herself forward as my first guinea pig and she’s given me some very useful feedback on the critique that I sent her and the sort of price that I should charge (we also had a mild disagreement on the number of words required in stories for The Weekly News – can any of you confirm whether it’s 1200 or 750/800?)

Before I open for business, I’d like to make sure that I’m offering what people want (and are willing to pay for). So I’d like to critique a story of up to 2,000 words (for free) for a reader of this blog.

So if you would like me to look at your work and, in exchange, you are willing to give me feedback on the service that I’ve provided – please leave a comment below. Any comment will do and I’ll pick one at random. The competition closes at midnight (UK time) on Saturday June 1st 2013. (By the way I’m going to be tied up with other things for the next day or so – so don’t worry if your comment doesn’t appear. I’ll moderate them all as soon as I get a minute).

And finally, many thanks to those of you that took the time to review Old Friends during its recent free offer; Anne, Parlance, Julie and Pip.

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Old Friends – 13 Coffee Break Stories

Coffee, cake and a chance to unwind for a few minutes with an absorbing story – who can say no?Old Friends - 13 Coffee Break Stories

So choose your favourite caffeine fix – latte, cappuccino, mocha ….

And which cake do you fancy? Lemon drizzle, chocolate fudge or fruit cake?

If you’re sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin.

Or I would if this was a ‘real’ instead of a virtual book launch. Then I could have the pleasure of meeting you all in the flesh and thanking you for all the support and positive comments about my first e-anthology. Plus I could read you one or two stories from the newly released Old Friends.

Instead I’ll just tell you about my second book and then you can visit Amazon and ‘Look Inside’ or download the sample to get a real flavour of it…

Old Friends contains 13 short stories that have previously appeared in My Weekly, People’s Friend and The Weekly News. I’ve included tales with a twist, stories about the ups and downs of family life plus, of course, a little romance.

I hope this collection will bring a little escapism to your coffee break!

It’s available from Amazon.UK and Amazon.COM at the introductory price of 77p/$1.19.

Or find it on all other Amazon sites by searching for ASIN B00BJIKIBI.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

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A Successful Week!

After a dearth of acceptances over the summer months I’ve had four bits of good news in three days:

  • Writers’ Forum have accepted an article that I first pitched to them back in July.
  • I have a short story in this week’s Weekly News (dated 24th September). Thanks to Julia for letting me know it had been published and to Helen Yendall, my writing buddy, for giving the story the once-over before I sent it.
  • I have won the Friends of Morley Literature Festival short story competition. This was a free to enter competition (which we like!) with a £50 first prize. There is also a prize-giving in Morley, near Leeds – I’m still working on the logistics of attending that. The 2012 short story competition is now open and entry forms are available via email from the organisers. Details are here.
  • I have been asked to write for the Work Your Way magazine website. I mentioned this magazine on my blog a couple of weeks ago. It’s a new publication aimed at entrepreneurial/self-employed mums.

So at the moment my head’s buzzing and I feel great! But now I need to get some more work out there in the hope of getting this ‘high’ feeling again in the future. So I’m trying to learn from these acceptances.

Writers’ Forum taught me not to be afraid to chase an editor if he doesn’t reply to a pitch within a reasonable time – the summer holidays meant time was short and things were overlooked.

The Weekly News story was written from a male point of view and involved sport. This may have increased its chances of success in a publication read by both sexes.

My competition win shows that there’s nothing to lose and everything to be gained by sending off an entry to a free competition. For more free competitions check out Patsy Collins’ blog.

The offer from Work Your Way came about because once I’d had one article accepted by the magazine, I went back to the editor with another idea before she had time to forget who I was! Now I have to get my thinking cap on and come up with several more ideas – it feels quite scary to be put on the spot!

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Some Good News

Lots of buses in London

Image by Goxxy via Flickr

Acceptances seem like buses – you go for ages without any and then several come along at once.

Over the last few months I’ve been submitting stuff into a big black hole with every editor ignoring me. However, patience and perseverance has paid off and in the last couple of weeks I’ve had a handful of positive responses. So I’m feeling good!

Articles have been easier to place than fiction (not surprising when you think how many more markets there are for features compared to short stories) and the turnaround is quicker too.

These are the publications that have recently accepted my work – they’re wide open to all writers so why not give them a go?

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Short Stories for the Weekly News

The Weekly News prints three short stories a week. However, it is a market that is sometimes overlooked by writers targeting women’s magazines because it is published in newspaper format and can be difficult to find in theThe Weekly News - short story market newsagent.  I buy my copies in WHSmith or Tescos.

The Weekly News is aimed at a family audience of males and females across all ages. The short stories accepted for publication reflect this. It is not a market for romance or anything too ‘female’ orientated. In an interview for a past issue of Writers’ Forum Jill Finlay, the fiction editor said, “We like funny stories or happy endings but also something slightly darker, edgier – blackmail, the occasional murder – but please, more black humour than shock-you crime.”

Jill is also a fan of twist in the tale endings and topical stories.

Stories range in length from around 800 to 2000 words.  They are generally written in the third person and often from a male point of view.

I studied a couple of recent issues and in the first all three stories had a twist ending although they covered different topics:

  • A story that appeared to be about a manned mission to Mars turned out to be children playing a game
  • A story that appeared to be about a pilot flying a plane turned out to be a man driving to the airport and back in the middle of the night to lull the baby to sleep
  • A disgruntled train commuter on her last journey to work before she switched jobs – to Customer Services Manager for the train company.

 In the second issue I looked at, twists were popular again:

  • A supermarket car park attendant issuing cash fines to customers parking illegally in disabled spaces turns out to be an ordinary woman just pocketing the money for herself
  • A lady joins the gym to get fit for her 50th birthday party but hates it. However she does find a keep fit routine that suits her and is able to make a grand entrance to the party – as a belly dancer.
  • A lady in bed and unable to sleep yet again because of the noise from the party next door. She finally cracks, gets up and goes to the shed to get something before joining the party – with two bottles of wine.

  Some of the plots above may have lost something in my re-telling (apologies to the authors) but you get the idea of the type of thing that Jill Finlay chooses for The Weekly News fiction pages.

Submission is by email only to  jfinlay@dcthomson.co.uk. Further detailed guidelines can be found on Womagwriter’s Blog.

And if you’re visiting my blog for the first time, click here for details of my free prize draw.

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