Thursday, 4 June 2009

This and That

I always said I wouldn’t blog. It didn’t appeal to me at all. Now I’m addicted to it. I’m thinking up subjects for blogs when I should be thinking up stories (and finding it just as difficult).

And it’s not just thinking up subjects – what about all those terrific blogs out there waiting to be read?

Womag’s blog is a fantastic resource. I find myself going back there again and again checking on things which got me thinking . . .

When I first started to target magazines – don’t laugh – I used to sit with a magazine and having read all the stories in it, I would then count the words in each story and make a mark at each 100. This was the kind of research I could do with a sleeping baby slung over my shoulder!

I’d make note of how many characters and scenes and the settings. My magazines would end up with notes written all over them. When I wrote a story, I knew roughly how many handwritten words would fill a page in my notebook, but when the story was finished, I’d have to count them just to be sure.

I wrote everything longhand to start with, then I’d type a draft which I’d tweak and twiddle before typing up the final copy.

Thank goodness for guidelines that most if not all magazines produce these days. And Word with its word count and spell check. And thank goodness for Womag who does such a lot of the hard work for the rest of us!


  1. Yes, Teresa, blogging is very addictive isn't it! Of course now you've started, you do realise that it will be impossible for you to stop!

    I couldn't believe it when you said you count all the words in the stories in the mags and mark them at every 100, as that's what I do - even though I have the guidelines as well. My magazines always end up well dog eared and scribbled over.

    Although frustrating for you, it's encouraging for me that you admit, even though you are a prolific and very succesful writer, to having difficulty thinking up story lines sometimes. I thought it was just me!

    Yes Womag is wonderful, such good advice, long may it continue!

    Julie - who really must get off blog spot now and get on with her srticle writing!

  2. I think those of us that learned to do our own market study will all have read every story and counted every word and every character and checked the ratio of dialogue, etc, etc. And we had guidelines then too, but we had to send off the ol' SAE and wait and wait and wait for it to come back.

    Blogging is a good "warm up" for many jobbing writers that I know. It exercises the writing muscle, a bit like the old exercise of writing for 20 minutes or so at the start of every day.

    It's also an excellent online writers' group, of a fashion, but you get to choose active, helpful, friendly, supportive co-writers instead of some of the ... how can I put this politely? Well, instead of some of the typical people you DO sometimes get at writers groups, those that are going to be great writers one day ... if only someone would recognise that they didn't NEED to write for the market as their writing is perfect (and unpublished) as it is ...

    Gosh, bit of a soap box rant there, sorry. :o)

  3. We all need a bit of a soap box rant every now and then! You go girl! Get it off your chest!

    Julie ;O)

  4. Teresa,
    I'd like to echo your praise of Womag's blog. Long may she continue! I too used to do the word counting thing. And the longhand! Where would be without computers and the Internet! Although maybe, without the Internet I'd write more and surf less. Must get back to my story!

  5. Elizabeth McKay4 June 2009 at 17:07

    Oh good, can I have a rant too? Mine is about people who never buy magazines because they 'don't actually read them', never send for guidelines because they're all 'more or less the same' and then ask me, 'what magazine should I send this to?'

    Sometimes I feel a bit guilty reading other people's blogs when I don't write one myself - does it count as research? If I did have one I'd get even less writing done.

  6. You're right that Womag's blog is very useful - she's very generous in sharing her research.

    I study magazine stories too, noting down the POVs used, age of characters, time spans covered - all sorts of things. I'm not sure it helps with writing the stories, but it does help with deciding where to send them.

  7. I'm glad to hear you're addicted to blogging, Teresa. I'm addicted to reading your blog too! And you certainly seem to have got quite a lot of followers very quickly - from all over the world. It's great for us all to be able to read the thoughts of such a successful writer, but I've been wondering if you expected so many writers to read your blog when you first started it.

    I read about the blog at the end of one of your stories in My Weekly, I think, so maybe you were aiming more at'normal' readers?

    Anyway, it's a great blog and so is womag's. I spend far too much time on both!

    And going back to a previous 'conversation' we had, Teresa, I had that October story of mine rejected by Woman's Weekly today. As expected really. Clare Cooper did make quite a nice comment though. She said that the story was unsuitable but 'we liked your writing style so please do try us again'. It's probably a bog standard comment, but I don't think I've ever had it before and I've been trying to sell a story to Woman's Weekly for about ten years now!

    I find their stories very hard to analyse though. Some of them seem quite bizarre to me. But I suppose I'll just have to keep trying and maybe I'll get there in the end.

  8. Julie, I’m gradually coming to terms with the fact that blogging is taking over my life! (And you’re definitely not alone in having trouble thinking up story lines)

    That’s a great way of looking at it, Diane – a warm up! That’s what I’ll tell people – I’m warming up, leave me alone! I’ve never belonged to a writing group, but I’ve heard tales both good and bad about them. They should be about being supportive shouldn’t they?

    Good point, Geri! What Word gives the Internet takes away!

    I’ll have to borrow Diane’s soapbox, Elizabeth! I’m with you on those people who never buy magazines, never bother with guidelines and ask which magazine to send something to! They’re usually the ones who say “I could easily do that if I wanted to!”
    Don’t feel guilty – blogs are there to be read!

    Patsy, that’s the word exactly to sum up Womag – Generous!

    No, Susan, to be honest I didn’t expect anyone to read my blog - I wasn’t really aiming it at anyone in particular. I wasn’t even sure what to do with it when I started – and I’m still not! And I am amazed how many people come here!

    Sorry about your return, but it is a great positive that Clare made that comment – definitely NOT bog standard. I’d been writing for more than 10 years before I sold one to them and I remember thinking it was a market I’d never crack, so don’t give up. You must be getting very close now. Keep trying!

  9. Susan, Teresa's right about Clare's comment definitely not being bog standard. I was writing for ages before I sold to them - they are a very hard nut to crack. But you must definitely be getting there!

  10. Yes, I will keep trying. Funnily enough, I've just been reading an article about Woman's Weekly in Writing magazine and it seems to suggest that they're looking for a lot of stories right now so maybe I should send them tons!

    No, maybe not. It's nice to know Clare's comment wasn't bog standard though. And it's certainly cheered me up. Much better than the comments on the post it note that was accidentally (I hope) left on one of my stories returned by Fiction Feast last week. Not very complimentary at all! You certainly have to have a thick skin to keep perservering with this writing lark, don't you?

  11. I'm so glad you changed your mind and started to blog. Am sure I speak for many when I say that it's fascinating and very useful to read the thoughts of such a talented and succesful writer.

    I think what I find most addictive is the support from lovely blogging friends from all over the world. It makes such a difference.

    Womag's blog is terrific. It was actually the first blog I found - by googling 'short story writing' (I was looking for inspiration). I lurked for ages before plucking up the courage to leave a comment - and it was even longer before I was brave enough to start my own blog.

  12. Sorry, I've just seen at least one spelling mistake in my last comment. Wish there was a spellcheck...

  13. Absolutely Susan - a thick skin is essential. And think of Clare's rejection comment as a stepping stone towards the glorious acceptance that will surely come. I too had been writing for ages before being accepted by them for the first time this year. When I took Clare's call (and incidentally she is a lovely person) I was dancing around the room for at least 20 minutes before the truth sank in. They are a very tough nut to crack and Clare admitted that they reject much more than they accept even from established writers. So keep on keeping on and one day soon it will be your turn to be dancing!

  14. Oh, I do so hope I'll be dancing one day, Lydia. Thanks so much for your comment. And you too, Geraldine. And Teresa. Aren't you a lovely lot!

  15. Elizabeth McKay4 June 2009 at 23:02

    Susan, I also got a story returned from FF last week with a post-it note accidentally (I suppose) attached. It said, 'Sweet, but not very exciting'. Oh well, it could have been worse.

  16. Susan and Elizabeth, I’ve had quite a few of those post it notes. They can really sting!

    Blimey, Suzanne you’ve really made me blush! And I didn’t notice your spelling mistake!

    Clare is a sweetie isn’t she, Lydia!

    You will be dancing, Susan!

  17. Oh, I wonder if they leave those post it notes on purpose then.

    Mine said the style was very stilted and it was quite a dull story.

    Admittedly it wasn't one of my better efforts but I didn't think it was that bad! But I guess I should learn from it and try and do much better next time!

  18. Susan, those notes are posted by second readers, I think, and are probably meant for Norah's eyes rather than the writers. I guess they have thousands to read and just have to get through them, with little time to finesse their comments. I think they're funny, actually. I had one that said, "Ugh! No way!" I worked on it and went on to sell it to WW so whoever wrote that did me a big favour!

  19. Oh, well done, Geraldine! I've filed my story away as 'dead' but maybe I should have a go at re-writing it so I can try it somewhere else.

  20. Definitely, Susan. Remember: a rejection is a recycling opportunity!

  21. Actually, thinking about it, I might be able re-write my Fiction Feast rejection and try it with My Weekly.
    Not sure what's going on there at the moment though. I emailed for new guidelines a while ago and haven't heard anything. Don't know if anybody else has. Also, I believe we're only allowed to submit one story a month now.

  22. I hadn't realised it was new guidelines time again, Susan. I expect they'll send them out sometime soon.
    Yes we can only submit one story a month.

  23. Elizabeth McKay6 June 2009 at 16:50

    Susan, I emailed for the new MW guidelines too, but so far haven't received anything. Good luck with your story.

  24. Bit late getting here but, aw, thanks Teresa and everyone else for the lovely comments about my blog! I kind of started it for myself, to put my guidelines in one place and to give me somewhere to let off steam about rejections. Then it seemed to take off, and I get a real buzz out of all the lovely comments I get from people.

    New MW guidelines are now up on my blog.

  25. You deserve all the praise you get, Womag!