Woman’s Weekly Short Stories

I had an email today from Woman’s Weekly, turning down a story. Ouch, it stung!

I was half expecting it, though. I can usually tell if there’s a ‘rejection’ in the pipeline because they take several weeks, rather than just a couple, to reply. (And yes, I know that’s still better than the months all the magazines take if you send stories by snail mail. I’m very lucky – I have ‘special dispensation’ to use email because they’ve accepted a few stories from me now).  

This story got the thumbs down because “there were no surprises” (see 2, below) and I suppose, on reflection, they were right.  

I studied the market for Woman’s Weekly for years before I got my first acceptance. I bought every issue of the Fiction Special and read every story – I still do – and I even had a spreadsheet at one point, listing the subject and character types in every story, so I could see what they published at a glance.

But obviously, I can still get it wrong.

So, as a little reminder to myself –and a helping hand for you if you’re also trying to write short stories for WW – this is  (I think!) what they are looking for:

  1. A main character who’s not too young (most are over 30). They’re mostly female, although I’ve noticed more stories sneaking in with a male main character (but there’s always a woman in the story too).  
  2. A surprise! That doesn’t mean every story has to be a ‘twist in the tale’ (see 6) but they don’t want an obvious or guess-able ending. 
  3. No ‘boy meets girl’! For two reasons – one, they just don’t go for those obvious romantic stories but also, ‘boy meets girl’ is too young for their readership. ‘Middle- aged divorcee meets interesting man’, is a bit more like it.   
  4. Character-lead stories. Read the stories they publish: the characters are usually more important than the plot.  
  5. ‘Quirky’ stories. They like quirky, feisty, down-to-earth hero/heroines, with a sense of humour and irony.
  6. They don’t publish many ‘twist in the tales’ and those that they do, are still character-lead. 

 There’s a good example of a character-lead ‘twist-in-the-tale’ story in the current (29th Oct – 30th Nov) issue of Fiction Special (SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t yet read it!).

It’s ‘Karen Has News’ (page 7) by Steve Beresford, which starts with the heroine, Karen, full of the joys of spring, having just left the doctor’s with the words ‘Congratulations’ ringing in her ears.

As she walks home, dying to tell ‘Mark’ (whom we assume is her partner), she bumps into a ‘frenemy’, Angie, who comments on how ‘well’ Karen is looking in a ‘who’s-eaten-all-the- pies?’ kind of way. It’s an amusing scene and we’re really on Karen’s side – she’s an engaging and likeable character, so it’s an especially satisfying ending, when she finally breaks the news to her grown-up son, Mark, not that she’s pregnant (as the reader was probably thinking) but that she’s finally got a much-wanted job as a receptionist at the doctor’s surgery! (Let’s hope she’s not a dragon-in-training then, eh?)

It’s clever stuff. I enjoyed that story.

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5 Responses to Woman’s Weekly Short Stories

  1. Helen – this a really useful post. I shall be referring back to it when I attempt my next WW story. All my ‘hits’ so far have been with the DC Thomson stable (My Weekly, Weekly News & People’s Friend) so any advice on breaking into other markets is great.

  2. Linda Lewis says:

    I love the blog – I envy anyone who finds the time to do this kind of thing. Nice to meet another Steve Beresford fan and great to read such practical sound advice abuot Womans Weekly. I’d like to add this, when writing for them, think about the emotions that are involved. Make the editor feel something, and your chances of a sale will increase.

  3. Davinder Sunner says:

    I really enjoyed this story and i’m glad that you mentioned it in the classes. I have to admit that i have never considered buying WW, writing into them or even consider having any work published by them, but listening to you and reading your articles make it seem possible and not just a fantasy. Great site!

    • Davinder – thanks for looking at the blog! You are now entered into the prize draw, of course! The latest issue of Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special is out today (30th Nov) and I’ve got a story in it, so I’ll be writing something about that a little later. If you are interested in writing for the women’s magazines, a really great website, full of tips and with all the requirements for the individual magazines is: http://www.womagwriter.blogspot.com
      See you next week! Helen

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