Well, you go on holiday for a fortnight and all hell’s broken loose when you get back.
True there were mutterings about short story acceptances at Woman’s Weekly before I went away, with regular writers failing to find favour and a bunch of new people suddenly getting their first acceptances. But now it seems the magazine has not only drastically reduced payments (from £150 to £100 for a 1K story) but are demanding all rights to stories as well.
They didn’t used to do that.
The only other magazine I’m aware of that does that is Prima with their monthly reader ‘competition’.
What giving up all rights mean is you no longer hold the copyright. The story is no longer yours. It’s the magazines and they can do with it what it likes. This is a huge blow for womag writers, some of whom rely on womag writing income. Many used to sell their stories more than once and even bundle them into anthology style books.
You can’t do that if someone else has taken all rights. You can’t even demand they put your name on your story if they republish it. And you won’t be able to change your mind either.
I loved this story on the BBC about a French carpenter’s diary which has just been unearthed written on the underside of some old floorboards. Joachim Martin knew when he wrote it over 100 years ago he would be dead before anyone found it so wrote the truth and wrote from the heart. I’d love to be able to read the whole thing and not just snippets. Infanticide, mistresses, infidelity and more. It may have been all a work of complete fiction of course. In which case it would probably still be a lot more readable that Mrs Dalloway, which is this month’s book club book.
Mrs D is clearly a marmite book – love it or hate it. Lots of 5 stars on Goodreads but a fair few 1s and 2s as well. I’m afraid I’ve only managed to get as far as page 2 after three attempts and, on the occasion I got to the end of page 2, it left me with a headache.
Why is stream of consciousness a great literary technique? I had to go online to find out who the point of view character was. I thought there were two Dalloways – Mrs Dalloway and her daughter Clarissa. Who is Lucy? Who is Rumpelmeyer and why did his men take the doors off the hinges?
I’m getting a headache just typing this.
Had this woman come to see me at work, I would have put up my hand and uttered a firm, ‘Stop! Now, tell me in one sentence why you are here.’
Give me a bit of juicy village gossip over interior whittering any day.
I subscribe to the WordPress Daily Post, a prompt to get you blogging. Today is the only time I’ve felt the urge to respond. Today’s word is mentor.
Mentor – a skilled and trusted advisor
Mentorship for writers recently came up in my critique group as one member had seen a course advertising writing mentorship for £3000. Would anyone pay that sort of money was the question asked. Well, it depends.
I can certainly see the benefit of having a good and experienced writer in your genre helping you to improve. It’s the same principle as sports coaching, I suppose. I remember reading an article featuring Hanif Kureishi who believed a lot of creative writing courses were a waste of time and rather than take an MA in creative writing, as many of my friends are doing or considering, he would find one great teacher.
It resonated with me. I love Kureishi’s writing. His novel Buddha of Suburbia is one of the few prize-winning books I have been able to read. Why? because the pace is fast, the style engaging and it tells an engrossing story
I get some mentoring for free as my critique group has a few really very experienced and successful writers in my current field – Womags. This is better than any university course I ever did. And it was a workshop held in a local church by a local Womag writer that gave me the epiphany that got me published.
I view short stories as part of my apprenticeship. In the long run I’d love to be a novellist. I’m still learning the craft of writing and doing it in short bites of up to 3K is great practice. Women’s short fiction is often underestimated, but you still need a story arc, a character arc, theme, plot, setting etc for it all to work. I’m still getting better at this. I learn something with every story I write.
So, would I pay £3000 to be mentored by someone in my field? When I looked at what was on offer for this money, the answer was no. There wasn’t enough 1-1 time. But I can see it might be useful for some. Apart from anything else, I’d have to sell anything up to 30 stories to recoup my outlay. At my current level of output (maybe one or two stories a month) that would take an awfully long time.
What about you? Would you pay £3000 for mentoring?
I love the way that campnanowrimo declares that you’ve ‘won’ as soon as you hit your self-imposed writing target. It’s so uplifting. It makes you want to punch the air and shout ‘Yes!’ even though people might be in hearing distance.
Anyway, I’m a Winner! I completed my 15K yesterday. This comprises:
a 3.5K vampire story for an anthology
a rambling 5K womag story set in autumn
an 800 word knitting competition entry!
2/3 of another womag story
another 1000 words added to an existing story
+ a few bits and bobs.
The hard work starts now. I’m quite pleased with the vampire story. I don’t think that will need much polishing. The autumnal womag story, however, hmmm. It will need complete editing. But I’ve got a short while to work on that given the market I’m thinking of. The knitting story also needs beefing up a bit and I’ll need to check the deadline on that. I’d really love to win the knitting goodies even if I have to give up all rights to my story if I do that. I doubt I’d do anything else with the story anyway.
And then of course I’ll need to finish the unfinished and polish up the other bits.
What needs to happen now, of course, is a new target, one that basically comes down to being business-like. I need to set myself a timetable to get all these outstanding tasks done else there is a danger things will slide and nothing will be actually completed.
This is why Campnanowrimo is brilliant – it helps establish the benefits of SMART aims in your mind, that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable (or agreed if more than one person is involved), Realistic and Timed. Much better than something vague like ‘I must write a story…’
I’ve had another sale. These have been few and far between in recent years, maybe because I’ve not been sending much out. But when everything seems to fail miserably, it can become terribly disheartening.
My Excel spreadsheet has been a sea of red for most of 2017-18. Now it’s got one green line in the middle of it, and my confidence is boosted no end. Better, this wouldn’t have happened, at least not yet, if I hadn’t chased.
Even very successful writers can be reluctant to contact an editor when they haven’t had any feedback on a story and it’s been a while. But as long as you are following the publication’s guidelines, you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I’d sent this particular story to The People’s Friend in November. And I was hearing from other Womag writers that the editor was reading stories sent in January. What had happened to mine? Had it actually got there or been lost in the post? (The Friend does not accept unsolicited submissions by email from the UK).
Eventually I plucked up the courage to ask. It was sitting in the editor’s desk with Jan 31st written on it, which she had thought was its date of arrival, not when one of the others actually read it!
One or two other issues about The People’s Friend came up in my critique group this week as well, so I referred back to the notes I made at the workshop Shirley Blair, fiction editor, ran in York last year. If you get the chance to go to one of these, take it. Shirley is brilliantly helpful for writers wanting to deliver the right sort of stories.
She is quite particular about length: there are limited openings for 1000 and 1200 word stories. They use mostly 2000 and 3000 word stories, so this is your best chance of success. And she allows you to go up to 10% over.
If you haven’t heard anything 14 weeks after submission, she says chase. Having said that, it always pays to chase politely! Editors have an awful lot of submissions and, I’m guessing, can do without stroppy authors.
Shirley runs a really useful blog which I urge prospective writers to read as it keeps you up to date with what they are and aren’t looking for as well as giving writing tips and prompts. There is also a quick summary of The People’s Friend writer’s guidelines.
One thing I think is important, if writing for The Friend, is always have a theme – Shirley likes these and they do help to focus your story and strengthen the plot, particularly if you go back and edit out anything that doesn’t further that theme. And don’t worry, sometimes you don’t know what the theme is until after you’ve started writing (I often don’t know until after I’ve finished the story and am trying to figure out why it’s not quite working).
So, the story I just sold was a romance. Often these don’t actually need a theme, but when it was clear it was lacking something I focussed on what the story was really about (the couple were already together, it’s just that she was waiting for a proposal that wasn’t forthcoming). Eventually I realised it was all about the concept of romance and being romantic and that became the conflict which nearly led to them breaking up. I then edited out everything that didn’t reflect that and tightened up everything that was.