By Helen M Walters
Although the number of women’s magazines in the UK taking fiction has decreased over the last few years, the magazines that are still publishing fiction are doing an amazing job. Competition is fierce, but don’t let that put you off; it’s great to write for a market where standards are so high. And don’t be tempted to believe it’s a closed shop where very few writers can break through. I started from nowhere, so it can be done.
If you haven’t read the fiction in women’s magazines recently, the first thing to do is to take a good look. There is no substitute for a really thorough study of the market, and you might be surprised by the range of themes covered in magazine fiction now. I’ve written about infertility, domestic violence, sex change and organ donation. It’s definitely not limited to romance!
I would advise initially concentrating your efforts on targeting one or two magazines. They all want slightly different things, and if you try to target them all at once you might end up confusing yourself.
Your research will show you what the magazines are looking for. Don’t forget to really analyse the stories, looking at how the writers have used tense, point of view, dialogue, structure and theme to make their stories appealing and readable.
Magazines also publish guidelines, which will tell you what their fiction requirements are. The guidelines will give you the word count, the types of stories they’re looking for, themes to avoid, and all the details you’ll need to submit your work. So read them very carefully.
Most magazine’s fiction guidelines are easily available online these days, but I also recommend that you look at the Womagwriter blog, which is full of all sorts of information and gossip about the different markets.
Write lots of stories and keep sending them out. If they’re rejected, send them out again to a different magazine. Once you are writing to a publishable standard, it becomes a bit of a numbers game. The higher the number of stories you have out there, the greater your chance of success
My top tips are:
· Find a critique partner who is working towards the same goal;
· Work really hard on your beginnings and endings – they are the first thing to catch the editor’s eye and the last thing to linger in their mind;
· Take any feedback you get from an editor really seriously and act on it;
· Keep a careful record of what stories you have sent where so you won’t accidentally send the same story to two magazines at the same time;
· Write about things that interest you and will trigger emotion – whether it be laughter or tears – in the reader. Your feelings will shine through in the story.
There are some great positives to writing for the women’s magazine short story market.
Firstly, you’ll be writing for a wide audience. My Weekly has a circulation of 111,000, for People’s Friend the circulation is over 240,000 – so it’s a great way of getting your writing in front of a large number of people and kick-starting your writing career.
Secondly, you can get paid for writing something you love. The pay isn’t huge, and it varies a lot from magazine to magazine, but it’s always lovely to get paid for writing something you wanted to write anyway.
For me, it’s still exciting when I sell a story. Although I write lots of non-fiction as well, fiction is my first love. If you can come up with a story that comes from your heart, that you loved writing and also get it published and paid for, what could be better than that?
Helen M Walters (formerly Helen M Hunt) writes short stories for magazines and her work has appeared in Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly, The Weekly News, The People’s Friend, Best, Yours and Take A Break Fiction Feast. She also writes short non-fiction pieces, and writes on writing related subjects for the writing magazines. Recently, she took over the regular monthly competitions column at Writers’ Forummagazine.