Tips on ‘Womag’ Writing & Anti-Stress Measure no. 2

A hair cut in the Cotswolds

A hair cut in the Cotswolds

I whizzed down (across?) to Buckinghamshire last week to lead a workshop on ‘Writing Short Stories for The Women’s Magazines’ (phew, a mouthful!) to the lovely crowd at Chiltern Writers and I really enjoyed myself.

I always cover this subject in my general Creative Writing courses but I must admit, it gets a mixed reception.

Some people just aren’t that interested, others are disparaging about the genre and the perceived quality of the writing and the stories and – well, you know what I mean. There’s a certain amount of snobbery about ‘commercial women’s fiction’. Let’s leave it at that.

So, it was heartening and rewarding to be in the company of almost 30 keen writers who were all there because they were interested in learning more about the SKILLS and TECHNIQUES required, if you want to write for the women’s magazines.

These are a few of the tips I gave them:

1. It’s not a ‘closed shop’ – the magazines want new writers and always need lively, original stories – but it is a highly-competitive market. You need to be persistent and determined if you want to be published by the womags.

2. Don’t think it’s easy or that anything less than your best writing and your best ideas will do. You can’t ‘churn out’ stories for the womags. (Or at least, if you can, I take your hat off to you). It takes me ages to write a womag story and even then, I often don’t get it right.

3. You need to read the magazine that you are targeting regularly (I would suggest every issue) and analyse the stories that they’re buying and publishing.

If you’re not prepared to do this – your basic research – then don’t be surprised if your stories come back, rejected.

4. It’s not about the quality of your writing (although it still has to be good), it’s about your ideas, your themes and how you express them; it’s about giving the editor- and ultimately her readers – the kind of story they want to read.

Phew, there we go. End of lecture.

Anti-Stress Measure No. 2

A little while ago I told you about The Stress and I promised to report back on what I was doing to try to counteract it.

The first thing is Morning Pages, which I talked about last time and which I can highly recommend.

My second anti-stress measure is: MASSAGE.

I have been having a back and facial massage from a qualified therapist once a month for the past 4 or 5 months and I don’t feel guilty at all. In fact, it’s my one real ‘extravagance’ and it’s not as expensive as you might think. It costs me less than I’d pay for a cut and blow dry, so that might give you an idea. (And no, I don’t go to a Nicky Clarke salon, or anywhere really expensive like that! Actually, Nicky Clarke? Out here in the sticks?! I’d have more chance of getting a local farmer to shear me).

The reason I can afford to have a regular massage is because don’t go to a spa anywhere ‘posh’. I go to a lady practitioner who works from home in the next village to me. She used to give me (and lots of other people) free massages when she was in training and needed to build up her hours of ‘hands on’ practice.

Massage can do wonderful things, including, apparently, the following (I’ve said ‘apparently’ because I don’t want anyone to blame me if they try it and it doesn’t do it for them!):

• Reduce or eliminate pain.
• Improve joint mobility.
• Improve circulation.
• Improve immune system functioning.
• Increase lymphatic drainage.
• Reduce depression and anxiety (Yes, please!)
• Reduce tension within muscles.
• Increase body awareness (not sure about this one?!).

I must admit, I always feel wonderful when I’ve had a massage. Luckily, I’ve got one booked in for tomorrow. Bring it on!

Bonnie Update

Thanks for all your enquiries about Bonnie, my dog, who had an operation last Thursday. She is on the road to recovery but it’s all pretty .. no, I’m not going to use that ‘S’ word (even though it is!)…. I am going to say.. er.. ‘interesting’. There. And if you want to read more, it’s here.

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11 Responses to Tips on ‘Womag’ Writing & Anti-Stress Measure no. 2

  1. Wendy Clarke says:

    Nothing wrong with a bit of womag writing, Helen. We might ‘only’ be short story writers but I bet we’ve made more money from our writing than many of those who turn their noses up!

  2. Exactly! Let them turn their noses up, I say – less competition for us!

  3. Tracy Fells says:

    Great tips here, Helen. My problem is not consistently reading the womags – it is worth doing, but can get expensive as the monthly mags aren’t cheap these days. Nice looking hairdressers you get in the sticks …

  4. Tracy, I know what you mean, it can get expensive. It would be good if we all lived a bit nearer and could buy one of the magazines each and then pass them round! I don’t buy all of them. I subscribe to TAB Fiction Feast (money well spent, I say!!), I get a free copy of WWFS if I’m in it but I always buy it otherwise and I occasionally buy The Weekly News. I don’t buy PF but then I don’t really submit to them – or at least, very rarely.

  5. Helen I think you are spot on in saying that it’s the idea that is important in getting a story accepted. The actual writing can be edited to a certain extent but it’s the idea that makes a story stand out. Unfortunately original ideas aren’t always easy to dream up …

  6. Jan Baynham says:

    Such useful advice, Helen. Thank you. I’m still chasing my first acceptance and try to read as many stories as I can but am not a subscriber. I think I need to get more stories written and ‘out there’, too.

  7. Jackie B says:

    I’ve been reading the womags every week for the past 40+ years, well the old ones, and the others since they started and even I get it wrong when pitching stories at times. Sometimes it’s just about the mood the first reader is in when your story arrives.

  8. KH says:

    Just a quick note to say how much I enjoyed your ‘Starfish’ story in Woman’s Weekly. It is one of those ‘Just Right’ tales that leaves a really warm feeling. Good wishes KH

  9. philippabowe says:

    I’m glad the workshop went so well Helen, fun and rewarding both! Have you seen the latest edition of Mslexia, which has a major feature on writing for womags? It makes the same points you are, about the quality and skill that go into it. And how excellent that you have brought regular massage into your life. It is indeed a wonderful technique for real relaxation. I have always massaged my boys, since they were babies, and they still ask for massages now (as giant teens) which I think is a great sign of being comfortable with physical contact, something I feel is particularly important for boys.
    I am sorry it’s so hard for Bonnie, poor thing – and poor you having to deal with it and feel bad for her! I’ve only ever had cats, who recover in less than a day from the op, I can’t believe it’s so long for dogs! I guess you’ll just have to grit your teeth and remember it’s just transitory (and for a good reason).

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